PSALM 100 TALK: OUR GOD THE KING WANTS OUR THANKS AND PRAISE

PSALM 100 TALK: OUR GOD THE KING WANTS OUR THANKS AND PRAISE

 (A Psalm that explores how the God of the bible wants us, his children to show him gratitude for who he is and what he has done for us. As our father in heaven he wants us to give him praise and thanks and worship him and we live our daily lives.)

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INTRODUCTION

My dear wife always insisted for all of our children even from a very early age to always say thank you when we did something for them. I was taught this also from my parents so I had no trouble going along with this. One day I thought to myself why do we teach children to say thanks or show gratitude?

I came to some interesting conclusions and this is a summary of what I came up with. My research discovered boiled down to the following five good reasons for teaching children to say thank you:

  1. It helps them create good manners – Good manners help a person to be socially well received and can help our children in their adult life to achieve their goals.
  1. It helps them to learn respect and appreciate others – if we don’t acknowledge when other people help us we are less likely to become people who only appear to be interested in ourselves and we will be persevered to be people who are selfish and arrogant.
  1. It helps them to be able to lead others – people who cannot show gratitude are usually poor leaders as showing gratitude helps people we seeking to lead to be more willing to follow the instructions we give them.
  1. It is good for our psychological and emotional health – Psychological experts have conducted studies on the benefits of giving thanks and have found some very real positive psychological benefits for showing gratitude to others.
  1. Helps create a positive attitude to life – One psychological researcher named Lisa Aspinwall came up with the following positive benefits that grateful people seemed to have:
  • They take better care of themselves physically and mentally
  • Thy engage in more protective health behaviors
  • They get more regular exercise
  • They eat a healthier diet
  • They have improved mental alertness
  • They cope better with stress and daily challenges
  • They feel happier and more optimistic

And the list goes on but the point of me making reference to this research is that teaching our children to be genuinely able to show gratitude can help them have a more positive development.

However I must stress that children will not learn to give thanks if their parents do not model this in their daily lives. This is because children a very perceptive in picking things up from the example they see in people older then themselves or from people they admire for one reason or another.

Spiritually this same kind of thing follows and a very interesting article on the Net by a man named Jake Kall made these three important reasons why all true believers should give thanks to God our heavenly father:

  1. Giving thanks is a way to remember the goodness of God
  2. Giving thanks brings us into God’s presence
  3. Giving thanks shows our appreciation to God.

The bible is full of references and commands for giving praise and thanks to God and like the benefits in life for our children becoming grateful people so there is great benefit for us to be spiritually grateful people.

One fine example of the bibles teaching on giving thanks and praise is Psalm 100. This Psalm is the only Psalm with the Hebrew heading that says,

“A Psalm. For giving thanks”

We cannot be sure both when and why this Psalm was actually written. We know for sure when it was placed in the book of Psalms, which was after the Jews returned from exile as it is the eleventh Psalm placed in the fourth book of Psalms which we are reasonably sure came together after the Jews returned from exile.

Apart from its Hebrew heading there are two Jewish traditions for the use of this Psalm. The first is that it was written to be sung at the time of the offering of a thank offering. The thank offering is set down in Leviticus 22: 29 – 30. The problem with this is that apart from the Hebrew heading the Psalm seems to have little about a thank offering. Maybe because of its heading some Jews used this Psalm when making a thank offering.

The second Jewish tradition is that it was written and used to welcome people coming up to the temple for worship and as they entered the Temple area through the temple gates (vs. 4) a special call to worship was sung to prepare them for worship once they had fully entered the Temple (vs’s 1 and 2).

This theory also fits another problem I encounted in my study of the Psalm and that is the answer to the question:

Is this Psalm addressed to all the inhabitants of the world, as verse 1 seems to say, or just to God’s special chosen people as verse 3 seems to indicate?

Leupold argues that this problem can be solved in the translation of the Hebrew word most translations translate as “earth” and he says that it could be translated “land” which means that this Psalm is addressed to God’s special chosen people, Israel who live in the land of Israel.

I have another theory and that is that if this was a Psalm designed to welcome worshippers into the Temple area for the true people of God who particularly after the return from exile came from all over the known world of that time then a call for people to worship God from all the earth would have been very appropriate.

So what this Psalm is saying is that all these people coming to worship the true God of the bible are to come with praise and thanks as they enter the special house or home of God represented in Old Testament times by the Temple in Jerusalem.

The other interesting thought here is that by the coming of Christ to die for our sins on the cross a way to God in Heaven was opened up for people of every nation or from all the earth then this makes Psalm 100 a call to worship the God of heaven and earth for people who believe in him from all the earth. This means that Psalm 100 is a kind of prophecy that one day “all the earth” or believers in the God of the bible from all the earth will enter God’s presence with praise and thanks.

My final introductory remark is concerning this Psalms connection with the series of Psalms I have entitled “Our God the King who Reigns”, which started at Psalm 93. Even though this Psalm does not contain a direct reference to God as king or even mentions his reign it does have many “Our God the King who Reigns” phrases and allusions which I will refer to in my Psalm talk.

I like what a commentator named S. Conway says about the connection of Psalm 100 to the “Our God the King who Reigns” Psalms,

“This Psalm, which comes at the close of the magnificent series of royal psalms, which tell of the reign of Christ Jehovah, has been called their doxology”.

 A doxology has been defined on the Google search engine as,

“A liturgical formula of praise to God”.

 This then is how I will seek to interpret and open up this Psalm as a formula for praise and thanks of our God who is the king who reigns. My outline for this Psalm follows the structure of a Call for praise verses 1 and 2 and then reasons why we should praise him in verse 3. Then a second call to give God thanks vs. 4 and finally reasons why we should give him thanks in verse 5.

My outline for this Psalm is:

  1. (1 – 2)   GOD WANTS OUR PRAISE
  1. (vs. 1)   A call to praise
  2. (vs. 2)   A call to worship
  1. (vs. 3)   WHY GOD WANTS OUR PRAISE
  1. You know God
  2. He made us
  3. He is our shepherd
  1. (vs. 4)   GOD WANTS OUR THANKS
  1. (vs. 4a) Come to God with thanksgiving
  2. (vs. 4b) Thank God
  1. (vs. 5)   WHY GOD WANTS OUR THANKS
  1. The Lord is good
  2. His love and faithfulness endures forever.

The other unique feature of my Psalm talk is my use of a rewritten version of the very old hymn called “All people who on earth do dwell”. This hymn is well known as “The old one hundred” and was originally written in the French language by the Genevan reformed composer named “Louis Bourgeois” who lived between 1510 and 1560.

It was translated and re-written into the English language as a poem to be sung by a Scotsman named Rev. William Kethe who fled Scotland during the reign of Queen Mary (1555 – 1558). Queen Mary became known as Bloody Mary because of her persecution of Protestants during her short reign. Calvin and his followers in Geneva only sang metric psalms or psalms set in poetic meter based on the book of Psalms.

“All people on earth do dwell” is then one of the oldest English hymns still in use today and to change its wording will seem to some as sacrilege but I think the beauty of this hymn as a summary and even commentary of the Psalm it was based on, Psalm 100, is so worthwhile that a clearer modern interpretation of it is really worth a try.

I have not used the old 100 tune but have composed a new tune which also has a New Testament inspired refrain which is a call to worship Christ our savior and our Lord or king.

I aim to use each verse of my new version of this wonderful old hymn as a summary of each of my four sections of my exposition of this Psalm. So lets have a close look at each of these four sections of Psalm 100:

  1. (1 – 2)   GOD WANTS OUR PRAISE

 The first section is the first two verses of this Psalm which the old hymn “All people that on earth do dwell” covers in its first verse. All other verses of the hymn cover each of the remaining three verses.

I have broken this first section into two parts:

  1. (vs. 1)   A call to praise
  2. (vs. 2)   A call to worship

Lets have a close look at the first part:

  1. (vs. 1)   A call to praise

 The first verse of this Psalm could also be called a call to enthusiastic praise (vs. 1) as the first verse says,

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth”

 Twice before in these eight Psalms that feature the theme of “Our God the king reigns” (Psalms 93 – 100) we have had the command to “Shout to the Lord”, Psalm 95: 1 and 98: 4 and 98: 6. I commented on Psalm 98: 4 on what this command to shout to the Lord actually meant in the days it was first written and I concluded that it meant praise that we give without holding back or praise that is very enthusiastic. I quoted one commentator called Albert Barnes who said that the Hebrew word for “Shout” is more like make a loud noise or to,

“Break forth, as a shout of triumph or joy, as if the joy could be no longer confined or repressed”.

God does not want us to come together to worship him with weak insipient mealy mouth praise and worship he wants us to give it all we have got but please this shout to the Lord should not become a loud dim because the commend says “Shout for joy”. Some churches I have attended over the years delight in turning their amplifiers up so loud all that comes out from them is loud disturbing noise far from being joyful.

One good friend of mine had to leave a church he and his wife attended because his wife could not stand any longer the very loud music and the constant yelling style of the pastor of the church when he preached. This woman had a problem with hearing and was super sensitive to very loud noise.

When I have attended Christian conventions where two to three thousand people have joined in singing a hymn of praise to God then I have experienced the loud but beautiful praise that this command for praise in verse one is aiming for. We cannot often attend churches that have thousands of worshippers but this should not stop us experiencing praise of the lord that is enthusiastic.

Paul uses the term thanksgiving and praise overflowing to the glory of God to express the same idea like 1 Corinthians 4: 15,

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God”.

Also we must consider when we praise and worship God that biblical praise always contains lots of content or reasons for praise so our praise should not be a loud noise but a enthusiastic glorification of the God of heaven and earth who has done so much for us according to the bible and we see this kind of praise offered in heaven, Revelation 5: 12,

“ In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!”

The second half of verse 1 is a little more difficult to interpret as it deals with who the writer wants this “Shout for joy” to be delivered by. The wording says,

“All the earth”

This could refer to either:

  1. Everyone on the earth or
  2. All people to belong to God from all over the earth.

I mentioned this problem in my introduction and I will simply set forth my findings from my research on this and then settle on how I now interpret this phrase..

  1. Everyone on the earth

The first way of understanding who is being called to “Shout to the Lord” is simply everyone who lives on the earth and we have seen that other “Our God the king reigns” psalms have commanded the world or everyone in it to praise God, like the opening of Psalm 97: 1,

“The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice”

Or more specifically Psalm 96: 10 – 11,

“Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it”.

Note these general commands for the world or everyone on earth to praise and rejoice in God are associated with his right to be praised as he reigns over all the earth.

However Psalm 100 seems to be a call to worship for people entering the Temple of the Lord and in verse 3 it seems obvious that the people being called to worship are God’s people or people who know the God of the bible,

“Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture”.

Could just anyone in the world or on the earth be called “his” or belonging to God and “the sheep of his pasture” or people who God especially leads through this life?

  1. All people to belong to God from all over the earth.

The second way of understanding “all the earth” is that it could be speaking about those who know God and belong to him who are found all over the earth. This is the argument the great Psalm commentator H. C Leupold goes for and he translates this phrase in Psalm 100 verse one as,

“All the inhabitants of the land”

He writes,

“The Hebrew word can mean either “earth” or “Land”. Since in the rest of the psalm Israel is specifically addressed and all the inhabitants of the earth are totally ignored”.

Leopold concludes that this call to worship is addressed to all the inhabitants of the land of Israel.

My conclusion then is that the expression “All the earth” could be a little ambiguous because the call to worship is for all true believers or people of God who have come from both all the land of Israel and all over the earth to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship God there. This would fit very well into the context of the time after the return from exile when people returned to Israel and of course Jerusalem to worship God in the rebuilt temple from far off lands like Babylon.

My rewrite of the hymn “All people on earth do dwell” reflects this idea for my new line reads, “All God’s people who dwell on the earth”

  1. (vs. 2)   A call to worship

The second verse is a second version of this call to worship for all God’s people and it reads this way,

“Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful song”

The expressions in this second part of this first call to worship also appears a number of times in the “Psalms of “Our God the King who reigns” (Psalms 93 – 100). Worshipping God with gladness appears in Psalm 95: 6, 96: 11 and 97: 1. While worship using singing appears in Psalm 95: 1 -2, 96: 1 – 2 and 98: 1 and verse 5.

So the idea that I set forth in the introduction that Psalm 100 is a doxology of praise and worship for the Psalms of “Our God the king who reigns” seems valid just on these expressions verse 2 of Psalm 100 alone.

If this call to worship was written for God’s people coming into the Temple in Jerusalem to worship then it is saying they should worship God with gladness, joy and song. Paul twice tells two different churches to do the same like Ephesians 5: 19 – 20,

“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

When I was a young teenager I remember coming into church to worship God with some of my friends and being scolded by a older member of the congregation for making so much noise as I entered what she called our church, “God’s House”. The tradition in my church in those days was entering church was like entering a library, you had to be dead quite as you were entering the presence of God. The problem with this is it is not biblical because heaven is not a quite place like the local library it is a place of great loud joyful praise, Revelation 19: 1 – 7,

“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,2 for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

 And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.” The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!” Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!”

 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready”.

 Those who want heaven to be like a great quiet and peaceful library will be very disappointed. This does not mean the lady at the church I grew up in did not have a point to make about how I was entering the church with my friends just making lots of noise in general conversation. We need to come together in worship dropping the day-to-day things of this world to focus on God and who he is and what he has done for us.

I like some of the Baptist churches I have attended over the years that before the church worship service starts they have a praise time when lively hymns of praise are sung helping everyone to focus on God with joyful praise.

Also this call to worship is not just applicable to our times of public worship as Paul taught in Romans 12: 1 that our whole lives should be lived in a attitude of praise and service to the Lord,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”.

At the time of writing this Psalm talk I attend, as a retired person a bible study that runs on a week -day during the week and some of its members are even older than I am. One older lady of that bible study is 92 and often when she is making a comment on a verse in the bible we are studying she breaks out in song singing an appropriate verse or chorus as part of her comments. We often join her singing the hymn or song and I have thought sometimes that this could be what Paul is saying we should do in the Ephesians 5: 19 – 20,

“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

All of us in the bible study find these wonderful godly women’s contributions to our discussions very worthwhile and often very inspiring. We need to learn more and more to,

“Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful song”

 I come then to my first rewritten verse of the Old hymn, “All people who on earth do dwell” with its New Testament’s inspire refrain which is my summary of this first section of this Psalm, verses 1 and 2,

  1. All God’s people who dwell on earth

Sing to the Lord with a joyful voice.

Serve the Lord with gladness and with praise

Come now before him and rejoice.

           Refrain:

 Rejoice, Rejoice in God our King

Give thanks, give thanks and joyfully sing.

For Jesus Christ died for my sin

So now I come to worship him.

  1. (vs. 3)   WHY GOD WANTS OUR PRAISE

 The first of four sections we just looked at was two verses which I broke into two parts but now the remaining three sections of the Psalm is one verse and it follows the pattern of the whole Psalm which is a call to worship followed by reasons why we should praise and thank him in worship.

Each of these final three sections will however be broken into parts that are made up of the key points of the verse. This second section of the Psalm, verse 3 has three key points. which I have broken into three parts which are reasons why we should praise and thank the Lord in worship of him, they are:

  1. You know God
  2. He made us
  3. He is our shepherd

Lets then have a close look at the first key reason why God wants us to praise and thank him.

  1. You know God

The first reason why God wants us to praise and thank him is because he has made himself known to us. The first phrase of verse 3 says,

“Know that the Lord is God”.

The writer can call the people of God to worship the God of the bible in praise and thanks because he knows that God has made himself known to them. The God of the bible is not some vague force or religious concept as he chose to make himself known in Old Testament terms through his people Israel.

Israel knew God because God made himself known to them in real time history as the writer of Psalm 46 says in verses 8 – 11 says,

“Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the

earth.He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress”.

The history of Israel and the special revelations God gave to many of its people form a major part of God’s word to mankind. This fact would have been very real in the time that this Psalm was placed in the fourth book of Psalms as that is when the people of Israel, the Jews as they had become known, returned from 70 long years in exile in Babylon. They would have seen how their God worked in the human history of their day to bring down the mighty Babylonians through a new world super power, the Persians.

The Persians employed a policy of letting exile nations in the Babylonian world return to their homelands to rebuild their homes and culture but they demanded allegiance and heavy tribute to their rule. This unusual conquering policy only came about because the God of heaven and earth who reigns over the nations moved in the hearts and minds of even the Persians to bring about his divine will.

God had an even greater way of making himself known after the time this Psalm was written or placed in the book of Psalms and that was through the sending of his son who the apostle John calls, “The Word” in John chapter 1. This special word of God or God making himself known is described this way in John 1: 14,

“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

 So we know God through the Lord Jesus Christ and Jesus makes God’s very nature of love and mercy even more clearer by what Jesus was willing to do for us in dying for our sins on the cross.

We must praise and thank God simply because of this alone because his love made known on the cross transforms not only our knowledge of God but our very lives.

Many people today want to deny this wonderful knowledge of God simply only believing in themselves and their ideas that there is no God behind this world and life. Jim Packer in his brilliant book “Knowing God” says this about denying God and the pursuit of knowing Him,

“We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you”.

 That is a sad description of our world today, a people who,

“Stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds them”.

But we can know God and it is possible through the life and teachings of God’s Son or “God’s Word” as John says in the words of Christ in John 8: 31 – 32,

 “ To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

So the first reason why we should praise and thank God is because he is a God who has made himself known to us as the Lord or King who is the one true God of heaven and earth.

  1. He made us

The next expression in verse 3 that sets down why we should want to praise and thank the God of the bible is,

“It is he who made us, and we are his”

Is this talking about God’s general making of all people or his specific making of his special people?

I think the phrase, “And we are his” indicates the later as the answer to this question.

This is also made clearer by what follows namely that “we are his people, the sheep of his pasture”.

The original target of these words as I said in my introduction would have been all of the Jews who came from all over the land of Israel and the known world of that time to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem.

God chose this small and tiny nation called Israel, which he made out of the descendants of the patriarch Abraham as we see in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

Why did God make Israel a special people or nation?

We read the answer to this in Exodus 19: 3 – 6,

“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

 God made, Israel his special nation because he had a special job for them to do and that was to declare to the whole world the very word of God and act as a priest or go between man and God.

Israel, of course failed over and over again in its long history to do this special job but in a sense his plan to make Israel his priests or go between God and made was fulfilled in them. This is because through the Jews God sent Jesus the perfect priest, go between or mediator between God and man as Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 2: 5,

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus”.

 Jesus came to make the one and only way back to God, John 14: 6,

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

Through Jesus then any person from any nation who puts their faith in Christ becomes God’s special people or people that God has made as John declares in John 1: 12 – 13,

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”.

This is why Peter in his first letter speaks in Old Testament, special people of God terms about all who have come to Christ telling us that we now have the special job of all being God’s priests or the go between’s God and man as we declare the message to the world of who Jesus is and what he has done for us, 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

So the second great reason why we should praise and thank God is because he has made us his special people and given us the great job of taking his saving message to the world.

  1. He is our shepherd

The third and final reason why we should want to praise and thank God is found in the final phrase of verse 3, which says,

“We are his people, the sheep of his pasture”.

Not only are we his special people he has made but we are the people he chooses to lead like a shepherd leads his sheep. The concept of God being Israel’s shepherd and Israel being his sheep has cropped up right through the Psalms and has even been in one of the “Our God the king Reigns” psalms, Psalm 95: 7,

“For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care”.

This shepherd – flock image was very real to King David as he as a boy worked for many years as a Shepherd of a flock of sheep and he later wrote about our unique relationship with God in Psalm 23: 1 – 4,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”.

In this Psalm David is saying God leads us in this life in the good times,

“2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul”.

Also God is with us and is guiding us through the tough times of life as well,

“4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”.

Jesus had much to say about this as well, describing himself in John chapter 10 as, “The Good Shepherd”, who gives his life for the sheep, John 10: 11,

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”.

 The Good shepherd who calls his sheep to himself, to follow him, who he gives eternal life to and who he will never let go of or forsake, Jon 10: 27 – 30,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

Note also Jesus is calling to himself not only people of his own nation, Israel but people from every nation on earth who he will make into one flock or one family of God, John 10: 14 – 16,

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd”.

So finally we have a third and wonderful reason why we should praise and thank our God the king and that is because he is our Shepherd who calls us, through Jesus into his flock and who he leads and protects through good times and difficult times to one day be with him in heaven experiencing wonderful full eternal life, life that Jesus says in John 10: 10 is not just full life when we die but is ours even in this life,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

To finish this second section of Psalm 100 I would like to present my second rewritten verse with its chorus of the old hymn “All people who on earth do dwell”.

Know that the Lord our God is God indeed

He made his people and they belong to him

We are his sheep and he leads us on

He calls us now to praise and sing.

Refrain:

Rejoice, rejoice in God our king.

Give thanks, give thanks and joyfully sing

For Jesus Christ died for my sin

So now I come to worship him.

  1. (vs. 4)   GOD WANTS OUR THANKS

 Now we come to the third and I think central teaching of this Psalm as it features a second call to worship based on thanking God which is what the Hebrew heading suggests is the main teaching of this Psalm,

“For giving thanks”

 I see two main aspects or parts of this third section, which is:

  1. (vs. 4a) Come to God with thanksgiving
  2. (vs. 4b) Thank God

 Lets then have a close look at each of these two parts of this fourth verse, which is my third section of this Psalm.

  1. (vs. 4a) Come to God with thanksgiving

 Verse 4 also fits not only the theme of thanksgiving but the possible context of this Psalm being a call to worship for God’s people as they were entering the Temple area from all over the land and as verse 1 suggests the “the earth”. Verse 4 says,

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise”

 I want to have a closer look here at answering to questions:

  1. What are the gates and courts?
  2. What does it mean to approach God with thanksgiving?

Let me try and give you an answer to these two important questions.

  1. What are the gates and courts?

The first part of verse 4 speaks of entering “gates” and “courts” which of course refer to, at the time of the placing of this Psalm in the fourth book of Psalms, the second Temple in Jerusalem. So literally the gates were where the people entered the Temple area in Jerusalem and the courts were where the people actually gathered for worship because only the priests or Levites went into the main enclosed temple building.

We must remember this is Hebrew poetry so the gates and courts are poetically symbolic of any place where people gather to worship the Lord and the Pulpit Commentaries quotes a person named Professor Alexander who explains that this metaphorically may,

“Extend to all the faithful and to all places of worship”.

 The obvious ultimate place of worship is in heaven itself, which is described in Revelation 21: 1 – 3, this way,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God”.

So in this heavenly Jerusalem or heavenly Temple all true believers will enter one day as Revelation 21: 22 – 27 puts it,

“ I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life”.

So the ultimate destiny of all true believers is to enter the gates of the heavenly Temple. Which is actually heaven itself to join with all believers to worship God forever.

  1. What does it mean to approach God with thanksgiving?

Please note how God wants us to come together in worship of him and it is not in a quiet serious and joyless manner but with great thanksgiving and praise,

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise”

That older lady in the church I grew up in who told me and my friends to be quiet as we were entering God’s house as we must be prayerful as we enter God’s presence had not understood the bible correctly. Yes our Godless youthful chatter was not the way to enter a time of worship but either was the older ladies view of entering God’s presence with quietness and like church and heaven is some kind of silent library.

No, verse 4 of Psalm 100 says enter your place of worship with thanksgiving and praise which is not a silent don’t’ make any noise type of activity. The closer tradition of pre- worship activity is probably the Baptist custom of a time of singing praise as the more biblical approach to coming into worship.

This is also telling us that when we come to worship God together as a the Church of Jesus Christ we must drop all the thoughts of our everyday lives and instead focus on God and all the wonderful things he has done for us. As the writer to the Hebrews puts it in Hebrews 12: 1 – 3,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”.

This of course is not just a concept of how we should think and act when coming together for formal worship of God but also is a word to us on how God wants us to live our lives. He doesn’t want us to walk through our lives as true believers letting the things of this world hold us down but he wants us to live a life of service and thanksgiving moving ever forward for him.

Paul had much to say about this, like Romans 12: 1,

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

Also 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Then in that final entering into God’s house or eternal home the emphasis will be both praise and thanksgiving as we read in Revelation 19: 6 – 7,

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.

 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has

come, and his bride has made herself ready”.

The symbols here are, the Lamb is Jesus and his bride is his church, the true members of his eternal family who will enter into his eternal home in heaven.

Those who think that heaven will be a quiet, peaceful place of reflection like floating on a cloud playing a harp forever will get a rude shock in heaven because it is more a place of great joyful, thankful and fruitful service and praise, something I am really looking forward to in the future.

  1. (vs. 4b) Thank God

The second part of verse 4 like the first emphasises the concept of thanksgiving as the prime way of how God wants to come into his presence, verse 4b reads,

“Give thanks to him and praise his name”.

 I mentioned in my introduction the wonderful benefits of giving thanks and spiritually these benefits go even deeper. I referred to Pauls command to the Thessalonians to give thanks in all circumstances in the first part of this verse. Let me remind you of those verses in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Note how Paul like the writer of Psalm 100 says that giving thanks is what God wants us to do. Giving thanks and praising God in all circumstances involves doing this even in difficult times like sickness or persecution. In fact the real test of our faith is, do we give thanks to God and praise God in difficult times as Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 9,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.

 On one of my short -term mission trips to Myanmar (Burma) a few years ago I came down with a painful and unpleasant illness for three days. On the first night of this time of sickness I was scheduled to preach at a large New Years Eve service in a church in the rural Myanmar town we were ministering in. New Year Eve services are a big deal for the Christians in Myanmar. I sent prayer requests home, the team I was with on that trip prayed for me and of course I was much in prayer.

God enabled me, though still in much pain to get to the church service around 11pm that night. As I sat up the front of the church waiting for my time to preach I was in much pain but as I rose to preach the pain seemed to go and I was able to both preach and sing for over half an hour. As soon as I sat down the pain returned and soon after the service I was taken back to my hotel very ill indeed.

I was able to join with my team and local supporters soon after this when I was on the mend and give God great praise and thanks for his power to enable me to preach and sing that night and this whole experience taught me that even in pain and sickness we can look to God with praise and thanksgiving especially when he comes close to us to help us cope with our pain and sickness.

Other Christians have to suffer far more than I did on that mission trip to Myanmar but they too can know the help only God through Jesus can give them as Jesus offers in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 For this great promise of Jesus and the reality of its truth we can claim in our lives we should give thanks and praise to God.

Far greater thanks and praise can be given to God for what he has done for us in sending Jesus into this world to pay for our sins on the cross. God gave up so much for us to save us and this is the grounds of our thanksgiving to God as Paul tells the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 10: 16 – 17,

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf”.

I close this third section of this Psalm with my third verse of my rewritten version of the old hymn “All people who on earth do dwell” and its New Testament inspired refrain:

Enter God’s house and give him praise

And come before his throne with joy.

Give him the thanks that he deserves

May constant praise your lives employ.

Refrain:

Rejoice, rejoice in God our king.

Give thanks, give thanks and joyfully sing

For Jesus Christ died for my sin

So now I come to worship him.

  1. (vs. 5)   WHY GOD WANTS OUR THANKS

 We come then to the fourth and final section of this Psalm, which explains even further why God deserves and wants our praise and thanks.

I have broken this fourth section into two parts as well which are:

  1. The Lord is good
  2. His love and faithfulness endures forever.

 Lets look then at these two parts:

  1. The Lord is good

So this second call for praise and thanks to the God of the bible is followed up by a verse that sets down two more reasons why we should praise and thank our God the king and the first reason is in the first phrase of verse 5 that simply says,

“The Lord is good”

 David Guzik spells out beautifully the full extent of God’s goodness,

“He is good in His plans, good in His grace, good in His forgiveness, good in His covenant, and good in every aspect of His being”.

 The God of the bible is the only God or system of religion that speaks of the God of heaven and earths this way. Even Islam has a different view of the love and goodness of God and this is well set down by a article on the differences between the Christian God and the God of the Koran by The Arabic Bible – Outreach ministry when they write,

“The Qur’an calls God “the loving” (Al Wadud), but the meaning is rather different from the Christian idea of God’s love. It implies “approval”; thus the Qur’an says that God loves (approves of) the good, but does not love (approve of) the evil-doers (3, Ali “Imran 29/32, 70/76 etc). The Qur’an speaks much of God’s goodness in creation and in sending prophets, but nowhere says that God loves the world, nor that God loves sinners, nor that “God is love” (cf. John 3; 16; Romans 5: 8 1John 4:8)”.

 However here in Psalm 100 verse 5 and right through the bible and particularly in the New Testament God is good.

Jesus said, Mark 10: 18,

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.

 Paul said, 1 Timothy 4: 4,

“For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving”.

And James said, James 1: 17,

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows”.

So these verses tell us that not only is God good but everything he does and says is good. We should then trust in this God and taste or experience his goodness in our lives as David challenges us to do in Psalm 34: 8,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him”.

 David is speaking to God through difficult times but is saying even then God is good.

Paul makes it clear that God’s goodness works its way out, for those who put there trust in him in all circumstances, Romans 8: 28,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who] have been called according to his purpose”

Even my terrible three day illness on my Myanmar mission trip years ago worked out for the good because it taught me to trust and thank God in all circumstances and it has become for me and others who know me a testimony to the love and goodness of God who helped me minister in that Church on New Years eve in Myanmar and it was a testimony to God’s healing power when I was brought out of the illness only after three days.

No matter what our situation, if we look to God we can taste and see how true is the goodness of God if we would but put our faith and trust in him and what his Son did for us on the cross.

  1. His love and faithfulness endures forever.

 The final words of verse 5, the final words of the Psalm speak wonderfully of the love and faithfulness of God as the final reason why we should thank and praise our God the king.

These final words of the Psalm read like this,

“His love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations”.

 This is simply a wonderful expression of the covenantal love of God the love God promised in the first covenant to Israel long ago which we read in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

David spoke often of this covenantal love of God like Psalm 57: 3,

“God sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me; God sends his love and his faithfulness”.

And again in verse 10 of Psalm 57,

“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches the skies”.

Israel and even David did not deserve this love and faithfulness of God because both failed God on many occasions yet God continued to offer his love to them both. The God of the bible offers a very special kind of love that the New Testament calls grace as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 2: 8- 9,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.

This covenant of love or grace is the basis of the whole Old Testament word from God or word of God and it becomes even clearer in the New Testament, which documents the life, teaching and its implications of the Lord Jesus Christ for our lives. This is even clearer in the well known verse in Johns Gospel, John 3: 16,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

This love of God is expressed in Jesus the foundation of what the writer to the Hebrews calls the New Covenant in Hebrews 9: 14 – 15,

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

So these final words of Psalm 100 tell us we should thank and praise God because of his eternal promise of his love and faithfulness, which means his word, which it says, endures forever.

This everlasting great love of God given to us through his Son Jesus Christ which we find expressed so wonderfully in his word, the bible should be the grounds for not only our love for God or thanks and praise of God but also our love for one another which Peter spells out in 1 Peter 1: 21 – 25,

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been

born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and

enduring word of God. 24 For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you”.

I close this fourth and final section of the Psalm with the fourth verse of my rewritten version of the old hymn “All people who on earth do dwell” and its New Testament inspired refrain:

“The Lord our God is God indeed

For all his love and grace is sure.

God’s word stands firm and will not change

His faithfulness and his love endure.

 Refrain:

Rejoice, rejoice in God our king.

Give thanks, give thanks and joyfully sing

For Jesus Christ died for my sin

So now I come to worship him.

 CONCLUSION

 We have seen in Psalm 100 the call of God to worship him with thanks and praise inspired by who he is and what he has done for us. He is our God the king who made us his people that he leads like his sheep. He is totally good and gives us good things and he loves us with a love we do not deserve a love that will endure forever.

This is then the great doxology of the past seven Psalms that speak so powerfully of the God of the bible being our King who reigns in heaven and on earth forever who deserves our thanks and worship and of course our service in taking his message of His love to the world.

I close as usual with a poem and a prayer and my poem is the words of the rewritten old hymn “All people who on earth do dwell” and its New Testament inspired refrain.

WORSHIP HIM

(Based on Psalm100)

(Rewrite of the hymn “All people who on earth do dwell)

  1. All God’s people who dwell on earth

Sing to the Lord with a joyful voice.

Serve the Lord with gladness and praise

Come now before him and rejoice.

          

           Refrain:

Rejoice, Rejoice in God our King

Give thanks, give thanks and joyfully sing.

For Jesus Christ died for my sin

So now I come to worship him.

 

  1. Know that the Lord is God indeed

He made his people and they belong to him.

We are his sheep and he leads us on

He calls us now to praise and sing.

          

           Refrain:

Rejoice, Rejoice in God our King

Give thanks, give thanks and joyfully sing.

For Jesus Christ died for my sin

So now I come to worship him.

 

  1. Enter God’s house and give him praise

And come before his throne with joy.

Give him the thanks that he deserves

May constant praise your lives employ.

          

           Refrain:

Rejoice, Rejoice in God our King

Give thanks, give thanks and joyfully sing.

For Jesus Christ died for my sin

So now I come to worship him.

 

  1. The Lord our God is God indeed

For all his love and grace is sure.

God’s word stands firm and will not change

His faithfulness and his love endure.

          

           Refrain:

Rejoice, Rejoice in God our King

Give thanks, give thanks and joyfully sing.

For Jesus Christ died for my sin

So now I come to worship him.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 O Lord our God you are our God and we give you our thanks and praise because you made us and lead us like your sheep. Help us to come to you in worship and praise particularly thanking you for the sending of your son to earth to die for our sins on the cross. May our very lives be a sacrifice of praises our thanks as we seek to serve you in this world by proclaiming your love to this world. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PSALM 99 TALK: OUR GOD THE KING IS HOLY YET HE LISTENS TO US

PSALM 99 TALK: OUR GOD THE KING IS HOLY YET HE LISTENS TO US

 (A Psalm that explores how the God of the bible is a great and holy God, which means he is so different from us, and does not sin or do things that are wrong or unjust yet he is willing to listen to us when we sincerely call on him.)

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

In the second year of my three years at Bible College many years ago I was selected to do a special job. I was given the job of being the college driver, which meant I had to work with the vice – Principal and Principle of the college who both had college vehicles. I had driving duties as required during the weeks of college. I was a full time live in student of The Sydney Missionary and Bible College (SMBC) and in my days there all students were required to do their share of cleaning and maintenance duties but as the College driver my only duties were to be available to drive the college cars when needed. I picked up daily a cook and dropped her home. I also took home a college secretary. Sometimes I was required to pick up and or drop off special guests of the college from the airport or railway station.

One day when I was in lectures the Principle of the college of that time Arthur Deane called me out of my lecture and very humbly apologized to me for changing an arrangement for the use of the car that afternoon as something important had come up for him and had to use the car. He even had arranged for me to use the vice – principles car and apologized for any inconvenience he had caused me. I thanked him and went back to my lecture.

After thinking about this incident I thought he did not have to see me in person about this change of arrangements and he certainly did not have to apologize for any inconvenience after all he was the Principle of the college and I was just the lowly student. However this is how I found Arthur Deane to be, he was a Godly humble man who led by example and he always demonstrated what I have come to know as Servant -hood leadership which I sought to emulate in my years of ministry as a result of the example of men and women like Arthur Deane and particularly like the example of The Lord Jesus Christ.

The God of the bible is so great and so powerful as he is the one who made this world and who continues to keep it going. Our God is holy which means he is so different than us as he is completely just and sinless yet this God of the bible also promises to not only listen to our prayers but also forgive us of our many sins as Psalm 99 verse 8 declares,

“O Lord our God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds”.

 We know how forgiving our God is because we know that God sent Jesus, his only son into the world to take the punishment of our misdeeds, or sins on the cross as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5: 21,

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

Psalm 99 presents two main views of God, which many see as opposing ideas about God, that is that God is the king of the universe who is holy or pure and sinless who also listens to our prayers and forgives us. Atheist like Richard Dawkins rubbish this concept as being un- scientific and irrational but Christians claim like Psalm 99 does that this concept is the amazing good news of the bible that inspires us to faith and obedience of God.

I aim to explore these two great concepts about God through my talk on this Psalm and hopefully convince you that they are true and as the last verse of the Psalm says lead you to,

“Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy”.

 What “his holy mountain” means I hope will become clear during my Psalm talk. Terms in this Psalm that seem to refer to the “Ark of the Covenant” like in verse 1,

“He sits enthroned between the cherubim”

and verse 5,

“Worship at his footstool”

 Suggest this Psalm was written before the fall of Jerusalem when not only was the Temple destroyed that housed the Ark of Covenant” but the Ark of the Covenant was lost forever when the Babylon’s either destroyed it or took it and its contents back to Babylon.

However I have continually pointed out that even if the Psalms of the fourth book of Psalms were written before the exiles returned from Babylon they were not placed into the book of Psalms unto after the return from Babylon when it seems the fourth book of Psalms was formulated. This means that we have a problem for the readers of Psalm 99 as there is no place in the second Temple in Jerusalem for God to sit even metaphorically between the cherubim for their was no Ark of the Covenant in the second Temple in Jerusalem.

The answer to this is similar to the problem of the eternal kingdom of David being seemingly destroyed by the Babylonians. We have seen for the last six Psalms that God in heaven is the true king of Israel and not only Israel but the whole world and that one day he would send The Messiah who will sit on David’s throne forever. So the ark of the covenant was only a physical reminder of the true throne of God which is in heaven where God is surrounded by a host of heavenly beings called in the bible angels and eventually even the physical Temple in Jerusalem itself would be gone forever once God sent his Son, Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah to establish through his death and resurrection worship not based on a place but based on Spirit and truth as Jesus told the women of Samaria at the well in John 4: 21 – 23,

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.

23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

We will also see that in a sense Jesus is the perfect replacement for “The Ark of the Covenant” and that all that the Ark of the Covenant stood for was fulfilled in him and what he has done for us.

My theory is that Psalm 99 was originally a worship song used during the time of the original Temple in Jerusalem before the Babylonian conquest and when the editors of book four or Psalms were gathering material for this book after the return from exile they turned this well known worship song into a Psalm and placed it in this part of book four of Psalms because of its obvious theme of the Reign of God as the king.

This Psalm is clearly a song as it even has a re-accruing refrain which is “he is holy” in verses 3 and 5 and “God is holy” in verse 9

With the two seemingly contradictory concepts of God, His greatness and holiness and yet his wiliness to listen to us and forgive us in mind my breakdown for this Psalm is:

  1. (1 – 3)   THE LORD REIGNS FROM HEAVEN IN HOLINESS
  1. (1 – 3a)   The Lord reigns and the nations tremble
  2. (vs. 3b)   Praise the awesome holy God
  1. (4 – 5)   THE LORD REIGNS ON EARTH WITH JUSTICE
  1. (vs. 4)   Our God the king is mighty and loves justice
  2. (vs. 5)   Exalt the Lord who reigns and worship him all the earth
  1. (6 – 8)   THE HOLY GOD WHO REIGNS LISTENS TO US AND                                    FORGIVES  US
  1. (6 – 7)   Three examples of men who called on God and God listened
  2. (vs. 8)   God listens because he is a forgiving God
  1. (vs. 9)   CONCLUSION – WORSHIP THE HOLY GOD WHO REIGNS

 Lets then have a close look at the first section of this Psalm:

  1. (1 – 3)   THE LORD REIGNS FROM HEAVEN IN HOLINESS

I have broken this first section into two parts, which are:

  1. (1 – 3a)   The Lord reigns and the nations tremble
  2. (vs. 3b)   Praise the awesome holy God

 Lets then look at the first part:

  1. (1 – 3a)   The Lord reigns and the nations tremble

This Psalm is now the seventh Psalm in the series of Psalms that feature the reign of God as king and it starts with the phase,

“The Lord reigns”

 Psalms 93 and 97 starts with the same expression, “The Lord reigns” and this same expression appears in Psalm 96 in verse 10.

So the concept of the reign of God is a very important and well-used idea in ancient Hebrew worship songs. Even Isaiah who seems to have been used a lot in these past seven Psalms speaks of the reign of God like, Isaiah 52: 7,

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion,  “Your God reigns!”

 This is an excellent reference because it explains; I think what the next phase of the verse says,

“Let the nations tremble”

 Isaiah is speaking about how the message of God is to go out into the world proclaiming God’s good news of Salvation, a message Isaiah says in other parts of his prophecy is for all the world like, Isaiah 12: 4,

“In that day you will say: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted”.

The message of how God worked for Israel defeating their enemies which means God judged the enemies to save them and this judgment of the opposing nations would make them tremble as Isaiah speaks of in Isaiah 64: 1 and 2,

“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!”

This thought is very relevant for the people who started using this Psalm as a worship song in the second Temple of Jerusalem after the Jews returned from Babylonian exile as they saw how their mighty enemy, Babylon was humbled or caused to tremble by the Persian empire overrunning them. God not only led the Persians to defeat the Babylonians but also caused them to free the Jews to return to Israel and helped them rebuild Jerusalem and its temple.

In the New Testament the message of God’s salvation goes out to the nations but this is a message of spiritual salvation that involves the proclamation of how Jesus has defeated sin and evil on the cross. It is a message Paul speaks of in Roman 10 where the reign of God is expressed as believing that Jesus is Lord or king as he says in verses 8 – 9,

“ But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”.

Paul goes on to say that he wants those who know this message and have responded to it by faith to be the ones who proclaim this message of salvation to those who have not heard it and he even quotes Isaiah’s word in Isaiah 52: 7 about the beautiful feet of those who preach this message of salvation in Romans 10: 14 – 15,

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?

And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

So the Lord our God reigns and the Nations tremble and verse 3a says that we should praise this reign and now the last part of verse 1 and verses 2 and 3 give us two more reasons why the Nations should tremble and praise the reign of God:

  1. The God who reigns has made himself known on earth (vs. 1b)
  2. The God who reigns is great and awesome (vs. 2 and 3a)

Lets have a close look at each of these three reasons why the nations should tremble and praise the reign of God.

  1. The God who reigns has made himself known on earth (vs. 1b)

The last part of verse 1 then makes a curious claim about God saying,

“He sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake”.

This is an obvious reference to the concept of The Ark of the Covenant, which seems to have been very real to the original composer of this Temple worship song. God made it clear that he wanted his people not to make any form of graven image of him but did give them one physical representation of not himself but his covenant agreement he made with Israel, which simply put was a box to carry that, which represented his covenant agreement he made with them.

This box is and its special very symbolic lid became the Ark of the Covenant and the Hebrew word for Ark is used for the large floating box boat Noah was told to build and the small weed basket Moses was set afloat on the river Nile. So the Ark was really just the container box for the tablets of stone the ten commandments that were written on and a piece of manner and Aarons rod all symbols of God’s covenant agreement that Israel’s salvation was based upon in the Old Testament.

The part of the Ark of the Covenant referred to in verse 1 of Psalm 99 is the lid, which had great significance for an Old Testament Hebrew worshipper. This lid is described in Exodus 25: 17 – 22,

“Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 18 And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 19 Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. 20 The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. 21 Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you. 22 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites”.

So this lid of the covenant box, which is not a big object had the significance of the place where God met with Moses and later the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement and spoke through Moses or the high priest to Israel and through them the world.

What is the significance then of this lid featuring two angels?

Psalm 99 verse 1b speaks of God reigning as he sits enthroned between the two angels called cherubim. The Ark of Covenant was only a lowly symbol of something far greater and that was God in heaven sitting on his throne surrounded by many angels who constantly worship him.

We have a clear vision of this in the sixth chapter of Isaiah where Isaiah has a wonderful vision of God in heaven reigning on his throne, verses 1 to 4 describe this amazing scene,

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke”.

The real significance then of the lid of the Ark of the Covenant is that God the great holy God of heaven and earth has made himself known to the world. This concept of God making himself known to the world through at first the Old Testament Covenant and finally in a full and wonderful way through Jesus Christ, God’s son come to earth is a major theme of the New Testament book called Hebrews. Hebrews 1: 1 – 3 says,

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven”.

The book of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus fulfils and completes the images and promises of the Old Covenant and actually through his sacrificial death for our sins on the cross, established a new covenant. In Hebrews 8 this new covenant is proclaimed and I want you to see how in the following verses from Hebrews 8: 1 – 13, the Old Covenant symbols like the curtained off holy of holies place in the Sanctuary or Temple and of course the Ark of the Covenant are but copies and shadows of what is in heaven, verse 8.

So this is what Hebrews 8: 1 – 13 actually says about the formation of the New Covenant Jesus established,

“Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.

Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”[

But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.

But God found fault with the people and said]: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.11 No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”[ 13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear”.

So the first reason why the nations should tremble and praise the Lord who reigns is that he has made himself known from heaven first through the Old Covenant given to Israel but even more so through how God has made himself known through Jesus Christ his only son who through his death for our sins on the cross established a New Covenant that opens up the way for anyone who believes in him to enter literally God’s heavenly home.

  1. The God who reigns is great and awesome (vs. 2 and 3a)

 The composer of Psalm 99 continues in verses 2 and 3b to describe the God who reigns from his heavenly home and he uses two powerful words to describe him:

  1. Great (vs. 2)
  2. Awesome (vs. 3a)

Lets discover together what each of these two words mean:

  1. Great (vs.2)

Our composer of the Temple worship song describes the God of the bible this way in verse 2,

“Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations”

Note here the greatness of the God of the bible is seen in Zion. Zion is another key word and concept in both the Psalms and the writings of the prophets and once understood opens up a whole truck -load of bible teaching. For now I will simply point out that Zion is used for at least three important concepts in the bible,

  1. It is the hill in Jerusalem where the sanctuary under David and later the Temple sat under Solomon,

Psalm 74: 2 – 3,

“Remember the nation you purchased long ago, the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed— Mount Zion, where you dwelt. Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary”.

Even Jerusalem became known for that one great hill and is often called Zion in the bible (Isaiah 40: 9)

  1. God’s special chosen people, Zechariah 9: 13,

“I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it with Ephraim. I will rouse your sons, Zion, against your sons, Greece, and make you like a warrior’s sword”.

In the New Testament Zion becomes the church or the New Israel of God as we see in Hebrews 12: 22 – 23,

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect”.

  1. God’s eternal dwelling place – heaven, as we see in Revelation 14: 1,

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads”.

By the way 144,000 is not a literal number but a symbolic number for the complete number of believers God has called and established as his own people that will come from every nation not just the Jews.

For the composer of Psalm 99 he would have the physical Zion in mind but remember Zion, the Sanctuary and the Ark of the covenant symbolized God in heaven sitting on his throne reigning over everyone and everything therefore God is great and should exalted over all the earth.

  1. Awesome (vs. 3a)

Then the composer of the Temple worship song, Psalm 99 says in verse 3a,

“Let them praise your great and awesome name”

Most commentators translate “awesome” as “terrible” but both words in current day English mean very different things these days. This same word crops up in Psalm 47: 2,

“How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great king over all the earth”,

I like Albert Barnes explanation of the use of the translated word as terrible when he writes,

“Let them praise thy great and terrible name – The word rendered “terrible” means “to be feared or reverenced;” that is, his name – his being – he himself – is suited to inspire awe and reverence”.

 Reverence means to acknowledge him as the Lord or King and bow to his rule over our lives. Paul makes it clear that acknowledging Jesus as Lord and confessing that with our lips and believing in our hearts that God raised him from the dead is the basis of truly coming to Christ, Romans 10: 9 – 10,

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved”.

Reverence is the basis of true worship which is what this verse is saying when it says,

“Let them praise your great and awesome name”

Paul also has something to say about how a Christian should worship if they know his mercy or love for them in Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

  1. (vs. 3b)   Praise the awesome holy God

The short phrase at the end of verse 3 that says,

“He is holy”

Deserves a separate section as it is a kind of refrain that is repeated three times in this Psalm, vs. 3b, 5c and with a slight change of words,

“Our God is holy” in verse 9c.

It is a concept that is very important and you cannot fully understand the Gospel without understanding the Holiness of God. When I was in Bible College I led with another student a mission program at an Anglican parish in one of the newer areas of Sydney at the time. Part of this mission was a high school seminar program and the final part of this program was left to me to get up and present the Gospel message in 20 minutes to an auditorium of 500 teenage students.

The kids were restless and noisy and in no mood to here a hard hitting Gospel presentation so I changed my message when I stood up to tell them the true story of a teenage boy who had come to the Lord in a similar way to the prodigal son. As the boy’s story mirrored the parable of Jesus in Luke 15 I made reference to the Luke 15 passage in my talk.

I found that the teenagers actually went quiet as I told them the young mans true story of how he ran away from his Christian family home and got involved in drug taking and then came home destitute and fell into his fathers arms and was immediately accepted back in love by his father. The young man told me that when his father accepted him with genuine love that day he realised for the first time that the love of God his father had often spoken about was real.

Many teenagers and I had tears in our eyes as I came to the end of the talk and many students stayed back to ask questions about the Christian faith. I felt very happy with what had happened unto one of the local ministers who was present at the seminar came up to me and said, “That was a very poor presentation of the Gospel because you made no mention of the holiness of God”.

I was so taken aback from this minsters criticism that I could not give him an answer to his very cruel criticism. I went home that night and kept thinking about how did the story of the prodigal son touch on the holiness of God?

The problem is that in the story Jesus told he is using a fallen sinful people even that unbelievable loving father.

However this is a parable maybe the father who represents God is totally holy and loving who gave to his son what his son wanted and his son who represents all of us is a foolish wilful sinner who does not deserve the father’s love.

However no matter how I worked it the parable of the prodigal son does not really have much to say about God’s holiness but it will have much to say about the forgiveness of God, which we will look at in the third and last section of this Psalm.

What scriptures then help us to understand what it means that God is holy?

First I must say what the Hebrew word for holy actually means. Don Stewart says that the Hebrew word for Holy means, “Separation” or “To separate or cut off” and goes to make this insightful comment,

“God is separate, or cut off, from everything that is sinful and evil-He cannot tolerate sin”.

 Twice in the bible we have the term to describing God as “Holy, Holy, Holy”, once in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament and both when two different men had a vision of God in heaven, these two references are:

  1. Isaiah vision of God’s holiness – recorded in Isaiah 6: 3
  2. John vision of God’s holiness – recorded in Revelation 4: 8

Lets have a closer look at each of these men’s vision of The Holy God of the bible.

  1. Isaiah vision of God’s holiness – recorded in Isaiah 6: 3

I have referred to this passage already and the verse comes as part of Isaiah’s vision of God sitting on his throne in heaven. God is surrounded by many angels and it is what the angels are saying of God that this verse records,

And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

It is said these angels cover their faces with their wings such is the sparkling splendour of God. Moses had to cover his face by hiding in a rock crevasse and had his face covered (Exodus 33: 21 – 33) and even being close to God caused his face to shine (Exodus 34: 29 – 35) and had to cover his face after speaking with God.

So the angels covering their faces cry our three times,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Why three times?

It seems the Hebrews said things three times to express more intently what they are saying and some commentators have suggested that the threefold holy, holy, holy in Isaiah 3 and Revelation 4 could also represent the trinity that God the father is holy, God the Son is holy and God the Holy Spirit is holy.

Isaiah’s reaction to seeing the holiness of God in verse 5 also tells us much about what holy means in the bible,

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

So the Isaiah passage states that God is separate, pure and righteous compared to us that in his presence we must cover our faces and once we have seen what God is like we feel so unclean so unrighteous or sinful and Isaiah says this in Isaiah 64: 6,

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags”.

  1. John vision of God’s holiness – recorded in Revelation 4: 8

John records in the book of Revelation a most remarkable vision of God in heaven, which is written in a special coded poetic language, but it still reads even in its literal form as a most remarkable vision of God and Heaven. In his vision just like Isaiah’s, God is sitting on his throne surrounded by heavenly beings we call angels. The splendour of this sight is portrayed in the heavily symbolic language and we read this in Revelation 4: 2 – 8,

At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the centre, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”

So John also is describing a sight that is so unlike anything we can see in this life and the God on the throne is so brilliantly pure, sinless and spectacular that anyone who comes near him literally falls down and worships him as verses 9 – 11 record in Revelation 4,

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

So this is the sort of thing the writer of Psalm 99 is thinking of when he says,

“He is holy”

Something he also says this three times throughout this Psalm in verse 3, 5 and 9.

This is the kind of thing that minister wanted me to present all those years ago to those 500 or so restless teenage students. Maybe what he should have said to me is we cannot really grasp the Gospel message unto we understand the holiness of God.

For when we grasp how holy God is we realise how sinful we are and how much we need God’s forgiveness and how far God through Jesus was willing to go to die for our sins on the cross.

So Psalm 99 says we must praise this awesome God because he is both great and holy.

  1. (4 – 5)   THE LORD REIGNS ON EARTH WITH JUSTICE

 The writer of Psalm 99 then continues to call us to praise and worship the God of the bible who reigns and gives us even more reasons for doing this.

I have broken this second section into two parts:

  1. (vs. 4)   Our God the king is mighty and loves justice
  2. (vs. 5)   Exalt the Lord who reigns and worship him all the earth

 Lets look then at each of these two parts to this second section:

  1. (vs. 4)   Our God the king is mighty and loves justice

 God’s holiness just referred to in the little refrain, which leads the composer of Psalm 99 to, speaks of another reason why we should praise and worship the God of the bible and that is because of his justice, which bound up in his righteousness. He writes,

“The king is mighty, he loves justice –“

God loves justice because justice and righteousness is at the core of his character as David exclaims in Psalm 4: 1a,

“Answer me when I call on you, O my righteous God.”

Psalm 89: 14a makes this even clearer,

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne”.

 Yes, the God of the bible is a righteous just God who not only loves justice but equally hates injustice and sin as we read in a verse like 2 Chronicles 19: 7,

“Now let the fear of the Lord be upon you, Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery”.

 Israel was given God’s just law and that is why verse 5 goes on to say,

“You established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right”

 Yet all through Israel’s history justice or the keeping of God’s law was rarely done and the people slipped into acts of injustice as Isaiah speaks of in Isaiah 59: 14 – 15,

“So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter.

15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice”.

Because of this continual injustice and unrighteous acts of Israel called “Jacob” by the writer of Psalm 99 God eventually judged Israel and the northern kingdom was destroyed forever by the Assyrian invasion in 722B.C and the southern kingdom of Judah was defeated by the Babylonians 597BC and most of the population was taken into captivity in Babylon.

I believe the story of Israel is a big object lesson for us to realise both what sin or unrighteousness is and how God will deal with it in judgment. Even in the church throughout the ages we have seen that often it to has gone the way of ancient Israel in unjust and unrighteous deeds and it has suffered God’s wrath in judgment.

Paul makes it clear when speaking to the so-called scholars of Athens that a final day of judgment is coming in Acts 17: 31,

“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

 God’s other great characteristic of love and faithfulness will be covered in the third and final section of this Psalm but for now our writer wants us to focus on God’s love of justice because he is a holy and righteous God.

  1. (vs. 5)   Exalt the Lord who reigns and worship him all the earth

With this justice or righteousness of God the king in mind our writer of Psalm 99 says we are to,

“Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy”.

 This verse also points towards this Psalm being written before the exile into Babylon as it calls for worship of God in Old Testament, Temple and Ark of the Covenant way. We know that the temple was rebuilt after the return from the Babylonian exile but there was no longer an Ark of the Covenant that had on its lid what was also called “God’s footstool”.

So verse 5 calls for worship or for us to exalt or lift up the Lord at his footstool. David speaks of the Ark of the Covenant as God’s footstool in 1 Chronicles 28: 2,

“King David rose to his feet and said: “Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it”.

To understand how what would have been a small lid of a relatively small box could be God’s footstool on earth we need to go back to the instructions God gave Moses for the creation of the Ark of the Covenant in Exodus 25: 17 – 22,

“Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 18 And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 19 Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. 20 The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover.

21 Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you. 22 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites”.

So the small section between the two cherubim on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant was place God would meet with Moses, which became known as the mercy seat or God’s footstool. Moses and after Moses the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement went into the Holy of Holiness that contained the Ark of the Covenant with some of the blood of a sacrificial animal which was sprinkled on the mercy seat for the forgiveness of the peoples sins.

This whole involved process of sprinkling blood on a place that symbolized God’s presence with his people had I think two purposes and they were,

  1. To tell the people of Israel how serious God viewed sin and his forgiveness of it.
  2. To act as a shadow of his real and total solution for our sins as we heard earlier in Hebrews 3: 8 – 6,

Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”[ But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

Interestingly Isaiah had another way of seeing what God’s footstool on earth was in Isaiah 60: 13,

“This is what the Lord says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?”

It is said that this word of Isaiah was written for the Jews returning from exile in Babylon. Isaiah looks ahead to this and posses a very important question of when we consider the greatness of the God of the bible what building on earth could contain him?

The answer is of course none and therefore Isaiah argues that the vastness of heaven is God’s real home and the earth is but a mere footstool. This is the idea that comes in my mind when I have visited enormous cathedrals in Europe that some say are the great houses of God. They were built, they say, to glorify God but God is so great, so holy and so awesome that no building on earth, no matter how big and impressive it is could truly speak of the God of heaven and earth, the God of the bible.

In fact the rebuilding of the Temple after the exile was a hollow affair anyway as the original Temple was the building that was made to house the Ark of the Covenant, which contained its footstool where God met the high priest on the Day of Atonement but the Ark of the Covenant was now lost.

It is said that the Roman general Pompey who led the military campaign against Jerusalem demanded the privilege of being the first person to enter the Holy of Holies and when he found there an empty room he could not understand what all the fuss was about.

Maybe even that empty room that existed in the Holy of Holies also speaks of Christ as 500 years after the second temple was built Christ came to give new meaning to the whole sacrificial system.

I have one last thought to offer about worshipping God at his footstool and it involves the image or symbolism of the Ark of the covenants lid, which became known as the mercy seat or rather the space between the two winged cherubim angels where God met the representative of the people, The High Priest with forgiveness for their sins through the sprinkles blood of a sacrificial animal.

It was called the mercy seat because it was hear God was said to come and accept the blood of a sacrificed animal on the Day of Atonement but of course the real mercy seat of God that he wants us all to come to is the cross of Christ for it is on the cross that the ultimate and complete sacrifice for sin was offered once and for all time as the writer to the Hebrews speaks of in Hebrews 9: 11 – 14,

“ But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

At the point of Christ death on the cross Luke records this in Luke 23: 44 – 46,

“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last”.

The curtain that cut people off from entering the holy of hollies was torn in two has great significance as through the sacrificial death of Christ a new and living way was opened up to God and around seventy years later the Temple was destroyed by the Romans never to be rebuilt even to this day. That empty space in the holy of hollies that should have contained the Ark of the Covenant was superseded by the death of Christ and from his death, resurrection and ascension to heaven onwards we worship the God of the bible at the footstool of the cross. As the writer to the Hebrews puts it so clearly in Hebrews 10: 19 – 25,

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

Note how the writer to the Hebrews leads finally to speaking of Christians meeting together and I think then that worshipping at God’s footstool is the church meeting together in and through the cross of Christ that brings us into the presence of God.

Also note that the writer of Psalm 99 little refrain completes 5 and this second section of his Psalm or worship song, which is,

“He is holy”

See my ideas on this refrain in the last section of this Psalm.

  1. (6 – 8)   THE HOLY GOD WHO REIGNS LISTENS TO US AN FORGIVES                  US

 We come then to the third section of the Psalm which makes a great and wonderful change of perspective which I will explain using the following breakdown of two parts:

  1. (6 – 7)   Three examples of men who called on God and God listened
  2. (vs. 8)   God listens because he is a forgiving God

Lets then have a close look at these two parts of this third section of the Psalm.

  1. (6 – 7)   Three examples of men who called on God and God listened

The writer of this Psalm has gone to some trouble to build up a picture of a great, powerful and particularly holy God so far in this Psalm. The God of the bible is not only great and holy he is just as well because as verse 4 declares,

‘He loves justice”

 Then in verse 6 the writer of Psalm 99 changes message to speak of the love and forgiveness of God and even more than that the fact that this great holy God actually listens and answers the prayers of his faithful people.

He makes this incredible point by giving us three Old Testament examples of men who called out to God in prayer and God answered them. Verse 6 says,

“Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name”.

 It seems our writer’s examples of people God answered the prayers of were priests who would have been men who interceded for the people to God. The role of the priest in the Old Testament was twofold:

  1. To offer up sacrifices for the people according to the law
  2. To intercede and represent the people before the Lord.

It is the second role or function the writer of Psalm 99 is referring to in verse 6.

Lets look at one example of each of these three men acting as a priest or one who intercedes in prayer for the people to God;

  1. Moses
  2. Aaron
  3. Samuel
  1. Moses

We have a number of examples of Moses interceding for the people to God and God listening to him shown by the way he answered him. A good example of Moses praying and God answering him is in Exodus 33.

In Exodus 32: 11 – 13,

“But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’”

God listened to this desperate cry or prayer of Moses on behalf of his people and Exodus 32: 14 says,

“Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened”.

So Moses acting as a priest and leader of the people of Israel called on the Lord or his name as verse 6 says and he answered. God who is holy and just should have destroyed the people of Israel because they turned away from him and worshipped a golden calf but God is also a loving forgiving God so he listened to Moses prayer and did not destroy them.

  1. Aaaron

There are no instances of Aaron on his own interceding for the people of Israel and God answering but there is plenty of him doing this with Moses and a great example of this is Numbers 16, a chapter that deals with the rebellion of Korah with a small group men who resented and rebelled against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. We read this after these men grumbled and rebelled against the leadership of Moses and Aaron in numbers 16: 20 – 21,

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 21 “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”

 Then we read of Moses and Aaron interceding in prayer to God on behalf of the people in Numbers 16: 22,

But Moses and Aaron fell face down and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”

Then we read of God listening to them and answering them in Numbers 16: 23,

“Then the Lord said to Moses, 24 “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’”

Then of course once the people move away from the tents of these men the ground opened up and swallowed them and they were destroyed.

This again is a great illustration of verse 6,

Who called on his name and he answered them”.

 Again God, who is Holy or pure and totally just did not have to listen to Aaron and Moses but he did listen to them and out of his love spared the people of Israel except for the rebellion leaders Korah, Dathan and Abiram who suffered the judgment of God for their disobedience and this is a example of the last words in verse 8,

“Though you punished their misdeeds”

  1. Samuel

Samuel comes much later than Moses and Aaron but he was also a Levite and a priest and in 1 Samuel 7: 5 – 6 we have a excellent example of Samuel interceding for the people to God,

“Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah”.

Then we have Samuel not only interceding and representing the people before the Lord but performing the other priests role for the people, offering up sacrifices for the people according to the law in 1 Samuel 7: 9,

“Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him”.

Note how this verse tells us that the Lord listened to Samuel as he answered him and the next verses tell of how God routed the Philistines with what seems to be a ferocious thunder- storm.

So God who is great, holy and just is also loving and willing to listen to our prayers and earlier I quoted the first part of Psalm 89: 14 that read,

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne”.

The second half of this verse speaks also of God’s love,

“Love and faithfulness go before you”.

David knew this love and faithfulness often showed itself in the way God listened to his prayers and answered them as we see in Psalm 28: 6 – 7,

“Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him”.

We have many promises in the New Testament that God answers our prayers like we read in 1 John 5: 14 – 15,

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him”.

In the last section I spoke of how Jesus, through his death on the cross has opened up access for us to heaven and the writer to the Hebrews makes this amazing application of this in Hebrews 4: 16,

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

In the Old Testament the people of God needed priests like Moses, Aaron and Samuel to intercede in prayer to God for them but the New Testament says through what Christ has done for us on the cross we are all priests now as Peter boldly claims in 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

The whole Roman Catholic idea of how we cannot pray directly to God but must go to an ordained priest or we must use a famous recognized saint as an intermediary between us as God is so biblically wrong. As Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 2: 5 – 6,

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time”.

In verse 7 we read that God spoke in a special way to these men, although this special way only refers to Moses and Aaron who led Israel through the wilderness for 40 years, verse 7 says,

“He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud; they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them”.

We know from the book of Exodus that by day from Exodus 13: 21 that God led the people in the wilderness by the Pillar of cloud. Yet this might not be what the writer is referring to here in verse 7 but what we read in Exodus 19: 9,

“The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said”.

Soon after this we read of Moses going up Mount Sinai and God speaks with Moses and Mount Sinai is covered with thick cloud, loud trumpet noise and smoke and fire (Exodus 19: 16 – 19).

Form here God gives Moses his statutes and decrees as Psalm 99: 7 also tell us. God’s statutes and decrees represent God’s word so Psalm 99: 7 saying that these men, Moses, Aaron and later Samuel was give God’s word.

This means that the Jewish / Christian faith is a revealed religion or a faith based on the revealed word of the God that we believe in. For us we have a much better understanding of this God who reveals himself because we have the word of Christ, God’s son who is God’s word become flesh, John 1: 14,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

The writer to the Hebrews makes what this means even clearer in Hebrews 1: 1 – 3,

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven”.

 This means for us today that when we have strife and trouble in our lives we can go directly to God in prayer through the Lord Jesus Christ and he will listen to us because he will answer us.

  1. (vs. 8)   God listens because he is a forgiving God

We might ask:

Why does a holy God listen to sinful fallen creatures like us?

Well the writer of Psalm 99 gives us the answer to that question in verse 8,

“O Lord God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds”.

 God is great and holy and just but he also is a loving God and because he is great and holy and just God his love involves providing a way for us to be forgiven. In the Old Testament times, the time that the writer of Psalm 99 lived that forgiveness was provided by the sacrificial system, which we have seen from New Testament references like Hebrews 3: 5 and 6 is only a pattern or shadow of a greater or better covenant, agreement of salvation to come,

They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises”.

I spoke of how in the Old Testament God met with the High Priest, the representative of the people once a year on the Day of Atonement where the High Priest sprinkled the blood of a sacrificial animal on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant between the two cherubim known as the mercy seat.

The High Priest did this so that the people of Israel’s sins could be forgiven. This was the shadow of the great once and for all sacrifice of the blood of God’s lamb, his only son Jesus Christ as explained completely by Hebrews 10: 1 – 10,

“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’” First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”.

So when we read in Psalm 99: 8a,

“O Lord God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God”.

 We know that through what Jesus did on the cross we know the full forgiveness of God and can now as I said previously,

“Approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”. (Hebrews 4: 16)

I mentioned before that the story of the prodigal son had little to say about the holiness of God but it has much to say about the love of God as our holy great God who the father in the story represents forgave the foolish rebellious son and even after he had blown all his fathers inheritance on wicked selfish pursuits the father loving accepted him back as his son.

When the older brother in the story acted like we would imagine from an worldly perspective in rejecting the foolish rebellious son the father makes this remarkable statement of love in Luke 15: 31 – 32,

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

 This is how God wants us to act in this world as his loving and forgiving agents of his amazing gospel message and this is how the father of the teenage boy I spoke of to those high school students of all those years ago acted and because he did his wayward returning son experienced the real love of God for the first time and through that truly came to Christ.

Then the writer of Psalm 99 adds these words,

“Though you punished their misdeeds”

When we look back to examples of Moses, Aaron and even Samuel’s prayers for the people in times of the people’s obvious rebellion to God we see that even though the people were saved from destruction they were still punished in some way for their sins. Like the ring leaders of the rebellion recorded in Numbers 16, Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their families lost their lives although some of Korah’s family survived and their descendants went on to become great God fearing and productive leaders of worship from the time of David on, writing Psalms under the authorship of the “Sons or Korah”.

The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the punishment we might receive for our sins, even though we are forgiven as God’s discipline of those he loves, Hebrews 12: 4 – 6,

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

The editor or editors of this Psalm when it was placed in the fourth book of Psalms would have known the truth of these words,

“Though you punished their misdeeds”

This is because they had just returned from 70 years or so of exile in Babylon, which was God’s punishment, or discipline of Israel’s rebellious sins over a number of generations leading up to the conquest of the Babylonians in 597BC.

They also would have a fresh realization of the words,

“O Lord God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God”.

 This is because they would have prayed hard and long for seventy years in captivity in Babylon for God to forgive them and return them to The Promised Land of Israel and by the time of the possible placing of Psalm 99 in the fourth book of Psalms would have the realization that God had answered their many prayers and had forgiven them even though they had been punished for their misdeeds.

We need to keep this in mind when we, as Christians are tempted by the devil to sin or rebel against the expressed word of God and follow the advice of James in James 4: 7 – 10,

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.

  1. (vs. 9)   CONCLUSION – WORSHIP THE HOLY GOD WHO REIGNS

We come then to the final verse of Psalm 99, which I think is an excellent conclusion to this Psalm. I have made verse 9 of this Psalm a separate section under the heading conclusion – worship the holy God who reigns.

The verse reads like this,

“Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy”.

This is a Old Testament call to worship which calls the Jews to come to Jerusalem, “his holy mountain” to worship this great God who is holy and who loves us and listens to us because he answers our prayers.

Note how throughout this Psalm the writer refers to God as “our God”, vs. 5, vs. 8 and now vs. 9. God had made himself known to the people of Israel and he then was their God but now this same God is our God because he has made himself known to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. Part of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians church is that they might know God better through Christ working of the Holy Spirit in their lives, Ephesians 1: 17 – 18,

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people”.

 This God they know has been more fully made known by the writer of Psalm 99. He is a God who reigns, he is a God who is awesome and great and he is a Holy, just God but above all this Holy God is a loving God who listens to our prayers and forgives our sins so that we can know him.

He is a God who has revealed himself to us and he therefore deserves to be exalted and worshipped in Old Testament times in Jerusalem and in New Testament terms in his church which the writer of the letter to the Hebrews is the “Zion” or new Jerusalem of God in Hebrews 12: 22 – 23,

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect”.

Let us worship this God we know through The Lord Jesus Christ in his church here on earth and in the heavenly Jerusalem to come, Revelation 21: 1 – 4,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 Finally the writer of Psalm 99 gets his congregation to sing his little refrain again,

“For the Lord our God is holy”

This has been the main theme of his inspired song of worship and it means that this call to worship God is a threefold, “Holy, Holy, Holy” which reminds me of the famous hymn by Reginald Heber written in 1826 and the last verse of that hymn says,

“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!

All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.

Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and mighty,

God in three persons, blessed trinity.

I close as usual with my own original poem inspired by this Psalm and a prayer,

 

HOLY IS THE LORD

(Based on Psalm 99)

 

The Lord reigns

May the Nations tremble now

For he sits enthroned up in heaven

With angels in great power

So great is the Lord

That we must praise him every hour.

 

Refrain:

 

Yes Holy

Is God Almighty

For he is great and pure

And his word is true

Yes Holy is the Lord.

 

Our king is mighty

For he loves justice and what is true

He has established his people

So they can worship him at his footstool

Which is the cross

Where Jesus paid for sin for me and you,

 

Refrain:

 

Moses and Aaaron

Who were priests of God long ago.

Like Samuel they called on God

And God made blessing for them to flow

He spoke to them

And gave them his most precious word to know.

 

Refrain:

 

Our Lord God listens

For he answers all our prayers.

He does forgive our many sins

For he loves us and really cares.

So I praise Jesus

He died for me and my burden he does now share.

 

Refrain:

 

Yes Holy

Is God Almighty

For he is great and pure

And his word is true

Yes Holy is the Lord.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we know that you are great and holy which means you are so different than us in that you do not know any sin and you are totally just and true. Yet we are so sinful and far away from you yet you still love us and sent Jesus into our world to die for our sins on the cross. We thank you that you, through what Christ has done for us gives us the gift of righteousness so that we can know you in our daily lives and one day we can stand before you in heaven and join with the angels in eternal praise for your awesome love and holiness. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

PSALM 98 TALK: OUR GOD THE KING WHO CALLS US TO SING

PSALM 98 TALK: OUR GOD THE KING WHO CALLS US TO SING

 (A Psalm that explores God’s call to all people to sing with joy the praises of our great God and king.)

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

When I was in my early twenties a good friend of that time invited me to go with her to a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” in the old Sydney Town hall. I was warned before I went that during the singing of the famous Hallelujah Chorus we had to stand up. This famous chorus was written by Handel to close the second part of his oratorio, which celebrates Jesus resurrection and ascension into heaven. The third and last part or the oratorio deals with Jesus second coming when those who do not know the forgiveness of Christ will be judged and those who know Christ and his love for them will ascend into heaven for all eternity.

When the Hallelujah chorus started I stood up with everyone else and for a few minutes I felt like I was now standing in heaven listening to the heavenly hosts singing a great praise to God the king of everything and everyone.

It is said that George Frederic Handel wrote “Messiah” at the age of 52 not long after he had recovered miraculously from a debilitating stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body. He had returned to England from Germany to continue to write opera’s that had recently fallen out of fashion. This left Handel in 1741 financially broke and despondent in spirit and creative energy.

Then one August afternoon of 1741 after returning to his house in London he found on his door- step a manuscript from a long- term collaborator, Charles Jennens that contained the libretto from the scriptures, particularly the words of Isaiah, foretelling the birth of Jesus Christ and describing His ministry, Crucifixion, resurrection and his promise to come again.

When Handel read the opening words of the libretto, “Comfort Ye” he was immediately inspired to start writing the music for it which only took him around three to four weeks. Messaih has become according to Ben Witherington, “The most performed piece of classical music in all history, all to the glory of Christ”.

 It is said that after Handel had finished the writing of The Hallelujah Chorus his assistant found him in tears saying, “I did think I saw heaven open, and I saw the very face of God”. The standing up for the chorus is attributed, it is said to King George of England attending a concert of “Messiah” and he stood up during the singing of the Hallelujah chorsus as way of indicating he recognized that Christ was the king of kings. When the king stands all the people must stand and the tradition was born so that on every occasion of the singing of the Hallelujah chorus everyone stands. It is a fitting tribute to an amazing piece of music and for what it stands for, the resurrection and ascension of Christ into heaven.

Singing then has a long history of being a major part of worship of the God of the bible. This is no accident for the bible over and over again calls us to sing in praise and worship of our God, the king of everything and everyone.

Psalm 98 is a Psalm that features as its main theme the praise of God the king of the bible in song. In fact four times we read the command to sing, twice we read the words “Shout to the Lord” and twice we are told to make music to the Lord. Particularly from the time of David and onwards the ancient Hebrews did a lot of singing to the Lord in worship.

Both Jews and Christians have a long history of singing and in case you think the command to sing to God is an Old Testament command I would like to say that the apostle Paul in two different letters to two different churches commands Christians to sing, he does this in Colossians 3: 16 – 17 and Ephesians 5: 19 – 20,

 “Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Psalm 98 also features the same opening and closing words as Psalm 96, which we know was originally written by King David. Psalm 96 is definitely written by David as it is almost identical to a song or Psalm he wrote after the ark of the covenant ascended into Jerusalem and the words of Psalm 96 can be found in 1 Chronicles 16: 23 – 33.

Psalm 98, however might start and end like David’s original Psalm but the other seven verses seem to be a new composition that draw heavily on verses from the great prophet Isaiah, which I will allude to during this Psalm talk. This means the Psalm was written either by the prophet Isaiah or more likely a man who knew the entire book of Isaiah and who used words and ideas from this great book to write the seven middle verses of his Psalm.

Psalm 98 was placed in the fourth book of Psalms which we know came together after the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile so it is more than likely that this Psalm was written by someone who lived around the time of the Jews return from exile. It seems that it was Ezra and Nehemiah who reintroduced Temple worship and of course Psalm singing and lively joyful music once the Temple was rebuilt after the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile so this Psalm would have been a great “New Song”, verse 1, for the Jews to sing in their renewed Temple worship of the God of the bible.

I have picked up the main theme of Singing to Our God the King right through this Psalm talk and this is reflected in my outline of the Psalm:

  1. (1 – 3)   SING ISRAEL TO THE KING
  1. (vs. 1)     Sing a new song to the King
  2. (2 – 3)     Sing of our kings love and salvation for his people
  1. (4 – 6)   SING ALL THE NATIONS TO THE KING
  1. (4 – 5)     Sing all the nations with all you’ve got
  2. (vs. 6)     Sing and make music with great joy
  1. (7 – 9)   SING ALL THE WORLD TO THE KING
  1. (7 – 8)   Sing all the world with great joy
  2. (vs. 9)   Sing of the coming of the king
  1. (1 – 3)   SING ISRAEL TO THE KING

As I have just said in my introduction that Psalm 98 has the same opening and closing words as Psalm 96 and I have made it the first part of my two parts of this first section of this Psalm.

Lets then have a close look at the first part of the first section of this Psalm.

  1. (vs. 1)     Sing a new song to the King

The repeated opening words of Psalm 98 of Psalm 96 are:

“Sing to the Lord a new song”

David used this expression not only in Psalm 96 but also in Psalm 33: 3 and Psalm 40: 3. Isaiah also uses this expression in Isaiah 42: 10. It does not mean we are to compose new songs all the time and not sing old songs. The Hebrew meaning for “New Song” is apparently, “made or become fresh.” This means that old songs we know and love can be “New Songs”, when we sing them from a fresh or renewed understanding of God and his word.

I know sometimes I sing in church old songs and I fail to really connect in my heart to the wonderful truths of there words. However more than often I sing something in church or at a special Christian meeting that I have sang many times before but God’s spirit moves in my heart with a fresh appreciation of what it is saying to me about God and his word, then it is truly a “New Song”.

Psalm 98 says we should seek to always sing songs to God our King in a made fresh way every time we sing them,

Why?

Because the second half of verse 1 says,

“For he has done marvelous things”

 We will see by the end of the Psalm that marvelous things include God judging his enemies because for the people of God and particularly Israel when he judged his enemies he was at the same time delivering or saving his people. If this Psalm was written or at least placed in the fourth book of Psalms after the Jews returned from exile then the marvelous deeds it is referring to are God’s judgment of the Babylonians through the Persians which brought about the return of God’s people from captivity in Babylon to be able to resettle in the Promised Land and be able to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

God has intervened in history to do “Marvelous things” and this is especially true of the sending of his son into the world by him becoming a man like us to die on the cross for our sins so that we can know his marvelous salvation and through that become one of his special people. The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way in Hebrews 2: 9,

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.

The writer to the Hebrews goes on to say in the next verse,

“In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered”.

This is such a wonderful marvelous deed of God which some find so incredible that many refuse to believe it and reject it as a silly or impossible idea but if its true, and we have good reasons to believe it is true and it is the most “Marvelous thing” of all time.

This then should be the basis of all our songs, the marvelous things God has both said and done for us through Christ. John Newton, the writer of “Amazing Grace” wrote another hymn that uses the word, “Glorious” rather than “Marvelous” and the first verse of that hymn says it all,

“Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God.
God, whose word cannot be broken,
formed thee for his own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
thou may’st smile at all thy foes”.

Psalm 98 verse 1 goes on to say that God’s marvelous things come from,

“His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him”.

I have come across the expression “God’s right hand before” in the Psalms like Psalm 44: 3,

“It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory;

it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them”.

Also Isaiah, the writer of Psalm 98 seems to have been very familiar with, says this in Isaiah 59: 16,

“He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him”.

 God’s right arm always symbolized his strength and might, as the right arm for most of us is our stronger one. The phrase is also implying as the Isaiah verse says that these marvellous things or deeds of God are God’s deeds alone. God brought the Babylonians to their knees through the Persians to save his people out of captivity and our salvation Paul says is God’s work of grace and not our own doing, Ephesians 2: 8 – 9,

“ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

 The right arm is not only the strong and mighty arm of God but this verse says that it is also a “Holy Arm”.

Holy means set apart as righteous or sinless so God’s work of salvation his “marvelous things or deeds” is right and pure and unlike us not contaminated by sin.

Paul teaches that the holy God calls us to a live a holy life, as he says in 2 Timothy 1: 9,

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time”.

So we are to sing to God the new song of his salvation in Christ, which is a marvelous thing, or deed of God made possible because we have a mighty holy God who loves us so much he acted in human history through Christ to save us.

  1. (2 – 3)     Sing of our kings love and salvation for his people

We have already learnt in verse 1 one great reason why we should sing praises to our God the king and that is because he has done such marvellous things or deeds for us. If we know his Son Jesus Christ and what he accomplished for us on the cross then we have much to sing about.

For the writer of Psalm 98 God’s marvellous things or deeds would have included the salvation of his nation from captivity in Babylon similar to God’s salvation long before when he led his people out of the captivity in Egypt, something people like Moses who God used to lead the people out of Egypt sang great songs about God’s salvation like we see in Exodus 15.

Now the writer of Psalm 98 speaks of God’s salvation and love for his people in verses 2 and 3,

“The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. 3 He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God”.

 I will look at each of these two verses under the general headings of:

  1. God’s righteous salvation (vs. 2)
  2. God’s covenantal love (vs. 3)

Lets look a little closer at each of these two great themes of God’s marvellous deeds for his people that give us much to sing about.

  1. God’s righteous salvation (vs. 2)

In verse 2 God’s salvation of his people is linked with his righteousness,

“The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.”

 The verse says that God’s righteousness is made known to the nations or the rest of the known world of that time. The prophet Isaiah speaks of this same thing in Isaiah 52: 10,

“The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God”.

 This is Isaiah prophesying that the Jews will return form exile, a great act of God in the sight of the nations of the world of that time. God’s acts of salvation flows from his holy loving character as his people did not deserve to be saved but out of his righteous love he does it.

In the New Testament God’s righteous love is the motivation for the salvation of not only the Jews but people in the whole world as Paul makes clear in Romans 1: 16 – 17,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Note how Paul says, “in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed”, the message of the Gospel as Paul goes on to explain is that only God is righteous and we are all sinful fallen creatures. Jesus revealed true righteousness, he did not sin and that made him the perfect and only candidate for the sacrifice for our sins as Paul speaks plainly of in 2 Corinthians 5: 21,

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

Even in the time of the writer of Psalm 98, probably soon after the return of the Jews from Babylonian exile, God revealed his righteousness in his salvation of his people because they also did not deserve this salvation yet God’s character of love and righteousness made it possible.

This for them and even more so for us as Christians is something to sing about as the modern song by Darlene Zschech proclaims in song,

Jesus
God’s righteousness revealed
The Son of Man
The Son of God
His Kingdom comes
Jesus
Redemption’s sacrifice
Now glorified
Now justified
His Kingdom comes


And this Kingdom will know no end
And it’s glory shall know no bounds
For the majesty and power
Of this Kingdom’s King has come
And this Kingdom’s reign
And this Kingdom’s rule
And this Kingdom’s power and authority
Jesus
God’s righteousness revealed

  1. God’s covenantal love (vs. 3)

The next thought of the writer of Psalm 98 presents as worth singing about flows naturally from the thoughts of verse 2,

He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God”.

God’s salvation of his people flows from his righteousness and here in verse 3, his love as well, which most commentators speak of as God’s covenantal love. This is because when God set up the Nation of Israel right back in the time of Abraham and then made clearer in the time of Moses when he led his people out of slavery in Egypt he did so out of a covenant or agreement of love as we see in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

 The writer of Psalm 98 speaks of how this is seen or known by all the nations of the earth. The story of Israel as a nation, which in some sense still exists today is a miraculous story of how a tiny people in a small part of the world has survived and even thrived for thousands of years. Much bigger and mightier nations have come and gone but Israel has survived much to the hatred of many nations in the past and even today.

I could never understand the racial hatred of the Jews and when I was younger I was assaulted by a group of fellow workers because I befriended a young Jewish boy my age. The irony was before I left that place of work I lost the friendship of the Jewish boy because I was friendly also with a young Muslim boy who came to work their just before I left for a better job.

My guess is people from other cultures and nations hate Jews because of their claim to have a special relationship with the one true God. Today Christians face the same hatred because of our claim to know the God of heaven and earth. The irony is those who hate us also have the opportunity of knowing this wonderful God of love because of Jesus Christ but their sin causes them to reject God’s message of love and instead through that rejection turn on us with hate and contempt.

We should never ever think we are chosen by God because of any good in us but rather turn and sing and live out the truth Paul makes clear in Ephesians 2: 8 – 9,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.

The second verse of Darlene Zschech song sums it up well in song,

Jesus
The expression of God’s love
The grace of God
The Word of God
Revealed to us
Jesus
God’s Holiness displayed
Now glorified
Now justified
His Kingdom comes

And this Kingdom will know no end
And it’s glory shall know no bounds
For the majesty and power
Of this Kingdom’s King has come
And this Kingdom’s reign
And this Kingdom’s rule
And this Kingdom’s power and authority
Jesus
God’s righteousness revealed.

  1. (4 – 6)   SING ALL THE NATIONS TO THE KING

We come then to the second section of this great little Psalm, which widens the scope of singing to the King or God of the bible to the Nations of the world who are also called to sing, that the God of the bible is the king who reigns over everything.

I have broken this second section into two parts, which are:

  1. (4 – 5)     Sing all the nations with all you’ve got
  2. (vs. 6)     Sing and make music with great joy

Lets look then at the first part of this second section:

  1. (4 – 5)     Sing all the nations with all you’ve got

The second section starts with the word, “Shout”, Albert Barnes says that the Hebrew word for “Shout” is more like make a loud noise or to,

“Break forth, as a shout of triumph or joy, as if the joy could be no longer confined or repressed”.

 To me this is saying, don’t’ hold back; give it all you’ve got when you sing praises to the God of the bible. Verses 4 and 5 says then,

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing”.

 It seems then that because God’s salvation and love has been revealed to the nations of the world through what he did for his people, the Israelites then those same nations should also sing loud and joyful praise to the God of the bible.

The Jews it seems never really took hold of their God’s love for the entire world and how they were to be the carriers of that love to the world. Even when God sent Jesus to the nation of Israel, their self- pride and exclusiveness was part of their rejection of him. However the New Testament makes it clear that God sent Jesus for the salvation of the entire world, John 3: 16,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

John had spoken clearly of the generally rejection of Jesus by the Jews in chapter 1: 10 – 13 and how from the time of Jesus on it would not be a matter of where you are born that would determine your relationship with God as his special people but how you responded to God’s son, Jesus Christ,

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”.

However passages in the Old Testament like verses 4 and 5 of this Psalm make it clear God calls on people from every nation to sing his praises. The prophet Isaiah speaking of the coming of the Messiah says this in Isaiah 49: 6,

“He says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Later in that same chapter, verse 13, Isaiah says something similar to verses 4 and 5 of this Psalm when he says,

“Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones”.

Verses 4 and 5 of Psalm 98 speak of using different kinds of well known Old Testament musical instruments to make this joyful all you can give praise to God. They are to use harps and in verse 6 trumpets and ram’s horns along with their singing to make wonderful music to the praise of the God of the bible.

When I heard Handel’s Messiah all those years ago in The Sydney Town hall the full Sydney Symphony orchestra along with a mass choir of singers presented it and it really was a fitting sound of praise to the great God of love who calls us to sing and make music to his name.

There are some strange and unbiblical churches who ban the use of any musical instruments calling them the devices of the devil but I have no idea how they interpret or explain verses 4 and 5 of this Psalm.

To me God wants us, as his faithful followers to use our musical instruments and voices in praise to him and I’m afraid heaven will be a very big disappointment to Christians who don’t like musical instruments in their worship of God when we read passages like Revelations 5: 8 – 13,

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:

 “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”11 

 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power for ever and ever!”

  1. (vs. 6)     Sing and make music with great joy

Other passages in the book of revelations speak of not only harps and singing but Trumpets and horns and loud joyful singing like, Revelation 11: 15,

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”

And so we read in Psalm 98: 6,

“With trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn – shout for joy before the Lord, the king”.

The music in heaven it appears will be loud but it will also be joyful as the music of the Old Testament Hebrews was loud but also joyful. I am not anti – loud music but it must be joyful and I think able to hear or understand what is being sung. I have been in churches in both Australia and other countries where loud music has been used in worship but sometimes it has been so loud it has become nothing more than a din. My test for tunefulness and joyfulness is when I cannot use my voice to blend with others in harmony or when I cannot understand the words being sung then the music has got to loud.

Other translations speak of “Making a joyful noise to the Lord”. Paul said to the Ephesians to not carry on like a bunch of drunks or even don’t become drunk but to be filled with the spirit and make melody in your heart and together with the singing of Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in Ephesians 5: 18 – 20,

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Note finally verse 6 says,

“Shout for joy before the Lord, the king”.

Our worship in the church is to be done as though we are in the very presence of God our Lord and king and according to Jesus we are in God’s presence when we gather together in his name, Matthew 18: 20,

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

This thought or concept should make us more thoughtful and respectful in what we are doing in our singing and worship in the church. God wants us to shout his praise but it must be praise of him and not praise of our talents or ego’s. This means what we do for the Lord should be done in an attitude of prayer and humility as Paul speaks of in Philippians 2: 3 – 5,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus”.

Paul goes on in this passage to speak of the example of Christ Jesus who gave up glory to become a servant and suffered death on a cross. This is the example we must follow in our lives and when we meet as a church to sing the praises of God our king.

  1. (7 – 9)   SING ALL THE WORLD TO THE KING

We come then to the final section of this Psalm where its writer seeks to widen this singing the praises of God the king to the whole world and this includes nature itself something Psalm 96 spoke directly of in verses 11 and 12 and which the last Psalm, Psalm 97 spoke of in verse 6 which said,

“The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the people see his glory”

I have broken this third and final section into two parts:

  1. (7 – 8)   Sing all the world with great joy
  2. (vs. 9)   Sing of the coming of the king

Lets have a close look then at the first part:

  1. (7 – 8)   Sing all the world with great joy

The writer of Psalm 98 then personifies nature in verses 7 and 8 so that it too sings the praises of God the King who made it.

“Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy”.

My spell checker picked up what it sees as the wrong use of the word, “their” and says it should be “there” as that is the right spelling for a inanimate object as “their” spelling belongs to a person. This is because the writer of Psalm 98 has used a poetic device of giving rivers hands to clap and mountains voices to sing.

Maybe the sound of rushing water is like the sound of an enormous applause or whistling of the wind around the mountains is like voices singing but the point is nature screams out praise to its maker as we saw in the last Psalm, Psalm 97 verse 6 and as we see in David’s opening verse of Psalm 19,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”.

Isaiah employs the same poetic device in Isaiah 55: 12,

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands”.

I have mentioned in the past two Psalm talks that in my twenties and thirties I sought to write a series of poems in which nature praising God or says a prayer or at least inspires a prayer in me which I called “Prayers of the Created”. Here is another example of one of those poems which uses winds and storms to speak of God,

THE THUNDEROUS VOICE OF GOD IN WIND

 Over hill and mountain wonder

Through the trees and telegraph poles,

The voice of wind is howling, growling

God is great and has no foes.

 

Tossed about in stormy weather,

A tiny craft is smashed around.

Across a vast and turbulent ocean

The voice of God now shouts aloud.

 

Pushing down the tallest timbers

Breaking them like pencil sticks,

Wind is strong and knows no conqueror

So much like God which wind depicts.

 

In an open field in winter

Feel the force of a mighty gale.

Becomes me to seek our shelter

Man is weak and very frail.

 

Howling, storming, mighty blowing

Pushing all around like leaves,

Now declaring God is Glorious

For God is there behind the breeze.

By: Jim Wenman

Paul speaks of the natural worlds close connection with God and particularly the sin of man in Romans 8: 22 – 18 – 22,

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time”.

In this passage Paul links the problems in nature to the fall or sin of man and indicates that it looks forward to its salvation wrapped up in our salvation.

So not only does the natural world speak of the great and glorious God who created it but it speaks also of the struggle and pain of sin that all of us are directly responsible for because of our many sins.

I walk most mornings down a beautiful mountain track near where I currently live but on a couple of occasions my wife and I have come upon the remains of a person who has camped somewhere along this track and the area is littered with paper, food scraps and on one occasion used soiled baby nappies. The sin of someone has left their mark on God’s beautiful creation in their careless thoughtless litter.

However in verses 7 and 8 the message of nature is joy and it sings a song of joy for its creator. The famous hymn that the second half of this Psalm inspired is the hymn by Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World”, and its first verse is a fitting commentary of these two verses,

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n, and nature sing.

  1. (vs. 9)   Sing of the coming of the king

The interesting fact about the Christmas hymn, “Joy to the world” is that Isaac Watts did not write it as a Christmas song. He wrote the hymn inspired by the second half of Psalm 98 which does not deal with the first coming of the Lord when he came to save us from our sins but rather the second coming of the Lord when he will judge the world once and for all time.

As Watts speaks of in his hymn joy to the world, the earth or nature has joy when it receives its king and that is when Jesus comes again and that is what verse 9 says,

“Let them (all nature and mankind) sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity”.

Of course for Jesus to return he needed to come the first time and when he came the first time he came as the world’s savior as John tells us in John 3: 17,

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him”.

The Jews today and ever since the coming of Jesus to the world as the promised Messiah reject Jesus as the Messiah. They reject him as this because he did, in their eyes not fulfill all the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah but those prophecies concern the Messiah’s role as the great judge.

The promise of the Messiah coming involved him being our savior like Isaiah prophecies in Isaiah 53: 4 – 5,

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted

.But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed”.

What the Jews who reject Jesus as the Messiah fail to understand is that The Messiah had two roles as both Savior and Judge and it is impossible for him to do both at the same time so the Messiah had to come first to save and then offer time for his message of salvation to go out to the whole world and then come again as judge when the age of proclaiming the Gospel, our present age is over.

The Jews are looking for the coming of the Messiah, while Christians are looking for the return of the Messiah as judge. It has been calculated that Jesus fulfilled 353 Old Testament prophecies and those he did not fulfill in his first coming he will fulfill when he comes again.

So verse 9 of this Psalm, Psalm 98 deals with a prophecy concerning Jesus second coming when he will come as Judge of the whole world. So this verse makes a lot of sense with that in mind when we read it,

“Let them (all nature and mankind) sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity”.

Isaiah prophecies of the same event of the coming of the Lord as judge this way in Isaiah 11: 3 – 5,

“And he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist”.

 Note how both Psalm 98 verse 9 and what Isaiah is speaking about is a judgment of this coming Messiah which is a righteous judgment which means it is not tainted by sin but is totally just and fair.

I was watching a secular detective show on TV recently and the detectives assistant asked his boss “Do you believe in God”, he thought for a minute and answered, “not really but I sometimes wish there would come a one day when there would be a great recoining when total justice is achieved for all the wrong doing in this life”. I felt like jumping up and shouting. “There will be such a day coming”.

All mankind hankers after a day when total justice is brought about for all the so called injustices in this world but be careful what you wish for as this day of judgement without Jesus gift of the forgiveness of our many sins is not going to be such as great day as we to will be part of God’s righteous judgement.

So Jesus own prophesies of his second coming speak of the two possible results of his coming judgement as recorded in Matthew 24: 30 – 31,

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other”.

Also Matthew 25: 31 – 33,

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left”.

Isaac Watts had this great Day of Judgment in mind as he wrote his hymn “Joy to the World” and this is evident in his third verse,

“No more let sin and sorrow grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground,

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found

Far as the curse is found

Far as, far as, the curse is found”.

Watts is saying that nature will sing for joy because the curse of man’s sin will be gone when Jesus comes in judgment and for those who know the truth that Jesus became that curse for us (Galatians 3: 13) when he died for our sins on the cross will know his eternal blessings.

Now that is something to sing about!

I close as usual with a poem / song and a prayer.

SING TO THE KING (Based on Psalm 98)

 Sing to the Lord a new song

Remember what he has done

All his marvelous deeds

By the hands of his salvation.

Sing to the king

With great joy you must sing.

Sing to the king

And now praise him.

 

The Lord has made known his saving grace

To all people who turn to him.

His love and his faithfulness

Causing them to rise and sing.

Sing to the king

With great joy for you must sing.

Sing to the king

And now praise him.

 

Shout to the Lord great joy for him

You people of all the earth.

Make music and sing

And tell of his power and worth.

Sing to the king

With great joy you must sing.

Sing to the king

And now praise him.

May all nature resounds with great joy for God

Rivers clap your hands and mountains sing

Of the coming of God as the judge

And all people will stand before him.

Sing to the king

With great joy for you must sing

Sing to your king

And now praise him.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we thank you for being our King and Lord for you made this world and in your love you have saved us from our sins by the sending your only son to this world to die on the cross. Jesus we thank you in song and with the giving of our lives in service to you for what you have done for us. May we always rise and sing your praises not only with our lips but also with our very lives in loving service to you our Savior and our King. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.