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.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s