PSALM 105 TALK: REMEMBER GOD’S DEEDS AND PRAISE HIM

PSALM 105 TALK: REMEMBER GOD’S DEEDS AND PRAISE HIM

 (A Psalm that recalls the marvelous deeds of God in the past calling a people to be his special nation called Israel and how what God did for them in the past is to be remembered and that memory of God’s deeds in the past is to be the basis of great praise to him. Also how this relates to us as God’s family or special people who have come into being as his people by what God did for us in the past through his son, Jesus Christ.)

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 only 16 years of age I left school and started work and very quickly fell into a world outside of school that did not believe in God and in fact mocked the whole idea of him. I soon gave going to church away and started hanging out with young men my own age who encouraged me to live a life of drinking, partying and generally living the sort of life I knew deep down God did not want me to live.

For three years I sought to turn away from God and at times I argued with some catholic friends the idea that Christianity and the bible was just a made up fairy tale. This means I have had the experience of thinking and arguing from an atheists point of view. However deep down inside I was not a happy person and I believe God’s spirit was convicting me of my sinful thinking and actions. I might have given up on God but he had not given up on me.

At 19 years of age I had a crisis in my life when I realised my so-called non- Christian friends let me down in a number of ways and through the encouragement of an older youth leader I went back to the church youth group and through people who led that group I came back to believing and following the Lord.

Then I was invited by our churches assistant minister to join a small group of young people to attend a bible study and a meal in that minister’s house before we all went together to the youth orientated night church we had at that time.

The assistant ministers who I will refer to by his first name, Charlie was a Godly man who had a deep understanding of the bible and he encouraged me to become a serious student of the word of God. Charlie was a very senor man and only worked in our church for a few years before he retired from the ministry. Even though Charlie was an older man he had a wonderful way with young people and he led us through some amazing bible studies.

Charlie’s bible studies were unusual in that they were always bible character studies he called “People in the Bible” and he always told us that the bible presents people with warts and all. Warts and all means that the bible did not hold back on the problems and even failures these people had in life and in their faith in God.

Charlie always pointed out how the bible rings true not like a fairy tale and if it was a fairytale then it would not have presented its so called hero’s with flaws and weaknesses like us. Charlie was really good at applying the truths these bible characters show us for how God wants us to live for him today.

Psalm 105 to me is like one of Charlie’s bible studies in the form of a poem we call a Psalm. It calls on its hearers and now readers to remember what God did through people in the past with great wonderful and often miraculous acts and in remembering this we are to give God great praise and thanks. As verse 5 of Psalm 105 says,

“Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced”.

 And as the opening verse of this Psalm says,

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done”.

 Psalm 105 seems to have started life with its first 15 verses as a Psalm of David in 1 Chronicles 16: 8 – 22, a Psalm David composed when the Ark of the Covenant was installed on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. We find Psalm 105 in the fourth book of Psalms, which we know was put together around the time of the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon around 539BC when king Cyrus of Persian conquered the Babylonians and allowed the captive Jews in Babylon to return to their homeland in what was later known as Palestine.

It would seem likely then that some unknown author took 15 verses from David’s Psalm in 1 Chronicles and composed a new Psalm of 45 verses based on David’s original composition. Interestingly Psalm 96, which is also in book four of Psalms uses the 10 verses of David’s Psalm in 1 Chronicles 16 that follow the first 15 verses of that Psalm to compose a new Psalm of 13 verses.

It is interesting to speculate what David’s original Psalm, written around 500 years before the time of the Jewish return from exile would have meant to the people of that time. They were a people who had virtually lost their nation and were in danger of loosing their national identity bound up in their special relationship with their God who we know as the God of the bible.

David’s words would have reminded them of how their God was the great King above all kings as he was the one true God greater than any other supposed God. This God had chosen them as a nation and for nearly 2,000 years had guided and protected them from the nations birth in the time of Abraham to exile in Babylon and now a miraculous return from that exile in Babylon.

Both Psalm 105 and the next Psalm, Psalm 106 recounts some of this history as a source of inspiration to trust in their great God and to show that faith in him in with wonderful praise and thanks. Psalm 105 features the great hero’s of faith who God used to lead and guide his people while Psalm 106 features the love of God in that he still continued to love this people even though they continued to be unfaithful to the God who loved them.

This unmerited love, which the New Testament calls grace, is to be the grounds for great praise according to Psalm 106.

So I aim to write a Charlie type bible study or talk on Psalm 105, which is a study that features the great bible characters it mentions as a inspiration for us today to trust in the same God that they trusted in and through what God did for them and has done for us through The Lord Jesus Christ seek to obey his word and praise him as the last verse of Psalm 105 says,

“That they (we) might keep his precepts and observe his law. Praise the Lord”

 With the theme of remembering what God has done in the past, especially through some of the great hero’s of the bible that will help us in the present and will lead to praise and faith in him my outline for this Psalm is:

  1. (1 – 7) REMEMBER AND PRAISE

 

  1. (1 – 3)   Praise God as you remember his deeds in the past
  2. (4 – 7)   Remember God chose us

 

  1. (8 – 15) REMEMBER ABRAHAM AND GOD’S COVENANT

 

  1. (8 – 11)   Remember God’s covenant with Abraham
  2. (12 – 15) Remember how God protected the patriarchs

 

  1. (16 – 25) REMEMBER JOSEPH AND HOW GOD GUIDED HIM

 

  1. (16 – 22) Remember how God guided Joseph through difficulty
  2. (23 – 25) Remember how God blessed Israel in Egypt

 

  1. (26 – 44) REMEMBER HOW GOD USED MOSES AND AARON TO

                          SAVE ISRAEL OUT OF SLAVERY

  1. (26 – 36) Remember how God performed miraculous signs through

               Moses and Aaron

  1. (37 – 44) Remember how God led his people from Egypt to the

               Promise Land.

    

  1. (vs. 45) REMEMBER TO OBEY GOD’S WORD AND PRAISE HIM

 

1.  (1 – 7   REMEMBER AND PRAISE

  1. (1 – 3)   Praise God as you remember his deeds in the past

 This Psalm and indeed the next Psalm, Psalm 106 have a very obvious plan for praise and that is we are to look back in God’s word and read and remember how he worked in the past with individual people and particularly with his people Israel and use this as a source of praise to God.

Some might ask well how does events that took place, in some cases like Abraham, 4,000 years ago have any bearing on our lives today?

Yes I will agree how people lived and even thought in many ways 4,000 years ago is very different than how we live and think today but two things have always stayed the same and they are:

  1. People who lived even 4,000 years ago are human beings who are sinners just like us. Charlie my old faithful bible teacher always pointed out to me and the other young people in our bible study how the bible characters were different than us and in many other ways the same as us.

2. The second reason why remembering and learning from how God dealt with people in the past is   the fact that the God who helped and spoke to those people in the past is the same God who speaks and helps us today.

When God revealed himself to a person in a new generation in Israel’s history he often introduced himself like he did to Moses at the burning bush in the desert when he called Moses to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt as recorded in Exodus 3: 6,

Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God”.

So it is the same God right throughout the bible and he never changes as James makes it clear in 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 what people are like and need in their lives in any age and time particularly spiritually is provided by a God who stays the same yesterday, today and forever so as Charlie would have put it we can learn from the people in the bible how we can be helped by God today.

Both Psalm 105 and 106 start and end with a call to praise; Psalm 105 has three ways of putting this call to praise over three verses.

Verse 1, says,

“Give thanks to the Lord”

verse 2, says,

“Sing to him, sing praise to him”

and verse 3 says,

“Glory in his holy name”

All of these three calls to praise are to be anchored in remembering the great deeds of God for us in the past,

Verse 1, says,

“Make known among the nations what he has done”

verse 2 says,

“Tell of all his wonderful acts”

and verse 3 says,

“Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice”

This last reason for praise is built on remembering what the first two reasons for praise centre on, namely the great deeds or wonderful acts of God in the past.

What God did in the past should cause us to seek this great God of the bible who has made himself known in the past and wants to help us in the present.

The writer to the Hebrews brings these great deeds or acts of God up to date for us with the opening words of his letter, 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”.

Atheists might argue today that we have no proof that God spoke to people in the past but this final speaking to us, through The Lord Jesus Christ was witnessed by hundreds of people especially when he proved he was God in the flesh by rising from the dead after winning our salvation on the cross.

As the apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15: 3 – 8,

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born”.

Some atheists in the past have tried to disprove the truth of the Christian faith by seeking to destroy what they see as the ridiculous claim that Jesus rose from the dead but like men like Frank Morrison who looked at the evidence came to say that the evidence in fact points to the resurrection being true. Frank Morrison, like many others who tried to disprove the truth of the resurrection of Christ became a believer and follower of Jesus Christ and wrote a powerful book about the evidence for the resurrection called, “Who moved the stone”.

So verse 3 says,

“Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice”

Verse 1 also puts this idea another way with the words,

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name”

The name of God is the character of God and God’s character is so vast and wonderful the bible has many names for him. Moses asked God for his name at the burning bush and God gave him this amazing answer in Exodus 3: 14,

“God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

This might seem a strange name but it is power packed with wonderful teaching, as God and later Jesus claimed to be the great, “I am”, the one and only eternal God who has always existed and will always exist.

When people ask, “Who made God”?

The answer is no – one because he has always existed and from him all things have come in to existence.

As John writes of Jesus in the opening of his Gospel where Jesus is called “The Word”, John 1: 1 -3,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made”.

The “I am” God is also, “The One and only God” and Moses later was given by this God the Ten Commandments which start with the words, Deuteronomy 5: 6 – 7,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me”.

No other God’s because he is the “I am” God the one and only God of heaven and earth and because of what he has done for us in the past we should praise him.

  1. (4 – 7)   Remember God chose us

 So the opening three verses call us to praise the God of the bible who the writer speaks of as the God of deeds and wonderful acts in the past and because of these deeds and acts we should want to praise him. He speaks of God’s character by calling us to glory in his name and he now speaks directly of an aspect of his character in verse 4, namely his strength to those he chooses to call to himself,

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always”

 This verse contains two important concepts:

  1. God’s Strength
  2. God’s Face

Let me explain what I know about these two concepts.

  1. God’s Strength

David relied on the strength of God and often referred to it like Psalm 62 verse 11,

“One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard; that you, O God, are strong”.

 David was forced to rely on the strength of God owing to the many powerful enemies he faced and in Psalm 18 verse 1 he calls God his strength,

“I love you, O Lord, my strength”

 In that Psalm, as in many Psalms he goes on to speak of God as his rock which he relied upon in many unsettling circumstances, Psalm 18: 2,

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”.

So for David to say in the original poem or Psalm in 1 Chronicles 16: 11, to look to the Lord “my strength” was something David knew first hand and not simply as a theological theory as did the apostle Paul as he writes in 1 Corinthians 12: 10,

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong”.

 Charlie my bible study leader when I was young always encouraged us to trust in the great strong God of the bible like the great characters of the bible did especially when we feel weak and vulnerable and he spoke from real life experience himself as his wife had developed some form of mental illness which she would not recognise and had left him and joined a weird Christian cult. Charlie lost his right to be a minister in charge of a church owing to his wife’s actions and it was only the sympathetic loving attitude of our main minister that let Charlie minister at our church as the second in charge minister for a number of years before Charlie retired from the full-time ministry.

God’s strength will be revealed in various ways in the rest of this Psalm and I will comment on these when this occurs.

  1. God’s Face

What does it mean to seek the face of God?

I sought an answer to this question on the internet and came across a very helpful article by a Christian minister named Marcio Sierra Jr. who is the chief pastor of The Lighthouse Church in Madison, Wisconsin USA, Marcio answers the question this way,

“When we look at a person’s face, we are looking at a lot more than just a face. Just by looking at a person’s face you can tell if the person is angry, happy, sad, tired, worried, hurt, excited, in love, sick, and the list continues. The face of a person reveals a lot about that person. The face of a person is like an open window that allows us to see inside of that person; their thoughts, their pain, their joy, their heart.  This is what God showed me; to seek His face is to enter into God’s heart. When God asks us to seek His face, He is making a call for us to enter into His thoughts and see what He is thinking, to see what He is doing, how he feels about something, to see the love that He has for us, to look at the pain that our sin causes Him, etc.”

 Charlie the leader of the bible study I attended when I was young taught me that we can only learn what God’s thoughts are from his word, the bible and this is why we all must read and study God’s word if we want to seek God’s face and therefore know his thoughts.

 Two scripture references back this up and flesh this out, the first is from the Old Testament, Numbers 6: 22 – 26,

“The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you

and give you peace.”’

 And one from the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 4: 6,

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ”.

I reminded you earlier that at the start of John’s Gospel John calls Jesus the very word of God so when we look at what Jesus was like, did and said we are looking at what God is like and therefore we are looking at the face of God.

Moses discovered that the literal face of God cannot be looked at in this life as God is pure light and so Moses had to hide his face as God passed by but when Moses came down from the mountain something of that brilliant light of God, his glory was on Moses face and he had to veil his face after he met with God to speak to him and receive his word.

However as Paul indicated in the 2 Corinthian 4: 6 verse,

“God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ”.

The writer to the Hebrews says 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 honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.

Charlie in his bible studies I attended as a young man always pointed us to Jesus in all of the character studies we did and of course it is through Jesus that we can come to God owing to his death and resurrection for us as the writer to the Hebrews is speaking of in the words,

“Crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.

Then David in his original Psalm in 1 Chronicles 16 adapted by a later Psalm writer lays down the core of this inspiration for praising God in the words of verse 5,

“Remember the wonders he has done his miracles and the judgment he pronounced”

When we remember what God had dome in the past we see yet again that he is strong and powerful and can do miraculous things to help and save us. However we also see that the God of the bible is a God who judges sin and from that we should be warned to be careful in how we live and treat others.

Psalm 106 will reveal to us that God’s people Israel often failed to truly love and follow God and in fact they often grumbled and complained and even turned away from God yet God continued to love them even though at times he had to discipline them with judgement for their wilful disobedience.

The writer to the Hebrews tells us that even that disciplining of his people is an act of love as we read in Hebrews 12: 5 – 6,

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.”

I mentioned in my introduction that for three years I sought to rebel against God by turning my back on him and his church and I can tell you that during those three years deep down inside me I was not a very happy person. I seemed to be having a fun time with my friends but really I was pretty miserable and God made sure that those three years were not very successful for me and as I said even my so called new non-Christian friends really did not care or love me and when I had a major crisis and disappointment with them I started to realise what I had walked away from was my loving friends at my local church who knew God in their lives.

I still feel deeply for any back slidding Christians I come across today and I long for them to stop their rebellion to the Lord and turn back to him like I did when I was 19 years of age. Let me tell you the coming back was painful in itself but it was a pain that was well worth going through.

Then we come to two verses that speak of our special relationship with God as his chosen people. This is expressed by David in his original Psalm in 1 Chronicles 16 verse 13 and later adapted by the writer of Psalm 105 in two ways.

First in verse 6,

“O descendants of Abraham his servant, O sons of Jacob his chosen ones”.

 We can look at what this verse is teaching us on two levels.

The first is on the literal level as David and the original writer of Psalm 105 would have had in mind and that is that the nation of Israel through the covenant made with Abraham its great original ancestor are God’s special chosen people. I will have more to say about this in the next section of the Psalm talk when we look at Abraham and the covenant God made with him.

Secondly on the level of how the New Testament calls all people who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as children by faith of Abraham as Paul states in Galatians

“So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[

 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith”.

What Paul is alluding to here is the new covenant which is a fulfilment of the Old Covenant through the death and resurrection of Christ which I will also discuss further in the next section of my Psalm talk.

However all I will say about this reference to God’s chosen ones here in verse 6 is that the bible makes it clear that we don’t choose God because of our sins, so God has chosen us and this a teaching right through the bible and here in Psalm 105 as Paul makes it clear in Romans 8: 29 – 30,

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”.

Israel did not come into being by a nation suddenly deciding one day that they would be God’s special nation called Israel. No Israel as a nation only existed because God called its patriarch Abraham to go from Ur of the Chaldeans to a place God would lead him to and from him a new nation developed over many centuries that became the nation of Israel God’s chosen ones.

This teaching as I have said is fleshed out in the next part of the Psalm and indeed becomes the main idea of the source of the wonderful acts of God David and the writer of Psalm 105 wants us to remember. As Stephen J. Cole puts it,

“The bulk of the psalm (vv. 8 – 44) traces God’s sovereign hand in choosing Israel as His people, protecting them when they were vulnerable and weak, delivering them through the miraculous events of the Exodus, preserving them in the wilderness, and bringing them into the Promised Land. The clear emphasis of these verses is that God did it all”.

Then in verse 7 we have another reminder of the special chosen nature of the nation of Israel,

“He is the Lord our God; his judgements are in all the earth”.

This verse is very interesting because it tells its readers or hearers that yes God is their God and they are therefore as the previous verse declares God’s chosen ones but note the verse also says that,

“His judgements are in all the earth”.

 God told Israel through Moses that they were God’s chosen people for a reason and that reason is stated clearly in Exodus 19: 5 – 6,

“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.”

 The way a lot of the people of Israel all through history, people we call the Jews today act is they heard the first part of what God said about being God’s “treasured possession” but failed to hear or respond to the second part of being a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation”.

 Being a kingdom of priest’s means that they were the nation God called to take his message to the world as verse 7 of Psalm 105 declares,

“His judgements are in all the earth”.

Even though Israel often failed to do this God still worked through them to take his judgements to the earth particularly by sending his son into the world by being born a Jew who through his followers after he died for our sins on the cross, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven now themselves become the world-wide kingdom of priests who proclaim God’s message to the world as Peter teaches in 1 Peter 2: 9,

“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.”

We need to not fall into the trap the people of Israel often fell into of thinking of ourselves as an exclusive special people of God but who fail to take the message of God through Christ to the world. Charlie encouraged all of the people in his bible study for young people to always look for ways of serving God and four years after joining his bible study group after coming back from falling away from the Lord I decided to go into full-time ministry training at The Sydney Missionary and Bible College.

I only had the privilege of being in Charlies bible study group for two years because Charlie moved on to retirement but the next assistant minister and his faithful wife continued to disciple me and this minister had been a former bible college lecturer and his wife one of his students and therefore I got plenty of encouragement and practical help to go to Bible College myself.

  1. (8 – 15) REMEMBER ABRAHAM AND GOD’S COVENANT
  1. (8 – 11)   Remember God’s covenant with Abraham

So, as Stephen J. Cole indicated after reminding his readers and hearers of Palm 105 that they were God’s special chosen people and the Lord was their God he now sets down a lengthy account of how God did this for the rest of the Psalm up to the last verse, verse 45 which is a conclusion to the whole Psalm.

The writer, who we believe is David up to verse 15 and then is a Psalmist probably at the time of the return from Babylon exile starts this story of the Nation of Israel and how God called and formed them with its founding father Abraham.

In verse 8 and 9 he starts with a summary of the covenant or divine agreement God made with Abraham,

“He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore with Isaac”.

The idea that God’s remembers his covenant is not suggesting that God forgot the promises he made to Abraham but rather as Albert Barnes puts it,

“God has it constantly in remembrance”

God is not like human beings who forget and even deceive or lie as Numbers 23: 19 says,

“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil?”

No God made a solemn agreement with Abraham expressed clearly in Genesis 12: 1 – 3,

“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all Peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Later God makes it even clearer that it is a nation of believers he wants to bless Abraham with, Genesis 22: 17 – 18,

“I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

The Nation of Israel even in its hey day would not fulfil the description here but if you include in this prediction The New Israel of God (Galatians 6: 16) which Paul speaks of even more clearly in Galatians 3: 26 – 29, which is the church of Jesus Christ world wide and now being existence for over 2000 years than the descendants would number like the stars in the sky on a clear night.

Galatians 3: 26 – 29 speaks of this New Israel or new family of God being made up of Jew and Gentile, slave and free male and female and finally through Christ the seed or descendants of Abraham,

 “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

This idea of the seed of Abraham being all people of faith in God from every nation through God’s Son Jesus Christ also fulfils the words of Psalm 105: 6 that say,

“He (God) remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded for a thousand generations”.

A thousand generations is not meaning God is counting down a thousand generations but this is a poetic description of an enormous number of generations. In Revelation 14 another poetic or symbolic number appears, that has been grossly miss-understood over the years when it has be interpreted as a literal number. I am speaking of the number 144,000, which is, I believe God’s complete number of all generations who will be with him in heaven. The number 144,000 is made up of 12,000 from each of the 12th tribes of Israel.

With this interpretation in mind let me quote Revelation 14: 1 – 3,

“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. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth”.

Finally verse 9 ends with the words,

“The oath he swore to Isaac”

This means that the covenant God made with Abraham was passed on to the next generation represented by his son Isaac and this oath was literally recorded for us in Genesis 26: 2 – 3,

“The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham”.

This Abraham covenant promise of God is then spoken of passing from Isaac to Jacob his son in verse 10,

“He confirmed it to Jacob a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant”.

Which we read of happening in Genesis 28: 13 and Genesis 35: 12 and in Genesis 35 we read of how God planned to fulfil this promise through Jacob, Genesis 35: 10 – 13,

“God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel!]” So he named him Israel.

 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty”]; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him”.

This promise even in Isaac and Jacob’s time was the land they were wandering about as aliens which was called Canaan. Four hundred years later Canaan would be The Promised Land re-named Israel after Jacobs new name conquered under the leadership of Joshua.

This then is confirmed as the outcome of God’s covenant promise fulfilled in Psalm 105 verse 11,

“To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit”.

Some might ask why didn’t God just give Jacob and his growing family Canaan straight away and not wait 400 years to fulfil this?

The answer is simple Jacob and his family was no more than a couple of dozen people and it took 400 years for this family to grow into at least a small nation able to occupy a land of their own.

Also God had many more people to come who he could speak through as we will see in the rest of the Psalm and as Charlie my bible study leader when I was in my late teens early twenties often told us God spoke through people just like us warts and all so that we could learn how he wants us to relate to him in faith and obedience.

  1. (12 – 15) Remember how God protected the patriarchs

 Before the David and the writer of Psalm 105 wants his readers and hearers to remember some issues to raise about God’s wonderful deeds and acts in the care and protection of the small family groups of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in verse 12 – 15.

He speaks first of all about how vulnerable and fragile they would have been in an often hostile foreign land with no form of ownership or rites to any part of the land of Canaan. This idea is expressed in verses 12 and 13,

“When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it,13 they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another”.

This was particular dangerous time for what would have been a small group of people and yet God protected them time and time again. Abraham got into trouble with two different powerful kings which I will speak of in the next verse and Abraham nearly lost his brother lot when Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed and God had to send an Angel to warn them both of this coming disaster.

Isaac had to have a vision to warn him not to go down to Egypt during a famine in the Land of Canaan and Isaac suffered from the same trouble as his father passing his attractive wife off as his sister before the Philistine king of that time known as Abimelech. Abimelech sees Isaac caressing his wife Rebecca and realises that Rebecca is his wife but instead of becoming angry with Isaac over his deception he orders that no man is to molest Isaac or his wife (Genesis 26: 11).

Jacob has lots of problems living as a stranger and wanderer in the land of Canaan and a lot of his trouble is caused by his often arrogant and deceitful ways and he even ends up in conflict with his twin brother Esau who he steals his birthright from him with deception.

Jacob in later life has an encounter with God and after wrestling with an Angel from God is subdued by some kind of hip injury the Angel gives Jacob and from that time on Jacob seems to become a changed man and God gives him a new exalted name, Israel which could literally mean “one who has struggled with God and has prevailed”.

So verses 12 and 13 of Psalm 105 certainly are a good summary of those early years of Israel’s history.

Then we read in verses 14 and 15 how God specifically helped the Patriarchs and their families during their many years of wandering about the land of Canaan,

“He allowed no one to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings: 15 “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”

 As I said it was a senor minister I am calling Charlie who first introduced me to the concept that the bible presents it’s so called hero’s of faith with warts and all, an expression that means the bible presents the people it speaks about with their failings as well as their successes or good points. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, men we call the Patriarchs are good examples of Charlie’s warts and all theory.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all got themselves into trouble with powerful men in Canaan and Egypt in their day that could have easily ended their lives and caused an end to their families and to the ability for God to fulfil the many promises of his covenant particularly to make out of them a great nation.

Abraham twice tried to pass off his wife as his sister to two different powerful kings and both times God has to intervene to save the life of Abraham and his family because of his sinful deception. The first instance of this is in Genesis 12: 10 – 20 when he is in Egypt owing to a famine in the Canaan.

The second time he falls to this, not having learnt his lesson the first time is in Genesis 20, where he has the same trouble with a Canaanite king named Abimelech.

The final words of verse 15,

“Do my prophets no harm”

 Could easily be applied to this second incident of Abraham trying to pass off his wife as his sister to the Canaanite king named Abimelech in something God told Abimelech in a dream recorded in Genesis 20: 7a,

“Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet”

Then we find Isaac falling to the same problem with his wife, Rebecca with a king with the same name Abimelech (probably son or grandson of the king Abraham dealt with) who is described this time as the king of the Philistines recorded in Genesis 26: 1 – 19. In Isaacs’s case he not only escapes death at the hands of Abimelech for his deception but is blessed by the king and is able to settle safely in his kingdom as we read in Genesis 26: 17 – 18,

“So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. 18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them”.

Finally as I said earlier Jacob had all sorts of life threatening experiences with his twin brother Esau and his father in law Laban’s sons and then even Laban himself who wanted to kill him because of the wealth Jacob had gained while living with Laban as they believed this wealth came at their expense. Jacob has to return to where his family live and therefore was again in danger of being killed by his twin brother Esau there. However God answered Jacob’s prayer and when he meets his bother he finds that his hatred towards him had passed and he greeted Jacob with tears and loving acceptance.

In all this we see the hand of God protecting and leading this fragile family during the time of the Patriarchs which again is spelt out in the words of verses 14 and 15 of Psalm 105,

“He allowed no one to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings: 15 “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”

The way that God even worked through the failures and human weakness of these men who in many ways are no different from us is a testimony to the words of Paul in 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”.

I remember first time I really learnt the truth of these words in the bible studies I attended as a young man for two years under the leadership of the wise old assistant minister I am referring to as Charlie. This teaching was very important to me then as I had just come back from falling away from following the Lord and to realise that my salvation was centred in what God had done for me and not on how I had always trusted in God.

Therefore no matter how sinful I was God still loved me and was now even blessing me as he did like men like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the bible.

This was crucial teaching for me to learn that helped me really come back to serving the Lord and two years after those bible studies with Charlie I was preparing for full time ministry in Bible College.

  1. (16 – 25) REMEMBER JOSEPH AND HOW GOD GUIDED HIM

1.  (16 – 22) Remember how God guided Joseph through difficulty

The writer of Psalm 105 then stops his use of David’s original older Psalm in 1 Chronicles 16 and moves on to ask his readers and hearers to continue to remember how God led Israel to fulfil his covenant with Abraham.

Jacob’s second youngest son, Joseph who has an amazing story of the providential guidance of God, represents the first generation after the three Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Joseph story is taken up in a briefer poetic style telling in verses 16 – 22.

Psalm 105 telling of Joseph has, as I see it in these verses four parts:

  1. God creates a famine (vs. 16)
  2. God prepares a saviour through slavery (vv. 17 – 19)
  3. God raises this slave to be a ruler (vv. 20 – 21)
  4. God uses his ruler to teach and help others (vs. 22)

 So let’s have a closer look at this amazing story and as the Psalmist would like us to do remember and ponder the wonderful acts or deeds of God.

  1. God creates a famine (vs. 16)

The Genesis account of Joseph guidance of God does not have any mention of God creating a famine but verse 16 says,

“He called down famine on the land and destroyed all their supplies of food”.

 Albert Barnes says this about this God designed famine,

“It was, not by chance, not by mere operation of physical laws, but it was because God, ordered it”.

 The famine did not come unto years after Joseph sinful jealous brothers sold him in to slavery in Egypt but this shows God knew what he was going to do, which was call down on the land a famine in years after Joseph seemed lost into slavery in Egypt and through the terrible turn of events for Joseph have him perfectly placed to save his people from death by starvation.

Through the famine God would force Jacob’s growing family into Egypt where over 400 years they could grow into a nation big enough to inherit and inhabit the Promised Land of Canaan the very land they had to flee as strangers and aliens before the famine had come upon them by the hand of God.

All this reminds me of the famous hymn of William Cowper, “God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform”, which goes like this,

  1. God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm.

 

2. Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.

 

3. Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

 

4.Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

 

5. His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

 

6. Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

  1. God prepares a saviour through slavery (vv. 17 – 18)

We are then told, in a kind of flash back how God prepared a saviour for his people when they faced death through starvation from the famine God brought upon the land of Canaan.

The saviour is named in verse 17 and the means of his placement in Egypt is also stated,

“And he sent a man before them – Joseph, sold as a slave”.

 Joseph is the victim of family in – fighting caused by jealousy encouraged by Joseph lack of tact about how God blessed him more than his brothers and Joseph acted, in my view a bit like a spoilt child insensitive to his brother’s thoughts and feelings. This of course is no excuse for Joseph brothers wanting to kill him and then through the intervention of another brother Reuben the plot to kill change the brothers minds to selling him as a slave to some passing Ishmaelite slave traders.

Verse 18, expresses the terrible plight of what being sold as a slave might be like,

“They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons”.

 The Genesis account has no mention of the shackling of Joseph but people of the time of the return from Babylonian exile would have been familiar with this kind of cruel treatment of slaves as it was apparently how slaves were treated in their day.

Joseph had got into the mess he was in because he told his brothers and even his father the dream God gave him that implied that one day he, Joseph would rule over his brothers. This seemed to be the last straw with Joseph brothers and their actions actually led to the actual dream prediction being fulfilled as the next verse in Psalm 105 implies, verse 19,

“Till what was foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved true”.

 Yes Joseph was sold into slavery but in Egypt he ends up being bought by an influential Egyptian official of the Pharaoh’s court named Potiphar and Joseph quickly rose to a privileged position in this mans house. However what seems like another tragic turn of events sees Joseph thrown into prison, which comes about because Joseph refuses to have an affair with Potiphar’s wife and she after being rejected by Joseph had him accused of attempted rape.

However even in prison God blessed Joseph and he quickly rises to a privileged position and while there he helps a cupbearer of Pharaoh interpret his dream of immanent release correctly and this turns out to be God’s guidance again to get Joseph out of prison.

  1. God raises this slave to be s ruler (vv. 20 – 21)

The cup-bearer initially forgets the favour Joseph did for him unto Pharaoh has some troubling dreams himself which non of his so-called wise men can interpret and the cupbearer remembers poor Joseph. Psalm 20 – 21 speaks of what then happens,

“The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples set him free”.

 Joseph is sent for by Pharaoh and interprets his dreams correctly, which foretell of the coming famine in Egypt and even as far as Canaan and Joseph ends up freed from prison. Then a remarkable turn of events takes place, expressed poetically by verse 21,

“He made him master of his household, ruler over all he possessed>”

 Albert Barnes explains the significance of this verse with these words,

“This implied that the administration of the affairs of the nation was virtually committed to him”. 

  1. God uses his ruler to teach and help others (vs. 22)

 So from being sold into slavery to end up in prison God uses all these terrible turn of events to be his means of raising Joseph to an exalted position in Egypt at a vital time to help them and his own people with wisdom only God could give them as verse 22 implies,

“To instruct his princes as he pleased and teach his elders wisdom”.

 Joseph becomes a kind of Governor under Pharaoh to administer the country during the years of good harvests and famine.

All through this amazing story of Joseph is the obvious hand of God in his life expressed so well by Pharaoh himself in Genesis 41: 38,

“So Pharaoh asked them, ‘Can we find anyone like this man (Joseph), in whom is the spirit of God”.

 People might deny the existence of our God but they cannot deny that we, as believers in that God are blessed by something they seem to lack and I believe this can be a powerful tool in our presentation of the Gospel message as Peter advises us with the words of 2 Peter 3: 15 – 16,

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”.

The story of how God guided Joseph also reminds me of the famous verse Romans 8: 18, which I quoted earlier which says,

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

Joseph was called according to God’s purpose and so through slavery, false charges and imprisonment God guided Joseph to be a Governor in Egypt to save Egypt and his family from starvation and as we will see in the second part of this third section of the Psalm bring his extended family into Egypt to become a great nation.

  1. (23 – 25) Remember how God blessed Israel in Egypt

 So through Joseph God’s fragile blessed family, which was the out working of his covenant or agreement with Abraham was saved yet again, this time from starvation. This famine that verse 16 was from the direct hand of God also was used for another great purpose in God’s plan and that was to bring Jacob and his growing family into Egypt as verse 23,

“Then Israel entered Egypt; Jacob lived as an alien in the land of ham”.

 Jacob and his family had been alien’s in Canaan before the famine but now verse 23 says they were now aliens in the land of Ham which is a common bible name for Egypt. Leupold explains the use if the title “land of Ham” this way,

“”The land of Ham indicates that the ancestry of Egypt was well known to the Israelites”, (see Genesis 10: 6 – Cush is the people in north Africa in the region of the upper Nile)

The reason for this change of land for Jacob and his family is poetically explained in verse 24,

“The Lord made his people very fruitful; he made them too numerous for their foes”.

 So over a total period of 400 hundred years The Lord blessed Jacobs family and they grew into a nation of people within a nation and this is always a recipe for conflict.

However God knew that Jacobs family could not have developed so quickly and so well in Canaan so he led them through the famine and the rise of Joseph to Egypt where they could grow into a small nation.

As I said nations within nations is a recipe for conflict and this is spoken of in the second half of verse 24 and verse 25,

“He made them too numerous for their foes, whose hearts he turned to hate his people, to conspire against his servants”.

 So the scene is set for the greatest historical story the Jews remember namely the Exodus from Egypt for the hate and fear the Egyptians had for the Israelites lead them to seek to ruthlessly suppress them by turning them into a nation of slaves.

What is being set up here is not just salvation for God’s people out of Egypt but also God’s judgment on Egypt for their cruel and unjust treatment of God’s people, the Israelites the direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I have always had a pet hate for racial prejudice and I see it as another way sin is seen in our world. So often I have seen that racial prejudice is a result or ignorance and false fears of a group of people different than they see themselves. I have always attempted to try to understand people different from myself by seeking to try to stand in their shoes or see the world the way they see it and this has helped me to stop falling into ignorance and racial prejudice thoughts and actions.

  1. (26 – 44) REMEMBER HOW GOD USED MOSES AND AARON TO

                           SAVE ISRAEL OUT OF SLAVERY

  1. (26 – 36) Remember how God performed miraculous signs through

               Moses and Aaron

 The one great act of God that the Old Testament constantly remembers is his act of salvation in the Exodus of his people out of Egypt. It has been said that the word Egypt appears over 700 times in the Old and New Testament and Doug Ward makes this amazing observation of the first five books of the bible and particularly the Exodus story with these words,

“The five books of Moses-Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy-are of critical importance for understanding the rest of the Bible. Themes that begin in these books are expanded and developed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. In particular, motifs from the exodus account, their central story, appear again and again in the psalms, prophets, gospels and epistles”.

 So it’s not strange that our writer of Psalm 105 spends 19 verses on reminding his readers and hearers of God’s deliverance of Israel out of slavery in Egypt to occupation of the promised land of Canaan.

Our writer speaks of the actual Exodus itself in verses 26 – 36 and I have broken this story of God’s great act of salvation of his people into two parts:

  1. (vv. 26 – 27) The sending of Moses and Aaron to Egypt.
  2. (vv. 28_ 36) God’s miraculous signs in Egypt.

Lets then have a closer look at these two parts:

  1. (vv. 26- 27) The sending of Moses and Aaron to Egypt.

The account of the Exodus story the writer of Psalm 105 wants his readers and hearers to remember is the calling and sending of two senior men, Moses and his younger brother Aaron that he poetically describes this way in verses 26 – 27,

“He sent Moses his servant, and Aaron, whom he had chosen. 27 They performed his signs among them, his wonders in the land of Ham”.

This calling of Moses to go or be sent by God to Egypt, again described poetically by the writer of Psalm 105 as the Land of Ham is recorded for us in Exodus chapter 3. It takes place according to this chapter far off from Egypt in a desert area east from Egypt called Midian, which was located in the Northwest Arabian Peninsula.

I recently heard an Atheist making fun the story of Moses calling saying it was from a burning bush that did not burn up way out in the desert where their was no witnesses, “no witnesses”, he jested, how convenient”. Well there are a lot more miraculous events to take place than a bush that does not burn up to come when Moses and Aaron answer the call and perform great signs and wonders in Egypt and there were thousands of witnesses to them.

Moses is not a young man and either is his brother Aaron but Moses particularly had an incredible life story that prepared him in a wonderful way to be God’s perfect servant and leader of his people out of Egypt.

Moses was brought up and educated in the Egyptian Pharaohs court, which meant he knew their language, customs, history and for the sake of the written record of the bible he learnt ways of writing but we simply don’t know what ancient script Moses actually used some bible scholars say it was what is called Paleo-Hebrew, or a closely related derivative, generally considered to be an offshoot of ancient Phonecian script. However copies of the bible in this Ancient Hebrew script have been lost as a more modern form of Hebrew script was fully adopted scholars say by the sixth of seventh century.

Moses had to flee Egypt as a relatively young man and spent up to forty years in the desert area of Midian keeping sheep. He probably kept up his reading and writing skills and certainly learnt a lot about living and travelling in a desert area’s which meant God had prepared him to lead his people for the last forty years of his life in the desert area’s between Egypt and Canaan before God allowed the people of Israel to occupy the Promised Land.

Moses was a reluctant leader and he offers God at the burning bush many excuses why he is not the man for the job but God offers up his younger brother Aaron to work with him on going down to Egypt to call on Pharaoh to let his people go from Egypt and slavery there.

Psalm 105 verse 26 has two key words to describe Moses and they are:

  1. Servant
  2. Chosen

Let me speak briefly about these two key descriptions of Moses:

  1. Servant

Moses is called “God’s Servant” even in the New Testament in Hebrews 3: 5,

“Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house”.

 The title servant means that Moses was faithful and obedient to a master and his master was God himself. Moses sought to follow the word and direction of his master and he basically did this all through his leadership of his people in the story of their deliverance out of Egypt and Hebrews 11 says that Moses did all this by faith.

Moses then was a great example of Servant leadership and this is what “gotquestions?org” says about Christian Servant leadership,

Servant leadership is best defined by Jesus Himself: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26–28). In the Christian realm, all leadership should be servant leadership.

  1. Chosen

Moses like Joseph before him and indeed Abraham were all men chosen and prepared to do a specific job for God but each man, like us has to respond to the call of God when he shows us he has chosen us.

Paul taught in a number of places that God chooses men and women to follow him and that choice of God goes far, far back in the mind and plan of God as he writes in Romans 8: 29 – 30,

 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”.

Some Christians resist the idea of God choosing us to follow him but others find it a great comfort and means of praise to God. I personally do find this teaching a great mystery but accepting it gives me confidence that if I am faithful in presenting God’s word to others and leave the work of changing men and women’s hearts and minds to understand it to God then he will call those he has chosen to follow him.

The story of Moses calling and the preparation that led up to it is yet another story of how God works over many years in the hearts and lives of men and women that my old bible study leader I had in my late teens, who I call Charlie would say are men and women just like you and me.

  1. (vv. 28_ 36) God’s miraculous signs in Egypt

So verse 27 said that God sent Moses and Aaron into Egypt to perform God’s miraculous signs and wonders and now, again, in a poetical form the writer of Psalm 105 describes some of these signs and wonders God did through them in Egypt.

I say some of these signs and wonders because Psalm 105 account of these is different than the account we find in Exodus 7 – 12, as not all the plagues are mentioned in Psalm 105 and there order is changed.

Allan Harman explains how the writer of Psalm 105 sets down the story of the plagues in Egypt this way,

“The poet highlights the final two plagues (darkness and death of the firstborn) by placing the other plagues between them”.

 Also two plagues are omitted from Psalm 105 account of the plagues namely the plague on livestock and the plague of boils.

So the writer of Psalm 105 is using a poetic description of what he calls God’s signs which Spurgeon describes this way,

“They were speaking marvels, which testified more plainly than words to the omnipotence of Jehovah, to his determination to be obeyed, to his anger at the obstinacy of Pharaoh”.

 Lets have a closer look at how the writer of Psalm 105 describes the seven “speaking marvels” of God.

  1. Plague of Darkness (vs. 28)

The writer of Psalm 105 starts with plague number 9 recorded in more detail in Exodus 10: 21 – 29, the writer of Psalm 105 describes it this way,

“He sent darkness and made the land dark – for had they not rebelled against his words?”

 Darkness for three days Exodus 10: 23, would have been a very frightening thing to go through but the God who made light right at the beginning of creation now stops light shinning in Egypt. This shows God’s total control and also says to Pharaoh and Egypt that if they defy the word of God then that word that originally made light itself will be deprived of you.

John 3: 19 – 21 says this about the coming of God’s light to the world through the Lord Jesus Christ and his message which is God’s spiritual light to the world,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

Pharaoh opening defied the God Moses and Aaron spoke on behalf of so over and over again Pharaoh refused to acknowledge the God of the bible and as the second part of verse 28 says, Pharaoh and the people of Egypt he ruled over,

“Rebelled against his (God’s) words?”

 For this they were under the judgment of God as are people today who hate the light of God, God sent into the world namely Jesus Christ who interestingly is called in John 1: 14,

“The word (of God) become flesh”

  1. Plague of water into blood (vs. 29)

The very reason why Egypt existed and prospered as a nation was the fertility of the waters of the great river Nile. In the area that Ancient Egyptians lived was very fertile because it was in the area that the river Nile spread out and often silted up with rich nutrients for growing large food crops.

So we read in verse 29 a terrible plague that effected what only could be called the life- blood of the Egyptian Empire, the river Nile,

“He turned their waters into blood, causing their fish to die”.

 Whether this was literally blood or some red appearing toxic substance that looked like blood really doesn’t matter as the end reflect is the same, the fish die and therefore the river is no longer an agricultural blessing but a curse.

I also read in my research that fish caught in the river Nile was also an important part of ancient Egyptian diets so again God is acting through nature to judge Egypt for their rebellion to his word carried to their Pharaoh by Moses and Aaron.

  1. Plague of frogs (vs. 30)

It has been speculated that because the Nile and all the waterways in Egypt were now toxic to amphibian creatures the next plague which was frogs swarming across the land and entering the buildings of the Egyptians is a natural progression as the frogs sought fresh water as did man.

Verse 30 speaks of this plague this way,

“Their land teemed with frogs, which went up into the bedrooms of their rulers”.

 Exodus 7: 22 – 24, tells us what Pharaoh’s response to the river Nile turning to blood was,

“But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. 23 Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river”.

Like many non believers today Pharaoh chose to willfully turn away from the word of God and shut himself up in his palace thinking that this God of the Hebrews might strike his beloved river Nile but he was safe inside his palace locked away from Moses and Aaron and their supposed God of the universe.

How wrong Pharaoh was as God sent frogs loose all over the land and as the second part of verse 30 says, the frogs,

“Went up into the bedrooms of their rulers”.

 People cannot escape the coming judgment of God except by faith in his Son Jesus Christ who through his death on the cross has cleared a way for anyone who turns in repentance and faith in him to God himself. Faith is Jesus Christ is the only way to escape this certain Day of Judgment.

Interestingly Revelation 6: 15 – 17 speaks of kings of the earth seeking to run away and hide from the coming judgment when Jesus returns and these verses tell us this,

 “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

  1. Plague of flies and gnats (vs. 31)

With all the dead fish and indeed dead frogs around the next natural plague is flies and gnats feeding and breeding on all the dead flesh lying around the banks of the river Nile and throughout the land from the plague of frogs who have now perished.

Verse 31 says,

“He spoke, and there came swarms of flies, and gnats throughout their country”.

 God often brings his specific acts of judgment to the world through natural processes but he is behind all as we learnt in the last Psalm seen in a verse like Psalm 104: 29,

“When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to dust”.

 God is the sovereign Lord of the universe and he is in control of this world giving by his hand his judgments and his blessings as Psalm 104: 27 – 28,

“All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things”.

  1. Plague of hail (vs. 32 -33)

Then we read in verse 32 skips past the next two plagues recorded in Exodus 9 to another natural part of nature being used by God as a judgment on rebellious Egypt and its ruler, Pharaoh,

“He turned their rain into hail, with lightening throughout their land”

 This was not just a big thunderstorm but as Exodus 9: 18 – 19, the worst

Thunderstorm in Egypt history as described in these verses like this,

“Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now.

19 Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every person and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’”

 I like what Moses tells Pharaoh leading up to these verses in verses 15 – 17,

“For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. 16 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. 17 You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go”.

God is not just judging the rebellious sins of Pharaoh and his people he is saying something to the world in Moses and Aaron’s time and in the future that he is the one true great and powerful God of heaven and earth and that to rebel against him has dire consequences.

This is a message very much-needed today as people today are just like Pharaoh and his people in Egypt they refuse to even listen the God and his word and instead choose to turn their backs on him and his offer of salvation through Christ his one and only son.

The hail was so large and came down with such force that animal or human would die if they were out in the open and not under shelter. Psalm 105 speaks of the devastation in Egypt caused by this massive thunderstorm and the hail it rained down with these words,

“He struck down their vines and fig trees and shattered the trees of their country”.

We all need the spiritual shelter Christ offered through his sacrifice of his life on the cross for our sins to escape the coming judgment of God but so many refuse to shelter or live in Christ so they have no hope of escape from the coming judgment of God.

  1. Plague of Locus (34 – 35)

If the hail and the devastation it caused to the land of Egypt had not destroyed Egypt’s economy at that time the next certainly finishes it off destroying anything left in the fields of the land. For verses 34 and 35 speak of the plague of locusts,

He spoke, and the locusts came, grasshoppers without number; 35 they ate up every green thing in their land, ate up the produce of their soil”.

 Spurgeon speaks of these locusts as a kind of natural army and then writes,

“Commissioned as these were by God, we may be sure they would do their work thoughly, and leave behind them nothing but desolate wilderness”.

 It has been said that the plagues were also a judgment on the Egyptian supposed God’s that combined nature, like cows and frogs heads on their description of their God’s. Now God is using nature like frogs and here locusts to attack their lives and crops that is saying to Pharaoh and his people that they need to turn away from these false God’s and worship the one true God of heaven and earth.

Paul speaks of the foolishness of mankind when they turn away from God in sinful rebellion in Romans 1: 21 – 23,

 “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles”.

No Egyptian God could stand up against the one true God of heaven and earth to stop his army of locusts devouring the land yet we learn with dismay and unbelief still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened in rebellion to God.

  1. Plague of the death of the first-born (vs. 36)

So finally after nine plagues that struck Egypt and after nine times Pharaoh still refused to acknowledge the one true God of heaven and earth he now faced the loss of his first-born son, the very heir to the throne of Egypt,

“Then he struck down all the firstborn in their land, the first fruits of all their manhood”.

 So not only Pharaoh lost his first-born son but all other Egyptians as well lost their first-born sons. Of course Exodus 12 tells us that all the first-born of the Israelites who put the blood of the sacrificed lamb on their door posts were saved because God’s angel of death passed over these houses and the first-born sons inside were saved from death.

This very night has become ever since a special night of remembrance when all Jews conduct the solemn celebration of “Passover” and it is at the same time Christians celebrate the solemn celebration of Easter.

 

We might not celebrate the birth of Jesus at the right time of the year but we certainly celebrate his death on the cross at the right time. Just as the blood of the slain lamb saved the firstborn sons of the believing Israelites so the blood of Jesus Christ God’s sacrificial lamb saves us all who believe in him from eternal death and wins for us eternal life.

As Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 1: 18 – 21,

 “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God”.

 The faith and hope of the Israelites in the time of the original Passover was in God and he saved them like he saves anyone from any nation or life status today if they believe in, “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect”.

 Pharaoh and the Egyptian people obviously did not believe and hope in the one true God of heaven and earth and in fact chose to defy his rule in their lives and rebel against his word given to them through his prophets Moses and Aaron and suffered the judgment of God on that terrible night long ago in Egypt.

This must serve as a warning to all who today choose to turn their backs on God and his word and who mock the salvation he offers through the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. (37 – 44) Remember how God led his people from Egypt to the

               Promise Land.

     So no mention of the Passover is made in Psalm 105 but this was such a vital part of every Jewish believer’s life when every year they remembered the Lord and his great deeds in the time of the Exodus so he does not need to refer to this for them.

What he does remind them of about the Exodus from Egypt is what they left with in verse 37,

“He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold, and from among their tribes no one faltered”.

 We read of this plundering of Egyptian treasure in Exodus 12: 33 -36,

“The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” 34 So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. 35 The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians”.

The writer of Psalm 105 suggests why the Egyptians would have given over these treasures in verse 38,

“Egypt was glad when they left, because dread of Israel had fallen on them”.

Pharaoh and the Egyptians just wanted the Israelites out of their country now and were willing to hand over valuables to help achieve this as they now feared that this powerful God of the Israelites might turn on them and wipe them out just as they had just seen in the death’s of their first-born sons. We know from the Exodus account that this attitude of Pharaoh and his people did not last as after a few days had passed Pharaoh sent an army out to hunt Israel down and kill them all. Tremper Longman 111 points out the significance of the Israelites plundering the Egyptians when they left Egypt,

“In a sense, the Hebrew’s were finally paid for their onerous labour for the Egyptians”.

Then the writer skips over the great salvation of God seen in the crossing of the red sea with its crushing victory over the Egyptian army that was sent to cut them down.

For in verse’s 39 – 41 he speaks of two amazing aspects of the way God led and fed and watered his people during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness before he allowed them to enter the Promised Land of Canaan.

In these verses he reminds his hearers and readers to remember three things:

  1. How God guided them (vs. 39)
  2. How God fed them (vs. 40)
  3. How God provided water for them to drink (vs. 41)

Lets have a closer look at each of these three ways God provided for the Israelites during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness.

  1. How God guided them (vs. 39)

Even before the crossing of the Red Sea Exodus speaks of the way God guided his people in the wilderness by day and night and verse 39 describes it this way,

“He spread out a cloud as a covering and a fire to give them light at night”.

 Here the cloud at day and fire or pillar of fire at night is not just for guidance but also protection. We read of the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day guiding or leading the people in the wilderness in Exodus 13: 21 – 22,

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people”.

The protection of the cloud by day of the Israelites is described this way in Exodus 14: 19 – 20,

 “Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long”.

So God led and protected his people and he promises the same guidance and protection for all who put their faith in Christ and seek to live for him as we read in Paul’s prayer request for God’s protection from the devil as he and his companions spread the Gospel message of the Lord on his missionary journeys in 2 Thessalonians 3: 1 – 3,

“As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”.

 We don’t have a cloud or pillar of fire to guide us but as Jesus promised on his last night on earth we have his Holy Spirit who will guide us and lead us into all truth, John 16: 13 – 15,

 “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

 The apostles wrote down for us faithfully what they heard Jesus taught and did and this was inspired by the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised them in John 16. So we can read Jesus words and also the inspired words of the apostles who not only wrote it down but fleshed out what Jesus said, applying it to our lives and giving us direction through it.

So we are led and protected by God’s Holy Spirit in our daily lives just as the Israelites of long ago were led and protected by The Angel of the Lord who appeared to them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

  1. How God fed them (vs. 40)

Just as the Patriarchs lived in a hostile world as strangers and wanderers and could have perished so easily in that environment now a whole nation probably around 2 million people moved around the desert area’s between Egypt and Canaan and this was a miracle in itself that such a large number survived in such difficult conditions. They would have spent some time in many of the places they made camp in but still the feeding of such a number would have been even in modern times a logistical nightmare yet verse 40 says,

“They asked and he brought quail and satisfied them with bread of heaven”.

 Psalm 106 which parallel this Psalm in remembering this amazing history of the nation points out how God answered their request for food even though it was asked for in a grumbling sinful way, Psalm 106: 13 – 15,

“But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold.
14 In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wilderness they put God to the test.15 So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease among them”.

So they asked God for food grumbling and saying why God did you take us out of Egypt where we had food, Exodus 16: 2 – 3,

“In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

The general grace of God for the world is expressed in Jesus words in Matthew 5: 45,

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.

So God fed the grumbling sinful Israelites with two more miracles of quails blown off course from the coast to be caught and eaten and through the miracle of the manna, which even to this day we cannot understand just exactly what it was. Gotquestion?org makes this fascinating observation,

What was manna? Interestingly, the Israelites asked the very same question: “When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat’” (Exodus 16:15). The Hebrew word translated “manna” literally means “what is it?”

Whatever Manna was Psalm 105: 40 says God,

“Satisfied them with bread of heaven”.

 Jesus tells people who followed him for a easy free meal, John 6: 35,

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”.

Even in my poorest time of my life when I was a student God always made sure I never went hungry but Jesus is speaking of a far deeper hunger, spiritual hunger that of course only by faith in him can it be satisfied.

  1. How God provided water for them to drink (vs. 41)

Even more difficult than food is the provision of enough water for over two million people in a desert area and so the writer of Psalm 105 in verse 41 calls on his hearers and readers to remember God’s provision of water for Israel in their forty-year desert wanderings, he writes,

“He opened the rock, and water gushed out; like a river it flowed in the desert”.

 Numbers 20: 1 – 13 records the details of God doing this, providing water from a rock in the desert and this passage refers to this as,

“Waters of Meribah” verse 13 and Meribah means quarreling and this place is called Massah in the Exodus 17 account of this incident and Massah means testing and this is because again like with food the Israelites who had already seen God’s great many previous miracles could not believe he could or would provide them with water in the desert when there seemed no hope for it there.

Yet even as Moses himself sins by striking the rock in anger when he was specifically to speak to the rock, Numbers 20: 8,

“Speak to the rock before their eyes and it will pour out water”

 God opens the rock and water gushes out which probably means this rock provided access to artesian water. Moses and Aaron for this sinful way of following the command of God are forbidden to lead the people into the promised land, Numbers 20: 12,

“But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them”.

This story teaches us many things not to mention that God does not care for grumbling and complaining but his grace is so great that even sinful people like these Israelites were still helped and saved by him which will be a major theme of the next Psalm, Psalm 106.

Jesus also refers to himself as the one who quenches our deep spiritual thirst, John 7: 37 – 38,

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them”.

I feel that many people today suffer great spiritual thirst which I believe that only faith in Jesus Christ can quench and I have a much more involved study on this in my Psalm talk on Psalm 63. The first verse of this Psalm reads like this,

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water”.

 Then in the last three verses of this second part of the fourth section of the Psalm we have the poetic description of the conquest of God’s Promised Land for his people.

The writer presents three things he wants his readers and hearers to remember about the conquest of the land in these next three verses:

  1. How the land is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (vs. 42)
  2. How the people entered the promise land with joy (vs. 43)
  3. How God conquered nations to give them the Promised Land (vs. 44)

Lets look a little closer at each of these three things the writer of Psalm 105 wants his readers and hearers to remember about how the ancient Israelites entered God’s Promise Land.

  1. How the land is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (vs. 42)

First we have yet another reminder that the land of Canaan was promised to Abraham a long time before the Israelites with God’s help were able to conquer and settle in it. This is expressed in verse 42,

“For he remembered his holy promise given to his servant Abraham”.

 The readers and hearers of this Psalm are to remember that the land of Canaan was only theirs because God promised it to Abraham as a vital part of his covenant with Abraham, which was the basis of the covenant he made to them through Moses. It is interesting that the covenant of God to Abraham and his descendants is now the completed or made new in the work of Jesus Christ for us.

We gain a very real understanding of how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and founder of what we now call “The New Covenant” through the teaching of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament.

 I don’t have time to go into a detailed discussion and explanation of the relationship between the Old and New Covenants but here I will just look at two issues relating to verse 42 of Psalm 105.

The first is that the New Covenant established by the work of Jesus Christ dying on the cross for our sins is a new covenant because it is superior to the covenant or agreement that verse 42 speaks of because it achieves far more and is no longer restricted to the descendants of Abraham.

We see this in a passage like Hebrews 8: 6 – 13,

“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”

The second observation I would like to make about the New Covenant and the Old Covenant relating to Psalm 105 verse 42 is its relationship to the inheritance of the land and a verse that points us to how the New Covenant should shape our thinking on the promised inheritance of the land is Hebrews 9: 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 heaven is the Promise Land of the new covenant which is spoken about by all of the New Testament writers as we see in 1 Peter 1: 3 – 5,

“ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”. 

  1. How the people entered the promise land with joy (vs. 43)

 The second thing the writer of Psalm 105 wants his readers and hearers to remember about the ancient Israelites entering the Promise Land is in verse 43 which speaks of the way the people came into the land, he writes,

“He brought out his people with rejoicing his chosen ones with shouts of joy”.

 The Israelites who entered the Promise Land had in one sense had waited hundreds of years for that day to come as God’s people descended from Abraham. Their fathers had been slaves in Egypt and many of them had spent 40 years wandering around the wilderness living in tents but now they had finally entered the Promise Land and what a day that must have been for them and they would have been shouting great words and songs of rejoicing and praise in their God.

It is the book of Joshua records the way God led his people into the Promise Land and helped them to conquer it. Joshua 5: 10 – 12, speaks of a great first Passover celebration that took place in the Promised Land at a place they called Gilgal,

 “On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. 11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12 The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan”.

What a great day of celebration that would have been and note how God’s provision of manna stopped that day as they now could eat produce grown in the Promised Land for the first time.

The New Testament speaks of how we are to live our lives in Christ with praise and rejoicing as Paul teaches 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”.

Paul’s prayer for the Colossians in Colossians 1: 9 – 12, includes giving thanks and being joyful as we live a life worthy of the Lord as we move towards entering our eternal inheritance,

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light”.

So as we remember what Christ has done for us through his death and resurrection we are to live a life worthy of the Lord giving thanks and being joyful as we share even now in God’s great inheritance which we only have now a foretaste in his church that will be ours completely when we enter in heaven one day in the future.

  1. How God conquered nations to give them the Promised Land (vs. 44)

The third and final thing the writer of Psalm 105 wants his readers and hearers to remember about the ancient Israelites entering the Promise Land is in verse 44 which speaks of how God conquered nations to give them the Promised Land people in the past like Moses and Aaron toiled for,

“He have them the lands of the nations, and they fell heir to what others had toiled for”.

 The conquest of the Promise Land was an often slow but sure process of victory after victory of a tiny nation that defeated far bigger and more powerful nations that occupied the land of Canaan at that time. The big difference was their God who went before them time and time again and made their victories against often-ridiculous odds possible.

I like the glimpse we have of how many Canaanites actually thought of the coming of the Israelites to their lands which is provided through what could only be called the words of the converted prostitute Rahab in Joshua 2: 8 – 11,

“Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.

11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below”.

The Nations in Canaan must have got even unnerved after the fall of Jericho and the circumstances of its conquest. So God went before his people Israel and gave them the lands of Canaan a land already prepared for occupation as its former owners had developed it which is what the second part of verse 44 is saying,

“They fell heir to what others had toiled for”.

 Paul speaks of the preaching and spreading the Gospel of the Lord is like a victory march in 2 Corinthians 2: 14 – 16,

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?”

  1. (vs. 45) REMEMBER TO OBEY GOD’S WORD AND PRAISE HIM

The writer of Psalm 105 then brings his poem of remembrance of what God has done that should lead us to praise with to final exhortations:

  1. Remember to obey God’s word (vs. 45a)
  2. Remember to Praise the Lord (vs. 45b)

Lets look at each of these two final exhortations a little close:

  1. Remember to obey God’s word (vs. 45a)

What did God want his people to do as they lived in his Promised Land?

The writer of Psalm 105 answer is,

“That they might keep his precepts and observe his laws”

 Spurgeon explains this well with these words,

“The chosen nation was to be the conservator of truth, the exemplar, the pattern of devotion: everything was so ordered as to place them in advantages circumstances for fulfilling trust”

Joshua at the end of his life at 110 years gathered the people of Israel together and said these words to them, Joshua 23: 6,

“Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left”.

He completes this speech with these words, verse 16,

“If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.”

We learnt earlier that God called Israel for a special purpose to be a kingdom of priests to the world, Exodus 19: 5 – 6,

“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.”

This priestly role and priest means go – between was to proclaim the message of God and how he wants the people of the world to live in obedience to his word. We also learnt the Peter now reveals to us that we as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ redeemed by his blood on the cross are now his priests or go – betweens God and the unbelieving people of this word, 1 Peter 2: 9,

“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.”

Note Peter makes it clear that as priests we are to,

“Declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

This involves declaring the word of God, which we cannot declare effectively if we are not trusting and obeying it in our daily lives.

The sad truth that we will see in the next Psalm, Psalm 106 is that by and large the people of Israel once they entered the Promised Land and settled down generally failed to,

“Keep his precepts and observe his laws”

This fact would have been a living reality in the mind of the writer of Psalm 105, if he wrote it as we think, around the time of the return from Babylonian exile. He would have known that for hundreds of years leading up to the Babylonian exile the people of Israel who lived in the Promised Land failed over and over again to keep the precepts of God and observe his law and even turned away from following the God of the bible to other God’s.

For this God judged his people and for seventy years the majority of them were taken into exile in Babylon away from the Promised Land of Israel. However after 70 years they were allowed to go back as God moved yet again in history to help them return to the Promised Land of Israel under the rule of the Persians.

This writer is reminding his readers of this so that they might learn to trust and obey the word of God as they come back to Israel the Promised Land of God.

He knows that God only gave them this land so that they could fulfill his promise of them being his special people who would be his priests to the world declaring to the world his word.

So we now as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ have a special mission to fulfill expressed by Jesus in Matthew 28: 19 – 20,

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 

  1. Remember to Praise the Lord (vs. 45b)

The final words of the Psalm are short but sweet, they simply say,

“Praise the Lord”

 All through the Psalm the message has been remember God’s deeds and praise him. The words that follow the quote I gave in the previous part from the exposition of this Psalm by Spurgeon go on to say this about how God wanted his people to live in his Promised Land,

“Theirs was a high calling and a glorious election. It involved great responsibilities, but it was in itself a distinguished blessing, and one for which the nation was bound to give thanks”.

 There remembering was to lead to praise and this praise was to come from what they remembered the Lord had done for them. This was the high calling they had for the many privileges God gave them as his special people living in his Promised Land.

We too have a high calling expressed so well by Paul in Ephesians 1: 11 – 12,

“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory”.

May we all learn the lesson that the writer of Psalm 105 has given us in his long and amazing Psalm, which is,

“Remember God’s deeds and Praise Him”.

I close as usual with a new poem based on the Psalm and a prayer:

 

REMEMBER THE LORD AND PRAISE HIM

(Based on Psalm 105)

 

Remember what the Lord has done

And give him thanks and praise.

Tell all the nations of his deeds

Praise his name all of your days.

His glory has been revealed

By his acts of mighty love

For Jesus came to die for us

From heaven up above.

 

Chorus:

 

Remember the Lord and praise

And live for him all your days.

Remember the Lord and praise

For he has shown his love in all his ways.

 

 

Remember all the wonders the Lord has done

Many miracles he has performed.

O people who have faith like Abraham

Remember the Lord and be transformed.

For he is the Lord our God

And he judges all the earth

But remember that faith in Jesus Christ

Will save us and gives us new birth.

 

CHORUS:

 

Remember the covenant God made with Abraham

He promised him he would inherit a land.

And although he wandered from place to place

God protected him by his mighty hand.

And we have an inheritance

That will never fade away

For in Jesus we will live forever more

When we pass from this life one day.

 

CHORUS:

 

Remember the stories of the people of God

Who were trapped in a land as slaves.

But God sent Moses to help free them

But Pharaoh stood in God’s way.

But God showed him many powerful signs

Nine plagues came on Egypt’s land

The tenth sign of God was the death of first Son’s

But God’s people were saved by God’s hand.

 

CHORUS:

 

Remember how God led his people to

The land he promised to Abraham.

With many miracles he helped them to survive

And conquer the land of Canaan.

And Jesus has made us a way

To an eternal home above

But we must trust in him for our Salvation

And praise him for his love.

 

CHORUS:

 

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

We thank you Lord for your wonderful deeds of Salvation throughout history for the people you have called into your kingdom. Above all we thank you for your great deed of love in sending your Son Jesus Christ into our world to die on the cross for our sins and for his rising from the dead that sealed our salvation and won for us the eternal inheritance of heaven itself that will never fade or pass away. We praise you then for your many wonderful deeds of salvation for us. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

PSALM 104 TALK: PRAISE OF THE CREATED

PSALM 104 TALK: PRAISE OF THE CREATED

 (A Psalm that calls us to praise God for his wonderful creation and to join that creation that speaks a wordless praise of how great and glorious is its creator.)

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

INTRODUCTION

 In 1971 I stood one evening on a beautiful moon lit night on a beach called seven mile beach which is on the south coast of New South Wales in my home state in Australia. As I stood on that beach I saw in the sand the tiny footprints of children who had obviously frolicked on that golden shore- line during the day. We had taken the children who were on a camp I was helping to lead down on that beach that morning before they had lunch and returned home after being on a camp for a week.

It was the first night we did not have to look after the children on the camp and the leadership team and I were having a break as in two days time another group of children was arriving to have their week of holidays by the beach with us. The first week’s camp had been a great success because the children had had a wonderful time and many of them came to the Lord through the presentation of the Gospel that week.

As I stared at those tiny footprints I immediately started to pray thanking God for his beautiful creation that beach represented and also thanking him that he had made himself known first through his Son Jesus Christ and then through us to the children on that fantastic camp we had just run.

By the time I and my fellow leaders had made it back to the campsite cabins I had the inspiration for a poem which years later became a song called, “Children of the Bay”, the words of the song go like this,

The summer wind is blowing it howls and calls for day.

Waves reach crashing forward as they pound upon the bay.

A seagull fly’s the heavens as the palm trees gently sway.

The wind drops with the morning and the children come to play.

 

Refrain:

Yes the children come to play

The children of the bay

The wind drops with the morning

As the children come to play

 

There’s seven thousand horses pounding down upon the bay.

The sun now fills the morning with her warm and golden ray.

The white caps playing, dancing on top of waves to and fro.

The silence of the morning is broken by a shrill

And I see the Children playing by the shore.

 

Refrain:

Yes the children play by the seashore

The children of the bay

The silence it is broken

As the children now do play

The sun now softly whispers this is the close of day.

The silhouetted headlands reach out like arms to pray.

And in the silence of the evening I see the giant spider sun.

The waves crash on the seashore as the children move away.

 

Refrain:

Yes the children move away

The children of the bay

The waves crash on the seashore

As the children move away

 

In the peace of the evening the moon sends down its ray.

And nature rests so quiet as the waves break on the bay.

And in that hour of darkness I stop to bow and pray.

As I see the tiny footprints where the children came to play

 

Refrain:

Yes I see the tiny footprints

Where children came to play

And in that hour of darkness

I stop and bow and pray

Where the children came to play

The children of the bay.

Even though the children that day had left just after lunch on many days during the week of the camp they did not go back to the campsite until early evening for dinner and a evening program, bed side devotions, prayer and sleep.

My poem, “Children of the Bay” became the first of many poems over the next twenty years or so that capture some aspect of nature leading me to pray and sometimes even the natural world itself speaks powerfully of the God who made it. I called these poems, “Prayers of the Created” and the scripture backing for them is Psalm 19 verse 1,

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

 Psalm 104 is a very special prayer as it is a praise for the glorious God of creation who is praised for his wonderful work of creating this world and the universe and not only creating it but also sustaining it by the same power and glory he created it by. Therefore I have entitled this Psalm talk, “Praise of the Created”.

We simply don’t know who and when this Psalm was written, some have suggested David as he wrote the Psalm before it, Psalm 103 and that starts and finishes with the same words as Psalm 104 starts and finishes with namely,

“Praise the Lord, O my soul”

 Psalm 103 also finishes as Psalm 104 starts namely praising God for his creation, Psalm 103: 22,

“Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his domain, Praise the Lord, O my soul”.

 If David wrote Psalm 104, like he did Psalm 103 I wonder why the Hebrew editors did not tell us this at the top of the Psalm like they did at the start of Psalm 103?

This Psalm was placed in the fourth book of Psalms probably during the early years of the return from exile so the image of God being the great cosmic king of the universe in the opening verses of the Psalm would have been a great encouragement for the renewed tiny nation of Israel as they returned from 70 long years of exile under the powerful kings of at first Babylon and now Persia.

The writer of this Psalm seems to use a variety of bible and non – bible sources for his poetic images in his composition. The bible resources include Genesis 1, Job 38 and Proverbs 8: 22 – 31. I will make reference to these uses of the bible references in his poetic images when they appear in Psalm 104. However the greatest influence on the writer of Psalm 104 for his poetic images he uses to praise God is what he sees in nature and this fits well into my title for this Psalm, “Praise of the Created”.

Finally I must also comment on the theory that this Psalm was an adaption of the far older Egyptian poem to the Sun disk God, Aten and indeed verses 20 – 26 appear very similar to a part of that ancient Egyptian poem. A Pharaoh named Akhenaten who forced Egypt dump the worship of many God’s to worship alone the Sun disk God Aten probably wrote this Egyptian poem. However the two poems are very different. As Temper Longman 111 aptly points out,

“The difference between the two poems is even more striking. After all, Akhenaten is worshipping the sun disk, and the Israelite psalmist is worshipping the Creator of the sun and all the cosmos”.

 So the writer of Psalm 104 seems to have got inspiration from a variety of bible and non – bible literature but his main inspiration was the world and the universe as he both saw them and understood them two and a half thousand years ago.

 With the theme of “Praise of the Created” in mind my outline for this Psalm talk is:

  1. (1 – 9)   PRAISE THE GLORIOUS CREATOR GOD
  2. (1 – 4)     The glorious creator God
  3. (5 – 9)     The creators creation

      2.  (10 – 18) PRAISE THE SUSTAINING CREATOR GOD

  1. (10 – 14a) The sustainer of animals and nature
  2. (14b – 15) The sustainer of man
  3. (16 – 18)   The sustainer of trees and birds

3. (19 – 30) PRAISE THE RULER OF CREATION

  1. (19 – 23)   The ruler and creator of the day and seasons
  2. (24 – 26)   The ruler and creator of the earth and sea
  3. (27 – 30)   The ruler and sustainer of all life

       4. (31 – 35) FINAL PRAISE OF THE GLORIOUS CREATOR GOD

  1. (31 – 34) The song of praise of the glorious creator God
  2. (vs. 35a)   A plea to vanish sinners who spoil God’s creation
  3. (vs. 35b)   A final praise of the great creator God

 

  1. (1 – 9)   PRAISE THE GLORIOUS CREATOR GOD

 

  1. (1 – 4)     The glorious creator God

 As I said in my introduction Psalm 104 Starts and ends with the same words as the previous Psalm, Psalm 103, which is,

“Praise the Lord, O my soul”

 Both Psalmist are urging and committing themselves to deep and earnest praise of their God who they call, “The Lord”. This praise is to come from the soul, that deep real and spiritual heart of man where God’s Holy Spirit can do his work of inspiration and renewal in our daily lives.

Both Psalmists are calling their congregations of believers and readers like us to join them in this word of deep praise and now in Psalm 104 its composer describes the Lord he is committed to praise.

I find five descriptions of his Lord who he is committed to praise and they all add up to his God being great and glorious. The five descriptions are:

  1. God is very great (vs. 1)
  2. God is clothed in splendor and majesty (vs. 1b)
  3. God is wrapped in light (vs. 2-3)
  4. God is supported by Angels his messengers (vs. 4)

 

  1. God is very great (vs. 1a)

The first description the writer of Psalm 104 gives of the God he is committed to praise is found in the expressing in verse 1 that says,

“O Lord my God you are very great”.

 We will see in this Psalm that the writer of it will go to great lengths to state why he believes thst the God of the bible is great through his wonderful work of creation. As I tried to express all those years ago in my poem, “Children of the Bay” that amazing beach on the south coast of my home state is but one magnificent example of the power and greatness of our creator God.

Nature both microscopically and universally demonstrates how amazing our God is in that he designed it all so well and that it not only all works together but it also is breathtakingly beautiful. To suggest what we see in nature is but a series of incredible accidents as the theory of evolution suggests is simply absurd to any intelligent being but yet the predominant belief in our world today is that the amazingly designed world we live in does not have a designer and in fact the design we see all around us and within us is simply a fluke of nature brought about by the mutations of living things over millions of years. These freaks of nature turned out to be able to adapt to our world better than their parents they came from and so they helped develop what we see today in the natural world.

No, No, No the amazing design of nature is so vast, complex and miraculous that freaks of nature no matter how long they had to develop could not explain it’s creation.

The answer is there is a God and he is very great so great that he is the one who has always existed and who sometime ago decided to set to work and create this universe and even time itself because even modern science believes time as we know it had a beginning.

As the first words of the bible says,

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”.

 Or as Deuteronomy 10: 17 says,

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome”.

 Then we have the Psalm dedicated to the greatness of God, Psalm 145 and particularly verses 3 – 7,

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works.They tell of the power of your awesome works—and I will proclaim your great deeds.They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your

righteousness”.

God’s greatness here and in Psalm 104 is seen in his great acts of creation, which Psalm 145 calls in verse 4,

“Your mighty acts”

However God’s mighty or great acts of creation are not the only way we see in the bible the greatness of God for it is in his mighty acts of Salvation that flows from his great love for us that God’s greatness is supremely seen as David claims in Psalm 57: 9 – 10,

“I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies”.

 In the New Testament it is God’s work of the new creation in us that his greatness is seen through the great work of God in Christ death and resurrection as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 2: 1 – 7,

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus”.

  1. God is clothed in splendor and majesty (vs. 1b)

The writer of Psalm 104 adds to his statement of God’s greatness in verse 1 and description of God’s appearance with the words,

“You are clothed with splendor and majesty”

The ancient Hebrews who read these words would have been familiar with earthly kings attire. The greater the king the more spectacular the clothing that king wore in the presence of his people but God the king of heaven and earth attire makes the clothing of the earthly so called great king look like rags and as Isaiah says in Isaiah 64: 6,

“All our righteous acts are like filthy rags”.

Not only were the kings of the Nations dressed in filthy rags compared to the splendor and majesty the King of Heaven and earth is dressed in but their so called God’s were again just adorned in rags compared to the one true and great God of heaven and earth. David Guzik puts it this way in his commentary or Psalm 104,

“The idol gods of the nations were often crude and shameful in their conduct, but Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, is known for His honor and majesty”.

In the New Testament Jesus is seen as the visible representation of the splendor and majesty of God as we read in Hebrews 1: 3

“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 glory of God is seen particularly in Jesus death and resurrection for us as on the cross Jesus shows God’s justice in paying for our sins and his love in giving his life to forgive our sins. Jesus says this about himself when Judas leaves the last supper to betray Jesus that led directly to Jesus death on the cross, John 13: 31 – 32,

“When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him,God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once”.

But even before Jesus death on the cross something of his ascended splendor and glory is revealed in his transfiguration recorded in Matthew 17: 1 – 3,

“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus”.

Before Jesus left the mountain God speaks from heaven and tells the disciples to listen to Jesus as he is his son, Matthew 17: 5,

“While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

 So the splendor and glory can be seen in God’s wonderful creation but it is better seen in his Son, Jesus Christ who through his glorious act of love on the cross is the splendor and majesty of God manifest and one day we all will see this splendor and majesty of God in Christ and we will be part of his glory and splendor when he returns and takes us to live with him in heaven as Paul speaks of in Colossians 3: 4,

“When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”. 

  1. God is wrapped in light (vs. 2-3)

The description of the glory of God the King in heaven is continued in the next two verses that speak of him as glorious light,

“He wraps himself in light as with a garment: he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters”.

 These two verses seem to feature three incredible poetic images:

  1. God wrapping himself in the garment of light
  2. God stretching out the heavens like a tent
  3. The storm God image

Lets have a look at each of these three incredible poetic images:

  1. God wrapping himself in the garment of light

The first poetic image of God wrapping himself in light or God being both the author of light and the ultimate expression of light is found right through the bible beginning of course with Genesis 1: 3 – 4,

“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness”.

Moses came close to God and it resulted in his face becoming radiant with light, Exodus 34: 29,

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord”.

David speaks of great lights like lightening coming from the presence of God in Psalm 18: 12,

“Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning”.

The New Testament gives us even deeper teaching on how God is both the creator of light and light and his appearance is light, in 1 John 1: 5 we read,

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all”.

Paul tells us that God dwells in light in 1 Timothy 6: 16,

“Who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen”.

 Finally Jesus claimed to be the light of the world and all who follow him will not live in darkness, John 8: 12,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

So God wraps himself in light as he is light and in heaven we will not need the sun to provide us light for God himself will shine for us in heaven for his and his Sons glory will be our light, Revelation 21: 22 – 23,

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”.

  1. God stretching out the heavens like a tent

The second light poetic description is God stretching out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. The heavens hear are seen as God’s tent stretched out above us on what is described as “lays of beams of his upper chambers on their waters”. This is a poetic image of God in so much control of the heavens it as though the heavens or skies here in Psalm 104 are like a gigantic tent or canopy Leopold explains the expression of the tent image well with these words,

“As man erects his tent, so the Lord by a few simple movements erected the heavens”.

 Then the image of beams of light on the heavenly stores of water is alluded to in the words of verse 3,

“And lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters”.

 Longman points out that,

“The understanding that the heavens contained massive amounts of water was an ancient idea confirmed by the rain that fell from the sky”.

 This does not prove the writers of the bible got the scientific explanation wrong, as this is a poetic image not a statement of fact. I always get a little uptight when some Christians try to use the bible as a kind of science text- book when it never claims to be such and in fact is far from a science text- book. I equally get uptight when atheistic scientists criticize the bible’s God given inspiration by also treating the bible as a flawed science text book as it never claims to be so. I see science as man’s attempt to discover how this world was made when the bible tells us who created it and why he created it.

Psalm 104 verse 3 is poetically saying God is so great and glorious and he is the one beyond and in the clouds declaring his glory in the skies above as Psalm 19 verse 1 states,

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

  1. The storm God image

Finally in verse 3 we have a further image of this great and glorious God and the heavens or skies in what some commentators like Longman point out is an image adapted from Canaanite mythology of the chariot -riding storm God called Baal, Longman writes,

“Storm god imagery, God, like the storm god Baal in the Ugarite texts, rides the cloud, the vehicular cloud being his war chariot”.

 Again the poetic image the writer of Psalm 104 uses is not saying the clouds and storms in the sky are God riding some sort of chariot across the sky but rather the God who created clouds and storms makes them to appear like his glory and greatness is riding on the clouds and winds.

As we read in Deuteronomy 33: 26, which equally could have been the source for the writer of Psalm 104 poetic image,

“There is no one like God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty”.

 I find it fascinating that the image of God in the sky has a New Testament equivalent and that is the description of the return of Jesus.

Revelation 1: 7 says,

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pieced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him, So shall it be! Amen”

 Exactly what this will look like, I do not know but somehow the sky as we know it today will change and we will see Jesus coming in the clouds all over the world. Surely this will be the final vision of the greatness and glory of God this world will see before the New Heaven and the New Earth is established.

  1. God is supported by Angels his messengers (vs. 4)

The final description of the great and glorious nature of God in these opening verses is verse 4,

“He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants”.

 Most commentators believe this final vision of the greatness and glory of God is referring to the Angels who are presented as God’s messages and servants as the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 1: 7,

“In speaking of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire”.

 The idea of the Angels being God’s messengers and servants is also in the previous Psalm, 103: 20 – 21,

“Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. 21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will”.

So this last image of the greatness and glory of God is how God is the creator and controller of all the Angels in heaven who he is surround by singing his praises as we read of this in Revelation 7: 11 – 12,

“All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

  1. (5 – 9)     The creators creation

 So the writer of Psalm 104 completes his description of the greatness and splendour or glory of God, which he longs from his heart to praise, now he moves on in the second part of the first section to describe the creator God’s creation as again a source of praise to his great God.

This description of God’s great and glorious creation speaks of two aspects of God’s creation:

  1. The foundations (vs. 5)
  2. The water or oceans (vs’s 6 – 9)

Lets have a close look at each of these two aspects of God’s creation.

  1. The foundations (vs. 5)

When God finally spoke to Job in Job 38 he asked job a series of questions and one was, was Job present when God laid the foundations of the earth and this is the exact reference, Job 38: 4 – 6,

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.

Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone”.

Of course Job would have to answer, No I was not there God when you made the world but I guess the point of God’s speech to Job is to give Job a bigger view of himself and with a bigger view of God he was given the strength of mind and spirit to bear the great suffering he had to bare.

Science today speaks a lot about the building blocks of life and all life in our universe is dependant on laws or rules of nature and we know that the author of these very important laws of nature is God, the God of the bible.

Later in God’s speech to Job he says this in verse 33,

“Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s domain over the earth?

In our modern day we know a lot of these laws, which are the foundations of not only our world but also all life. God is the author of these laws and he is then the sure foundation of this world and should be the sure foundation of our lives.

Jesus spoke of this in the words of a parable in the Gospels like Matthew 7: 24 – 27,

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

 The sure foundation of life Jesus says is his word or we might add the word of God. I mentioned before that Science seeks to answer the question of how God made the world and in fact the only sure word from God about how he made this word is three simple words in Genesis 1,

“And God said”

 So powerful is the word of God that through it the entire world and the universe were made. The writer to the Hebrews says this about the powerful word of God in Hebrews 4: 12,

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”.

May science continue to seek to understand how God made this world but for me I am content to just say God made this world and he did it through his divine and powerful word.

  1. The water or oceans (vs’s 6 – 9)

One of the miraculous nature of this world we call earth is water. All scientists agree that water and our protective atmosphere that also contains water in the form of water vapour is what makes our earth unique. It has been estimated by scientists that 71% of the earth is covered by water and 96.5% of that is found in the oceans. So the writer of Psalm 104 naturally spends quite some time on the topic of water as he is inspired by what he sees in nature to praise his great creator God.

The writer poetically describes God’s creation of the water in and on the earth in verses 6 – 9.

He starts this poetic description of God’s creation of the water on the earth in verse 6 with these words,

“You covered it with the deep as a garment; the waters stood above the mountains”.

Even science believes that the early earth was covered by water and some say less than 3% of the earth was dry land millions of years ago. The writer of Psalm 104 poetically describes the earth as a water world saying that even the mountains that existed then were covered by water.

Some bible scholars thinks that this section of the Psalm is referring to the great flood but most dismiss this idea and point to part of God’s creation of the earth as we know it today. This part of the Psalm verses 6 – 9 is believed to have been inspired by Genesis 1: 9,

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so”.

This idea seems to be verified by what the writer of Psalm 104 says in verses 7 and 8,

“But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;

they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them”

 Note how even the writer of Psalm 104 declares that this creation of dry land and ocean was by the powerful word of God which he describes as God’s “rebuke” and “at the sound of your thunder” which is a poetic way of saying when God speaks there is a powerful effect. As I said before science is still trying to work out how this world was formed but it certainly was not a blind mindless process of evolution but a carefully performed work of creation by an intelligent designer we know as the God of the bible.

Christians might differ in the time scale and how God actually did it but they all agree that this world is the product one way or another of an intelligent designer who is the eternal God presented to us in the bible.

Finally in this short part of the Psalm devoted to the creation of the oceans and dry land verse 9, says,

“You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth”.

 Genesis 1: 10 says,

“God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good”.

Even modern science would agree that what we have with 71% of the earth covered with water and the rest dry land is good as it is what makes life possible and no other earth like planet has been passively found yet although some scientists believe they know of possible earth like planets revolving around other far distant stars. They have no way of saying that even if they exist life as on earth exists there as well.

God made this world unique with its vast oceans filled with life and its beautiful dry land also filled with all kinds of life and he made it for us to enjoy and look after and it saddens me when I see people abusing their unique role in this world with willful sinful destruction of habitants and with pollution and other damaging sinful actions. This is why Paul says in Romans 8: 19 – 21,

“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”.

This problem of sinful man marring this world will come up in verse 35 the last verse of this Psalm and what the writer of Psalm 104 asks for in that verse will surprise you.

  1. (10 – 18) PRAISE THE SUSTAINING CREATOR GOD

1.  (10 – 14a) The sustainer of animals and nature

Some people over the centuries have believed that the evidence of nature and sound human reasoning does point to the existence of a God and that he or it (it being a force) created this world but they believe that God or force is no longer involved in this world which is a belief called Deism.

People who believe in Deism believe that the God who created the world does not get involved in this world and so they reject any form of supernatural involvement of God in the world. The analogy of this belief is a clock as the Deism believer believes the world is like a clock made by a clockmaker but that clockmaker made the clock and has just left it ticking rather than attending to it’s ongoing daily running.

This second section of Psalm 104 verses 10 – 18 puts down the idea of Deism as it presents that the creator God did not only wonderfully create this world but he also keeps it going or continually sustains it and is intimately involved in its day to day functions.

Verses 10 – 13a speak of the creator God sustaining all of nature and the animals on a day-to-day basis. Lets have a close look at each of these three and half verses.

In verse 10 the writer of Psalm 104 continues to speak about water but now how God provides water continually on the earth,

“He makes springs poor water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains”.

 The writer sees God as the God who provides water on the earth and as I said before it is water that helps make both life possible and also helps to sustain it. From time to time different areas of the earth suffer water deprivation, which we call droughts or famines, but sometimes these are caused by the sinfulness of man affecting the climate or in the case of famine the miss – use of the soil and land.

Sometimes God withholds the provision of water because of the sinfulness of a group of people like we see in Amos 4: 7 -8,

“I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away.

I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain; another had none and dried up. People staggered from town to town for water but did not get

enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord”.

Yet God does not always cause drought on all sinful people which is evidence of his grace or love we do not deserve as Jesus speaks of in Matthew 5: 45,

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.

So the first argument against Deism is that God is involved in this world providing rain or the lack of it on a day-to-day basis.

Then in verses 11 and 12 we read of some of the reasons why God provides water in the form of rivers and streams for this world on a daily basis,

“They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.

12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches”.

The Psalmist singles out a small group of animals to say that God provides water for all animals on a daily basis. It is an interesting fact that up to 90% of all living organism’s on earth, including humans is made up of water. Water then is an important key to human life on earth and we have to take it with us when we leave this earth as so far drinkable water is only found on earth.

Then in verse 14 the Psalmist points out that God continually supplies water in the form of rain for the whole earth to help satisfy this worlds need for it and this is a fruit or evidence of God’s goodness for the entire earth,

“He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work”.

Note again the ancients believed that in the higher atmosphere is a large storage chamber of rainwater that God uses to water the earth.

We no that no such chambers exist but God uses the process of water evaporation from the earth and sea to seed the clouds to send down rain but this process is a creation of God and he also creates the climatic conditions for this process to happen or not happen.

I like Spurgeon’s comments on this verse, which says,

“The result of the divine working is fullness everywhere, the soil is saturated with rain, the seed germinates, the beast’s drink, and the birds sing– nothing is left without supplies. So, too, is it in the new creation, he giveth more grace, he fills his people with good, and makes them all confess, “of his fullness have all we received and grace for grace.”

Finally in the opening phrase of verse 14 we read,

“He makes grass grow for the cattle”.

Cattle are the last animal named helped by the provision of water and this is because these animals have a direct bearing on God’s provision for mankind. Cattle since the fall of man have always provided sustenance for man and it is incorrect to suggest that the bible advocates a vegetarian diet for man. Not to say being a vegetarian is a bad thing but people who choose to or are forced to not eat meat must make sure they eat non meat products that substitute the place of mainly protein in our diet that God has made our bodies dependant on for good health by consuming meat.

  1. (14b – 15)   The sustainer of man

 As I said before the link between God providing foods for man through his ongoing sustaining work of providing water to the earth is how water helps grass to grow for cattle to eat and therefore thrive and cattle provide a major food group for mankind.

Now in the second half of verse 14 God’s provision of water for this world is related to mankind directly. We read in verse 14b,

“And plants for man to cultivate – bringing forth food from the earth”.

 The other major food source for mankind is found in plants which mankind for a long time has cultivated but note the link to this and God which is God continually supplies water for cultivation which brings forth food from the earth.

Psalm 65 seems to be a Psalm of David written for some kind of harvest festival celebration and a more detailed description of God’s bountiful provision in agriculture is spelt out in verses 9 – 13 in which God is like a divine gardener intimately involved in helping mans crops to grow and bear fruit,

You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it.10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
11 You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.12 The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. 13 The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing”.

I have a very popular Psalm talk on Psalm 65 called “Praise the Lord of the Harvest” if you want a detailed exposition of these verses.

Then we read in verse 15,

“Wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart”.

 The three provisions of God here represent the main needs of man, with wine also a substitute for water in ancient times, oil for cooking and cleaning thus the reference to “his face shinning” and bread the basic food stuff of most cultures even today. All of these provisions are presented in a positive light as wine gladdens the heart, oil makes the face to shine and bread sustains the heart. This means that God’s day to day provisions make our lives flourish and we should thank God constantly for them.

What might seem mundane to some, namely our daily provision of food Jesus felt that this was so important that he included a request for it in his model prayer often called the Lords prayer, Matthew 6: 11,

“Give us today our daily bread”.

 Those who are suffering hunger in our world today need our help, support and prayer and we can do this through overseas aid organisations. Sometimes we have the opportunity I helping people in the poorer parts of this world directly. On my many mission trips to South East Asia I have given money for the purchase of pigs and land and equipment to grow rice, which has a far bigger impact than an occasional meal handout. I can recommend TEAR Fund, which is an organisation that seeks to help hungry people in our world in this way and also presents to them the life changing Gospel message.

  1. (16 – 18)   The sustainer of trees and birds

The writer of Psalm 104 then speaks of God’s provision of other aspects of nature not necessarily associated with food for animals and particularly animals and plants that provide food for mankind. He picks up three wonderful aspects of our natural world trees or forests and birds who find their homes in them and other animals rarely seen and therefore not eaten like wild goats and badgers.

These aspects of our natural world are their for us to enjoy for their beauty and wonder and it seems our writer has a special part of his part of the world in mind here, namely the forests in Lebanon as we read in verse 16,

“The trees of the Lord are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted”.

 I looked up an article on Wikipedia on the Cedars of Lebanon, which are mentioned in the bible in a number of places, and I discovered that,

“Their timber was exploited by the Phoenicians, Israelites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, and Turks. The wood was prized by Egyptians for shipbuilding; the Ottoman Empire used the cedars in railway construction” (Wikipedia article “Cedars of God”).

 Even in the First World War these beautiful trees were cut down to be used as railway sleepers.I also read that what is left of the Cedar forests of Lebanon is now a world listed heritage site and the Cedar tree forests are making a come back as excessive exportation of this natural resource has finally ceased.

The Cedar of Lebanon are known as the Cedars of God or Cedars of the Lord and maybe our verse 16 of this Psalm has helped develop this title for this beautiful tree. So it appears that God is a divine conservationist as he is the one who created the world of nature and of course this verse says that he is the one who seeks to maintain it.

Then in verse 17 the writer switches to birds that make their nests in trees like the Cedars of Lebanon,

“There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the pine trees”.

 I know of many Christian ministers in my past who were avid bird watchers and my country of Australia is world renowned for a great variety of tuneful colourful birds. In fact where I live, the Blue Mountains 70kl. West of Sydney has many wonderful examples of these birds. I can look outside my study window and often see a variety of colourful parrots, native pigeons and birds like the tuneful Kookaburra. My area has such a variety of birds because like ancient Lebanon it has large forest areas where birds can nest and feed.

All this is in place because God created the environment and animal life to live in it and also because God continues to provide the means to sustain it on a day-to-day basis. However it seems sometimes that sinful man seeks to work against God’s natural world provisions through exploration and even wilful vandalism of God’s natural world. Again this is why Paul speaks of the natural world groaning in Romans 8: 19 – 21,

“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”.

But God continues to sustain this world with his undeserved love expressed in the provision of things like rain on the just and the unjust as Jesus pointed out.

So God continues to give sinful man a beautiful world but often sinful men and women abuse this world and take God’s provision of it for granted and worse again many seek to deny both God as the creator and sustainer of this world by simply saying he doesn’t even exist.

 Finally our writer takes us poetically into the high often-unreachable parts of the mountain area in Lebanon with the words,

“The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys”

 Coneys are apparently wild badgers and these animals would have been rarely seen and were not part of the food chain for the people of our writer’s day. So even these unseen areas and animals were created by God and are provided for by him. There are a lot of examples in nature of animals and plants etc. that are either never seen or rarely seen but these also are part of God’s wonderful creation he has made for us to enjoy and we should praise him for this like our writer is obviously seeking to do.

  1. (19 – 30) PRAISE THE RULER OF CREATION

1.  (19 – 23)   The ruler and creator of the day and seasons

The writer of Psalm steps up his creation images for praise of its creator who not only created the day and seasons but rules the natural world through them. Many commentators refer to Genesis 1: 3 which speaks of God creating day and night through the creation of Sun and moon to mark day and night and this seems obvious from what we read in verse 19 and 20,

“The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. You bring darkness, it becomes night, all the beasts of the forest prowl”.

 Without the sun we would not only have no life we would be in total darkness so the sun is God’s way of shinning light on this world. God provides the light of the world in more ways than one as he, through his Son Jesus Christ gives us spiritual light to light our spiritual blindness or darkness. Speaking of Jesus as the word of God who created the world John goes to say this about Jesus in John 1: 3 – 5,

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.

This means God rules both the day and night through the sun, which he created and maintains. He rules the seasons as well which the Jews marked many of their special festivals and rituals by the cycle of the moon. The Jewish Passover is 15 days after the new moon in either late March or April, which also guides Christians to the date, who mark Easter by the first Sunday after the full moon at the same time of the year. A Jewish article on a Jewish web site called Chabod.com says this about the Jewish calendar and its relationship to the cycle of the moon,

“The Jewish calendar normally consists of twelve lunar months. A lunar month—from the moment when the crescent new moon appears until it disappears once again—is roughly 29.5 days. Twelve lunar months equal 354 days, eleven days less than the solar year.”

 So no only humans are ruled by God through the movement of the sun and moon but also are the animals and this is what the words at the end of verse 20 is saying,

“It becomes night, all the beasts of the forest prowl”.

 This idea is continued in verses 21 – 22,

“The lion roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens.”

 Many years ago my wife and I had a week’s holiday in Singapore and on one of the nights there we went on the night- time tour of the famous Singapore Zoo. We sat comfortably in a train like electric motor vehicle as it quietly moved through the Zoo at night and using ultra violet light invisible to animals we could see the animals in the Zoo at night. It was amazing as the animals in a Zoo during the day seem to be always sleeping but at night they are really active.

God designed animals like lions to be able to see things in the dark and using the cover of night catch the prey they need to eat to survive. I read a very interesting article on Lions in the bible on the Web page “Belief net” called “Aslans Ancestors” and the author of that article says this about lions in the bible in the opening two paragraphs,

“In one of the more memorable lines in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” the question is raised about whether Aslan, the lion in the story, is `safe.’ The reply is “No, he is not safe, but he is good.” This certainly fits the image of lions in the Bible.

 Of the dozens of biblical texts about lions, most remind us of the strength, fierceness, and roar of these predators. There were lions in Israel during biblical times, and shepherds, farmers and travellers seem to have encountered them most often. The lion often attacked flocks unexpectedly, and was ruthless and usually unstoppable. The roar of the lion was audible for miles, but he was deadly silent when in attack mode”.

 Lions often attacked flocks of sheep at night in bible times and therefore the shepherd would put the sheep in a sheep pen at night and sleep at its entrance as its gate which is the image Jesus refers to in John 10: 9,

“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture”.

Jesus speaks of how he is the Good shepherd who lays his life down for the sheep and how when a wild animal like a wolf, another wild animal like a lion who hunts at night, comes to attack the flock he is not like the Shepherd who runs away but the Good shepherd who not only knows his sheep but will not let them out of his safe hands.

Then in verse 23 the writer turns from the night time activities of animals like the lions to the day time special creation of God, man and he goes out to work in the day to evening when it gets dark again,

“Then man goes out to his work, to his labour until evening”.

 The normal time for men and women to work is day- time and even today with modern lighting a smaller number of the working population work at night. I saw recently on TV a very interesting documentary on sleep and it went into the very tricky process of changing the human brain to fully accept working after the sun goes down.

Astronauts for instance have to spend days locked away from the real normal world to be able to trick their bodies into being able to fully work outside of the normal cycle of day and night. Night shift workers have a lot of trouble having a healthy sleep life as they often find that even though they are very tired they cannot sleep during the day.

God has made our minds and bodies to work during the day and sleep at night and this is the normal rhythm of life God ordained for human beings.

  1. (24 – 26)   The ruler and creator of the earth and sea

So we have just learnt that God the creator rules the day and night and all the seasons of the year based on the cycles of the moon by the ancient Hebrews but now in verses 24 – 26 we learn that God the creator rules the earth and the sea.

Verse 24 speaks of God the creator’s rule of the earth,

“How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures”.

 An internet sight called “factmonster.com” makes this amazing claim about the number of animal life on our earth,

“No one knows for sure how many species of animals exist on Earth. In fact, some 10,000 species of animals are discovered each year, with over one and a half million species already described. Projections for the total number of species on Earth range from 2 million to 50 million”.

So the number of God’s works particularly in the form of creatures or animal life is even unknown to modern science and even today new forms of creatures on earth are being discovered.

Verse 24 tells us that,

Lord! In wisdom you made them all”

 The book of proverbs that speaks in some detail about the wisdom of God says this about the wisdom of God in creation in Proverbs 3: 19,

“By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place”.

 In Proverbs 8: 22 – 31 God’s wisdom is personified and in some detail it, God’s wisdom” is the creative force and genius of everything in creation,

“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; 23 I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. 24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs

overflowing with water; 25 before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, 26 before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the

earth. 27 I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, 28 when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, 29 when he gave the sea its boundary so the

waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.

30 Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind”.

This might be miss- understood as speaking of Jesus Christ but of course verse 23 that speaks of the birth of wisdom makes it clear this is not directly speaking of Jesus Christ, as he has always existed with the father in heaven. However Jesus is described in John 1 as the word of God who created all things so Jesus is God’s wisdom in that sense who created the earth, animals and all of creation.

Verses 25 and 26 feature God’s rule and creation of the sea,

“There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small. There the ships go to and fro, and the Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there”.

Even though these verses do not say directly that God rules the sea it is implied because in the ancient world the sea was so vast and powerful. Pagan God’s had little or no control over the sea and the sea then represented chaos in our world and universe yet our writer of Psalm 104 speaks of the sea as God’s creation which is vast and spacious teeming with life which God has made.

Psalm 93 verses 3 and 4 make it clear that even the sea, which seems to rise up against even its creator, is well and truly under its creator’s control,

The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea—the Lord on high is mighty”.

So the sea contains vast number of creatures still unnumbered and in recent years weird and amazing new aquatic animal life have been discovered in the depths of the sea that exist somehow at great depths in almost total darkness and their bodies glow to give them light.

Our God is an incredible creator that our oceans like our land are teeming with animals both large and small and this too should cause us to praise God. However even close to the surface and on the surface God’s creating force and rule of the sea can be witnessed. This is because the writer of Psalm 104 speaks of the ships on man going to and fro on our oceans and what many believe as whales, called “Leviathans” by our writer frolic in the ocean close to the surface.

The fact that human ships can float on the sea is part of God’s creation and the sea monsters here called “Leviathans” also are not any danger to the rule of God as they were formed by him and are described as simply frolicking in the sea as we know today large whales do.

The bible refers to the monster sea animals, “Leviathans” in a number of places like the book of Job, Job 41 and Isaiah 27: 1,

“In that day, the Lord will punish with his sword— his fierce, great and powerful sword— Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea”.

Here the sea monster is a poetic image of the Nations of the world that oppose him and his people Israel who will fall under God’s judgment and be punished by him. Tremper Longman 111 sheds light on the use of the “Leviathan” in Psalm 104: 26 with these words,

“In the bible the Leviathan, though formidable is controlled by God and is here presented as God’s creature which enjoys its God given habits in the sea”.

So God created and rules the sea and all that is in it and on it. Those who sail on the sea can experience great peril and danger when it is caused by storm and wind to rise up in anger and recently I sang in the church the hymn often called the seafarers hymn which the first verse says,

“Eternal Father, strong to save,

Whose arm restrains the restless wave,

Who told the mighty ocean deep

Its own appointed bounds to keep:

We cry, O God of majesty,

For those in peril on the sea”.

  1. (27 – 30)   The ruler and sustainer of all life

The last part of this third section of the Psalm makes it clear that the writer of Psalm 104 has been thinking of God’s rule of the sea and earth that he created. He speaks of this rule of God in three ways:

  1. God’s rule seen in his provision of food for all his creators (27- 28)
  2. God’s rule seen in how his creators rely on him for life (vs. 29)
  3. God’s rule seen in the power of his Spirits creative power (vs. 30)

Lets have a closer look at each of these three ways God’s rule of his creation is seen in his creators on earth.

  1. God’s rule seen in his provision of food for all his creators (27 – 28)

Already the writer of Psalm 104 has spoken of how God provides water for all his creators on earth including man in verses 11 – 19 and now he speaks in verses 27 – 28 how God rules this earth by providing all his creatures food to eat that gives them life,

“These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things”.

 We say grace before a meal as a way of thanking God for his provision of food for our bodies and verse 27 makes it clear that all animal life including man is dependant on God for their daily food. Jesus instructed us to include in our daily prayers a request to God for daily bread, Matthew 6: 11,

“Give us today our daily bread”.

I like the expression in verse 28 that says,

“They gather it up; when you open your hand”.

 Which reminds me of the old Negro Spiritual that simply says,

“You’ve got the whole world in your hands”.

 God has even our daily supply of food in his hands as he rules this world to make things grow and live that we eat on a daily basis. It is hard for those of us who live in a modern city world to often appreciate how dependant we are on God’s rule of the earth to help grow crops and provide food for animals we eat to live. Occasionally something happens in the natural world to remind us how the things that grow on farms supply the food we eat.

Some years ago Australia suffered the great damage of a cyclone destroying most of our Northern Australia banana crops and the price of bananas went from 1 or 2 dollars a kilo to $20 a kilo. We all complained and had a timely reminder of our dependants on farm products that of course rely on the blessing and rule of God to produce our food products. We should then always make sure we thank or praise God for his provision of our daily bread or food as Paul says in Ephesians 5: 20,

“Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. 

  1. God’s rule seen in how his creators rely on him for life (vs. 29)

The example of the cyclone destroying much of the Australian banana crops is a good example of what I think verse 29 is speaking of,

“When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust”.

David Guzik writes,

“Creation is so dependent upon God that if He were to hide his presence or take away their breath, they would perish”.

When disasters like Cyclones or earthquakes etc. happen we are reminded how much we rely of the generally good grace or love of God in that when nature seems to turn on us we feel that God has hid his face for a time on us. Of course we need to always remember that God is in control not only in good times but in the bad or difficult times of life as well and hang on, by faith to a verse like Romans 8: 28,

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

Many Christians have testified of the help God has given them in the worst of situations and can join with Paul in the words of another verse from Romans 8, verse 18, which says,

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”.

God doesn’t ever fully hide his face or take away our breath generally speaking from this world, as it has not yet perished even though it has seemed to come close to that in times past.

God created this world and rules it by keeping it going even in the face of great opposition from his special creation namely man who Genesis 2: 7, describes was created by God in a special way.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being”.

So it is, because of sin that the final words of verse 29 become a reality for all men and women,

“They die and return to the dust”

Death it seems is not what man was made for but because of sin it is sadly the reality of man’s existence. As the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 9: 27,

“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”.

  1. God’s rule seen in the power of his Spirits creative power (vs. 30)

Verse 30 offers us hope in the face of death and decay,

“When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth”.

 I like the way the Jamieson, Faussel and Brown commentary explains the meaning of this verse,

“By His spirit, or breath, or mere word, He gives life. It is His constant providence which repairs the wastes of time and disease”.

 Generations of people pass but God’s powerful creative spirit raises yet anther new generation and the coming of God’s Spirit to renew life is totally fulfilled in the coming of God’s Holy Spirit to all true believers in Christ and what he has done for us on the cross.

God’s spirit brings about what Paul calls a new creation in the hearts and lives of all true believers in Christ as he writes in 2 Corinthians 5: 17,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here”.

Earlier Paul says this about the Spirits work of regeneration and sanctification in the lives all true believers in 2 Corinthians 4: 16 – 18,

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”.

Only yesterday my wife and I visited a large cemetery in Sydney to put some flowers on my mother – in – laws grave and the thought that one day I to will end up with some kind of grave crossed my mind but praise God through the death of his son on the cross and through the powerful work of God’s Holy Spirit my grave is not my end but only signifies my renewal of life from the face of the earth.

This thought, as it did for the writer of Psalm 104 should lead us to praise God always from deep within our hearts and lives.

  1. (31 – 35) FINAL PRAISE OF THE GLORIOUS CREATOR GOD

1. (31 – 34) The song of praise of the glorious creator God

The writer of Psalm 104 then proceeds to bring his praise of the created to a climax with what I feel is a song within a song. This because he does three things in verses 31 – 34 in the rhythm of the words of a song and these three things are:

  1. A rejoicing word of praise (31 – 32)
  2. A song of life long praise (vs. 33)
  3. A meditation of pleasing God praise (vs. 34)

Lets have a close look at each of these three things that represent his song of praise to his glorious creator God.

  1. A rejoicing word of praise (31 – 32)

The writer of Psalm 104 in verse 31 makes a determination to rejoice in praise to his great creator God, he writes,

“May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works”.

It is as though the writer is saying because of all the wonderful things you have done and shown us Lord in your creation may I now glory in your works of creation and I might add re-creation forever. This is the fate of all who call on the name of the Lord to be saved in that one day they will go to be with him to glory in him, praise him and rejoice with him in both who he is and what he has done in heaven and in earth for us as we read in Revelation 7: 9 – 12,

“ After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

 “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

So in heaven God rejoices in his works of creation and re-creation and we will join all of heaven in glorifying and praising him for that as well. This is again the destiny of all true believers like the writer of Psalm 104 who goes on to describe this great creator God this way in verse 32,

“He looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke”.

I like Albert Barnes explanation of this verse,

“There is great sublimity in this expression, as indicating the power and the majesty of God. He has only to “look” upon his works, and they stand in awe and tremble. The most mighty and fearful convulsions of nature occur as if they were the mere effect of God’s “looking” on the earth”.

 The old King James Version of the bible translates Hebrews 10: 27 with these words,

“ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.

So for those who refuse to turn back to God in repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus will face a God that verse 32 says causes the earth to tremble and the mountains to smoke and that is indeed a fearful thing.

  1. A song of life long praise (vs. 33)

The writer of Psalm 104 then speaks of singing a song of praise, which I have called a song of life long praise he writes or sings in verse 33,

“I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live”.

David over and over again speaks of singing praises to his God like Psalm 13: 6,

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me”.

 Then in Psalm 66 verses 1 – 3 we read a psalmist which could have been David we are not sure giving us a much more detailed call to sing and praise the Lord,

“Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you”.

Music has been such a vital part of my life and so the idea of singing God’s praise all my life as the writer of Psalm 104 says, “As long as I live” really appeals to me. However the writer is not speaking about simply singing all our lives as that would be impossible but he is speaking more about praise and thanks to God being our constant attitude of life as Paul calls us to 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”.

When we consider God’s work of creation in our wonderful world and re-creation in our daily lives we should want to but sing his praises in all circumstances as the writer of Psalm 104 determines to do in verse 33. 

  1. A meditation of pleasing God praise (vs. 34)

 The writer of Psalm 104 then completes his expression of his determination to praise God his glorious creator, who rules this word with these words in verse 34,

“May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord”.

 This verse in Psalm 104 reminds me of the last verse of David’s praise of the created psalm, Psalm 19 verse 14,

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer”.

Mark Virkler gives us an excellent summary of what the word or idea of meditation is in the bible with these words,

“Biblical meditationPrayerful reflection where you ask the Holy Spirit to illumine your understanding as Jesus did with the disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke24:32). Meditation includes picturing, speaking, feeling and study. Meditation is the Holy Spirit using all faculties in man’s heart and mind”.

 So the writer of Psalm 104 wants to use all his facilities of his heart and mind to give God joyful praise that he hoped would be pleasing to God.

So the writer of Psalm 104 used what he read, saw and what he knew about God in nature to praise the Lord from deep within his heart or soul.

  1. (vs. 35a)   A plea to vanish sinners who spoil God’s creation

The first part of the final verse of Psalm 104 seems to be both jarring and out of place in a Psalm that is filled with wonderful words of praise for the glorious creator God. This, I believe is not a mistake but is quite intentional as the writer is dropping into his Psalm the one major negative aspect of this world, our sin, he writes,

“But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more”.

 Allen Harman writes,

“All that mars God’s creation is the presence of sin. So the psalmist prays for the removal of sinners, for they have no rightful place amidst the beauty of purity of God’s creation”.

 I have already mentioned the connection of mankind’s sin and the created world or nature that Paul makes in Romans 8 and because this is so important and instructive here, here is Pauls complete argument in verses 18 – 25,

“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. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently”.

Note how Paul indicates that creation will not be released from the bondage of sin unto the children of God is revealed vs. 19 and unto our adoption to sonship in verse 23 which is of course speaking of the coming of Jesus to judge this world and take back to heaven all who belong to him, his children.

The problem with praying for all sinners to vanish from the earth lies in the truth Paul expresses so clearly in Romans 3: 23,

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

To do away with sinners then is to do away with everyone and this is why creation groans and longs for the day sin and sinners will be gone but the other wonderful truth found in Pauls words in Romans and even in Romans 8: 24,

For in this hope we were saved”

This hope in which we are saved is expressed so clearly in Romans 6: 23,

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

The writer of Psalm 104 is correct in seeing that mankind’s sin is the one thing in all of creation that mars it but for that to be fully dealt with Jesus has to return to do away with sin and sinners who have not turned to him in repentance and faith.

Of course those of us who are God’s children or those who are part of God’s family have a duty to show the world how God wants us to care for this world and help stop the exploitation and vandalism of this world and its bountiful resources.

The vision of what our existence will be like once Jesus has returned and sinners have been vanished from the earth is seen particularly in passages of scripture in the book of Revelation like 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. 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. ‘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.”

All I can add to this is, if you think this heaven and earth is gloriously beautiful then what is the new heaven and earth going to be like when sin and death is vanished and we are perfectly with God dwelling with him in what could only be described as paradise.

  1. (vs. 35b)   A final praise of the great creator God

The writer of Psalm 104 closes with excellent words of conclusion to his praise of the created in verse 35b.

“Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion”.

This world and its endless heavens are his works and as Psalm 19: 1 says, they declare his glory but we too are his works in the form of his new creation that he has brought about through his son’s death on the cross and the powerful regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. So we too must live to the praise and glory of God as Paul told the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 10: 31,

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.

The writers final words are the same as his opening words,

“Praise the Lord, O my soul, Praise the Lord”

All I can say to this is Amen.

I close as usual with a original poem and a prayer.

PRAISE OF THE CREATED

(Based on Psalm 104)

I see the Lord in his splendor

Clothed in majestic light.

He sits up high up in heaven

I’ll praise him with my life.

O God you stretch out the heavens

Your glory is seen in the sky

And I will join the Angels

And praise the Lord up on high.

 

I see how God made the earth

So firm and so beautiful.

He made the sea and water

And all seems so bountiful.

O God you made the rivers

That gives life and quenches our thirst

And the birds now sing your praises

As does all life that that lives on earth.

 

I see how man has plenty

Of food so that he can live

This comes from God the creator

Whose hands so freely do give.

The mountains reveal God’s glory

In there forests many birds do sing

The moon and the sun make our seasons

And all nature gives praise to the king.

 

I see the ships on the ocean

Able to sail to and fro.

I see the whales as they frolic

All this is God’s power on show.

God gives us life through his spirit

But through sin to dust we do go

But in Jesus we will rise up to heaven

And there new life we will know.

 

I will praise God forever

Rejoicing in his glorious deeds..

He is a God so powerful

From him all wonder proceeds.

I will sing to the Lord all my life

A praise of the created I will be

For Jesus came down from glory

To die on the cross for me.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Praise the Lord O my soul for all your wonderful works of creation in this world. O Lord you made the land and sea, animals and birds and this world we live in is teeming with your glorious life. I thank you for the provision of water to drink and food to eat but above all I thank you for your new creation in us through faith in your son Jesus Christ and what he did for us on the cross. Also I praise you for your Holy Spirits power who is re-creating our lives day by day and hour by hour. May we live to your glory as a praise of the created that will one day join the angels praise in heaven ever singing, “How great you are and how wonderful is your love to us through your Son Jesus Christ”, in whom whose name we pray this prayer, Amen

PSALM 103 TALK: PRAISE GOD FOR THE BENEFITS OF KNOWING HIM

PSALM 103 TALK: PRAISE GOD FOR THE BENEFITS OF KNOWING HIM

 (A Psalm that calls us to praise God for all the wonderful benefits of knowing him both personally and as his people, those who belong to his church who are all the true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ. We are to join with the Angels in heaven and all creation in heart felt thankful praise for our God and Savior Jesus Christ.)

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

INTRODUCTION

 One of our two ministers of our church runs regularly a evangelistic program for non – believers called Christianity explained and he was telling us recently that in one of these courses a participant told him that he could see the truth and value of the Christian message. Thinking that this young man was now willing to turn to the Lord Jesus in faith and commitment he was surprised that the young man went on to say but I am not willing at this stage of my life to give up my way of life, my friends and the things I enjoyed in this life.

Many non – believers are like this young man see becoming a Christian or as some put becoming religious means giving up lots of things in life and to take on living a boring or unattractive life style. My answer to this is nothing could be further from the truth. Yes I might have had to give up a few things when I became a Christian like getting drunk or swearing or other things like that but my experience and the experience of all my Christian friends over the years is that I was given far more and greater things by God than I had to give up.

What are the benefits then of being a true believer of Christ?

Many of the answers to this important question is given in Psalm 103 and the key verse of this wonderful Psalm is verse 2,

“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits”.

 The Psalm then gives us many wonderful benefits of knowing God in our life, first from a personal point of view and then from a corporate or being in God’s kingdom or family point of view. I hope to open to you what these benefits of knowing the Lord are in this Psalm talk.

However before we launch into that I would like to make some basic background remarks to this Psalm. First of all the Psalms Hebrew heading says that this Psalm was written by King David,

“Of David”

 Reads the heading and yet we know that this Psalm is part of a collection of Psalms we call, the fourth book of Psalms put together some time after the return from exile from Babylon by the Jews probably around the time of the building of the second Temple in the early period of what is known as the Intertestamental period said to be around 400 years. The last prophet of the Old Testament is Malachi who wrote his prophecy around 420BC.

Most of the Psalms in the fourth book seem to reflect the return from exile or just before that. However Psalm 103 has a Hebrew heading telling us King David who lived around 600 years before this time wrote it.

The answer to this is that each of the collectors of the books of Psalms seemed to have researched for material for their new collections that were recently written but were written in the past but not yet part of any of the books of Psalms. Psalm 103 could have been a Psalm of David that their research found and therefore this Psalm was finally put into the book of Psalms in the fourth collection.

When did David write this Psalm?

We are not told the answer to this question but some commentators like Spurgeon put forward the argument that it was probably written by David late in his life as Spurgeon writes,

“Doubtless by David, it is in his own style when at its best, and we should attribute it to his later years when he had a higher sense of the preciousness of pardon, because a keener sense of sin, than in his younger days”.

 The Psalm starts with a call to praise God and concludes with a call for praise and what we have in – between is a wonderful catalogue of reasons or benefits for praising the Lord.

With this in mind my outline for this Psalm is:

  1. (1 – 5)   PERSONAL PRAISE

 

  1. (1 – 2)   A call for personal praise
  2. (3 – 5)   The benefits of knowing the Lord personally

 

  1. (6 – 18) CORPARATE PRAISE

 

  1. (6 – 13)   The benefits of knowing the Lord for his people
  2. (14 – 18) The nature of man contrasted with the nature of God

 

  1. (9 – 22) HEAVENLY AND UNIVERSAL PRAISE

 

  1. (19 – 20) Heavenly praise
  2. (21 – 22) Universal praise

  

  1. (1 – 5)   PERSONAL PRAISE

 

  1. (1 – 2)   A call for personal praise

 David starts with the call,

“Praise the Lord”

 I counted that nine other David psalms start with a call to praise sometimes using other words to do this like Psalm 66 saying “Shout with joy to God” and Psalm 30 saying, “I will exalt you, O Lord”. So David was keen to praise the Lord and also keen that others like us should join him in praise and worship the great God he trusted and believed in.

Paul in the New Testament was also keen on calling the followers of the Lord Jesus to praise their God and savior like Philippians 4: 4, using the words,

“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say again, Rejoice”.

 Note how Paul says, “always” and this is made even clearer in his call to praise God in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

 We know Paul practiced what he preached as we see him and Silas in prison in Philippi in acts 16 and verse 25, which says,

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening”.

 What impact this praising of God in a most difficult time had on the other prisoners we do not know but I could imagine they would have been at least scratching their heads wondering what on earth these two men where on to be so joyful in such a dark and terrible place like a first century prison cell.

David’s call for praise in verses 1 and 2 is a personal call because he uses the words,

“O my soul”

 twice and this expression Leupold says represents,

“His entire inner being”

 as the soul in the Old Testament represents our whole personality or our real self.

Why does David call on praise from his inmost being?

The answer lies in the final words of verse 2,

“And forget not his benefits”.

 As I said in the introduction many turn away from God and his message to them because they fear that if it is true and they are convinced to become believers in him they will some how miss out on enjoying life and become somehow trapped in a negative life of narrow thinking and boring living.

The reality is simply, for me, the opposite as it obviously was for David as he spoke of benefits for turning to the Lord and going his way in life. I can testify to the truth that the Christian life is not a life of giving up but rather is a life of taking up and has so many benefits.

Before we move into looking at these benefits of knowing the Lord as David will spell out in the rest of this Psalm I must warn against the false teaching of The Prosperity Gospel. The prosperity gospel or as it is also called, The health and wealth gospel of success teaches that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth.

“Got a question?” web page spells out even further this dangerous teaching with these words,

“The prosperity gospel, also known as the “Word of Faith,” the believer is told to use God, whereas the truth of biblical Christianity is just the opposite—God uses the believer”.

Paul warned Timothy about this type of false teaching that was prevalent even in New Testament times with these words in 1 Timothy 6: 3 – 5,

”If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain”.

Paul goes on to speak of the danger and even the evil of the love of money in verses 6 – 10,

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many grief’s”.

Note Paul is not saying money is evil but the love of money and to preach or teach that turning to Christ and going his way will bring certain material gain is falling into the trap of not only miss – understanding the real benefits of knowing God but falling into the trap of loving money and not God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is true that many people who turn away from a sinful life to the Lord will often experience financial gain as a result mainly because they no longer throw their money away in corrupting activities like gambling or living for material things alone but this is a natural by product of the Christian life and not the essence of it.

I remember in my Bible College days going on a mission week in a very poor area of Sydney and speaking to the minister in the church I worked with and he told me that one of the problems he faced was keeping newly converted families in his church and area. He said that many who came to know the Lord in their lives and go his way soon found that their lives were cleaned up so much they were able to save money and also they no longer wanted to live in the slums they had been renting but rather they worked towards building a new home for themselves in a new outer area of the city so they soon moved away.

I would like to suggest that the benefits of knowing the Lord are far more deeper and richer than material gain and involve primarily spiritual benefits as we will see David speak of in the following verses. This kind of benefit is expressed beautifully in Paul’s words in Philippians 4: 12 – 13,

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

  1. (3 – 5)   The benefits of knowing the Lord personally

So at the end of verse 2, David says that he wants to praise the Lord from deep within himself because he did not want to,

“Forget not all his benefits”

Now in verses 3 – 5 he spells out some of the wonderful benefits he experienced from the Lord and in verses 6 – 13 he speaks of the benefits all the people of God know from knowing the Lord in their lives.

I see 6 benefits in these verses:

  1. Forgives (vs. 3a)
  2. Heals (vs. 3b)
  3. Redeems (vs. 4a)
  4. Crowns (vs. 4b)
  5. Satisfies (vs.5a)
  6. Renews (vs. 5b)

Lets then have a closer look at each of these six benefits of knowing the Lord.

  1. Forgives (vs. 3a)

David starts with the fist benefit of knowing the Lord as forgiveness, he writes,

“Who forgives all your sins”

For the non – Christian this might not seem to be much of a benefit for they usually do not recognize they are sinners or that sin is a problem that they need any help with but as Tremper Longman 111 aptly points out,

“Sin creates a barrier between humanity and a holy God, but God will forgive the sin of a contrite heart”.

Longman quotes then from Psalm 51: 17, written by David who is confessing his great sins of adultery and murder to God and in doing so is seeking God’s forgiveness,

“The sacrifice of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”.

Paul makes it clear that we all have a problem with sin when he writes in Romans 3: 23,

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

David knew what a life changing experience being forgiven of his sins could be when he found the complete forgiveness of God and even as he was finding that he writes in Psalm 51: 13,

“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you”.

Jesus came for one great purpose and that was to die on the cross to win for us the forgiveness of sins as 1 Peter 3: 18 says,

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit”.

Of course we must repent of our sins to be able to accept the forgiveness God offers through Christ and his death for us as Jesus stresses in Luke 5: 31 – 32,

“Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

This week I read a request for prayer and advice on Face book by a young youth pastor who graduated from the same bible College I attended years ago who now is in the US working as a youth pastor in a church there and who is having problems by some local teens from the church refusing to come while he continues to teach the need for repentance as they believe there is no necessity for repentance for salvation because grace is free.

It is true that repentance alone does not save us as it is the death of Jesus on the cross that does that but to be able to receive God’s free gift of forgiveness we must first turn away from sin and turn to God and ask Jesus to forgive us and he will as John says in 1 John 1:8 – 9,

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”.

Repentance also involves admitting we are sinners and need God’s forgiveness and this is a teaching found right through the New Testament and particularly in the Gospels and that was my advice to the young youth worker to take these young people through a Gospel in bible study like the Gospel of Mark.

How the forgiveness of sins is a great benefit is seen first and foremost in establishing a relationship with God which then has many wonderful benefits like meaning and purpose in life and inner peace which Paul speaks of in Philippians 4: 7,

“The peace of God, which transcends all understanding”

This makes God’s forgiveness a life changing benefit that cannot be qualified.

  1. Heals (vs. 3b)

We come then to probably the most controversial benefit David states he has in God which he expresses as,

“And heals all your diseases”

Taken on face value this seems to say believers in God will be healed of all diseases as a benefit of their faith in God. However we know that this simply does not happen in life as Christians have and will die of all sorts of diseases. The extreme charismatic Christians will argue that God does heal or cure all diseases if we have enough faith to believe so.

However this type of teaching puts the emphasis on our faith as the power and force that heals when the bible says that only God’s power heals as even this verse implies through the word “who” at the start of verse 3.

A good Christian friend of mine worked for many years with a extreme charismatic Christian who took the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 53: 5 literally when it says,

“”By his wounds we are healed”

The problem was this man, sadly suffered from an incurables illness that could be managed by modern medicine but he refused to take the medicine instead believing in this phrase from Isaiah 53: 5. As he got progressively sicker the man told my friend he was not healed because his faith was simply not good or big enough and he not only suffered physically but spiritually because of this incorrect teaching.

The truth is that in the context of Isaiah 53 the words,

”By his wounds we are healed”

Is referring to our spiritual state, our need for the healing of the soul sick with the consequences of sin as the first part of verse 5 says,

“But he was pieced for our transgressions he was crushed for our iniquities”.

So returning to the second benefit David speaks of namely,

“And heals all your diseases”

I go for the interpretation of this phrase that commentators like John Gill opt for as he says in these words,

“Spiritual diseases, or soul maladies, are here meant; the same with “iniquities” in the preceding clause”.

 It is sin, the great disease of the heart of every man and women that David is speaking of healing from here. Not that God cannot and does not heal a Christian of a serious disease for his glory to be declared to our world but all physical diseases always healed by God for the believer is not what David is speaking of here in Psalm 103 verse 3.

The benefits of this spiritual disease being healed, the disease of sin in the soul does have many outcomes and amazingly many physical diseases are healed when a person comes to Christ as they turn away from sins like drunkenness or sexual immorality.

Turning away from these sinful activities can commence physical healing as that person comes to Christ and stops or at least begins to stop such soul and body destroying activities.

Paul says this about the effect of truly coming to Christ in 2 Corinthians 5: 17,

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come”. 

  1. Redeems (vs. 4a)

The third benefit of personally knowing God in our lives is in verse 4a,

“Who redeems your life from the pit”

Some commentators have suggested that this could mean the writer, who we believe is David is speaking of literally being saved from death or “pit” and pit is usually a term for the grave in the Old Testament. However this also could be more in the spiritual sense that through God’s forgiveness of sins his cure of our spiritual diseased soul’s will save him from the grave or pit a fate that comes to all men and women. He is redeemed or God has paid the debt that sins brings because of it, as we will see later in the great statement of God’s in verses 11 and 12.

This would be in line with what Paul says in Romans 6: 23,

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Many might argue that David writing in the Old Testament could not have had such a great hope in being redeemed by God from death but David declares in Psalm 23: 6,

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.

Even other writers of the Psalms had a sure hope like David of life beyond the grave, like the Son of Korah who wrote in Psalm 49: 15,

“But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself”.

This is a very similar thought to what David wrote in this verse in Psalm 103.

We of course have a much surer hope of eternal life through the redemptive work of God’s son Jesus Christ and this hope after death comes wonderfully through a verse like John 5: 24,

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life”.

Jesus made it very clear that he came to redeem us from our sins and we see this in a verse like John 10: 45,

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

  1. Crowns (vs. 4b)

David then uses a beautiful and powerful image to convey the benefits of God’s love and compassion for a true believer, that of a crown, he writes,

“And crowns you with love and compassion”

 Albert Barnes best unlocks this poetic image of being crowned with these words,

“The idea here is not merely that God is the source of these blessings, but that there is something of beauty, of dignity, of honor, as in the conferring of a crown or garland on anyone”.

 David as king was crowned to become king and all kings and queens have all through history had the same thing done to them but here God crowns us with his love and compassion. We are so special to God that he treats us all as his crowned kings and queens.

The New Testament goes much further than this as it speaks of all true believers not just being crowned by God through Christ but reigning with him in heaven, 2 Timothy 2: 12,

 “If we endure, we will also reign with him”.

Also Revelation 20: 6,

“Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him”.

 How can this be a benefit for a person who knows the Lord?

Well it is of course a great future hope but it also has many implications for us now in this life. Mainly it means we know a God in our lives who really loves and cares for us and like a king or queen we are treated with special attention and blessings if we turn in repentance and faith to him.

Here is just one more New Testament passage that speaks of our future hope in Christ having impact on our lives today, it is found in Pauls special prayer to God for the Ephesians in Ephesians 1: 15 -23,

“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 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, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way”.

What glorious benefits we enjoy through the love and compassion of God through his son Jesus Christ he truly has crowned us with his love and many blessings. These blessings are far more valuable and everlasting than earthly riches or fame and those who cheapen the benefits of knowing the love of God with the false promise of earthly riches are sadly not only wrong but are leading many to miss out on the far more wonderful riches we have in Christ.

  1. Satisfies (vs.5a)

The personal benefits we have in knowing God continue to roll on in verse 5 and in verse 5a we read these words,

“Who satisfies your desires with good things”

This benefit of satisfaction again must be viewed in spiritual terms as all other benefits so far have been. Spurgeon puts it this way,

“No man is ever filled to ratification but a believer, and only God himself can satisfy even him. Many a worldling is satiated but not one is satisfied’.

People seek after earthly riches and in my country people are bombarded with the message that material riches will make them really happy or satisfied in life. People spend hundreds of dollars a year on lotto or other get quick rich activities but the sad reality is many so called rich happy people are still miserable even in their fancy houses, cars and boats.

Many years ago I visited on behalf of a church I was working for a very rich resident of that area. This family was one of the original landowners of that part of Sydney and their family name is linked with a famous person in the early colony of Sydney. The women who now owned that property with her husband sat me down with a nice cup of tea in what I could only describe as a mansion. My eyes were popping out my head as I drank my tea and as I looked around. Then the lady who owned the house said to me, “You might think owning this house and having the famous name we have would bring you happiness but let me tell you honestly they have only given me and my husband nothing but unhappiness”.

God satisfies us deeply and that satisfaction is not built on material things like lots of money, houses, boats etc. but is the deep and wonderful satisfaction of the soul as we read of in Psalm 107: 9,

“For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things”

And as Jesus says in John 6: 35,

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never go thirsty”.

Jesus is clearly speaking of spiritual hunger and thirst as he was speaking against people who wanted him to continue to give them physical food like he had just done in the feeding of the five thousand people.

This spiritual hunger is what the rich lady in that suburb of Sydney I visited years ago is speaking of.

Even if it seems that earthly riches has given someone earthly happiness we know that this so called happiness is very temporary as Jesus pointed out in the parable of the rich fool, Luke 12: 18 – 20,

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”

Jesus goes on to say in the next verse,

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God”.

The old saying is “you cannot take it with you” applies for those who think, earthly riches is the road to real happiness and satisfaction.

No the real benefit of knowing God is that deep and inner peace Paul spoke of in Philippians 4: 7,

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.

This peace translates into Paul’s statement of his satisfaction later in that same letter a few verses on, 11 – 13,

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

This promise of real and deep spiritual satisfaction is yet another point of praise we should offer to God every day of our lives.

  1. Renews (vs. 5b)

Finally David rounds off these benefits of knowing the Lord personally with these words in vs. 5b,,

“So that your youth is renewed like the eagle”.

I am no longer considered a “Youth” as I am now considered a senior citizen and if David wrote this Psalm later in his life as some commentators have suggested then he too is writing these words as a senior citizen of Israel.

So what is David saying when he speaks of his youth being renewed by God?

To understand this we must yet again remind ourselves that these words come from the Psalms, which are poetry so we cannot interpret them literally. All the ideas in this phrase from the Psalm are poetic images and must be interpreted likewise.

So the first poetic image is,

“Your youth is renewed”

This is not hard to interpret as we all look to our younger days as the days we had vitality, energy and life. At a recent bible study, which is full of people my age and older one lady speaking about being old said, “I am a 18 year old trapped in a 80 year old body”. Its true I don’t see myself as being old and I am the same person in many ways as I was at 18 but I am now in my late 60’s.

However even though God cannot take us back to enjoy the young bodies we had at 18 he can and does, spiritually, promise to renew us like being young again in our souls. Like another Psalmist named Asaph asked in his chorus for his song, Psalm 80 in verses 3, 7 and 19,

“Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved”.

Spiritual restoration is the great theme of Psalm 80 and I think what David is asking for in verse 5b in Psalm 103 is spiritual restoration with the words,

“So that your youth is renewed”

He wants his faith and commitment in God to be strong and vital again like our bodies are at 18. However like the song says, “I wish I knew what I know now, when I was younger”, I would not swap my knowledge and wisdom with any 18 year old any day. I believe God has made his church full of people who are both young and old as together we can achieve so much. The younger have the drive and enthusiasm and the older members have the wisdom and knowledge.

Then David makes it clear what he wants with the second poetic image that says,

“Like the eagle”

All of the commentators I read spoke of the eagle being in Old Testament times a symbol of strength and vitality and this again I believe is spiritual strength and vitality and is expressed so well in the famous reference to a eagle in Isaiah 40: 30 and 31,

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”.

Maybe Isaiah knew David’s Psalm and gained inspiration from it but he speaks of youth as well as gaining renewed strength from God like a souring eagle so magnificent in flight.

Maybe there is a hint of physical renewal in both references and as I referred to earlier when you feel like an 18 year old trapped in an 80 years old body maybe physical renewal of any kind is just what you really desire.

The discussion at the bible study of seniors I attended when what it feels like to be old or aging was discussed a very encouraging sharing of the promise of God in the New Testament of a new body. And new body given to us when we rise in the great resurrection when Christ returns which Paul describes this way in 1 Corinthians 15: 50 – 55,

“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

 For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”[

This is a great benefit and hope not only for aging people with frail sickly bodies but anyone who’s body is failing at any age as we all will be given new and wonderful bodies in heaven and that is something we all should praise God for.

  1. (6 – 18) CORPARATE PRAISE
  1. (6 – 13)   The benefits of knowing the Lord for his people

So David has listed in three short verses six wonderful personal benefits of knowing the Lord which he says we should praise the Lord for from the depths of our being, and now he moves to speak of six benefits we have as God’s people, the church that we should also praise God for.

These six benefits God gives his people, Israel –the Church are:

  1. Works righteousness and justice (vs. 6)
  2. Makes known his ways (vs. 7)
  3. Treats us with compassion and grace (vs. 8)
  4. Does not treat us as we deserve (verses 9 and 10)
  5. Loves us with a immeasurable love (verses 11 – 12)
  6. Loves us like a father loves his children (vs. 13)

Lets now have a closer look at each of these six wonderful benefits God gives his people.

  1. Works righteousness and justice (vs. 6)

Before we launch into the benefits of God’s people knowing the Lord I must first say that I believe that when I speak about God’s people I not talking about ancient Israel alone or even the Jews today but rather because of what Jesus did on the cross for people of every and any nation I am talking about God’s people in Christ, his church.

A key passage that sets up this way of seeing who God’s people are is Galatians 3: 26 – 29,

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

Paul had to write to the Galatians as they were yet another church that was under attack from probably well meaning Jewish Christians who wanted the non- Jewish believers to adopt the Jewish laws and traditions as well as believing in Christ for salvation. Paul rightly saw the error of these Jewish Christians as what I call the Jesus plus way of salvation when it is Jesus alone that saves us as Jesus clearly teaches in John 14: 6,

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

Paul and other disciples of Jesus like John and Peter knew that the only way we are saved into God’s family or Kingdom is through Jesus death and resurrection. If Paul and the early disciples had not fought this battle in the first century the Christian church or even its saving Gospel message would have been lost and Christianity would have just been swallowed up into Judaism as a forgotten religious oddity of the first century.

So we along with Jews and any other person from any other nation who put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are as Paul calls in Galatians 6: 16, The Israel of God,

“Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God”.

Some Christian commentators refuse to believe that Paul in this verse is not speaking of the church as “The Israel of God” but Jewish converts but to argue this is to argue against the whole central message of the letter to the Galatians that we are all now in God’s kingdom or family because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone no matter what nation of earth we claim to belong to even the Jewish nation.

So the first benefit of belonging to God’s family or Kingdom is found in verse 6,

“The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed”.

God working righteousness and justice for his people, which David calls, “the oppressed” is seen right through the bible and even in what Jesus did for us on the cross. Jesus died for our sins on the cross for those who put their faith and trust in him and this act of righteousness and justice, as Jesus paid for our sins, opened up a way for us into heaven. It also caused the defeat of Satan the oppressor as we see in John 12: 31 – 32,

“ Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

We see God working righteousness and judgement for his people the oppressed in the account of God freeing his people, Israel from slavery in Egypt where the oppressor, Pharaoh is defeated like Satan is defeated by Jesus on the Cross to free all men and women who are slaves to sin if they turn and accept his offer of forgiveness for their sins through Christ and his death for them.

This great escape from Egypt we will see is in David’s mind as he wrote Psalm 103 in the next benefits God’s people enjoy and should praise God for.

  1. Makes known his ways (vs. 7)

In verse 7, David makes it clear he has Moses and the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the law soon after that at Mt Sinai in mind with the words,

“He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel”

Maybe David even has a particular event in mind here that happened at Mt Sinai recorded in Exodus 33: 13,

 “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

God answers Moses request with the 10 Commandments and all the laws God gives Moses for the ancient people of Israel. These laws become a major part of God’s word to us, “his ways” and so the great benefit for God’s people in this verse is the very word of God.

Peter makes it clear that what men like Moses brought to us in declaring God’s ways or word was not the will of man but the will of God inspired by the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 20 – 21,

“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”.

The greatest of revelations from God when he makes known his ways is of course the word of God become flesh, as John puts it 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 Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

God’s word that teaches us God’s ways then is a wonderful benefit we have from knowing the Lord and we should praise him continually for that from the depths of our being daily.

  1. Treats us with compassion and grace (vs. 8)

David with the people of Israel at the foot of Mt Sinai in mind now draws on famous words spoken by God in Exodus 34: 6 – 7a,

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”.

This is a special revelation of God given to Moses as God passed before him as he hid his face from the spectacular glory of God.

So in verse 8 of Psalm 103 David writes,

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love”.

 This is the unique characteristic of the God of the bible so much unlike the alternative human inspired religious view of God that sees God as something other than a God of love.

Ancient Israel had no right to claim they deserved God’s love because even as Moses first went to the Mount Sinai to represent them before God they had turned away from the God of the bible and set up a golden calf to worship instead of the great yet invisible God of the entire universe.

Yet God continued to love them and the key word in this verse that presents the fourth great benefit of knowing the Lord is the word, “graciousness”.

Allan Harman writes,

“His grace gives them what they do not deserve – unmerited favour”.

 The grace of God is seen so clearly in the act of God in the New Testament in sending his only son into the world to die for our sins on the cross and Paul spoke heaps about this in all of his letters like Ephesians 1; 6 – 9,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,

In Ephesians 2 Paul makes it clear that we have been saved and are part of God’s people, the church not because of anything we have done but because of the grace of God alone, Ephesians 2: 4 – 10,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 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. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

So the fourth benefit we have through knowing God in our lives is his love and grace which also should cause us to praise God from our inner most being every day of our lives.

  1. Does not treat us as we deserve (verses 9 and 10)

David still has, I believe the words of Exodus 34: 6 – 7a in mind in verses 9 and 10 and particularly the words of verse 7a that says,

“Forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”.

Maybe he has his own experience of God in mind as well when he writes in verses 9 and 10,

“He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities”.

 Remember David had committed adultery and murder and both these sins deserved death yet David turned to God in repentance and faith and was forgiven so God did not harbor his anger towards David and did not deserve or repay him according to his great iniquities.

All through Israel’s history the bible presents this amazing fact that even though they continually failed to truly trust and believe in God and in fact often committed great sin or iniquities God’s anger did not last and he took his people back out of his love and compassion for them.

Such is the love of God that he was willing to send his only son into the world to pay for all our iniquities as the great prophet foretold 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”.

This too is yet another great benefit we have in knowing the Lord in our lives that deserves great praise.

  1. Loves us with a immeasurable love (verses 11 – 12)

David returns to the great benefit of the love of God and attempts to describe its dimensions with the words of verses 11 and 12,

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us”.

The measure David has for God’s love is immeasurable as it is as high as the heavens are from the earth and we know today that the heavens or space is endless. As far as east is from west which again is another poetic picture of endlessness or infinity. God’s love is as the old children’s chorus puts it,

Wide, wide as the ocean

High as the heavens above,

Deep, deep as the deepest sea

Is my Saviours love.

The chorus goes on to say:

I am so unworthy

Still I am a child of his care

For his word teaches me

That his love reaches me

Everywhere.

Paul speaks of this vast and wonderful love of God in Ephesians 3: 17 – 19,

“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”.

David knew this deep and wide love of God and his experience of particularly being forgiven by God for the sins of adultery and murder. This gave David experiential knowledge of the benefits of knowing the great and wonderful love of God which he never stopped thanking God for throughout his life.

  1. Loves us like a father loves his children (vs. 13)

Finally David gives a sixth great benefit of his people, the people of God knowing God in their lives and is expressed this way in verse 13,

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him”.

David uses a real and familiar poetic image of how God loves his people who fear or who show reverence to him namely the relationship of a father to a son. David loved his son Absalom so much that even after his son had turned against him and even tried to destroy him and the rest of his family David still loved him.

We see this in the description of David’s reaction to the death of his son Absalom in 2 Samuel 18: 33,

“The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”

David knew first hand how he still loved his son Absalom was disobedient and hateful to him but he also knew that God’s love for him and his people was far greater than a human’s fathers love for his children and Albert Barnes describes it this way,

“An infinitely higher degree, is the compassion – the kindness – which God has for those that love him”.

 Jesus told a wonderful parable about a fathers infinite love for his lost son in Luke 15 and the fathers reaction and words to his lost sons return mirror the love God has for us when we turn around to truly believe in him, Luke 15: 22 – 24,

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate”.

Such is God’s love for us that we read in the famous verse, 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”.

Jesus makes it clear that not only is God like a father to us, he is now our heavenly father and we should addressing as such as he says in the Lords prayer in Mathew 6: 9,

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”.

Finally Paul taught that this benefit of knowing God is made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit in the true believers heart in Romans 8: 15 – 17,

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory”.

So we have seen now twelve great benefits of knowing the Lord but note David has emphasized that these benefits belong to those who “fear him” vs. 11, 13, 17, obey his precepts vs. 18 and obey his word vs. 20. So these benefits are only for those who seek to serve and obey the Lord who they now fear or revere.

  1. (14 – 18) The nature of man contrasted with the nature of God

This list of 12 benefits of knowing the Lord, six personal and six corporate is then brought to a end with five verses about the nature of God and man. Why this comes after the benefits of knowing the Lord are presented is found I believe in the opening words of verse 14,

“For he knows”

 We might say for God knows just what we are like especially compared to him and this is a reason why he as decided to give us these benefits out of his love for us.

We might decide to hold the hand of our young children as they walk along side a busy road because we know what they are like as little children or we might stop ourselves watching a type of movie or television show because we know what we are like because that type of movie or show has a bad or negative influence on us. So God shows us love and grace and is slow to anger because he knows what we are really like.

So what does David say God knows about us to give us his benefits of love and grace?

These five verses 14 – 18 tell us two things God’s knows about us in contrast to one contrasting thing about him and then finally confirms his love for those who obey his precepts or law or word.

So in this second part of the second section of this Psalm we will look at:

  1. How we are made of dust (vs. 14)
  2. How we are mortal beings (vs. 15 – 16)
  3. How God is immortal (vs. 17a)
  4. How God loves us because of this (vs. 17b – 18)

Lets have a close look at each of these four things:

  1. How we are made of dust (vs. 14)

God loves us first of all because of what we are, namely weak mortal beings made from dust. I looked up on Wikipedia the trace elements of the human body and this is what it said,

Almost 99% of the mass of the human body is made up of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Only about 0.85% is composed of another five elements: potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. All 11 are necessary for life. The remaining elements are trace elements, of which more than a dozen are thought on the basis of good evidence to be necessary for life. All of the mass of the trace elements put together (less than 10 grams for a human body) do not add up to the body mass of magnesium, the least common of the 11 non-trace elements.

 All these elements are found in the earth so when verse 14 of this Psalm says,

For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust”.

This verse is speaking about a fact even science today speaks of but of course much of science does not agree that it was God who Genesis 2: 7,

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being”

Science might not recognize this but God knows how he made us and David says God remembers how he made us and he knows what we are like, weak, frail and fragile beings.

  1. How we are mortal beings (vs. 15 – 16)

With the first idea of our makeup in mind David goes on to speak of how because we are dust we are mortal beings with a very limited life span, verses 15 – 16,

“As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more”.

God sees that we are made from dust and then he places in David’s mind because of this we live very short fragile lives. We have seen before this image of man being like grass in Psalm 37: 2, 90:5, 102: 11 and it is used also in Isaiah 40: 6 and again in the New Testament in 1 Peter 1: 24- 25. This image of grass is used in the Old Testament and the New for the fleeting nature of grass, which in the hot dry Middle East climate is gone very quickly especially when a hot dry wind blows over it.

Life does seem short and I can appreciate this especially now when I am in my late sixties. I have now seen many peoples passing some after 70 to 80 years others much shorter than that. My view is that if there is no God and hope therefore after death than life is really just a cruel short not so funny joke.

However God sees the shortness of our lives and in the next verse we will see he loves us and brings us hope in face of life’s fleeting shortness.

  1. How God is immortal (vs. 17a)

Before we see the hope God has for us we have at the start of verse 17 a statement about the nature of God compared to us,

“But from everlasting to everlasting”

God is not like us he is from everlasting to everlasting or he is eternal he has existed and he will always exist. This was the revelation Moses had of God at the burning bush in Exodus 3: 14 when God revealed his special name to Moses which states his special unique nature,

 “God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Jesus because he shares in the nature of the complex God head also has this characteristic of eternity and this is why in Johns Gospel seven times he refers to himself with the title, “I am” and this is what is meant by what John says about Jesus in Revelation 1: 8,

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the almighty”.

I think one of the problems current modern thinking has about God creating the universe is they limit their thinking to only the material world and dismiss God as just a oversize man who is a myth. God is beyond this physical whelm and is different than man as he is eternal, he is immortal whie we are mortal and he had no beginning while we had a beginning and in this life a end.

  1. How God loves us because of this (vs. 17b – 18)

Then we see the hope in face of our mortality and shortness of life in the words of verse 17b and 18,

“The Lord’s love is with those who fear him. And his righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts”.

David gives his own quote of God’s promise of his covenantal love from Exodus 20: 6,

“ But showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandment”.

David knew his bible and I imagine as King he would have had total access to all of the scrolls that contained what was considered God’s word up to the time of his life as king almost 1,000 years before the coming of God’s word becoming flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.

From the first five books of the bible also known as the Torah, or law to Jews like David, David knew the great hope God offered in his covenant of love. He knew that this promise of God’s love was only for those who feared and obeyed the Lord. This promise of God’s love for generation to generation gave his short fragile life hope and meaning.

We have a greater promise of God’s love and the book of Hebrews has much to say about the greater hope of new covenant and we see something of this in Hebrews 7: 22 – 25,

“Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them”.

Note in this reference the greater value and permanence of this new covenant because of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. The writer of the book of Hebrews brings to a end his thoughts on the New Covenant Jesus has brought to us with these concluding remarks about it in Hebrews 13: 20 – 21,

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen”.

  1. (9 – 22) HEAVENLY AND UNIVERSAL PRAISE

David completes his list of personal and corporate benefits with this reminder of God’s promise of covenant love and he is saying because of all these benefits God has given us we should praise and worship God with all of these things in our minds and hearts.

Now he looks beyond himself and his people or Nation to heaven itself and then all of creation for even more praise for this great God of love and grace. So we will now look at David’s call for heavenly praise and then his call for universal praise.

  1. (19 – 20) Heavenly praise

In verse 19 David lifts his eyes or gaze to heaven and speaks of God sitting on his throne and reigning in heaven in verse 19,

“The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.”

 These words remind me of my study of Psalms 93 – 100 which I called “Our God the king who reigns” Psalms and in the first one of these we read in the first two verses of Psalm 93,

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity”.

Even though David wrote this Psalm long before it was placed finally in the fourth book of Psalms around the time of the return from exile in Babylon his words would have given the people of the post return from exile period great hope as they no longer had a king in Israel but they had a far greater king than even David himself as he was the king who reigns supreme over everything and everyone in heaven.

David saw that he was under a great king and his praise was for that king who sits in heaven and who rules or reigns over everyone and everything.

We have the same king who we know so much more about as we know that the Lord Jesus Christ was the fulfilment of the promised David king who will reign over every thing and everyone forever now from heaven as we read about in book of Revelation, 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.”

 Note in this verse in the book of Revelation it is and angel who sounds the trumpet and it is probably Angels who speak the message of the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven and it is angels who David calls upon to join in his praise for the benefits of knowing the Lord in verse 20,

“Praise the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word”.

 It seems that the angels are special higher created beings who serve God in heaven sometimes give the job of sending a special message to one of God’s chosen people like Daniel and Abraham and many other men and women in the bible.

The angels however seem to have the primary task in heaven of singing God’s praises and leading the worship of him in heaven.

We read a lot about the angels in heaven in the book of Revelation as we saw in that quote from Revelation 11: 15 but what about what we read in Revelation 5: 11 – 12,

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!”

 It seems strange that David is calling on the Angels to do what they do anyway without reminder or prompting but maybe David is speaking like he is in verse 20 in that he wants to join even the angels in praise of his God who has given him so many benefits through knowing him.

Note also that even the Angels in heaven have to obey God’s word and it seems that this was the downfall of Satan and a group of angels he led. Satan and these Angels turned away from obeying God’s word as we see from Isaiah 14: 12 – 15, Satan, here called “Son of the Dawn”, sought to make himself God breaking the law and word of God that God alone is God,

“How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! 13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. 14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” 15 But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit”.

Satan continues even to this day to lead a rebellion against God but his days are numbered and Jesus has defeated him on the cross but unto Christ returns his complete destruction and judgement like everyone’s will not happen unto Christ returns a second time to judge all of creation.

The warning is clear if one of the Angels can fall because he did not obey the expressed word of God than we must make sure we do not follow his example but like the majority of the Angels live to praise the Lord and do his bidding and obey his word.

  1. (21 – 22) Universal praise

 So David inspired by the Holy Spirit has offered up deep and sincere praise for the benefits of knowing the Lord personally and corporately as part of God’s special people which I believe is now the Church of Jesus Christ, all those from any and every nation who call on the name of the Lord Jesus to be save. He then calls on the Angels to join this great song of and now I believe David calls on all creation to join this song of universal praise.

There are a number of ways of interpreting just who or what David is calling upon to join him in praise in verse 21, which reads,

“Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will”.

There are three ways of interpreting just who “all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will” actually are.

The first is this is describing the Angels in heaven already asked to join in this great song of praise. The Angels as a number of times in the Old Testament the Angels are described as “the hosts” of God, like 1 Kings 22: 19,

“Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord; I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left”.

This would mean David is repeating his call for the Angels to join him in praising God for the benefits of knowing and serving him.

The second interpretation of the term, “all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will” is that heavenly hosts are God’s created celestial bodies he created spoken of as “hosts” or “array” in Deuteronomy 4: 19. The idea of these innate heavenly bodies praising God is found in verses like 1 Chronicles 16: 31 when David declares,

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations “The Lord reigns”.

A verse also found in Psalm 96 a Psalm adapted from David’s Psalm recorded in 1 Chronicles 16.

This would mean David is widening his call for praise to the creation itself that he declares in Psalm 19 verse 1 it does continually,

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

The only problem with this interpretation is how does the phrase, “you servants who do his will”, fit in to this interpretation?

It has been suggested that God placed the sun, moon and stars in place for a purpose and therefore they are his servants in nature to do his will”.

The third and final interpretation is that David has in mind both Angels and celestial bodies in mind which we see combined in Psalm 148: 2 – 6,

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created, and he established them for ever and ever— he issued a decree that will never pass away”.

Even if David is calling only on Angels again in verse 21 he certainly widens his call for praise of the God who gives us so much benefits in the first part of verse 22,

“Praise the Lord all his works everywhere in his dominion”.

All his works is everything he has created, earth, stars, angels and of course man. All of us are designed and made as instruments of praise and worship as the first question of the famous Westminster shorter catechism asks and answers,

  1. What is the chief end of man?

 Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. One of the many scriptures this catechism offers to support this is Pauls declaration in 1 Corinthians 10: 31,

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.

All of God’s creation, rightly in tune with his good will and purpose should and does praise the Lord and this is the idea behind David’s call for a universal praise of God in verse 22 of this Psalm.

David then finishes as he started with the last words of his Psalm 103 the same as the first words of this Psalm,

“Praise the Lord, O my soul”.

David wants to praise God so he makes sure we get his great desire to do so. David had so many benefits from knowing his Lord and even though he called on the Angels and everyone and everything in this world and the next to praise his God he wants us to know that he wants above all to praise the Lord who he owed so much to.

May we all join David in praising the Lord knowing that this is our calling in Christ as Paul states in Ephesians 1: 11 – 12,

“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory”.

I close as usual with an original poem and prayer:

PRAISE THE LORD O MY SOUL

(Based on Psalm 103)

 

Praise the Lord all my soul

May all that’s within me praise the Lord

Praise the Lord all my soul

And forget not the benefits of knowing the Lord.

He for gives my sins and heals my soul

He redeems my life and makes us whole

He crowns my life with love so true

He satisfies my desires and makes me new.

He helps me rise like an eagle in the sky

In God I’m renewed and in him I’ll fly.

 

Praise the Lord all my soul

May all that’s within me praise the Lord

Praise the Lord all my soul

God makes things right for those who obey his word.

The Lord makes his word known to us

He shows his way to those who trust.

The Lord has compassion and grace to all

Who revere his name and answer his call

His wonderful love is so high and wide

He cares like a father who helps and guides.

 

Praise the Lord all my soul

May all that’s within me praise the Lord

Praise the Lord all my soul

For God knows we’re weak and our lives are flawed.

He remembers that we are made of dust

One day we’re here and the next we’re lost.

But the Lord is eternal and is always near

To those who he loves who have healthy fear.

And he will always bless us with love

For his son came to die from heaven above.

 

Praise the Lord all my soul

May all that’s within me praise the Lord

Praise the Lord all my soul

May God’s Angels praise him in one accord.

For God sits in heaven and there he reigns

Surrounded by angels who praise his name.

So may all the heavens the stars and the earth

Give praise to the God who gave them birth.

For the Lord is in charge of every thing

May my soul rejoice as may my lips now sing.

 

Praise the Lord all my soul

May all that’s within me praise the Lord

Praise the Lord all my soul

And forget not the benefits of knowing the Lord.

 

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Dear father in heaven I praise your great and glorious name for you have given me so much. You made me and the world I live in, you saved me from my sins through your sons death on the cross and you continue to renew and guide me in this life. I thank you that you have called me to be part of your great family and I join with your Angels in heaven giving praise to your wonderful love and justice. In Jesus name I pray Amen.

PSALM 102 TALK: POUR OUT YOUR HEART TO THE LORD

PSALM 102 TALK: POUR OUT YOUR HEART TO THE LORD

 (A Psalm that explores how God wants us to come to him with all our pains and worries in prayer and tell him honestly how we feel and what we need and he not only will listen to us but he will answer us and give us his peace which passes all understanding)

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

INTRODUCTION

 Recently I shared with the church bible study group I regularly attend how years ago I was so desperate for a parking spot in the local shopping centre parking area that I prayed to God for a parking spot. It was one of the weeks leading up to Christmas and I had dropped my wife off at the shopping centre door and drove looking for a parking spot. Not only was the car park full but also I was in bumper to pumper traffic circling the car park for a spot fo some time.

In desperation I prayed a quick prayer for a parking spot and went around the floor of the parking lot I was on one more time and then I saw the reversing lights of a car come on directly in from of me and to the left hand side of my car. I naturally came to a stop and let the car reverse out and I drove into my spot. I sent up to the Lord a short thank you prayer for his provision of a parking spot,

That evening after I got home I thought about the theology of praying for a parking spot. Was God who is king of heaven and earth really interested in my need of a parking spot and are there not far more important matters to bring before the Lord, after all he has to respond to millions of prayers every day. I ended up not resolving my thoughts on this at that time.

Then in that recent bible study we were discussing a well known couple of verses in Philippians, Philippians 4: 6 – 7, which says,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

The word in the text “anything” made me think of my dilemma of whether I should pray about a parking spot as that day some years ago was yet another time I had become anxious about something and yet Paul says,

“Do not be anxious about anything”

He goes on to what we should do when we become anxious about anything with these words,

“But in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”.

Note how he says in every situation, pray and note what God will in us if we do bring our petitions or requests to God in prayer,

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

As I said people have had and do have far more problems and difficulties to bring to the Lord, than the need for a parking spot yet the same principle applies don’t be anxious about anything but in every situation present your request to God.

I have come across some amazing prayers in the Psalms and have been blown away by the way these great men of faith of old cried out to God in honest prayer. These men seem to just pour out their hearts to the Lord and most of these types of prayers are in Psalms called laments.

I read an excellent definition and explanation of what a Lament actually is by a man named Jason Jackson on his introduction to Psalm 102. He points out that the Hebrew heading for this Psalm actually defines a lament,

“A prayer of an afflicted man. When he is faint and pours out his lament before the Lord”.

Jackson then gives us five parts that all true laments contain:

  1. Address to God
  2. Complaint
  3. Confession of trust
  4. Petition
  5. Words of assurance and a vow to praise.

I decided to put Jackson’s theory to the test for Psalm 102 and found him to be totally correct, so much so his five- point structure of a lament became the basis for my structure of my Psalm talk for this Psalm.

This Psalm seems to have been written in Babylon where the Jews were locked up in exile and just before the return from exile came about as verse 13 reads,

“You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favour to her; the appointed time has come”.

 He goes on to speak of the ruins of Zion or Jerusalem and how God will rebuild Jerusalem soon.

The writer seems to be suffering personally from a terrible illness that has brought him close to death’s door as verse 24 reads,

“So I said: “Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations”.

However the writer seems to also speak of the affliction of the people in exile and somehow this is linked with his own personal affliction as we read in verses 16 and 17,

“For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. 17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea”.

How these two things are linked we simply do not know and I can only speculate that maybe his seemingly approaching death owing to sickness before his people’s   restoration caused him to pray earnestly for more time in this life to see God’s coming restoration of his people from the hardships of exile to life again in the Promised Land of Israel.

Based on Jason’s Jacksons structure of a lament my structure for this Psalm talk is:

  1. (1 – 2)   HIS CALL TO GOD

 

  1. vs. 1     His cry to God
  2. vs. 2     The urgent need for an answer

 

  1. (3 – 11)   HIS COMPLAINT TO GOD

 

  1. (3 – 7)  The physical pain caused his affliction
  2. (8 – 9)   The social pain caused by his enemies
  3. (10 – 11) The spiritual pain caused by God’s discipline

 

  1. (12 – 22) HIS CONFESSION OF FAITH IN GOD

 

  1. vs. 12     God enthroned in heaven
  2. (13 – 22) God will restore his people

 

  1. (23 – 26) HIS CONTINUATION OF HIS REQUEST TO GOD

 

  1. (23 – 24a)   Stop his pending death
  2. (24b – 26)   God’s immortality compared to man’s mortality

 

  1. (27 – 28)   HIS CERTAIN HOPE IN GOD

 

  1. vs. 27       Hope in the unchanging eternal God
  2. vs. 28       Hope in the promise of God’s eternal presence with his people

 

  1. (1 – 2)   HIS CALL TO GOD

 

  1. vs. 1     His cry to God

The writer of Psalm 102 starts his prayer to God as many former laments begin with a desperate cry to God,

Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to you”

 This writer not only pours out his heart to God in prayer he uses all the way through his Psalm or lament wording and concepts from parts of the scriptures he was obviously very familiar with. This cry to God is reminiscent of the wording of Psalm 5 verse 2,

“Listen to my cry for help”

 And Psalm 18: 6,

“In my distress I called to the Lord, I cried to my God for help”.

 Not that he believed God does not listen to the prayers of his people as he later says in verse 17,

“He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea”.

Note how the Psalmist does not keep his pain and conflict locked up inside of him as many do which leads to many people suffering mental damage and often leads to some of them taking their very lives. What he is doing is very good therapy as bottling up pain and conflict is simply not a healthy way to deal with it.

When my wife was about to give birth to our first child she spoke of how a number of migrant women screamed very loudly as they went through the pain of child birth which most Anglo Saxon background women usually sought to avoid. Maybe our pain more openly expressed is better for us than trying to show how tough we are bearing that pain by holding it in.

The writer of Psalm 102 had no qualms in telling God loudly and honestly how much pain he was in, as we will see from the next section of this Psalm. As I said in the opening section Paul taught we should turn our anxiety or mental pain into prayer and that this is exactly what God wants us to do, Philippians 4: 6,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”.

How we can cry out to God when in pain with thanksgiving is I believe by acknowledging all that God has done for us in Christ and all that God will do for us in Christ in the future when he will take us to heaven which Revelation 21: 3 – 4 speaks of,

“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. ‘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.”

 With that kind of hope in mind we can present our pain and worries to God in prayer with thanksgiving.

  1. vs. 2     The urgent need for an answer

This prayerful cry to God for help in Psalm 102 continues with these words,

“Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress”.

 The writer obviously believes God listens to prayer and answers it but the expression,

“Do not hide your face from me”.

Is said because like Job, the most well known Godly sufferer when pain and strife go on for a time the thought will always be God is not seeing our pain or God has deserted us in our pain which in Old Testament terms is he has turned his face from us as Job claims in Job 13: 24,

“Why do you hide your face and consider me your enemy?”

This writer seems not only very familiar with Psalms written before his time but the words and ideas in the book of Job. Maybe he is a Jewish scribe taken into exile or rather born in exile and trained extensively in the scriptures of the Jews.

David Guzik writes,

“When he had the sense that God’s favor and face were evident, then affliction could be endured”.

This realization does come about as we will see unto the third section of this Psalm but for now he needs God to turn to him and give him a answer and in the second part of verse 2 he needs an answer urgently as we read him praying these words,

“Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly”.

Why did he need an urgent answer to his prayer?

This becomes clear from what he says in verse 11,

“My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass”.

 Words like this and other expressions later in the Psalm indicate that the writer believes he is very close to death and so his need for help and healing is very urgent. We will look later at why he wants an extension of life but for now he needs God to listen to his cry and turn to him in his distress to help him.

From time to time we have been asked to pray for people in our church who seem close to death and some have advocated we should pray for a miracle so that the person in question might be come out of what seems their terminal illness and be healed. Others have prayed that God comfort them as they move through the trial of death.

I have thought the best thing we can do for these people is ask that they know God’s presence and help as they face whatever God has planned for them, even a miraculous recovery, if this be his will but if not that Jesus would be with them helping them carry the burden of their illness as he promises to do 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.”

Also I would like to point out that when Paul speaks of turning our anxieties, whatever they might be into prayers he does not go on to say God will necessarily take what caused the anxieties away from us, although that could be what will happen, no what Paul believes God will give us is expressed so beautifully in Philippians 4: 7,

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

Paul says that God promises his peace, peace I like to call, “Peace to cope” and this after all is the best thing God can give us as we face the many trials and difficulties of life even the great trial and difficulty of death which we all must face one day unless we are part of the return of Christ before death comes to us.

  1. (3 – 11)   HIS COMPLAINT TO GOD

The writer now pours out his heart to the Lord expressing the great pain he is suffering from, I think, two sources, one some kind of life threatening illness and the pain associated with being a prisoner in the Babylonian which could be just being part of exile Jews.

We will be looking at three kinds of pain in this outpouring of this writer’s heart to God,

  1. Physical pain caused by his affliction
  2. The social pain caused by his enemies
  3. The spiritual pain of God’s discipline

So lets then have a closer look at each of these:

  1. (3 – 7)   The physical pain caused by his affliction

The first pain the writer of Psalm 102 pours out to God in prayer is his crippling physical pain. Let me now try and open up each of these five verses to reveal the extent of the physical pain he was experiencing.

Verse. 3 – Pain makes him feel useless and consumes him to the core.

“For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers”.

The effects of his fever can be seen in the images of fire in idea of smoke and burning. He obviously is really hurting and he first indicates in this verse that his physical pain makes him feel useless. He seems unable to do anything in his day to day life but experience pain.

I have not had to face yet an illness or ailment that gave me continuous pain and suffering. I do remember, of course experiencing pain from time to time in my life and one time that comes to mind is when I was 15 and broke my wrist playing rugby at school. My mum was called to the school, which took her over an hour to come to the school and take me to the hospital, and then I waited over two hours in the emergency ward to be attended to. The pain seemed unbearable and I sat rocking two and throw howling in pain yet the doctors and nurses seemed to just ignore my suffering.

Pain like this writer speaks of would make him feel useless as he expresses with the phrase,

“For my days vanish like smoke”.

Note his pain was not just a couple of hours like my broken wrist experience but “for days”. It was a prolonged period of pain and he lets God through prayer just how bad this experience is. He again seems to draw his images from his bible as we read in Psalm 37: 20,

“But the wicked will perish: The Lord’s enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish – vanish like smoke”.

If he had this verse in mind then he is also feeling that he is being treated like a enemy of God and not a faithful servant of God. This was the dilemma of Job who suffered such great pain and distress and his friends told him that this could only come from God because God was treating him as a wayward sinner.

Interestingly the next phrase in verse 3 comes straight from the book of Job, Job 4: 14,

“Fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake”

The writer of Psalm 102 puts this idea this way,

“ My bones burn like glowing anger”.

Our writer of Psalm 102 has not got shaking bones but burning bones which to me is saying that the burning pain seems to be at his core, his bones which indicates that his pain was a deep seated and all embracing pain which overwhelmed his wretched body.

I have seen friends and family suffer the pain of cancer and my father – in law some years ago had to inject himself with morphine as he suffered the crippling pain of lung and throat cancer which reduced his once robust strong body to just skin and bones. His agony was for my wife and I something that reduced us both to tears and his passing a couple weeks later ended up being a blessing as he was finally out of pain and we hoped in the arms of the Lord in heaven.

Pain and death, sadly are part of the results of sin as Paul puts it simply in Romans 6: 23,

“The wages of sin is death”

However for the Christian, who will suffer death like the non – believer but unlike the non- believer has a great hope beyond there death as Paul goes on to say in Romans 6: 23,

“But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Verse 4 – Pain breaks his heart and causes him to stop eating food

The writer continues to pour out his heart to the Lord expressing his great physical pain with the words,

“My heart is blighted and withered like grass”

The heart in the Old Testament is the inner – self or seat of our being and this man is saying that he heart is blighted and the English Standard Version translate “Blighted” as “Struck down” or we could even say broken or broken down. He feels physically crushed in his heart and draws on another expression from Psalm 37, this time verse 2 which says,

“For like grass they will soon witherr, like green plants they will soon die away”.

This man like David lived in the Middle East and Tremper Longman 111 points out,

“Grass is short lived and under the hot sun of Palestine (Middle East) loses life, turns yellow and shrivels up”.

His pain simply makes him feel deeply crushed and the image of withered grass tells us he feels close to death.

Then he says in his prayer to God,

“I forget to eat food”.

This is common to people who are very sick and in a lot of pain they loose their appetite and stop eating food. I know this even from own experience and it is common for people who are seriously ill to loose massive amounts of weight from their forced physical fasting.

In verse 9 he speaks of ashes being his food and tears his drink and all this reveals how this man is in deep in pain and sorrow like the Son of Korah who wrote of this Psalm 42 when he speaks of his painful experience of depression in verse 3 of that Psalm, which reads,

“My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God’.

Again I am struck by this mans ability to pour out his heart and mind to the Lord telling him of the terrible pain he is experiencing.

Verse 5 – The pain and groaning that leads to massive weight loss

What he says in verse 5 seems a natural out come of what he has just said about not eating food as he prays,

“Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones”.

His physical pain caused by his serious illness has caused him to stop eating and naturally he is now reduced to skin and bone, which means he has experienced massive weight loss.

As I said earlier I saw this with my very own eyes in the terminal illness of my father – in law as he quickly went from being a big and strong man in his early sixties to a tall thin and withered man of skin and bones. He was almost un – recognizable when my wife and I visited him two weeks before his death to lung and throat cancer and we spent a couple of agonizing days staying with him trying to desperately comfort him in his terrible pain.

The local Anglican minister spent some time with him praying for him before he died and he shared with him God’s Gospel message and he told my wife and I at his funeral that he believed he did turn to the Lord in those final days of his life and did receive some measure of inner peace and hope as his life sadly left him like smoke from a burning fire as the writer of Psalm 102 put it in verse 3.

Verse 6 –7- The pain of loneliness in his suffering

The writer then pours out to God his feelings of loneliness, which many say they feel when they experience great pain when they were sick, he writes,

“I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins”.

Interestingly Allan Harman points out that the owl is one of the unclean birds spoken of in Leviticus 11: 17 but the owl is probably more than likely chosen because of its solitary nature which also fits the expression,

“Like an owl among the ruins”

And the expression in verse 7,

“Like a bird alone on a roof”.

Maybe as he prayed this prayer he looked out of his window and saw an owl on a roof top next to his house and this put into his mind a picture of how he felt in his painful illness, all alone and needing the comfort of his Lord through friends and family.

In my Psalm 6 talk I speak of the story of Lea Hatcher a famous Australian TV presenter and Christian who experienced the pain and strife of the sickness called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and how he found that the best help he had during his two agonizing years of this illness was the company of Christian friends who simply sat with him offering prayer and encouragement.

The writer of Psalm 102, like Job did not receive this kind of help but we will see that like Leigh Hatcher also got from some of his visitors some harsh words and advice from non – believers and sadly sometime like Job, miss- directed advice from so called Godly people. People who told Leigh to either pull himself together and get up out of bed and back to work or worse than that advice that said if he had prayed a little harder and had a little more faith he would be healed.

Job’s friends with their miss- guided words of advice only acted as another tool of torment from his already long list of instruments of pain. Sometimes when we are really sick we want to be left alone as other people around us only make us feel the pain even more but to be left totally alone is a recipe for feeling like our writer does as he describes it in verse 7,

“I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof”.

One final word on offering supportive comfort to people we know who are suffering pain of some kind is found in the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 6,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer”.

  1. (8 – 9)   The social pain caused by his enemies

In addition to his physical pain caused directly, I believe because of his illness he has the pain of torment from his enemies and being an exile in a foreign land like Babylon he would have had many. He writes in verse 8,

“All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse”.

Jason Jackson makes it clear what this social pain for this pious Jew in a foreign land like Babylon would have been like when he is seen to be so chronically ill, he writes,

“In a culture where ill health was regarded as divine punishment for sins, he has found himself ostracized and persecuted. Rivals seized the opportunity to taunt him and misuse his name”.

This verse reminds me greatly of Job who suffered greatly because God wanted to show Satan that his faith was genuine and yet all Job got from what was his so called friends was constant arguments that Job had sinned greatly as his sickness and misfortune was great. Jobs friend Eliphaz says this to Job in Job 22: 4 – 5,

“Is it for your piety that he rebukes you and brings charges against you?
Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless?”

The teaching and advice from Jobs friends was sound biblical teaching but when it was applied to Jobs suffering as its cause and remedy it was foolishness as Job was not suffering because of his sins and therefore Jobs friends advice was only a further instrument of pain that Job had to bear.

In our writer of Psalm 102 his painful social taunts came more likely from non – believers who took the opportunity to kick a good man when he was down and they used another social weapon against him expressed in the words of verse 9b,

Those who rail against me use my name as a curse”.

I have often wondered why non – believers choose to use the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as a curse or swear word. These are people who refuse to acknowledge his existence and dam anyone who believe in him yet his name is the one they choose to curse and swear with.

Maybe the answer can be found to this quandary of mine in the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 2: 15 and 16,

“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life”.

The next time I hear a non – believer use the name of Christ as a swear word I will ask why do you choose to use that name to curse someone or something and I might be surprised what there answer will be.

For this man his very name was used as a curse which might be because many Jews had names that included the name of their God or some aspect of their faith then the curse was a curse against the God he continued to have faith in even in the face of terrible illness.

He concludes his physical and social pain with the words of verse 9, which says,

“For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears”

It was not uncommon for ancient Hebrews to sit in ashes or dust when they sought the Lord when being disciplined by him and a excellent example of this is Job in Job 2: 8,

“Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes”.

So as this pious Jew suffers what he calls in the next verse God’s great wrath or discipline he sits in ashes and as he does he feels the powdery ashes falling on his lips and having given up eating sees this as his only food. As he pours out his heart to the Lord with tears he sees these as part of what he is drinking. He is greatly suffering and he is telling God just what he is feeling and thinking as he suffers.

  1. (10 – 11) The spiritual pain caused by God’s discipline

Having completed pouring out his heart to God in a description of his physical and social pain he now speaks of his spiritual pain in the words of verse 10,

“Because of your great wrath for you have taken me up and thrown me aside”.

All of the Old Testament writers seemed to associate great sickness and miss- fortune as the discipline of the Lord. In David’s Psalm 6 seemingly written one day when he was very physically ill he prays to God with these words in verses 1 – 3,

“Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?”

David is seeing his sickness as the wrath of God against him in discipline and the writer of Psalm 102 views his great illness the same way. It is the book of Job that throws doubt in the Old Testament that suffering sickness and calamity of various kinds is always the result of God’s judgment against sin. Job was not suffering because of his sin but his suffering was a test of his faith.

The New Testament will give us yet another two reasons why we might suffer and they are:

  1. We might suffer to glorify God as we see in the teaching of Jesus when confronted by the questions about why we might suffer in this life in John 9. We read this in John 9: 1 – 3,

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

      3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that  

   the works of God might be displayed in this life”. 

  1. We might suffer because we are living in a fallen world as Paul speaks of in Romans 8: 18 – 21,

“ 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”.

However the writer of Psalm 102 takes the Old Testament teaching that suffering comes as a result of the discipline or judgment of the Lord on the chin and therefore feels great spiritual pain as a result. His feeling is that God has simply thrown him away as we see in the words in verse 10 that says,

“You have taken me up and thrown me away”.

However both the Old and New Testament teaches us that for a true believer of God the Lord only disciplines those he loves as we see in the Old Testament in Proverbs 3: 11 – 12 and those words are taken up in Hebrews 12 and made even clearer that God disciplines us because he loves us and uses this discipline to actually help us, Hebrews 12: 5 – 10,

“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.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness”.

He concludes this second section which is the complaint section of his lament with verse 11, which seems to be saying his illness is leading to his certain death,

“My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass”

Albert Barnes explains the meaning and significance of the image of the “evening shadow” with these words,

“The shadow made by the gnomon on the sun – dial, which marks the hours as they pass. The idea is that the shadow made by the descending sun was about to disappear altogether. It had become less distinct and clear, and it would soon vanish”.

A more modern expression or image might be the saying, “Your time is up” and of course this image means that the writer of Psalm 102 felt he was very close to death made even clearer by the last image of withering grass,

“I wither away like grass”.

  1. (12 – 22) HIS CONFESSION OF FAITH IN GOD

 

  1. vs. 12     God enthroned in heaven

Following Jason Jackson theory of the structure of a lament we come to his third aspect of a lament which Jackson calls the confession of trust and the writer of Psalm 102 has two aspects to his confession of trust and the first is in verse 12 which declares that he sees and believes that God reigns in heaven,

“But you, O Lord sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations”.

So even though this man is experiencing great pain physically, socially and spiritually his faith in God remained strong and this is because he has a big view of God. One of my bibles college lecturers many years ago told us that if we want a bigger faith in God than we need to gain a bigger view of God. In other words the size of our faith in God is determined not by how much we might work up an emotional response to God but how big our view of God is.

The writer of Psalm 102 like those who wrote the Psalms 93 – 100 saw God as the heavenly king of everything. God sits on his throne in heaven and rules. On many occasions in Psalms 93 – 100 we read the words,

“The Lord reigns”

Psalm 97, for instance starts with the words,

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

Why did the writer of Psalm 102 in the midst of his great pain think of God reigning in heaven?

I think he had at least two reasons to think of this:

  1. Being a post exile Jew God is now there king alone.

I have presented in all my Psalms in the fourth book of Psalms the fact that these Psalms were placed in the fourth book of Psalms after the return from exile in Babylon when the eternal kingdom promised to David’s descendants seemed lost.

This is because the line of David kings seemed over as the last direct David line of Kings died in exile. Yet the post exile Psalms or those placed in the post exile fourth book of Psalms present God in heaven as the king of Israel and the world reigning as king and suggest that one day a great descendant of David would come to establish the throne of David for all eternity.

We saw a prediction of the coming king as judge in Psalm 96: 13,

“They will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth, He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth”.

We will see some clear ideas of the coming of a great future king in verses like 16 and 17 of this Psalm,

“For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea”.

So in the post Babylon Psalm collections both book four and five God is the king who rules from heaven or as verse 12 of this Psalm says,

“Sits enthroned forever”.

This then gave men like the writer of Psalm 102 great faith and hope as their God is the king of everything and everyone and that thought helped them face the many trials of life.

  1. The writer of Psalm 102 needs answers to his long exile in Babylon

The second reason why the writer of Psalm 102 found comfort and hope in the idea that his God reigns forever in heaven as we will now see that this man’s suffering was not just his terrible illness but also was the pain in body and soul he had from being part of a people locked up in exile in Babylon for over 70 years.

This is what he will tell us in verse 20 of this Psalm,

“To hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death”.

The writer of Psalm 102 is writing before the return from exile so he and his fellow Jews were like prisoners in another far off land when their homeland of Israel lay in ruins. Maybe this writer’s illness was a result of being literally locked up in Babylon or was a result of torture he received at the hands of his Babylonian over- Lords.

So in this context the idea that his God sat enthroned in heaven over even the powerful Babylonians who were now suppressing him and his people gave him hope and faith to endure knowing his God would release him and his people one day soon and return them to their beloved homeland.

Paul spoke of true deep happiness, which he called contentment even as he was locked up in prison. He wrote for instance about this to the Philippians in a letter written from inside a Roman prison, Philippians 4: 10 – 13,

“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

The writer of Psalm 102 is implying something like this when as he endures great physical, social and spiritual pain that he can lift his eyes to God and say,

“But you, O Lord sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations”.

Even his generation of his people who are at present locked up in the city and land of Babylon and humanly speaking have no hope.

  1. (13 – 22) God will restore his people

So we now see even more clearly that the writer of Psalm 102 sufferings of pain was not just because of some kind of physical illness but included or was associated with the fact that he was part of a nation of people who were locked up as exiles like prisoners in the great pagan city of Babylon thousands of miles away from their beloved homeland that lay in ruins.

So his second confession of faith in verse 13 is,

“You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her: the appointed time has come”.

This writer really knew the Hebrew scriptures as we have already seen from the fact he quoted or at least alluded to ideas or wordings from the book of Psalms and Job written before his time and now he seems to be aware of a famous prophets prediction concerning the Jews exile in Babylon, which is from the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 29: 10 and 11,

“This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

 Interestingly this prophecy concerning the Jews return from exile was part of a letter written by the prophet Jeremiah to the Jewish exiles in Babylon as Jeremiah 29: 1 says,

The surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon”.

It appears this writer was part of this group of people or more likely the son of one of these people Jeremiah wrote to. I say son because the writer of Psalm 102 indicates in verse 23 his life is about to be cut short indicating he was not an old person but relatively young.

So the writer of Psalm 102 expects this return from exile to happen soon as he says in verse 13,

“For the time to her, the appointed time has come”.

This promise of a return to the Promised Land gave him great hope and faith to hold on in the midst of great suffering.

But as we will see in the next section his actual request to God in prayer is that his life not end now so maybe he wanted God to let him see that return to his peoples former homeland.

The New Testament indicates we too might have to suffer because of our faith in Christ as we wait for the Lords return or go to be with the Lord forever when we pass from this life to be with the Lord. I quoted before Paul’s word on this in Romans 8: 18 – 21 but Peter has something similar to say to what Paul taught in one of his letters, 1 Peter 4: 12 – 13,

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed”.

The New Testament also teaches that even in our suffering God is with us, helping us and as Philippians 4: 7 says, giving us his peace, which passes all understanding.

The writer of Psalm 102 in the next seven verses speaks of three things concerning this great hope.

  1. He and his people feelings for there former homeland (vs. 14)
  2. How the return from exile will be a witness of God’s power and glory to the world (vs. 15 – 16, 18 and 21 and 22)
  3. How this act of God is a direct answer to his people’s prayers (vs. 17 and vs. 19 – 20)

Lets then have a closer look at these three great things the Jews return from exile will achieve:

  1. He and his people feelings for there former homeland (vs. 14)

The first thing this writer speaks of concerning this soon to be fulfilled promise of God of the return of the Jews to Israel is in verse 14,

“For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves her to pity”.

 The old expression is, “There’s no place like home”, which of course is a key line from the movie “The Wizard of OZ” comes to mind here. When my wife and I have travelled to many places in our own beautiful country of Australia or many other fascinating places in the world we always love coming home and our home and home town where we live is the place we love to be in this life.

For the Jew like our writer of Psalm 102 even the dusty ruins of his homeland were dear to him and his fellow countrymen as that homeland was God’s special gift to his people the Jews. There in that place, even in ruins was the place God revealed himself to them and in a special way they felt close to God in it. As the writer of Psalm 48 put it in verses 1 – 3,

“Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy

mountain.Beautiful in its loftiness the joy of the whole earth, like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress”.

Of course the writer of Psalm 102 acknowledges that the city described in Psalm 48 is now only ruins and dust but he and his people still love the place because they love the God it represents. He of course knew that one day soon his people would go back there and rebuild that city as he speaks of in verse 16,

“For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory”.

Peter teaches in 1 Peter 2: 11 that as Christians we are aliens and strangers in this world,

“I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world”

For our real home is in heaven as Jesus makes it clear in John 14: 1 -3,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”.

So as Christians as the old song says,

“This world is not my home I am just a passing through”.

So we might love where we live on earth but our real place we should all look forward to is our home with Christ in heaven, that is the place we should all long to one day just as the writer of Psalm 102 longed to be in Zion or Jerusalem.

  1. How the return from exile will be a witness of God’s power and glory to the world (vs. 15 – 16, 18 and 21 and 22)

The writer of Psalm 102 then looks forward to what this certain return to his homeland will do to the nations around Israel and he sees that this great miraculous turn of events for the downtrodden nation of Israel will make these nations sit up and take notice that their God is great and glorious, verses 15 – 16,

“The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. 16 For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory”.

The writer of Psalm 102 uses the word, “Fear” meaning they will have reverence for this God who first judged his people by sending them into exile and then worked history so that they could return and rebuild the former glory of his special place on earth, Zion or Jerusalem.

I have often wondered why the Jews over many centuries have been hated so much and have concluded that it could be that non – Jewish people are jealous of the many blessings God has given his special people.

As Christians we are part of the New Israel that through what Christ has done on the cross has brought us into his kingdom as Paul teaches in Galatians 3: 26 – 29,

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

Christians like the Jews also are often persecuted because they are so blessed by God and it has been my experience that people I know who have truly come to the Lord have had their lives turned around and have become greatly blessed, even in this life and that has been a great witness to the God they now believe in.

In verse 18 he speaks of his desire for this fulfilment of God’s promise to be written down for future generations to read and know,

“Let this be written for future generations, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord”.

This is the only place in the Psalms where what the Psalmist is thinking is to be actually written down for future prosperity.

This Psalmist no doubt wrote down his Psalm which future editors after the return from exile granted his desire or wish by including his written down Lament or Psalm in the fourth book of Psalms.

The New Testament speaks of why scripture was written down in a verses like 2 Timothy 3: 16 – 17,

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

The details of the return from exile also appear in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah which, like the writer desired have been read by future generations not yet created and will be read by generations or people not yet created after my generation has passed on as well.

In verses 21 – 22, the writer of Psalm 102 speaks more about the witness to the world that God’s return of his people to Israel from Babylon will bring to the world at large,

“So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem 22 when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord”.

This look ahead by the writer of Psalm 102 was in one sense something that happened around 500 years before the coming of Christ as the name of the Lord was again declared in Zion or Jerusalem and as I have just said we can read about this in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Even a gathering of people from kingdoms of the world gathered to worship the Lord as Jews who were scattered all over the world were able to return to Israel to worship the Lord.

However these two verses could also be seen as a prophecy for the distant future that through the work of Christ in bringing salvation to the world and when he returns in his glory to judge the world and take all who truly believe in him to glory in the new heavenly Jerusalem then these words will be totally fulfilled as we see in Revelations 7: 9 – 12,

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

 “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

 “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength

be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

  1. How this act of God is a direct answer to his people’s prayers (vs. 17 and vs. 19 – 20)

The writer of Psalm 102 then acknowledges the role that the prayers of his people played in the return from exile in Babylon and writes in verse 17,

“He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea”.

 Then in verses 19 – 20 he speaks of God answering his people’s desperate prayers for God’s help to escape the long exile in Babylon,

“The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death”.

 Interestingly the writer of Psalm 102 speaks of the people as prisoners and those condemned to death maybe that is his plight or are an image of how he saw what exile in Babylon was actually like.

So as the people suffered in exile like they suffered in slavery in Egypt they cried out to God in prayer and God said this to Moses at the burning bush, Exodus 3: 7 – 8,

“The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites”.

Now God sees from heaven the plight of his people and their groans or cries to him for help and he enters yet again into human history to save them and deliver them back to that same land he gave the people of Israel in Moses time.

These verses are telling us that our prayers to God do not go unnoticed and in fact in the New Testament we have many promises that God not only hears our prayers but answers them as well, like Matthew 7: 7 – 11,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

  1. (23 – 26) HIS CONTINUATION OF HIS REQUEST TO GOD

 

  1. (23 – 24)   Stop his pending death

Jason Jackson says that all laments contain a petition or a specific request from God and verses 23 – 24 I think is the writer of Psalms 102 actual prayer request.

So buoyed by his acknowledgement of how God listens to our prayers and answers them the writer of Psalm 102 now makes his request to God and he prays, in verses 23 – 24,

“In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days. So I said; ‘Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations”.

What is our writer of Psalm 102 actually asking God to do for him?

I believe he is saying in verse 23 that he believes he is dying and is very close to death which is what the words in verse 23 is saying,

“In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days”

The idea of cutting short his days means he is not an old man and the breaking of his strength seems to be saying his illness has weekend him so much he is close to death. So he asks God to not take his life away from him in verse 24a,

“So I said; ‘Do not take me away”.

David Guzik writes,

“Overwhelmed by both his sense of great weakness in affliction, and by the sense of God’s greatness and ultimate victory, the Psalmist did the right thing, He cried out in prayer, pleading for God’s merciful help”.

Why I think he wants an extension of his life seems to be connected to what he has just opened up namely the return of his people the Jews from exile to their beloved homeland. It seems to me he feels he will not personally see the Promised Land himself something Moses had to bear as well. Moses was stopped by God by his death from entering the Promised Land and only saw it from high up on a mountain overlooking the Promised Land.

Moses viewed the Promised Land from that mountain and there God promises to take Moses to be with him and his people in Heaven, Deuteronomy 32: 50,

“There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people”.

We all have a date set by God for us to depart from this life and as the saying goes,

“When your times up there is nothing you can do about it”

We, who have faith in God through Christ however have much hope given to us in the face of our certain deaths and I cannot go past Jesus amazing words in John 11: 25 – 26 as an expression of this hope,

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Death for the believer is but a doorway into a better existence and this is what Jesus is speaking of in Revelation 3: 20,

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me”.

Some say this verse relates more in its context to the door of the church where Jesus is knocking to come in but the next verse makes it clear he is speaking about coming into his presence and particularly after death, verse 21,

“To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne”

  1. (24b – 26)   God’s immortality compared to man’s mortality

We do not know if God answered the prayer of the writer of Psalm 102 for an extension of his life but he continues to show us his great faith in God. Thinking of how short his life is as he faces certain death he speaks of the immortality of God, that God’s days go on and on, 24b.

“Your years go on through all generations”.

Albert Barnes explains the significance of this statement in the context of his request for an extension of his life with these words,

“The psalmist appeals to what God himself enjoyed – as a reason why life – so great a blessing – should be granted to him a little longer”.

It is as though he is saying you are eternal God so could you give me out of your abundance of days just a few more. So as he saw the coming blessing of God in the return to his beloved homeland of Israel and its city of God, Jerusalem, he asks God to spare his life so he could see it himself.

This leads the Psalmist to then reflect on the immortality of God in contrast to the mortality of man and all creation. He goes back to the beginning of creation in his thoughts on this as says in verse 25,

“In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands”.

This man who seems to know the Hebrew scripture’s so well combines two great verses concerning the creation.

The first is very first verse of the bible, Genesis 1: 1,

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”

The second is one of David’s creation Psalms, Psalm 8: 3,

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers”

Its not stated but certainly implied even before there was a creation God existed and this is where John starts his account of creation in John 1: 1 and 2, speaking of God and his word which John 1: 14 says is Jesus become flesh,

“In the beginning was he Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, He was with God in the beginning”.

The Jehovah witness bible miss- translates the term was God to was a God to try and destroy the divinity of Christ but Jesus is God and is eternal as Revelation 1: 8 makes clear,

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

The Lord God here is certainly Jesus himself as John has been just speaking of him in verse 7, where he writes,

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen”.

So God is eternal and has endless days but our writer contrasts this with what we are like and the rest of creation is like in verse 26,

“They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded”.

Creation and of course our lives which are part of that are just like clothing our writer of Psalm 102 says, they wear out and we get new ones, they come and go and when they go we throw them away.

I personally have great difficulty throwing out old and comfortable clothes but my wife is ruthless and she makes me go through my old clothes and bundle them up.

We usually pass them on the local Salvation Army second hand shop but I guess most of my old clothes are so warn out they are sent on to become industrial rags.

Life for us as mortal human beings comes and goes and our writer of Psalm 102 is acknowledging this in his request for an extension of his days in this fleeting life.

The writer to the Hebrews quotes verses 25 – 27 in his opening chapter verses 10 – 12 in speaking about the superiority of Jesus over everything including the Angels in heaven so we have another scripture that points to the divinity of Christ. David Guzik raps up the main thought of this section with these words,

“Amidst the changes and chances of this mortal life, one topic of consolation will ever remain, namely, the eternity and immutability of God our Savior, of him who was, and is, and is to come.”

  1. (27 – 28)   HIS CERTAIN HOPE IN GOD

 

  1. vs. 27       Hope in the unchanging eternal God

We come then to the fifth aspect of Jason Jackson’s theory of the structure of an Old Testament Lament, which he calls “Words of assurance, and a vow to praise”. The last two verses certainly fit the description of words of assurance and so far as words of praise in this lament they are certainly implied in the last verse but not clearly stated like many other examples of Laments in the book of Psalms.

Our writer of Psalm 102 raps up his thoughts on God’s eternal nature with his second final thought and hope with verse 27, which says,

“But you remain the same, and your years will never end”.

 This verse is an echo of what our writer has already said about God in verse 12,

But you, O Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations”.

 Psalm 48: 14, speaks of God as the eternal God who promises to guide us even up to our deaths or as the verse says “the end”.

“For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end”.

 The Old Testament believers like our writer of Psalm 102 had a less clear understanding of life after death than we have but they still did believe they were going to be with God and his people when they died. As Moses was told at the end of his life that when he dies somehow he would go to be, “gathered to your people”, as we read in Deuteronomy 32: 50,

“There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people”.

The Jewish concept of being in the bosom of Abraham (Abrahams side in Luke 16: 22) comes from the idea that if Abraham was close to God now then to be close to Abraham when we die is to be close to God as well.

However the New Testament and the teaching of Jesus makes life after death much more clearer and Jesus even teaches his disciples that he was going back to heaven after his death and resurrection to prepare a place or a home for us when we die, John 14: 1 – 4.

So the writer of Psalm 102 had a sure and certain faith in his eternal God who will never end and therefore will always be there for him. Paul had the same confidence in Christ and his love for us, Romans 8: 38 – 39,

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

  1. vs. 28       Hope in the promise of God’s eternal presence with his people

The final verse and thought of the Psalm fleshes out what I believe the writer of this Psalm was starting to say in the previous verse. This ending to the Psalm is typical of all Lament Psalms. The lament Psalms start on a low and negative note but finish on a high and positive note often in praise of the God they are praying to.

The writer of Psalm 102 finishes his Lament with the positive words of assurance that say,

“The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you”.

 The idea here of living in God’s presence probably has the thought of God’s people living back in Zion, Jerusalem where God had promised to dwell forever with his people, as expressed in many Psalms like Psalm 68: 16,

“Why gaze in envy, you rugged mountain, at the mountain where God chooses to reign, where the Lord himself will dwell forever?”

Zion or Jerusalem is where, in the Old Testament God’s presence is specially found but we know that Jews like David and other Psalm writers like son’s of Korah believed that Zion was only a physical reminder of the truth that God promises to dwell with his people any where they might be found.

David had a special realization of this in Psalm 61 where he seems to be out in the desert areas of Israel, probably on the run from his son Absalom as he writes, Psalm 61: 1 – 3,

“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe”.

So the writer of Psalm 102 looks ahead beyond his death and sees hope by faith as he has the vision of his children and the generations to come always being in the presence of God and therefore he to one way or another will always be in God’s presence.

We have according to Peter in 1 Peter 1: 3 – 5, a living hope of eternal life with God through the mercy of God offered to us through Christ through his death and resurrection,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”.

CONCLUSION

I started this Psalm talk with the dilemma I had about whether asking God in prayer for a parking spot was right or wrong and I concluded that based on Philippians 4: 6 that God wants us to turn any of our anxieties into prayers and he might not take away that which causes us to be anxious but he will according to verse 7 give us his peace in the midst of our troubles.

I then pointed out that the writer of Psalm 102 wrote a lament, which followed a structure of going from addressing God to a complaint and then a confession of trust, a request and then a final word of assurance and praise as pointed out by Jason Jackson.

The writer of Psalm 102 had far worse problems to deal with than not being able to find a parking spot in a busy shopping centre car park as he suffered a painful life threatening illness and was caught up in a cruel captivity with his people in Babylon.

We read of how he poured out his heart to God telling him how he was suffering and asking him eventually for an extension of his life as he was close to death.

We then saw the faith and hope of this writer as he took hold of the promises of God, particularly the promise to bring his people, the Jews, back to his Promised Land, Israel and its eternal city of Jerusalem.

He finally came to a renewed understanding of the eternal nature of God who he trusted and believed in to lead him and future generations into God’s prescience forever.

We finally learnt that this points us to our great hope in Christ, which through his death, and resurrection we have a way into God’s presence, which he gives us out of his great mercy and love.

We can learn then that we should never be afraid to come to God in prayer and if we do we will as Philippians 4: 7 find,

“The peace of God, which transcends all understanding” Which will, Guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

 I close as usual with and original poem based on this Psalm and a prayer:

LISTEN TO ME O LORD (Based on Psalm 102)

 

Listen to me O Lord

Listen to my cry

Do not hide your face O Lord

Answer quickly for I soon will die.

 

Listen to me O Lord

For I’m in so much pain

My fever burns me up

And is causing my life to drain.

 

Chorus:

 

I know you are the king of Heaven

I know you are the God of love

You sent Jesus so we could be forgiven

One day with him I will rise above.

 

Listen to me O Lord

I’m a ghost of my former self

My illness has killed my apatite

I feel like a bird on a shelf.

Listen to me O Lord

My enemies are kicking me while I’m down.

They have made my name a curse

And I’m wallowing in the dust of the ground.

 

Chorus:

 

I know your word does promise

That you will give me your peace

So ask you Lord give me solace

So I might find your sweet release.

 

Listen to me O Lord

For I am a prisoner of my pain

I long to be free to join again

The people who honour your name.

 

Listen to me O Lord

May I live just a little more

So I can proclaim your message Lord

To all people to answer your call.

 

Chorus:

 

I know you are the eternal God

Who reigns forever above

But my life is like the grass that dies

Give me life O great God of love.

Yes give me life O great God of love.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Lord I know you are a God of love so I bring to you my problems and difficulties and ask you to help me deal with these. I claim your promise that Paul gave us in Philippians 4 that we should not become anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving we should present it to you and if we do you will give us your peace, which transcends all understanding. So I earnestly ask for your peace in the midst of my problems in the Name of Jesus Christ my Lord and Savoir Amen.

PSALM 101 TALK: A RESOLUTION FOR LIVING IN GOD’S KINGDOM

PSALM 101 TALK: A RESOLUTION FOR LIVING IN GOD’S KINGDOM

 (A Psalm that explores how God wants us to live as part of his great kingdom established by the Lord Jesus Christ our King and savior. How we are to shun all evil and battle against the spiritual influence of godless forces in our daily lives.)

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

INTRODUCTION

 Many people on the 31st of December each year sit down and make resolutions for the coming year, which they will put into practice once the old year has finished at 12 o’clock or midnight that year. Resolutions like going on a diet or giving up smoking or even trying to be a better ourselves. We call this New Years resolutions.

Another form of resolutions is what is called “Vision Statements” and recently the church I currently attend spent a number of months reviewing its “Vision Statement” and then fleshed out ways the new revised vision statement would be played out in the life of our church in the days ahead.

I have not made many New Years resolutions in my life so far but I have often tried to work out goals for my life, which have usually ended up forming a kind of set of resolutions for my life ahead. I particularly did this at the start of my jobs as a Youth Minister years ago. I can even remember one ministry I was involved in which started with me setting down on paper my vision and resolutions for my ministry ahead for the members of my ministry committee which had employed me for the work I was about to start for the Lord.

What should be our resolutions for living the Christian life or living in the Kingdom of God?

Psalm 101 has been called “Pious Resolutions” (Spurgeon) and I would add to this title, “Pious Resolutions of the King and his Kingdom” and the king would probably have been David as the Hebrew heading for this Psalm indicates this was a Psalm written by David.

David probably wrote this Psalm early in his reign and probably in the years between being crowned king of Judah and seven years later crowned king of all of Israel. David then had conquered, with God’s help the city of Jerusalem and made it the Capitol of Israel and sought to turn it into the city of the Lord as it is described in this Psalm verse 8 and Psalms like Psalm 48.

David had live through what became the evil reign of King Saul and had suffered at the hands of wicked Godless men like King Saul who sought to destroy him out of pride and jealousy. So David sets down in Psalm 101 his resolutions for his reign as God’s king of God’s Kingdom Israel.

The other interesting piece of background information is the fact that this Psalm came to be in the book of Psalms during the post Babylonian exile period when the fourth book of Psalms we believe was put together. This raises two intriguing questions for me:

  1. Why did it take nearly 500 years for this Psalm to be placed in the book of Psalms?
  2. What would this Psalm have said to the people of the post exile period?

I will try and answer these two questions to the best of my knowledge of the origins of the Psalms.

First of all even though most of David’s Psalms were published in the first two books of Psalms all of the three other books of Psalms contain Psalms attributed to David’s authorship, book three has only one, Psalm 86, book four has two, Psalm 101 and 103 (and also a edited David Psalm in Psalm 96) and 13 in book 5 (109, 110, 122, 124, 131, 133, 138, 139, 140, 142, 143, 144, and 145).

It seems the editors of all the books of Psalms were keen to find Psalms written by David and all different books editors managed to unearth David Psalms. Some modern bible scholars argue that many and even non of the Psalms attributed to David were written by him but evidence like the dead sea scrolls have given us historical evidence that the Hebrew headings are ancient and could be as old as the original Psalms themselves.

The second question of what this nearly discovered Psalm of David at the time of the return from exile would have meant to people of that day is the question I find far more interesting. The fact that David’s house or kingdom (vs. 2) was no more would have made what this Psalm meant to the people after the exile very different. They had just read through a number of Psalms (Psalms 93 – 100) when God is presented as the eternal great king of Israel and the world and therefore his kingdom is his people living his way. This means the resolution of David for his reign is God’s rule for life for all members of his kingdom on earth.

The other post exile problem was the contamination of false non bible believing ideas about God and his word compromising the Jews returning form exile mainly through inter- marriage with non God of the bible believers which Ezra speaks of in chapters 9 and 10 and also non – Jewish believers opposed the building of the Temple in Jerusalem and so what David has to say in Psalm 101 about association with Godless men and seeking to align with faithful people in the land (vs.6) would have been both a challenging and helpful teaching for the people of Israel and Jerusalem after the return from exile in Babylon.

Christians today face the same challenge of how to live in this world but yet not part of it as Jesus teaches in John 17: 14 – 18. Teaching on this important issue and other related issues will appear in this Psalm talk.

Finally I discovered in my research on this Psalm a very helpful paraphrase of this Psalm in the modern bible translation called “ Message Compact Bible” also known as MSG, which was put together by Eugene H. Peterson and only completed in 2004. I found this modern paraphrase of the Psalm very helpful and will quote from it throughout my Psalm talk.

So what should be in our resolution or vision and goals for living in God’s Kingdom today ?

With the message of A Godly Resolution for living in God’s Kingdom in mind my outline for this Psalm is:

  1. (1 – 2b)   THE RESOLUTION STATED

 

  1. (vs. 1) Sing of God’s love and justice
  2. (vs. 2a) Live a blameless life

 

  1. (2b – 5)   THE RESOLUTION AND EVIL INFLUENCES

 

  1. (2b – 3a) Heart and eyes set on God’s ways
  2. (3b – 5)   Evil people and their evil ways to be shunned

 

  1. (6 – 7)   THE RESOLUTION AND GODLY INFLUENCES

 

  1. (vs. 6)   Faithful people my companions
  2. (vs. 7)   Evil people shut out

 

  1. (Vs. 8)   THE RESOLUTION STATED AGAIN

 

  1. (vs. 8a) Every day fight against evil
  2. (vs. 8b) Live as if we are in God’s kingdom now

 

  1. (1 – 2b)   THE RESOLUTION STATED

 

  1. (vs. 1) Sing of God’s love and justice

 As I said in my introduction the church I currently attend has spent a lot of time, prayer and thought on developing its vision statement and the goals that come from it. Vision statements are supposed to be both short and yet expressing what your church or organization is all about. Verse 1 of Psalm 101 is a kind of vision statement of King David and his new kingdom and it simply reads,

“I will sing of your love and justice”

 David was described in 2 Samuel 23: 1b,

“Israel’s singer of songs”

 So David lived and breathed music and his music and life would be always on the theme of God’s love and justice. Eugene Petersons paraphrase of this vision and resolution statement is,

“My theme song is God’s love and justice, and I’m singing it right to you, God’.

 David is stating then that what he is all about, what he will be known for and what his new reign will be characterized by is the love and justice of his God, the God of the bible. Psalm 89 verse 14 speaks of these two qualities of God namely his love and justice as the foundation of his throne in heaven,

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you”.

 David spoke often, in his songs, the Psalms about God’s love and justice in Psalm 57 David makes these twin characteristics of God the main theme of his song or Psalm and in verse 3, we read,

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

 In Psalm 9 verse 16, David sings,

“The Lord is known by his justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work if their hands”.

 It is very significant that David is resolving at the start of his reign to characterize his reign and his kingdom on the theme of justice and love. This should have been good news to the ears of his subjects who are hearing their king declaring in song that he would be both a loving and just king.

A just king meant that his ruling would be firm but fair and a loving or merciful king would mean his justice would be tempered by mercy giving hope to sinners who sought repentance and forgiveness for their crimes.

This justice and love does not come from the human heart as it is totally effected by sin but it comes from the very heart of God and as the bible indicates David was a man after the heart of God himself, 1 Samuel 13: 14 and Acts 13: 22.

David then declares in the first part of his resolution or vision statement that Justice and Love would characterize his reign. This points to a far greater reign and kingdom

namely the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s great eternal king and his Kingdom, the kingdom of God. Jesus himself was motivated and driven by his fathers justice and love and we see this in statements of Jesus like Luke 6: 37,

“Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven”.

 Jesus makes it clear right from the start of his ministry on earth that he came to call sinners to repentance as the Kingdom of Heaven, God’s Kingdom was at hand, Mark 1: 15,

“The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

 The good news was of course that we can escape the judgment of God of our sins through the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s perfect sinless son who died for our sins on the cross.

The cross of Christ is where we see both God’s great justice and love together as he is just in Jesus death for sin and loving in being willing to give his life to save us from that sin. Paul puts it this way 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”.

 Not that we clean our lives up so that we can be accepted by God as Paul makes that clear with this statement in Romans 5: 8,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us”.

   So the resolve of David at the start of his reign of his new kingdom was to,

“Sing of your love and justice”

 Which he makes clear to God and his fellow singers with the words,

“To you, O Lord, I will sing praise”

 David lifted his voice in song often in praise of his just and saving God who had brought him from the sheep fields of Bethlehem through the trials of being pursued by a mad and jealous king Saul to the city of Jerusalem now to be the king of God’s chosen people Israel.

David knew first hand how great is the justice and love of his God and now he wants that to be the theme or resolve of his reign to come.

Likewise we have seen that Jesus died for us on the cross so we could have the gift of God’s righteousness and by faith we grasp this gift and by faith we should seek to now live out a righteous life as Paul boldly declares in Romans 1: 17,

“For the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written; ‘The righteous will live by faith”.

 Our resolve then, as members of God’s Kingdom through faith should be like David to live out in all our lives God’s Justice and love.

  1. (vs. 2a) Live a blameless life

The second part of David’s stated resolution for his reign as King and for the Kingdom he will reign over is stated like this in verse 2a,

“I will be careful to lead a blameless life”

 This second part of David’s resolution flows out of the first part and we have just seen how God’s act of loving justice for us, the cross of Christ should and will lead us to seek to live a righteous life. So David knew that the God of the bible’s justice and love for him and his nation should lead him and his nation to seek to live a righteous or as he puts it in Psalm 101 verse 2 a blameless life.

David is not saying he is and will be blameless as has just spoken of the love or mercy of God that has already forgiven him many sins and will forgive him far greater sins in the future.

When David often speaks of himself and all faithful people of Israel as “the Righteous” he is not saying they have righteousness like God but that they are people who seek to live as God wants them to live which is a life that seeks to be blameless and living according to God’s stated laws for life.

David Guzik explains well the meaning of this resolution in the context of David starting his reign as God’s anointed king with these words,

“As David came into a position of greater power (crowned as king of all of Israel) it was all the more important that he focus more on personal godliness and behave wisely in a perfect way. Power often expresses the flaws of character, if it does not actually help create them”.

 Eugene H. Peterson’s paraphrase of this resolution is,

“I’m finding my way down the road of right living”.

 The fact that David made it clear and even proclaimed particularly in song that he was a king who sought to live a blameless life was eventually used by his enemies.

His enemies in many Psalms are spoken of as saying things like Psalm 38: 19 – 20,

“Many have become my enemies without cause those who hate me without reason are numerous.20 Those who repay my good with evil lodge accusations against me,

  “Though I seek only to do what is good”.

In the later reign of David he had to deal with the rebellion of his son Absalom who nearly brings David’s life to an end. Absalom his oldest son became his number one enemy and critic. As David flees Jerusalem for his life a man named Shimei who came from the same family clan as Saul meets David on the road he was fleeing on and says this to David in 2 Samuel 16: 7 – 8,

“As he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel!

8 The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The LORD has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!”

 This was yet another false accusations by a enemy of David and it is an attack that again seeks to bring down David’s resolution to live a blameless life or to live a life that God wants us to live. There is no real basis for Shimei’s claim, as David never sought to kill Saul when Saul was king and was David’s enemy. David in fact once he became king sought to honour and bless the direct descendants left of Saul and his son Jonathon who was his crippled son of Jonathon named Mephibosheth.

David made this resolution to seek to live a blameless life at the start of his reign but throughout his reign he does fail to live up to this resolution and even falls to the great sins of adultery and murder but he always comes back to his great God of mercy and love in true repentance and faith and this is a great encouragement to us to do the same.

The devil will always get in our ear when we fail God and sin seeking for us to abandon our resolution to live a righteous or blameless life but we must follow the example of great men of faith like David and put into practice the words of men like the Apostle John who wrote in 1 John 1: 8 – 10,

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us”.

 Then David inserts in verse 2 some very strange words in form of a question:

“When will you come to me?”

 Eugene H. Peterson, paraphrases this,

“But how long before you show up?

 David seems to be asking for special divine help here to help him fulfil the resolution of living for the love and justice of his God in a blameless life.

In the Old Testament the close presence of God was not a promise given as clearly as it is for us through the promise of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus spoke extensively about in the later chapters of Johns gospel like John 14: 15 – 21,

“If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.

But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Note how Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to those who love him and who seek to keep his commands, which of course involve seeking to live a blameless life.

In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit comes and goes on people as we saw in the case of King Saul who had the Holy Spirit come on him to help make him king and then leave him when he rebelled against God. We see the demise of Saul and how the Lord left him in 1 Samuel 15.

Now David seeks the favor and special presence of God at the start of his reign especially for God to help him keep his special resolution to sing and live for the justice and love of God and live as King in a blameless life. So David with this in mind asks,

“When will you come to me?”

Davd Guzik writes,

“David longed for a more special and effectual visitation from the Lord before he began his reign”.

We have of course the promise of a permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives who, once Jesus died for our sins on the cross, rose from the dead and ascended back to his farther in heaven was sent to all believers from the day of Pentecost onwards to all true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a teaching the Apostle Paul spoke much about like Romans 8: 9 – 11,

“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you”.

It is only through the power and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, that special presence of God, David asked for in Psalm 101 verse 2 that enables us to live a blameless or holy life as Paul is speaking about in Romans 8. He makes this even clearer in a passage like Galatians 5: 16 – 18,

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

Not that we wont sin anymore, as John made it clear in 1 John 1: 9 -11 but rather as Paul goes on to say to the Galatians in Galatians 5: 19 – 26, through the Holy Spirit working in the true believer we will show evidence of the fruit or effect of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other”.

  1. (2b – 5)   THE RESOLUTION AND EVIL INFLUENCES

 Once David stated clearly his resolution for his reign as king in the opening words of this Psalm he then turns his attention to the things or factor he knows he will have to deal with that will seek to stop him fulfilling his great resolution.

  1. (2b – 3a) Heart and eyes set on God’s ways

 The first thing or factor that will hinder his ability to carry out his resolution is his own sinful heart and mind so he states in verses 2b and 3a how he will combat this first evil influence, he writes or sings,

“I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing”.

 David knew where sinful evil came from, it was his heart influenced by what he saw through his eyes that caused him to sin. So David resolves to “walk” in his house with:

  1. Blameless heart
  2. Eyes that see no vile thing

First of all before we look at those two resolves I would like to explain what I think David is calling “My house”.

 This probably is a term that has two applications both I think David would have had in mind.

The first is literally his own home or for him palace and family, David Guzik says,

“No man is able to make the city in which he dwells anything like the city of God who does not know how to behave in his own home”.

 So we must get our own home in order before you try to help get someone else’s, as the old saying goes. This saying has been applied to people who criticize another persons actions and is similar to Jesus advice in Matthew 7: 3 – 5,

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”.

So often in life people are critical of how other people and even families live but there own lives and homes have their own sins and difficulties and they too need to seek God’s forgiveness and help to change.

All we can do is make sure our own lives and homes are in order before we fall to criticizing other peoples lives and homes. We should always seek to follow the advice of Paul in Romans 12: 3,

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”.

So David is saying first of all in the words of his resolution that he resolves to,

“Walk in his own house with a blameless heart”

Secondly “house” here could mean “Kingdom” or “Dynasty” as we see from 2 Samuel 7: 11b,

“The Lord declares to you (David) that the Lord himself will establish a house for you”

And verse 16,

“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever”.

So God calls David’s Kingdom a house so maybe David is saying in verse 2b.

“I will walk in my house (or my kingdom) with a blameless heart”.

David is setting down not only what his reign should feature but all the kings to come from him should feature, a high moral standard as God himself laid down long before in the time of Moses for future kings of his people as we see in Deuteronomy 17: 18 – 20,

“When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel”.

So David’s resolution for himself as king and his kingdom or house is only following what God’s law laid down in one of the books of the law, which God gave the people through Moses.

Now we will look at those two key personal influences that could stop David as king living a blameless life, which is his resolution as the new King of the Nation of Israel.

  1. Blameless heart

David knew that from a personal level the biggest negative influence for him living a blameless life was his own heart. The bible has much to say about the human heart or the core of our being.

Proverbs 4: 23, says,

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”.

This is what Jesus said about where our sin comes from, Matthew 15: 19 – 20,

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

This is why Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 17: 9,

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

David knew that God’s law and therefore God demanded his people live a blameless life and as the king his resolve from his heart where both good and bad originates he resolved to walk in God’s ways all the rest of his days.

This resolution came, we think at the start of his long reign but a day is coming in a few years on from this when David would reveal what Jeremiah says about the human heart, that it is deceitful and beyond cure when David would commit the twin great sins of adultery and murder when he sleeps with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba and then seeks to cover it up by arranging Uriah’s murder in battle. It has been said he broke two other commandments in this act, namely coveting his neighbours wife and acting deceitful which is giving false witness.

Once Nathan the prophet reveals to David how God knows about David’s sins and is angry with David passing judgment on him David turns to God in repentance and faith and asks God for forgiveness. Psalm 51 is said to be David’s confession prayer for his sins associated with Bathsheba and in verse 10 of that Psalm we read,

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me”.

David recognizes in these words yet again the importance of his heart and that his sinful heart has influenced him to sin so greatly so he asks for a new heart so that he can live the way he knows God wants him to live.

It is only after Jesus dies for our sins on the cross, rises from the dead and ascends into heaven that he gives to those who truly trust and obey him his Holy Spirit to create in us a new heart as Paul teaches concerning how God through Christ makes us a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5: 17,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come”.

Not that we still have to battle with sin and fail from time to time but then because of what Jesus did for us on the cross we have that promise of forgiveness and cleansing that we read earlier in 1 John 1: 8 – 10,

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us”.

  1. Eyes that see no vile thing

So David’s first personal evil influence that could stop him and his kingdom living a blameless life is his heart which have seen is sinful and prone to evil. Now he speaks of the second personal influence that could stop him and his kingdom from living a blameless life at that is in the expression at the start of verse 3,

“I will set before my eyes no vile thing”.

 The eyes have been described as our window to the world and David knew what those windows viewed helped shape what the mind and of course the heart dwelt upon. The writer of Ecclesiastes probably David’s son Solomon said this about the role of his eyes or what he saw influencing him in Ecclesiastes 2: 10,

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure .My heart took delight in all my labor and this was the reward for all my toil”.

Denying himself nothing his eyes desired quickly corrupted Solomon and the second half of his reign in Israel seems to be a moral disaster as Solomon and his kingdom slid rapidly into evil Godless ways.

The prophet Jeremiah years later seeing the continuing moral declines of Israel and its kings says this about the people of Israel of his time in Jeremiah 22: 17,

“But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.”

Note how Jeremiah pinpoints the role of the eyes that help direct the heart to immoral living. In the New Testament the Apostle John speaks about the role of the eyes in falling to sinful ways in 1 John 2: 16,

“For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world”.

David then resolved to purposely not allow things that would lead his heart to sin to be blocked from his view. Sadly, again in the Bathsheba affair David did not put into practice these words of his resolution as we read 2 Samuel 11: 2 – 3,

“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”

Note how verse 2 says, “David saw a women bathing”, this was not a casual glance but a long hard look and through the eyes of David his mind lusted after her and in his heart he chose to look away from God and his stated word in seventh commandment,

“You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20: 14)

David first committed adultery in his mind and heart and then getting a servant to fetch Bathsheba he committed adultery in deed. This is how we all fall to various sins.

With our eyes we see something and the thoughts that develop from what we see lead our hearts to look away from God and his word and in our hearts and minds we commit the sin, whatever it is which often leads to us then committing the sin in deed.

I was shocked to hear from a bishop one evening that he wanted the church regional committee I was a member of to pray for two of the ministers in our area who were not named and who had told the bishop they were both struggling with pornography through their computers. I make a real effort not to view any form of pornography on my computer even when I accidently come across it. I work on the same principle for what I watch on TV or at the movies. If the TV program I am watching starts to portray any senseless violence or pornography I immediately switch it off or change channels.

I know that if my eyes see something that can corrupt my mind and heart I am in danger of committing in at least my heart and mind evil sinful acts and that is just what the devil wants me to see or think when he is tempting me to sin.

I try and put into practice the words of Paul in Philippians 4: 8 – 9,

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you”.

This my tip for you, if your eyes happen catch something that sets off in your mind something you know will lead to sin purposely think about something good or wholesome to stop dead the tracks the deadly cycle of sin in your heart and mind. One of the best right, pure and lovely things God has given us is the very word of God and sometimes to pick up your bible and read a passage from it is the best remedy to canter the corrup thing your eyes happened to see.

Jesus used this tactic when combating the devils temptation in the wilderness, he used the word of God to counter the devil even when he saw himself standing on the highest point of the Temple and was quoted a passage from the bible incorrectly Jesus responds with God’s word.

Eugene H. Peterson paraphrases this part of the Psalm this way,

“I refuse to take a second look at corrupting people and degrading things”.

  1. (3b – 5)   Evil people and there evil ways to be shunned

 Now that David has dealt with evil influences in himself he turns to speak about evil influences outside of himself, those that come from people around him who have turned from following God and his word.

The words of verses 3b – 5 relate particularly to how David will act as king towards those who practice Godless ways and lives.

I have broken David’s description of these outside of himself evil influences who will stop him from living a blameless life into five types of godless activities:

  1. Faithlessness (3b)
  2. Perverse heart (4)
  3. Slanderer (5a)
  4. Haughty and Proud hearts (5b)

Lets have a look at each of these a little closer:

  1. Faithlessness (3b)

In the second part of verse 3 David says this about the people he will avoid to have intimate relationship with,

“The deeds of faithless I hate; they will not cling to me”.

 Eugene H. Peterson paraphrases it this way,

“The crooked in heart keep their distance”.

 Some translations translate the word faithless to those who fall away. In David’s time this would ne men and women who turn from the God of the bible to false views of God like the Canaanite worship of Baal. Baal worship was a constant threat to the Israelites as it was so attractive, humanly speaking with its emphasis on fertility both with crops and human reproduction. Baal even used sexual practices in its worship of their false God.

David is saying that people who fall away from the one true God of the bible are very dangerous and he wants as an individual and as King of Israel to have nothing to do with such people. The expression,

“They will not cling to me”

 Is translated by the New American Standard bible as,

“It shall not fasten its grip on me”.

 David knew the lure of other God ideas like Baal as a great trap to his and his Kingdoms chances of living the way God wants them to live so he resolves to not let these faithless back sliders get a grip on him and his people and drag them away from the one true God of the bible.

Paul warned Timothy about false teachers inside the church of God who will seem very attractive to many and will lead many astray, 1 Timothy 4: 1 – 5,

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

Note how Paul wants Timothy to stick preaching the word of God when its popular to do so (in season) and when it is not popular to do so (out of season).

I have over a number of years with my wife travelled the world and we always try and find a church on the Sundays we are away that preaches the word to God. Sometimes it is hard and sometimes on a rare occasion we have attended a church that has seemingly given up on the word of God and this is very sad. I like David have resolved to not associate with faithless people or people who have fallen away from God and his word as to be part of a church like that is to allow the evil influence of the devil through these people cling to me and drag me away from following the true God of the bible.

  1. Perverse heart (4)

In verse 4 David speaks of people who are an evil influence on him and his resolution to live for the God of bible who is loving and just and not with men with a perverse heart. David writes in verse 4,

“Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with evil”.

 Eugene H. Petersen paraphrases the expression, “I will have nothing to do with evil”,

 “I refuse to shake hands with those who plan evil”.

 Its interesting to see how other translations translate the Hebrew word for perverse, they include, devious, evil and fraudulent heart and being perverse implies all of these and more. Coffman believes that the explanation of what David is saying in verse 4 is,

“The resolution is that no evil person, or evil thing, shall be accepted and tolerated as an adviser, an associate, or a deputy authority under him”.

 I have non- Christian friends or I associate with people who do not know the Lord particularly in my wider than church music interest but I do not hold these people close to me and if I find, as I have they act in a way that is really immoral or Godless then I have had no qualms of dissociating myself from them.

A couple of years ago I stopped playing ukulele with a group of people who’s leaders acted in a devious and underhanded way towards certain key members of that group. I have had nothing to do with that group since I became aware of their Godless deceitful actions.

Paul spoke to Christians in Corinth about be unequally yoked with unbelievers and this is usually applied to Christians men or women marrying a non- believer.

I believe Paul’s words also apply to Christians having a close relationship with non – believers. Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 6: 14 – 16,

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said “I will live with the, and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

I do not go as far as saying that a Christian should only deal with or associate with other Christians but while we are in this world we must not let it control us and if we find certain people cause us to pull away from God and his word than like David we must say and act like what he says in verse 4,

“I will have nothing to do with evil”

For me this meant stop playing with a group of music lovers who I found acted in a devious way but God has led me to join another group who so far have not caused me concern in the way they relate to me and to others.

  1. Slander (5a)

David knew all about slanderers as up to his becoming King of Israel he was slandered by King Saul and accused of being a traitor and someone who wanted to kill the king and take his crown. Saul says this about David to his son Jonathon in 1 Samuel 20: 30 – 31,

 “Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? 31 As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!”

Jonathon loved David and sought to protect him from his father’s slanderous evil attitude to David.

Even once David became king he faced opposition from outside of Israel and within it opposition that sought to bring him down through slanderous words. We read of this problem in many of David’s Psalms like Psalm 31: 11 – 13,

“Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbours and an object of dread to my closest friends— those who see me on the street flee from me. 12 I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. 13 For I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side!” They conspire against me and plot to take my life”.

So David knew what the pain and difficulties slander can cause and he knew God’s specific law about slander in the ninth commandment which says this in Exodus 20: 16,

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour”.

Knowing God’s law and knowing personally the pain and problems cause by slanderers personal David resolves in verse 5a,

“Whoever slanders his neighbour in secret, him will I put to silence”.

Or as Eugene H Peterson puts it,

“I will put a gag on the gossip who bad – mouths his neighbour”.

Slander is usually done behind a persons back and therefore seems to be in secret to them so David is saying, “You slander a person in secret then I will silence you openly permanently”.

Jesus faced constant slander by his enemies but he refused to strike out against them rather he was often seems to have loved them like as we see when he was being crucified for false and slanderous charges. We read what he says to his cruel tormentors in Luke 23: 34,

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”.

Jesus of course condemned slander and corruption and in Matthew 12: 36,

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken”.

James 4: 11 – 12 speaks directly about God’s judgment on those who slander,

 “Brothers and sisters do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbour?”

Paul makes it a point to advise Titus to teach and encourage Christians to among many things not to be involved in slandering another person, Titus 3: 1 – 2,

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone”.

So even Christians and people in the church can fall to the sin of slander and when we speak loosely or falsely about a fellow believer we have fallen into a very grievous sin and we need to repent of such sin and seek our Lords forgiveness if we have done this.

Again David included in his resolution to live a blameless life to deal in his kingdom with slanderers but as his reign developed he was not able to stop this problem and even his own son Absalom later in his reign opening slanders his father in 2 Samuel 15 to persuade many of the people of Israel to turn away from following his father as king and instead follow him in rebellion to his fathers reign.

  1. Haughty and proud hearts (5b)

 The second half of verse 5 says,

“Whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure”.

 Albert Barnes explains well the idea behind “haughty eyes”,

“Him that hath an high look – That is proud – as a proud man commonly carries his head high”.

 The English expression would be “He who puts his nose up” and I would call these people with the more crude Australian expression, “Snobs”. My dad when he was alive would call a snob, “A would be if he could be”.

Snobbery comes from a false sense of pride as a proud person looks down at others they believe are not as good as they are. So this looking down on others, which David calls in this verse, a, “Proud Heart” is a person David does not want around him so he says, “him I will not endure”.

The bible has lots to say about “Pride” and it book of Proverbs is full of advise and condemnation for the sin of pride.

Here are just two famous Proverb sayings about the sin of pride,

Proverbs 29: 23,

A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor”.

 Proverbs 11: 2,

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom”.

 The most famous verse in Proverbs however is Proverbs 16: 18,

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall”.

 I have witnessed sadly pride in the Christian church and it is a great disappointment to come across this but it is my belief that pride and snobbery is at the root of a lot of sins that we all fall to from time to time. We must always be on our guard both in the church and outside of it that we avoid the sin of pride and snobbery.

Paul gave the perfect antidote to the sin of pride in Romans 12: 3,

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you”.

Later in the same chapter Paul speaks directly about pride and gives us further advice to counter it in verse 16,

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited”

I admire fellow Christians who put this verse into action and I seek as much as it is possible to do the same, if only we all could do this our church and our church fellowship and witness to the world around us would be so much more lovely infectious.

  1. (6 – 7)   THE RESOLUTION AND GODLY INFLUENCES

1.(vs. 6)   Faithful people my companions

David did not just include the negative influences in his resolution to live a Godly life in response to God’s love and justice as he now includes encouraging positive influences. David speaks of these positive influences directly in verse 6,

“My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me”.

Eugine H. Peterson paraphrases this verse this way,

“But I have my eyes on salt – of – the – earth people – they’re the ones I ant working with me; Men and women on the straight and narrow – theses are the ones I want at my side”.

This is very helpful advice as the expression goes, “No man is an Island”, God made us to first relate to him and then to relate to others. In other words we are relational beings and we need other people in our lives. However the people who we need in our lives who are close to us who as David put it,

“Minister to me (or us)’

People who are faithful also to the God of the bible, people who share the same faith we share are the people we should look to, thus David says,

“My eyes will be on the faithful in the land”

I cannot stress how true I have found in my life how fellow believers have supported and encouraged me in so many ways over the many years I have been a believer. Some foolish negative bible commentators have sought to present St Paul in the bible as a hard, stoic and single minded man but nothing could be further from what the New Testament says about Paul and what he taught about the value of Christian friendship or partnership that he often called it.

At the end of his many letters that appear in the New Testament Paul speaks of his love and thanks for many fellow believers that partnered him in the work of spreading the Gospel of Christ. Like the long list of people who Paul knew and had worked with that he speaks of in Romans 16: 1 – 16, asking the believers in Rome to greet,

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

Greet also the church that meets at their house.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among[d] the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.

Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

10 Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test.

Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.

11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew.

Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.

Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them.

15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them.

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

All the churches of Christ send greetings.

Note how this long list of people Paul worked with include women especially Phoebe who gets a special mention as a Deacon which means servant of the Lord and seems to indicate she held some form of ministry position in the church at that time, exactly what we simply do not know but Paul makes it clear that she had helped many people in the Lord including Paul himself.

The mention of women being in the company of and working with Paul in work of the Gospel dispels another myth about Paul that he was some kind of women hater.

Paul surrounded himself with other faithful believers including women who he not only worked with but prayed for as we read in the first chapter of Philippians verses 3 – 6,

 “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.

Paul wrote words like this to all of the churches he worked with as he knew the great real value of working with others in the church of Jesus Christ. Paul speaks of the Philippians as partners in the Gospel used by God to help him and them do the good work God wants to do which will bring us through to heaven itself or as Paul puts it,

“Until the day of Christ Jesus”.

David wants the positive influence of fellow faithful believers in his kingdom and land to be able to focus on living a blameless life, which he is resolved to live. Surrounding ourselves with strong Christian friends is how we can help put David’s resolve into our lives as well.

It seems that the church the writer to the Hebrews was writing to had some members not regularly attending as we see so often in our own churches today. So the writer to the Hebrews gives them and us this very sound advice in Hebrews 10: 23 – 25,

 “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”.

  1. (vs. 7)   Evil people shut out

David then returns to the negative influences in the form of men in his house and those who are close to him as king being men who are honest faithful men of God and this is what he is saying in verse 7,

“No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence”.

 Eugine H. Peterson puts it this way in his modern paraphrase of this Psalm and verse,

“But no one who traffics in lies gets a job with me”.

 All through my study of this Psalm I have been led by God to think about the very first Psalm in the book of Psalms, Psalm 1. Psalm 1 ironically speaks of a man who is blessed, truly happy in God as a man who,

“Does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stands in the way of sinners or sits in the seat of sinners”. Verse 1.

 This first verse of Psalm 1 sets down the progression of being negatively influenced by Godless people as it speaks of walking with the wrong crowd and then standing with them and finally sitting with them. This progression is what David wants to avoid in Psalm 101.

So in verse 7 he wants in his court and home to be surrounded by people who are honest and putting this verse in context with verse 6 are faithful, walking with God type people.

Sadly David was not able to keep this resolution especially because his very own son Absalom years later becomes a man who practices deceit and spoke falsely so much he overthrew his father as king and sought to kill him and all of his close and faithful to God family and associates.

The rebellion of David’s son is a direct consequence of his sins of adultery and murder as predicted by the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12: 11 – 12. God forgave David for his sins but he still had to face some of the negative consequences of those great sins.

What can verse 7 teach us as Christians today?

I see two areas verse 7 could relate to and they are in our own individual lives and in the church, let me explain:

  1. In our individual lives

I like most Christians struggle with how we can be in this world but not part of it. This has been an issue for Christians throughout history and has led some to lock themselves up in monasteries cut off from the world totally. Another more modern example are people like the exclusive brethren who seek to have as little contact with people outside of their fellowship as possible.

Then there are Christians who have so much to do with non – believers they fail to show any Godliness in their daily lives.

In verse 7 of Psalm 101 David indicates that he wants to surround himself with honest people and in verse 6 he wants these people to be faithful believers. As individual Christians we should seek the close company of fellow believers who are good honest sincere people who will help us love and serve the Lord as we saw Paul did in the previous section.

The question might better be put, who are our real close friends?

If the answer includes people who do not know the Lord or worse, people who have bad morals then we are in danger of those immoral attitudes being rubbed off on us and we will miss out on the benefits God has for us through close Christian fellowship. As the apostle John puts it in 1 John 1: 5 – 7,

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin”.

This however does not mean we should cut ourselves off from any contact with non – believers. Jesus was called by his enemies as a friend of sinners, Mathew 11: 19,

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

 This however did not mean Jesus neither condoned the actions or sins of these people but rather he loved them and sought to help them find the kingdom of God in their lives.

Through my growing interest in music both within the church and outside of it in the past ten years or so I do regularly attend music gatherings with mixed groups of people. Some of the people in these groups are believers like me but many are not. Some of the non – believers in these music circles have sought to make me a really close friend but I have remained only friendly with them and only have really close friends in my church and through other Christian circles.

I consider my involvement with non – believers a chance to both enjoy the gift of music generally and an opportunity to be a witness to non – believers who share a common interest with me in music.

A couple of years ago I pulled out of one of these music gatherings because I saw key members of that group practice dishonest and questionable activities to better themselves and I felt I could both not condone or be associated with such people any more.

This is part of the struggle of what it means to be in the world and not part of it and I have found over the years at work and in general society the words of Paul in Romans 12: 1 – 2 most helpful to help me as a individual to keep on the straight and narrow,

 “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.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”.

  1. As a Church

In verse 7 of Psalm 101 David is speaking of avoiding those who are not honest and in verse 6, working God’s faithful people in his house and in his presence. As we saw in verse 2, “house” could mean to David more than his own home or family but his Kingdom as “house” was used by God in 2 Samuel 7: 11 through the prophet Nathan to represent David’s kingdom which God would establish forever.

David’s eternal kingdom was fulfilled in God’s Son Jesus Christ coming to earth as a man from the line of David and so Jesus principle message was as Jesus first preached in Mark 1: 15,

‘The time has come, he said, ‘The kingdom of God is near, Repent and believe the good news”.

 Jesus meant by saying the Kingdom of God was near that it was near because he had come as the greater son of David who is God’s eternal king who would establish a way for non – believers to join that kingdom through repentance and faith in him and what he has done for them, namely dying for their sins on the cross.

We, as true believers in Christ can now join God’s eternal kingdom which is also pictured in the New Testament as God’s family or God’s house, 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”.

Paul even uses the concept of being in God’s house to describe how all Christians are in the family or kingdom of God in Ephesians 2: 19 – 22,

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”.

Paul had much to say in all of his letters about living up to this high calling and privileged position that all true believers have in Christ. For instance in the fourth chapter of this letter to the Ephesians in verses 17 – 19, he says this about how we should live,

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed”.

Paul tells the Philippians that they are citizens of heaven in Philippians 3: 20-21,

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body”.

So we are part of God’s house or eternal Kingdom and so the words of David in Psalm 101: 6 – 7 apply directly to our lives and churches.

Remember verse 6 said,

“My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me”.

For the church that means we must seek to make our fellow church members our close and loving friends, it is from them that we seek our deep and abiding fellowship and assistance.

I mentioned before that I do attend some non – church music groups to enjoy and develop my musical talents. However these groups are not my central focus even in the area of music as I see my musical involvement in my church as my number one priority. I have even made this clear to my non – Christian music friends and when opportunities to be involved with non – church music clashes with my church music commitments my church music commitments will always come first.

Then in verse 7, David said,

“No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence”.

For the church, God’s family, God’s kingdom we have and must have a high standards for those who lead it. This is why Paul laid down stringent standards for those who minster in his day to Timothy, 1 Timothy 3: 3 and 1 Timothy 5: 17 – 20.

Note the opening requirement for overseers or ministers in 1Timothy 3: 2 – 3,

“Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money”.

These words fit very well into David’s description of the sort of people he wanted to surround himself with in his kingdom and so these qualities should not be just found in our ministers but should be the kind of qualities we all should resolve to strive for as fellow members of the eternal Kingdom of Jesus Christ our Lord.

  1. (Vs. 8)   THE RESOLUTION STATED AGAIN

 

  1. (vs. 8a) Every day fight against evil

We come then to the final verse of this Psalm, which I think is a restate of the resolution of this Psalm to fight against evil only this time in a practical way. The first part of the verse speaks of how David will daily actually carry out his resolution to fight against evil in his kingdom. This first part of the verse says,

“Every morning I will put to silence all wicked and evil in the land”

Eugene H. Peterson paraphrase of this is,

“ I purged God’s city of all who make a business of evil.”

 Commentators like Alan Harman point out the significance of the phrase “every morning”,

“It seems to have been the custom for the king to hear cases every morning”.

Harman sights two references to this here, first is Absalom using this practice to promote his rebellion to his fathers reign in 2 Samuel 15: 2,

“He (Absalom) got up early to stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision”.

Then Harman sites Jeremiah 21: 12,

“O house of David, this is what the Lord says: ‘Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robed”.

In the case of 2 Samuel it seems David was not available as he had resolved to be in this Psalm by the time of Absalom and his rebellion and Absalom used this inactivity of his father David to win people over to follow him. Absalom made out that he would act as judge for the people and fight for them.

Like most of us we can make very good resolutions to love and serve the Lord but we often have great difficulty carrying them out or keeping to those resolutions.

Even the great apostle Paul battled with this and spoke to the Philippians about this and how he continued to press on to the goal God sets before us despite his own failures. Paul says this in Philippians 3: 12 – 14,

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”.

“Every morning”

Could also be simply David’s way of saying everyday he would start each day to live the way he know God wanted him to live which is his resolve. This is very helpful for us as well that we at least start the day with God. I heard someone say once that if we start the day with God we have a better chance of finishing it with him as well.

Morning prayers or devotions do not guarantee a day of living for God but they can certainly help set that up. I try and have a prayer time each morning and have done so for many years and I certainly have found this a very helpful thing to do each day.

David, at least in the early years of his reign lived out his resolution to,

“Put to silence the wicked in the land”.

In our lives today and in our churches we must find ways and means of supporting efforts to silence the wicked and the best way we can do that is by seeking to preach and teach the wonderful message of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul speaks of this in his kind of ministry resolution in his letter to the Roman church in Romans 1: 14 – 17,

“I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.

16 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.”

  1. (vs. 8b) Live as if we are in God’s kingdom now

The second half of verse 8 completes David’s resolution to live for God’s love and justice by seeking to live a blameless life with a fitting final phrase that says,

“I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the Lord”.

David again and finally makes it clear that he resolves at the start of his reign to deal aggressively with evildoers and this time he speaks of doing this in Jerusalem which he refers to as, “the city of the Lord”.

This title of city of the Lord, which is Jerusalem has appeared already in a number of Psalms like Psalms 46: 4-5, 48:1 and 87: 1 – 3. God, it seems, chose Jerusalem to be a special place to signify his dwelling with his people on earth.

The place where the physical symbols of that special presence, the Ark of the Covenant sat in David’s time in the Tabernacle tent like structure and in the Temple from the time of Solomon up to the exile into Babylon.

David is making it clear in his resolution that above all Jerusalem will be a place for the faithful people of God and would be therefore a place evildoers would not be welcome.

Unfortunately as I have already indicated later in David’s reign he failed for a time to live up to this great resolution and it was in Jerusalem in his very own palace that David fell himself to the great sins of adultery and murder. Later it was Jerusalem where David’s first son Amnon rapped his half sister Tamar and it was another son of David Absalom who killed his half brother Ammon not in Jerusalem but in the land of Israel.

A few years after that it was in Jerusalem that Absalom rebelled against his fathers rule and sought to kill him. David escaped but Absalom just as the prophet Nathan had predicted years before when David had committed adultery and murder defiled some of his wives left in Jerusalem. God forgave David but there were serious consequences for David because of his great sins.

David seems to have not carried through his great resolution to cut off every evildoer during the years his sons Ammon and Absalom committed many evil and wicked sins like raping a sister and killing a bother.

David would have had only himself to blame when his slackness led him to not hear of wrong doing in the mornings and act as judge for his people as this gave Absalom the opportunity to turn the people away from following David as king.

Surely David would have known what Absalom got up to but in his later years David became soft on crime and wickedness and he paid greatly for this slackness.

We must learn the lessons of the bible, which unlike any other ancient book presents its leading lights like its kings as fallen sinners like us all. Like David we can make great resolutions to love and serve the Lord but we must be like Paul who said in Philippians 3: 12 – 14,

13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

One final word then on Jerusalem, the city of God, the book of Revelations chapter 21 speaks of a New Jerusalem, heaven itself the real dwelling place of God, which at the return of Christ will descend to earth and all faithful believers, will dwell in it forever with God. At the end of that great chapter we read these words in verses 26 – 27,

“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”.

What David resolved to do in Psalm 101 verse 8 and failed to do, God will do at the end of history when Jesus Christ returns as the king of heaven and earth. One final word then from the book of Revelations from chapter 21: 1 – 5,

“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. ‘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.”

 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

No more resolutions or goals will be needed then, as we all who believe will have fully arrived at what this life’s resolutions and goals have been focused on. Unto that day however we need to follow the example of Paul in Philippians 3: 14 and,

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

I close as usual with and original poem and a prayer:

I WILL SING OF GOD’S LOVE AND JUSTICE

(Based on Psalm 101)

I will sing of God’s love and justice

I will sing and praise the Lord

Because the Lord has shown his love

Revealed to us through his word.

Jesus died to surely save me

On the cross God’s love I see

Jesus death reveals God’s justice

And sins payment has made me free.

 

I will seek to live for Jesus

Live a life of thankful praise.

Because I know Jesus loves me

I will serve him all my days.

Jesus died to surely save me

On the cross he paid sins curse

Now the devil has no hold on me

If I seek to put Jesus first.

 

I will walk with Jesus beside me

For I am in his family.

Set my eyes on serving Jesus

Turning from wrong and iniquity.

Jesus died to surely save me

Through his spirit he walks with me.

Helps me carry all my burdens

Gives me hope and victory.

 

I will turn from evil company

I will seek God’s faithful ones.

I will long to love the humble

Find my help in God’s daughters and sons

Jesus died to surely save me

And make a way for me to go

I will follow in his footsteps

Seeking his help to always grow.

 

I will live my life in God’s light

Turning each morning to the Lord

Seeking to avoid wicked company

Following the advice of God’s word.

Jesus died to surely save me

One day I’ll see him face to face

Rising to him to live in heaven

Because of his wonderful love and grace.

 

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

Lord I thank you for your Son who came to earth to die for my sins on the cross. Help me to be inspired and empowered by what you have done for me to live the sort of life worthy of your great love for me. May I turn away from evil company that could pull me away from truly following you and may I instead find my true friends and family in your church the household of God. In Jesus name I pray Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.)

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

PSALM 97 TALK: OUR GOD THE KING WHO CALLS US TO REJOICE IN HIS REIGN

(A Psalm that explores God’s call to all believers to rejoice and be glad in the mighty and wonderful reign over all the earth and the universe no matter what we seem to be facing at any time in our daily lives.)

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

INTRODUCTION

Many years ago through a visiting speaker to our Church I heard for the first time that the Christians who are being severally persecuted for their faith in Christ in other countries in our world today are actually joyful people who are rejoicing in God. This speaker told us of his recent visit to a persecuted church in central Africa where many members of the church had already been either killed or imprisoned by hard line Muslim Government authorities. He said these people where some the most joyful Christians he had ever met. He said that at the church service he had attended he was blown away by the praise and rejoicing they had in Christ their Lord and Savior.

A article I recently read on the Internet probably gave me the reason why Christians who are being persecuted so badly can have this joy of the Lord in the midst of their very real suffering. THe article on the Internet was by Kathrin Britton who was interviewing a man named Carl Moeller about a book he had just co-wrote with David Hegg called “The Privilege of Persecution And Other Things The Global Church Knows That We Don’t”.

In this interview Carl Moeller told Kathrin Britton the reason why he believes many persecuted Christians have the joy of the Lord in the midst of terrible and often painful persecution. Moeller says this,

“The joy permeates these people’s lives in a way that maybe should make us stop and think a bit. They don’t have an economic or political or social bank account that gets bigger in the situation that they’re in. No, they understand that the presence of the Lord, having him and him alone is enough to provide for joy”.

 Nehemiah told the people of Judah who were weeping after hearing God’s word read to them, Nehemiah 8: 10,

“Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength”.

 I believe we need to live our lives in the joy of the Lord and as Paul says to the Philippians to do in 4: 4,

“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice”.

 Psalm 97 speaks of rejoicing in the Lord and particularly his reign. Three times we have the command to rejoice in this Psalm. Twice we have the command to “Be Glad” of the Lord and in verse 11 we have these words about God giving true believers “joy”,

“Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart”.

So the central theme of rejoicing in the reign of our God who is king of the universe runs right through this Psalm. This is the fifth Psalm in a series of eight Psalms which feature the theme of “Our God the King” and it will tell us powerfully the role of rejoicing in the Lord no matter what life flings at us which is what God calls us to be involved in.

We do not know when this Psalm was first wriiten but we know it was placed in the fourth book of Psalms, which we believe, was put together around the time of the return from exile in Babylon. This means that this Psalm strikes the note of rejoicing at a time when the Jews had much to rejoice in God for.

Most of the Jews had been locked up in Babylon for 70 years but had now they returned from exile owing to the defeat of the Babylonians by the Persians and the Persians had allowed and even encouraged the Jews to return to their former homeland and rebuild their homes and their worship of the God of the bible.

Through this Psalm I hope we will see how important it is for us to rejoice in the Lord always and we will learn why we can and should rejoice in the Lord always.

With the theme of rejoicing in the reign of God our king my breakdown for this Psalm is:

  1. 1 – 6   LET THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD REJOICE IN THE REIGN OF                   GOD
  1. 1             A call for all the world to rejoice in the reign of God
  2. 2 – 6      Why all the world should rejoice in the reign of God
  1. 7         LET OTHER GOD’S ACKNOWLEDGE GOD’S REIGN OVER THEM
  1. 7a         The shame of worshipping idols
  2. 7b         Let false God’s acknowledge the reign of God
  1. 8 – 11 LET GOD’S PEOPLE REJOICE IN THE REIGN OF GOD
  1. 8 – 9       A call for God’s people to rejoice in the reign of God
  2. 10 – 11   Why God’s people should rejoice in the reign of God
  1. 12       CONCLUSION – REJOICE IN THE LORD

 Lets have a close look then at each of these four sections of the Psalm.

  1. 1 – 6   LET THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD REJOICE IN THE REIGN OF                    GOD

 The first section of the Psalm uses the Hebrew ebrewHeb verbs for “be glad” and “Rejoice” in the reign of God all the earth while the third section starts with the same Hebrew verbs only the other way around. in verse 8 God’s people are called to “Rejoice” and then “be glad”. This seems to be a devise the writer employs to tell us that everyone should praise and rejoice in the God of the bible even though we don’t always do this.

So the first section is a call for the people of the entire world to rejoice in the reign of the Lord and I have broken this first section into two parts:

  1. 1           A call for all the world to rejoice in the reign of God
  2. 2 – 6       Why all the world should rejoice in the reign of God

 Lets look then at the first part that covers verses 1 and 2:

  1. 1          A call for all the world to rejoice in the reign of God

The first verse is a clear call to the entire world to rejoice in and be glad in the Reign of the Lord or the God of the bible. The God of the bible is often called “The Lord” or “Yahweh” which is the special name of God Moses was given and was told means, Exodus 3: 14,

“I am who I am”

 Which literally means God is saying I have been, I am now and I will always be, yes this is the one eternal God who always has and always will reign in heaven and on earth as verse one says,

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

 The distant shores has been translated Islands but this poetic image represents all the known world of the Mediterranean sea which was all of the world known to the people of Old Testament times.

These distant lands could have had small settlements of Jewish believers but this call to rejoice is to more than just people of the Jewish faith as we will learn from verse 7 but is to the people of the world who the God of the bible rules over. Joseph Benson writes,

“He that made the world, governs it; he that called the universe into existence, upholds and presides over it; and he rules, judges, and rewards, or punishes his intelligent, free, and immortal creatures, whether men or angels”.

 Benson goes on to speak of how the New Testament reveals how Jesus reigns and this is clear from a verse 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.”

 The world of course does not recognize the God of the bible who reigns because it is in rebellion to the reign of God in there lives which is the essence of what sin really is all about. This means that it also rejects that God’s Son the Messiah is now the king who reigns but the New Testament speaks clearly of a day when everyone on the earth will recognize Jesus as the Lord or the king as Paul writes in Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

Unfortunately for many when that day comes it will be to late to rejoice in this wonderful truth that God through Jesus reigns because when Jesus comes the second time in all his glory he will judge all the earth and the offer of his forgiveness will no longer be available on that great day.

The message then is turn from your rebellion to God and Jesus now and be glad and rejoice in his reign over your lives today before it is to late.

  1. 2 – 6       Why all the world should rejoice in the reign of God

Now in verses 2 to 6 the writer of Psalm 97 seeks to set down why the entire world should rejoice in the reign of the God of the bible who is the king of the universe. He draws on what he knows about God from God’s past revelations of himself particularly from the book of Exodus and the way God led the people out of Egypt and through their wilderness wanderings. He could even have had in his mind the revelation of God on Mt. Sinai.

I see six reasons why everyone should rejoice in the reign of God in these five verses and they are:

  1. God is so powerfully majestic that clouds surround him (vs. 2a)
  2. God’s rule is based on righteousness and justice (vs. 2b)
  3. God is so powerful that fire goes before him (vs. 3)
  4. God is so glorious that he is like lightening (vs. 4)
  5. God is so mighty that he can melt mountains (vs. 5)
  6. God is revealed in the heavens as a great God (vs. 6)

Lets then have a close look at each of these six reasons why we should rejoice in the reign of God.

  1. God is so powerfully majestic that clouds surround him (vs. 2a)

When God appeared to Moses at Mt. Sinai the scene set by what we read in Exodus 19 is very frightening indeed as God himself comes close to the people of Israel to reveal himself. Exodus 19: 16 says,

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightening, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled”.

 God is so powerful, so awesomely spectacular that when he comes close in person to mankind he has to hide his appearance by a cloud. Earlier as the people were led by God out of Egypt we read that again his presence is so powerful and spectacular that he has to go before them covered by a cloud, Exodus 13: 21a,

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way”.

 So with these two visions of God the writer of Psalm 97: 2a says,

“Clouds and thick darkness surround him”.

 Ancient kings went out of their way to dress in spectacular clothes and present themselves in enormous beautiful palaces to give the impression they were powerful and wealthy so unlike anyone else on earth. Even in recent history kings like Louis 14th of France built spectacular palaces like Versailles, which I visited last year on a trip through Europe.

The palace is so large and opulent it would not have been a comfortable place to live in but the guide told us that the whole point of the building was to show off the power and majesty of King Louis 14th reign.

God does not need to build enormous palaces to convey his power and majesty of his reign. His simple presence is so awesomely powerful that a cloud needs to cover his actual appearance to protect us from being consumed by it such is his power and might.

The people of the earth then should rejoice in the reign of God as king because his reign is all-powerful and spectacular. When I saw the palace of Versailles I was moved to wonder and praise its beauty but when I think of the powerful king of heaven and earth who’s appearance is so awesome it needs to be covered by a cloud I am moved to give him praise and adoration for he is so much more majestic than any earthly king or leader.

The apostle John got a glimpse of the power and majesty of the risen and ascended Christ reigning in heaven and speaks of it this way in Revelation 19: 6 – 8,

“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. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)”

  1. God’s rule is based on righteousness and justice (vs. 2b)

The second reason the writer of Psalm 97 gives why we should praise and rejoice in the reign of the God and king of heaven and earth is because of the basis of his reign, which he expresses in verse 2b,

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

 The reign of God is so different than any reign of any earthly king because of who our God is and what he is like. Our God the king reigns with righteousness and justice.

I mentioned my visit to the spectacular earthly palace of Versailles last year and even though that building speaks of power and majesty the actual rule of the French kings who ruled from that palace was based on their own inflated ego’s, corruption of the French people and extortion of all the resources of their country to feed their grouse desires for power and wealth. This intolerable reign of unrighteous and injustice ended in the people of France rising up during the reign of Louise 16th in revolution and not only did Louise the 16th and his family loose their lives but his so called divine right as king for his family line was brought to a bloody end.

God’s reign as king of the universe is so different he rules this world in righteousness and justice, as he is a Holy God. John Gill sums up the meaning of this with these words,

“Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne; the seat, basis, and support of it; he sits on a throne doing right, and by it his throne is established”.

 Gill then quotes Psalm 89 verse 14 that says,

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you”.

 We rejoice in the God of the bible because he is the great king of the universe who rules with complete righteousness and justice and out of this he also reveals his great love and faithfulness all expressed so clearly by his sons death on the cross.

He shows his righteousness and justice by paying for our sins and he shows his love and faithfulness by the giving of his life on he cross to pay for our sins.This then is our basis or cause for rejoicing in the reign of God our Great king and savior.

The apostle John again in his heavenly vision of God and Jesus in heaven says this in Revelation 15: 2 – 4,

“And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God And sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb:

“Great and marvellous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.

Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy.

All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

The total revelation of the righteous and just character of God will be revealed on day when Jesus returns in all his glory and majesty and then he will conduct the final judgment of God for all mankind and for those heavenly beings who disobeyed him as well.

  1. God is so powerful that fire goes before him (vs. 3)

The second image the writer of Psalm 97 draws from the Exodus experience in the wilderness and particularly at Mt. Sinai to provide a reason for rejoicing in the reign of God as king is verse 3, which says,

“Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side”.

 This could be either or both referring to the account of the coming of the presence of God on Mt. Sinai or the description of how God led the people of God through the wilderness in their wilderness wanderings at night.

The description of God revealing himself at Mt Sinai says this in Exodus 19: 18,

“Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently”.

The description of God leading the people of Israel at night by fire is in Exodus 13: 21b,

“By night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night”.

 The writer of Psalm 97 says that this fire is so powerful that it consumes his foes on every side. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of God being consuming fire in Hebrews 12: 28 – 29,

 “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”[

 One might ask how can the concept of God being consuming fire be the grounds for rejoicing in his reign as king?

The answer is simple for an Israelite because God consuming his enemies meant for Israel that their enemies were consumed and therefore the nation was delivered from their enemies. All through the wilderness wanderings the people of Israel had victory, through God’s help over their enemies. Into the Promised Land and through Israel’s long history God went before the people of Israel in battle to help consume their enemies.

At recent bible study I attended a lady there spoke of the horror of the Old Testaments constant reference to God leading his people to slaughter their many enemies on a number of occasions.

I thought about this later and then realised that this is what happened throughout history, the sin of mankind led Nation after Nation to conduct massive bloody wars that led to the death of many and sometimes the complete annihilation of many nations. Israel only survived for such a long period of history because God went before them to consume their many enemies who were determined to destroy them.

This Psalm was placed in the fourth book of Psalms, we believe around the time of the return from exile in Babylon and this concept of God being a consuming fire as they, not their enemies had just felt the fire of God’s judgment and had also witnessed the judgment of the great nation, Babylon who God had used to judge them.

The writer to the Hebrews speaks of God as a judge and how it is a dreadful or fearful thing to fall into the hands of a judging God in Hebrews 10: 30 – 31,

“For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, “and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.

This is part of the writer to the Hebrews warning about falling away from God and he says these very serious words about this also in verse 27,

“Only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God”.

However for all people who turn to God in repentance and faith is God’s deliverance or salvation from his coming judgment as Paul declares in Romans 5: 9,

“Since we have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath”.

 This is something we should rejoice about and it is only ours because God’s rule is a reign of love and righteousness.

  1. God is so glorious that he is like lightening (vs. 4)

The fourth reason for rejoicing in the reign of God the king of the universe is another observation from the coming presence of God in Exodus 19. I6 when looking at the mention of clouds in verse 2, well that same verse also speaks of God’s presence causing lightening and thunder,

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightening, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled”.

 The writer refers to this lightening in verse 4,

“His lightening lights up the world; earth sees and trembles”.

 The people who witnessed this lightening and thunder certainly trembled as the end Exodus 19: 16 tells us. However Psalm 97: 4 could also be referring to all people’s reaction to lightening and thunder. Another Psalm, Psalm 29 was probably written by David when he witnessed a violent thunderstorm that travelled through the mountains of Lebanon down through the desert to the Jerusalem area as they still do today. David speaks of the thunder and lightening being “The voice of the Lord” or like the voice of the Lord.

Referring to the lightening of this great ferocious ancient storm David writes this in Psalm 29: 7 – 9,

“The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

 Even today lightening and thunder strikes terror or at least cause trembling in the minds of modern people and I can remember many such storms striking my house over the years as I live in the mountains just outside of the city of Sydney where many great thunderstorms develop and move to cross the city and then move out to the sea.

This mighty demonstration of Nature that God created should also make us rejoice in God the king of heaven and earth.

Even the apostle John saw in his vision of God in heaven flashes of lightening coming from the throne of God in Revelation 4: 5,

“From the throne came flashes of lightening, rumblings and pearls thunder”.

  1. God is so mighty that he can melt mountains (vs. 5)

Then in verse 5 the writer of Psalm 97 speaks of God’s might as grounds for our rejoicing in his rule as king of heaven and earth, he writes,

“The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth”.

 We have seen in a number of Psalms already that the mountains in Hebrew poetry represent stability, they are the immoveable examples of nature as we see in its use in Psalm 36: 6,

“Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep”.

 However such is the might and power of God our king that the mountains just seem to melt away before the Lord as we read in verse 5 of Psalm 97.

This great might and power of God is again a reason for our rejoicing in our God who reigns supreme over all the earth.

Again the apostle John speaks of the great and mighty of this world on the day of judgment, the kings, princes, generals and the rich trying to find protection in the mountains of the earth from God the supreme king and judge in Revelation 6: 15 – 17, but even the mighty mountains of the earth cannot protect us from the power and might of God the king who reigns,

“Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

  1. God is revealed in the heavens as a great God (vs. 6)

The final reason the writer of Psalm 97 gives for rejoicing in the reign of God the king of everything is the very proclamation of his glory we can all see in the heavens,

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

 This verse is reminiscent of David’s famous first verse of Psalm 19, that says,

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

 I mentioned in my last Psalm talk that when I was in my twenties and thirties I wrote a number of poems under the general heading of “Prayers of the Created” which took up David’s idea that the heavens declare or speak of God to us. I wrote the following poem in this series of poem inspired by the principle light in the sky, the sun.

THE SONG OF THE SUN

The light,

Calls me through the darkness of the night.

The heat,

Gives me warmth as I search for light,

The rays,

Soft and golden and full of life.

The haze,

Melting my fears and strife.

 

The day,

Is my Salvation full and bright.

Sunrise

The start of all that’s good and right.

My day,

A chance to learn and give.

God’s sun,

Has made a way for me to live.

 

I thirst,

For the cleansing the sun can only give.

I search,

For a chance to really live.

I see,

A glimpse of paradise each day.

For I,

Can see God’s handy work and pray.

 

O God,

Lead the world to see your way.

O Lord,

Shine upon all and help them understand your way.

O Jesus,

Help us to make the time to pray.

O Lord,

Drive away our night and give us day.

 

God’s light,

Draws me through the darkness of the night

God’s love,

Gives me warmth as I search for light.

God’s Son,

Cleanses my sin and makes me new.

O God,

I sing your song and your son sees me through.

By: Jim Wenman

I look at nature and see its order, beauty and wonderful design and I can only see the clear evidence and declaration of a great and glorious God who made such a wonderful world. Yet so many men and women look at nature and fail to see a designer. They write it all off as an unbelievable accident that only occurred over a long period of time. An accident of colliding atoms that eventually produced our wonderful world so rich and teeming with life.

Why do so many fail to see God in creation today?

The bibles answer is sin has blinded them to the clear and wonderful revelation of God in the heavens or nature as Paul makes it clear in 1: 18 – 20,

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”.

So rather than rejoicing in the God the king because of the revelation of God’s glory in nature mankind generally denies or curses that God or suppresses the truth of his reign and power.

  1. 7         LET OTHER GOD’S ACKNOWLEDGE GOD’S REIGN OVER THEM

 The last point I made about mankind suppressing the truth of the reign of God the king flows in the middle verse of this Psalm which Allan Harman says,

“Forms a pivotal verse around which the whole psalm revolves”

 I’m not sure about the whole Psalm revolving around verse 7 but rather I see verse 7 as a bridge between the world being called to rejoice in the reign of God the king and God’s his people being called to rejoice in the reign of God the king.

As I said most people in the world at large reject God’s reign of King and in ancient times the replacement idea of the God of the bible being God the king who reigns was the invention of other God’s through idols. First 7 will present this great fact and even suggest that there is a supernatural force behind the worship of other God’s, which we will look at in the second part of verse 7.

So lets look now at the two parts or ideas of verse 7.

  1. 7a           The shame of worshipping idols

The first part of verse 7 says,

“All who worship images are put to shame”

 The prophet Isaiah took great delight in debunking the idea of making an image of a god out of wood and then bowing down to it as God. He writes in Isaiah 44: 9 – 15,

“All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.
10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit nothing?


11 People who do that will be put to shame; such craftsmen are only human beings.
Let them all come together and take their stand; they will be brought down to terror and shame.12 The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint.13 The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in human form, human form in all its glory, that it may dwell in a shrine.14 He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. 15 It is used as fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it”.

Note how Isaiah points out like Psalm 97: 7a says that those who worship idols are both ignorant and shameful. They shape something with their own hands then set it up as a god or even God.

Today people practice idol worship in a much more subtle way, people worship money as that is what they live for or their bodies or even worse false ideas about life and God that contradict the very clear revelation of God through his word the bible.

Paul warned Timothy of men even in the very church of Christ preaching this kind of thing and leading faithful believer astray, 2 Timothy 4: 2 – 5,

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.\”.

My wife and I when we go on trips in our caravan around Australia or travel overseas like to attend a church for worship on the Sundays we are away. We try and find a church that preaches the word of God but sometimes that is very hard to find.

We have unfortunately on a few occasions chose a church for worship only to find there is very little bible content in the service or worse what is being taught is not even true to the word of God itself. Paul’s warning to Timothy was very real and different versions of teaching that fail to conform to God’s word fall sadly into another form of idol or false God worship.

Those who worship other ideas of God other than the clear idea of God presented to us in the bible are as verse 7 says,

“Put to shame”

Which means they will fall under the judgment of God when they die or on the last day when God will judge this universe.

  1. 7b           Let false God’s acknowledge the reign of God

 The second idea verse 7 presents is a more difficult one to explain, the second half of verse 7 says,

“Those who boast in idols – worship him all you gods’.

 This section of the verse seems to suggest that there is more than one God but we know from other verses of scripture that there is only one true God like Deuteronomy 4: 35,

“You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other”.

The answer to this problem could open up a clearer understanding of what Paul meant went he said in Ephesians 6: 12,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

There is a hint in the bible that what these “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” is what is often called fallen Angels. In the book of Daniel we have a hint of what might be going on in the spiritual world that has an influence on the natural world and we get this from a verse like Daniel 10: 13,

“ But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia”.

These words are recorded in the book of Daniel as spoken by an Angel we believe is called Gabriel (Daniel 8: 16) who had previously spoken to Daniel bringing him a message from God himself. In chapter 10: 6, this Angel Gabriel is described this way,

“His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude”.

Note there is no mention of wings here. So Gabriel was detained in coming to Daniel with an answer to his prayer for we think around two weeks because he battled with what seems an evil spiritual being who had some kind of influence behind the king of Persia.

Maybe what verse 7b is speaking about when it says,

“Worship him all you God’s”

 Is these evil or fallen angels who work for the prince of darkness, Satan, who seems to be the leader of all fallen angels. Satan and his fallen angel followers seek to influence the workings of the Nations of the world particularly to attack God’s people, who are called to worship the one true God of the bible.

However please note in Daniel 10: 13 that Gabriel with the help of another loyal angel of God, Michael was victorious over the Angel of Persia. So verse 7 is saying then that even these fallen angels who set themselves up as gods will be defeated and must worship the one true God of the bible as verse 9 makes this clear,

“For you, O Lord are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods”.

Paul makes the same point in his first letter to the Corinthians where he writes in 1 Corinthians 8: 5 – 6,

“For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live”.

 So far as these battles that are going on behind the natural world having influence on us we need not worry as Paul says in Ephesians 6: 10 – 11,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devils schemes”.

 So far as the final fate of these, “god’s” or fallen angels who set themselves up as God’s we read this in Jude 6,

“And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day”.

Even Satan who seems to have some kind of spiritual battles to come according to Revelation 20 will end up judged and cast into eternal torment according to Revelation 20: 10,

“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever”.

  1. 8 – 12 LET GOD’S PEOPLE REJOICE IN THE REIGN OF GOD

 The writer returns to his main theme of rejoicing in the reign of God the king and calls on his special chosen people to do this in this last section of the Psalm. I have broken this last section into two parts:

  1. 8 – 9       A call for God’s people to rejoice in the reign of God
  2. 10 – 11   Why God’s people should rejoice in the reign of God

lets have a close look at these two parts of this final section of the Psalm.

  1. 8 – 9       A call for God’s people to rejoice in the reign of God

As I said at the start of the first section the writer of Psalm 97 uses the words rejoice and be glad twice in this Psalm, the first time when he calls all the world to rejoice in the reign of God the king and now when he calls on God’s chosen people to rejoice and be glad in the reign of God their king.

This call for God’s chosen people to rejoice and be glad in the reign of God their king reads like this in verse 8,

“Zion hears and rejoices and the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments O Lord”.

 Zion is word used to speak of a number of things; Zion is God’s chosen place on earth where he dwells with his people on earth, Psalm 74: 2,

“Remember the nation you purchased long ago, the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed— Mount Zion, where you dwelt”.

Note, even in this verse Zion and the people God chose are closely linked. Then Zion is the name for God’s dwelling place in heaven, Psalm 9: 11,

“Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done”.

Finally as it is here, Zion is a name for God’s chosen people, Psalm 9: 14,

“That I may declare your praises in the gates of Daughter Zion, and there rejoice in your salvation”.

The writer to the Hebrews in the New Testament puts all of these together in three verses in Hebrews 12: 22 – 24,

 “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,

24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

So through Jesus and his death on the cross for our sins all who believe in him and what he has done for us are God’s Zion or God’s chosen people.

Verse 8 then speaks of God’s people in another way with the phrase,

“The villages of Judah”

So Zion could also mean those who live in Jerusalem where Zion is located and those who live outside of Jerusalem in the country of Judah are to rejoice and be glad in the reign of God who is king.

The significance of this call to rejoice in the context of at least the time this Psalm was placed in the book of Psalms is that when the people of Judah, the Jews, returned to the land they were to see that their king is none other than God himself and he wants his people to acknowledge this and rejoice and be glad in all that his reign means to them.

The verse gives the first reason why they should rejoice and be glad in his reign with the words,

“Because of judgements O Lord”

As I have already stated that God’s people should rejoice in God’s judgments because when God judges a Nation who is troubling God’s people he is actually delivering or saving them from that nations attacks or threats.

In the context of the return from exile, God judged the Babylonians through the Persian Empire and this act of judgment made it possible for the Jews to return to the land of Judah and to Jerusalem and again build the Temple again on Zion in Jerusalem.

The next reason why they should rejoice in the reign of God is expressed in verse 9, which also makes it clear that what they are rejoicing in is God’s rule or reign over all the earth and again as I spoke of in the previous section all other supposed god’s. Verse 9 reads like this,

“For you, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods”.

Spurgeon sums it up this way,

“Jehovah is not alone high over Judea, but over all the earth, nor is he exalted over men only, but over everything that can be called god: the days are on their way when all men shall discern this truth, and shall render unto the Lord the glory which is due alone to him”.

 The apostle John sums it up this way in his vision of God in heaven, 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.”

  1. 10 – 11   Why God’s people should rejoice in the reign of God

We already have two reasons in the last two verses why God’s people should rejoice in the reign of God their king, the king of everything and they are:

  1. God’s judgments – which for God’s people meant his deliverance from their enemies.
  1. God’s rule over all the earth and even the supposed other Gods.

In the next two verses we see four more reasons why God’s people should rejoice in his reign as God their king.

  1. For he guards our lives (vs. 10a)
  2. For he delivers them from the wicked (vs.10b)
  3. For he shines his light on them (vs. 11a)
  4. For gives them joy (vs. 11b)

Before we look at each of these four extra reasons why God’s people should rejoice in reign of their God who is their King I would like to comment on the description of God’s people at the start of verse 10,

“Let those who love the Lord hate evil”

 The writer of Psalm 97 calls God’s people those who love God and hate evil, which is a neat way of describing what, a true believer in the God of the bible is. They both love and hate but there love is for God as John tells us that we only love God because he first loved us, 1 John 4: 16,

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love, Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him”.

 David spoke often about the love and faithfulness of God for him like Psalm 57: 3,

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

 So even David knew that he loved God because God first loved him and showed that by the way he delivered or saved him from his many enemies. We know that God loves us because as Paul says in Romans 5: 8,

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

 So we are God’s chosen people because we love God who first loved us but we also hate something and what we hate is evil or as evil is expressed in us, sin, we hate sin. John had a lot to say about this very fact because he was writing against a false teaching that had entered the early church that claimed that because we are body and spirit and the only the body is evil then the body can sin and that does not matter as it is the salvation of the spirit that matters.

John said no, to sin and to not hate sin is to show we do not know or understand the true love of God. Listen to his teaching on this in 1 John 2: 13 – 17,

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever”.

This becomes even clearer in 1 John 3: 11 – 12,

 “For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous”.

So the writer of Psalm 97 is saying the same thing that to love God also means to hate sin or evil and for those who do that the next four reasons for rejoicing in the reign of God applies.

  1. For he guards our lives (vs. 10a)

The next part of verse 10 says,

“For he guards the lives of his faithful ones”

I spoke in my introduction of the many Christians today who face terrible persecution and I have read of how God has helped many Christians to be guarded from death when facing persecution. Of course I have also read of how many Christians have lost their lives in persecution.

Jesus said in Matthew 10: 28,

“”Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell”.

David knew and acknowledged that God was his guard or protector and spoke of this on many occasions in his many Psalms, like Psalm 32: 7,

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance”.

My song / poem for this Psalm has this chorus,

Yes the Lord is my hiding place

He does deliver me and sets me free

Yes the Lord is my hiding place

He does surround me with his love.

We can and should then rejoice in God because he does guard us, he is our protector because he is our hiding place and in him even in death he takes us to be with him in his eternal home or hiding place as Jesus promises in John 14: 1 – 4,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

  1. For he delivers them from the wicked (vs.10b)

The second phrase of verse 10 completes the idea of why God guards us or protects us because it says,

“And delivers them from the hand of the wicked”

 David spoke a lot about this as well in so many of his Psalm like Psalm 3: 8,

“From the Lord comes deliverance, may your blessing be on your people”.

 Written by David when he was on the run from his rebellious son Absalom.

Or Psalm 7: 1,

“O Lord my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me”.

 David needed God’s deliverance all through his life and his life story is a great testimony to God’s fulfillment of his promise of deliverance for his people.

Again if this was written or even was placed in the fourth book of Psalms which we believe came about soon after the return from Exile in Babylon then the people who first heard it read or who sang it would have actual wonderful grounds for rejoicing in God’s deliverance from the hands of the wicked Babylonians.

In the New Testament Deliverance becomes Salvation and particular salvation from sin and its terrible consequences, like 1 Peter 1: 3 – 6a

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice”.

So Peter says we should rejoice in this great Salvation that will be totally ours in death or when Christ returns. Peter goes on to say that for a little while we might have to suffer but even this is a grounds for rejoicing because of what that suffering produces as he says in 1 Peter 1: 7,

“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 honor when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

  1. For he shines his light on them (vs. 11a)

The third extra grounds for rejoicing in the reign of God their king is in the first half of verse 11 which says,

“Light is shed upon the righteous”.

 David famously wrote about his God or Lord being his light in Psalm 27: 1,

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear”.

 God had revealed himself to David and as he went through very dark times God shed light on his path to help him through the darkness he faced as he implies in another verse in Psalm 27, verse 5,

“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon the rock”.

 In my younger days I worked with a special committee of Scripture Union on preparing promotional materials for their bible reading materials and we used for some of this their organizations slogan verse, Psalm 119: 105,

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”.

 We tried to think of how many guiding light examples we could come up with and we came up with four:

  1. A torch (like a lamp lights our path in the dark)
  2. A lighthouse (points out possible danger in the dark)
  3. A search light (helps find things or people in the dark)
  4. A reading light (helps us be able to read things in the dark)

All these types of lights have spiritual application for God’s word, which is how God is our light, and of course the main light or revelation of God is in Jesus Christ himself who made this claim in John 8: 12,

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 This also is great grounds or reason for rejoicing in the reign of God the king as he does not leave his people in the dark but shines his light upon them.

  1. For gives them joy (vs. 11b)

The final reason or grounds for rejoicing in the reign of God the king is in the last part of verse 11,

“And joy on the upright in heart”

 As I said in my introduction it has been found that many Christians who are facing today great persecution have great joy in the Lord not because their situation is not difficult but because they have a greater sense of the help and presence of the Lord himself in their daily struggles with constant persecution.

Joy in the bible is not what people call today happiness and we see in the Psalms of David, like Psalm 30: 11,

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy”.

 Written by David a time when he had just realised his sin of counting the number of the men in his army, which God told him not to do and this sin caused the death of many people in Israel to die to a great plague. However David turned to the Lord in repentance and faith and God saved him and his nation from this great plague.

Then again when David was on the run from Absalom his rebellious son who wanted to kill him and his family he writes another verse about joy in Psalm 4: 7,

“Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety”.

Note here David sees the joy God gives him is his assurance of God’s protection and help in a time of great difficulty. The key to the joy a Christian or true believer can have from God is wrapped up in that key word peace which Paul speaks of in Philippians 4: 6 – 7,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

The joy God gives is his deep and immoveable peace even in the midst of difficulty and this is a wonderful reason to rejoice in the reign of our God the King in our daily lives.

  1. 12       CONCLUSION – REJOICE IN THE LORD

I wasn’t going to make a fourth section for my breakdown for this Psalm unto I got to this final verse and realised that verse 12 stands out like a beacon as a fitting conclusion to this particular Psalm.

Psalm 97 begins with,

The Lord reigns let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.

 Now it ends with,

“Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name”.

 In between these the opening and closing verses we have learnt:

  1. Why we all should rejoice in the reign of the Lord.
  2. That we should do this because of what God is like.
  3. That our God is so righteous and glorious he must be covered by a cloud.
  4. That our God goes before his people as a consuming fire destroying their enemies
  5. That our God is so powerful he can melt mountains.
  6. That our God declares his glory in the heavens and in nature.
  7. That our God does not want us to worship idols.
  8. That our God is over any supposed God or other idea of God.
  9. That our God calls his people to rejoice in him.
  10. That our God gives his people love and guards and protects them.
  11. That our God delivers us from wicked people
  12. That our God gives us light and joy.

Therefore verse 12 says,

“Rejoice in the Lord”

 I spoke in my introduction of how many Christians are being persecuted today yet they are amongst some of the greatest examples of Christians rejoicing in the Lord. They rejoice in the Lord because they have to rely on the Lord so much and this makes them some of the most joyful Christians today.

This experience a deep joy or peace is described by Paul this way,

“Transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4: 7)

 When Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians he like the many persecuted Christians today was locked up in some kind of jail and in his letter he speaks of being in chains (Philippians 1: 7, 1: 13 and 1: 17). Yet Paul says in Philippians 4: 4,

“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice”

 The writer of Psalm 97 or at least its editor is saying to the Jews who had just returned from 70 years of exile in Babylon, don’t grumble or complain instead,

“Rejoice in the Lord”

 And to make sure they understood what he was saying he concludes his Psalm with the words,

“Praise his holy name”.

 May we learn from our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ and from the word of Paul and the author of Psalm 97 to always and in all situations to,

“Rejoice in the Lord”

For as verse 1 says,

“The Lord reigns”.

 I close as usual with an original poem and prayer.

 

PRAISE THE LORD WHO REIGNS

(Based on Psalm 97)

 He reigns, he reigns,

The Lord he reigns

Rejoice, Rejoice,

Rejoice you foreign lands.

Clouds surround the Lord

And cover him in darkness

For he reigns with holy justice

And pure righteousness,

 

Fire goes before, Fire goes before

Fire goes before the Lord

He lights, he lights,

His lightning and thunder is seen and heard.

He melts away the mountains

For he is a mighty Lord

And the heavens proclaim his glory.

And the bible is his word.

 

Refran:

Praise the Lord who reigns

And worship him in song.

Praise the Lord who reigns

And make all idols be gone.

 

Rejoice, Rejoice

Rejoice all people who know Lord.

Be glad, Be glad,

Be glad for all justice will be restored.

Let those who love the Lord hate evil

For God guards his faithful ones.

He will deliver them from the all the wicked

For he considers them his daughters and his sons.

 

Rejoice, rejoice.

Rejoice in the Lord always.

Give praise, give praise,

Give praise to your God all your days.

God shines his light on his people

Gives them joy and peace to always cope.

So praise the Lord those who know Jesus

For he is our salvation and our hope.

 

Refran:

Praise the Lord who reigns

And worship now and sing.

Praise the Lord who reigns

For he is our mighty king.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER

 I praise you Father in heaven for you are our mighty king who reigns over heaven and earth. I rejoice in your mighty holy name because it was you who sent Jesus into this world to die for my sins on the cross. Jesus is your Son who has saved me and given me eternal like and so because of him I know your love and help in my life to guard and deliver me from all my enemies. I rejoice in you O Lord and thank you for your joy and peace that you give me even in the most difficult times of my life. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PSALM 96 TALK: OUR GOD THE KING WHO CALLS US TO PROCLAIM SALVATION TO THE NATIONS

PSALM 96 TALK: OUR GOD THE KING WHO CALLS US TO PROCLAIM SALVATION TO THE NATIONS

 (A Psalm that explores God’s call to all believers to take God’s message of salvation to every nation in this world. The message we must declare is that God is the king of this world and mankind has turned their backs on God and is in rebellion to God as their king and one day God will judge all mankind for their many sins. However God’s message of salvation says that God has made a way for all people to be saved from his coming judgment but they must turn to him and acknowledge him as their Savior and Lord or king of their lives.)

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

INTRODUCTION

Harold Schofield was only 31 when he died of typhus in a remote area of China on the 1st of August 1883. He had only served the Lord in China for two and a half years as a missionary pioneer doctor but he will always be remembered for his well known desperate prayer to God for more missionaries to China as at the time Harold was only one of eight evangelical missionaries with the recently formed mission society called The China Inland Mission started by the famous missionary pioneer Hudson Taylor.

The unique nature of Schofield’s prayer was that he wanted God to raise up saved and committed university men, men who had been equipped at the top universities of England who represented the finest mental and physical training England could supply in his day.

Schofield died a year and a half before God answered his prayer in a most remarkable way for unknown to Schofield even before he started praying this prayer God had sent the famous evangelical Gospel preaching evangelist name D.L. Moody with his music director and singer named Ira Sankey on another Gospel preaching mission trip to England and Great Britain in 1877. On this mission trip an elderly prominent millionaire business man named Edward Studd went to a Moody / Sankey Gospel meeting and was thoroughly converted to Christ. Studd only lived two years after his conversion but he gave lots of money to Moody and others for world wide missionary activities.

Edward Studd also witnessed to his three sons and one of sons was to become a famous English cricketer, C.T. Studd who played a major role in the famous cricket match with the visiting Australian cricket team at the Oval cricket ground in 1882 where after England was narrowly defeated by Australia the legend of the “Ashes” was born. C.T Studd went on the first English tour of Australia in 1883 where it was reported he helped return the Ashes to Australia a small urn containing the burnt remains of a set of cricket bails.

D.L Moody was also used to help call C.T Studd to Christ and he later joined six other Cambridge graduates in 1885 to go together to China as missionaries and they became known as the Cambridge Seven. Some of the other Cambridge Seven had also come to Christ through the preaching ministry of D.L. Moody and the beautiful Gospel singing of Ida Sankey.

Before the famous Cambridge Seven left for missionary service in China they travelled the country attending and speaking at many packed meetings and raised incredible interest and support for The China Inland Mission and led many to faith in Christ and some for many missionary service. Out of this highly successful and well publicized campaign was born The Student Volunteer Movement and The Inter- Varsity Fellowship.

C.T. Studd served Christ in successful missionary service in China for ten years when owing to his wife’s illness returned to England. He travelled widely back home conducting many evangelistic meetings and China Inland Mission meetings. In 1900 C.T. Studd went with his family to South India to pastor a church in a place called Ootacamund which he did for six years.

C.T. Studd went out as a missionary for the third time at the age of 46 to Central Africa and brought the Gospel message to The Sudan for the first time and worked their unto his death in 1931. While serving in Africa he started the “The heart for Africa” mission, which was changed to WEC, World Wide Evangelization Crusade, which was later, changed to Worldwide Evangelization for Christ.

So Harold Schofield did not live to see the answer of his desperate prayer for university trained, healthy young men to take the Gospel message to China in his life time but his prayer or many prayers was wonderfully answered only 18 months after his death. Not only did seven young men go to China for all except C.T Studd spent a lifetime of faithful missionary service China but through the witness and commitment of these seven young Cambridge graduates hundreds and eventually thousands of others went not only to China but many other Nations in this world with the wonderful message of Salvation through Christ.

C.T Studd went to the Nations of China, India and later Africa and started a major missionary sending organization, WEC that still sends today young men and women to the nations of the world with the Gospel message.

This call of God to proclaim his message of salvation is not just at the end of the Gospels like Matthew 28: 18 – 20 or Mark 16: 15 – 16, which says,

“ He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”.

But is spoken of or hinted at in the Old Testament as well, like this Psalm, Psalm 96. A Psalm probably edited and put in the fourth book of Psalms after the return from exile from Babylon but originally written by non other than King David himself around 500 years before the fourth book of Psalms was put together. We know this because this Psalm is almost identical to a Psalm or song David wrote immediately after the ark of the covenant was taken up into Jerusalem and placed in the Tent Sanctuary on Mount Zion to later be installed in the Temple build by David’s son, King Solomon.

The original Psalm of David was recorded for us in 1 Chronicles 16: 23 – 34 and some modern so called bible scholars who always seek to discredit the historical truth of the bible say that a unnamed writer wrote the books of chronicles after the Babylonian exile and put this Psalm in making up the story of David composing it originally.

This simply cannot be true as many other Psalms and Old Testament scriptures much older than the return from exile also quote or use wording from this Psalm. A big example of this is the book of Isaiah that Leupold points out alludes to or directly uses seven of the 13 verses in his writings.

I will point some of these Isaiah references in my Psalm talk to follow on this Psalm. So Psalm 95 seems to be addressed to the Jews themselves for a call to worship, which also has universal implications. The Church of Jesus Christ being the New Israel of God are called by this Psalm to lead the world to joyful and holy worship of the God of the bible.

Now in Psalm 96 tells us that everyone who believes in the God of the bible and even the very creation itself is to proclaim the wonderful message of God’s salvation which we know has come through God’s great Messiah, Jesus Christ who will come again as Psalm 96 sets out to bring about this worlds final day of Judgment.

With the theme of “Our God the King who calls us to proclaim salvation to the nations” in mind my breakdown for this Psalm is:

  1. 1 – 6   SING AND PROCLAIM GOD’S SALVATION TO THE NATIONS
  1. 1 – 3   Sing the new song of Salvation
  2. 4 – 6   Why we should sing and proclaim God’s salvation to the nations
  1. 7 – 9   ACKNOWLEDGE AND WORSHIP THE GOD OF SALVATION TO      THE NATIONS
  1. 7- 8   All people must acknowledge the God who offers salvation to the nations
  1. 9 –   All people must worship the God who offers salvation to the nations
  1. 10 – 13 REJOICE ALL CREATION IN THE GOD WHO JUDGES AND SAVES THE WORLD
  1. 11 – 12 The praise of the natural world to the God who offers   judgment and salvation to the world
  1. 13 –       The praise all people must offer the God who judges and saves the world.

Lets then have a close look at this amazing Psalm that started life 700 years before the coming of Christ yet it speaks of his great commission to proclaim the message of God’s Salvation tor the Nations of this world.

  1. 1 – 6   SING AND PROCLAIM GOD’S SALVATION TO THE NATIONS

I have broken this first section into two parts:

  1. 1 – 3   Sing the new song of Salvation
  2. 4 – 6   Why we should sing and proclaim God’s salvation to the nations

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

  1. 1 – 3   Sing the new song of Salvation

Three times the psalmist says, “Sing to the Lord” in just two verses and this emphasis that the writer of this Psalm really wants to promote is the proclamation of God’s great message to the world in song. This is not surprising coming originally from David who is described this way at the end of his life in 2 Samuel 23: 1b,

“ Israel’s singer of songs”

David used music to proclaim God’s message of salvation on many occasions and he encourages us all to do the same on many occasions like Psalm 9: 11,

“Sing praises to the Lord enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done”.

Music with a high note of praise has featured all of the great Christian revivals in the history of the church and as the message has gone out of God’s great love and salvation so to has great singing and music.

What we call the four great Christian revivals can pinpoint two amazing characteristics great preachers of the Gospel and great singers and new songs or hymns:

First Great Awakening 1730 – 1755 – Two great preachers stand out George Whitfield and John Wesley. The music comes from great hymn writers like Charles Wesley and his thousands of new hymns and it is said he wrote 8, 989 hymns in his life time and I think one of his greatest is “And Can It Be”.

Second Great Awakening 1790 – 1840 – Mainly in America this great time of the preaching of the Gospel featured large tent meetings with powerful preaching and enthusiastic singing and revival preachers like Charles Finney. Even in England a renewed emphasis on the preaching of the Gospel and new wonderful hymn singing developed and this is the period that John Newton and when his great hymn, “Amazing Grace” was written.

Third Great Awakening 1850 – 1900 – This is the renewed preaching of the Gospel developed under the amazingly popular mass evangelistic rallies of D. L Moody took place. Here we saw the development of the team of a preacher and a great singer at these rallies and of course the great singer with D.L Moody was Ira Sankey who wrote many new hymns and collected many as well like the famous hymn, “Tell Me The Old Old Story” written by a lady named Arabella Kathrine Hankey in those days.

Fourth Great Awakening 1960 – 1980 – This is the great awakening I have personally witnessed in my life time and featured the international preaching of the Gospel crusades of Billy Graham who like D.L Moody before him featured a singer George Beverly Shea and the revival of many great old hymns and the birth of new ones like “How Great Thou Art”, originally a Swedish hymn by Cart Gustav Boberg and translated into its English version years later by Stuart Hine.

So singing and the proclamation of the Gospel or God’s message of Salvation to the Nations go hand in hand and David knew this and practiced this throughout his life where he experienced over and over again the Salvation or deliverance of God in his life and in his own Nation of Israel.

Maybe after the return from exile the editor of the fourth book of Psalms realised this as well and remembering David’s famous Psalm or song in the first book of Chronicles revised it to also tell his people of his day that they too should sing and proclaim God’s wonderful message to the Nations of the world of God’s salvation of the Jews from captivity in Babylon.

So what does David want us proclaim in song?

I see four things God wants us to proclaim are in these opening three verses:

  1. A New Song (vs. 1)
  2. God’s Salvation (vs. 2)
  3. God’s glory (vs.3b)
  4. God’s marvelous deeds (vs. 3b)

Lets have a closer look at each of these three things David wanted his people to proclaim:

  1. A New Song (vs. 1)

David says in verse 1 as he has said in many Psalms,

“Sing to the Lord a new song”

This is a tricky concept because coming from David, the writer of many new songs we now call Psalms he could literally mean write new songs and sing them but H.C. Leopold points out,

“A new song does not involve the idea of a new poetic or musical composition, but as we Briggs rightly points out ‘a new outburst of song because of a new event that evokes it.”

We might say sing the old song with new insight and new enthusiasm for its content. I mentioned the famous old hymn from third great Awakening or revival and the hymn Ira Sankey loved to sing “Tell Me The Old Old Story” written by a lady named Arabella Kathrine Hankey. I sure the many times Ira would have sung that great old hymn its words for him and his listeners reminded them of his constant need for salvation through the wonderful story of the Gospel a story that is old but new every time we experience its saving and changing power to our daily lives. The words of the hymn go like this:

Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,
For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.

Refrain

Tell me the old, old story, tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and His love.

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,

 Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,
That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon;
The early dew of morning has passed away at noon.

 Refrain

 Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save.
Tell me the story always, if you would really be,
In any time of trouble, a comforter to me.

 Refrain

 Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.
Yes, and when that world’s glory is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story: “Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”

 Refrain

 Tell me the old, old story, tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and His love.

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,

Another famous use of this term is in Psalm 33: 1 – 3, (also see Psalm 40: 3 and Psalm 98:1)

“Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy”.

I have been in many church gatherings where enthusiastic singing of old hymns has lifted my spirit as I had the pleasure of joining with others in singing out the wonderful message of God’s love, an old old story yet a fresh experience of the amazing love of God in praise and worship. This kind of experience has caused many over the years who do not believe become interested and led by God’s Spirit to find out more and through that come to faith in him.

  1. God’s Salvation (vs. 2)

Then in verse 2 David writes,

“Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day”.

The major message of our songs of the Lord is his salvation which is tied to his name or who he really is. The God of the bible is a saving God, a God who saved his people out of Egypt, a God who saved his people over and over again from far more worldly powerful other nations.

Finally he is a God who through the sending of his son saves all from the consequences of their sins if they believe that his death and resurrection was for them.

As the well known famous John 3: 16 verse says,

“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 is our message of salvation that our God the king offers to the world and he calls on us to be his mouth piece through song and the proclamation of his word to bring that message to all the world as Paul says in Romans 10: 15b,

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”!

The message of God’s salvation is good news as it says your sins are leading you to death and hell but I offer your forgiveness and eternal life through my Son who paid for your sins on the cross.

As the first verse of the great Hymn of Charles Wesley written in the first great awakening or revival says,

“And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

 I have sang that hymn many times in Christian gatherings and every time my soul has be lifted as the wonderful message of God’s salvation rings through both the words and the amazing stirring tune that hymn is sung to.

  1. God’s glory (vs.3b)

The message we must sing out and now at the start of verse 3 says, declare, also includes the message of the glory of the God who saves, as the first part of verse 3 says,

“Declare his glory among the nations”.

David knew that God’s glory is wrapped up in who he is and what he has done as he speaks of in a earlier Psalm 9 verse 11,

“Sing praises to the Lord, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done”.

David knew that God was the king of heaven and earth and sat on his throne in Heaven represented on earth by Zion where his sanctuary in David’s time sat and where the Temple sat in Solomon’s time and onwards unto it was completely done away with once the Lord Jesus had come, died for our sins, rose from the dead and went back to the heavenly Zion of God.

This was his glory, his rightful place as the King of heaven and earth and yet this great glorious king so high and unlike anything in this world descended to earth in and through his Son Jesus Christ to achieve the salvation of all who look to him.

The prophet Isaiah who seems to have known this Psalm looked into the future and said this hundreds of years before the coming of Christ, Isaiah 66: 18,

“And I, because of what they have planned and done, am about to come and gather the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory”.

This gathering of all nations has been fulfilled and will be fulfilled as just before Jesus went back into heaven he commissioned the disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations making disciples of them, Matthew 28: 19 – 20,

 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This they faithfully started and even on the first occasion after Jesus had ascended that the Gospel was preached by the disciple Peter we read this in Acts 1: 5 – 11,

“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

From that day on the declaration of the Salvation of God through the Gospel Message and the message of the glory of God has continued to go out to every nation, even today men and women are declaring the glory of God in many Nations as we live and breath.

However what Isaiah is speaking of in Isaiah 66 about the gathering of all nations to see and hear about the glory of God will come about completely at end of this Gospel preaching age we live in when Jesus returns to earth in his full heavenly glory and gathers all nations of the world together to be both judged and saved. Those who will be saved are those who truly trust in him also called the elect (as it describes them in the referene below) , as it says 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”..

Just as the great modern hymn, “How Great Thou Art”, sung by George Beverly Shea in the fourth great awakening or revival declares so clearly,

Oh Lord my God when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout The universe displayed

 Chorus:

 Then sings my soul My Saviour, God, to Thee
How great thou art, How great thou art
Then sings my soul, My Saviour, God, to Thee
How great Thou art, How great Thou art

 When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Chorus:

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin

 When Christ shall come with shouts of adulation
And take me home what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow In humble adoration
And there proclaim My God How great Thou art

 Chorus:

  1. God’s marvelous deeds (vs. 3b)

 The final thing God wants us to proclaim I have already mentioned because God’s glory contains it namely, verse 3b

“His marvellous deeds among all people”.

 I said before that the glory of God is wrapped up in who the God of the bible is or what his character is like and what he has done and continues to do.

In David’s time, David would be thinking of all the marvellous deeds God did for Israel up to the ascension of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. This would include the founding of the Nation through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the freeing of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. David would also be thinking of the taking of the Promised Land of Israel from the Canaanites and how even God had called him from being shepherd boy to become the king of Israel.

David had experienced already at the original time of writing many marvellous deeds of God as he speaks of in one of his early Psalms, 26: 6 – 7,

“I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, Lord, proclaiming aloud

your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds”.

David often connected God’s marvelous deeds with his expressed character of love and faithfulness as we see in Psalm 57: 2 – 3,

“I cry out to God Most High to God, who vindicates me. He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me—God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

The editor of the fourth book of Psalms, who we think lived and did his work on the fourth book of Psalms after the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile probably would have been thinking of God’s marvelous deeds of having their Babylonian overlords defeated and destroyed by the Persians who in turn allowed and even encouraged the Jews to return to Judah and its ancient capitol of Jerusalem.

This also was an act of God’s love and faithfulness, which in the New Testament gets the new name of grace. Paul speaks of God’s marvelous deeds of grace as the basis of our salvation in God in Ephesians 2: 4 – 9,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 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”.

David did not deserve God’s love yet because of God’s love David and his Nation of Israel was saved by God’s marvelous deeds. Israel did not deserve to be returned from exile in Babylon yet out of God’s underserved love God did marvelous deeds to return them to the Promised Land of Israel.

We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness and salvation but out of God’s grace, or undeserved love God has forgiven us and saved us through the work of Christ.

This is what God wants us to proclaim to the world the Good News that salvation has been won for anyone who simply turns the Christ in repentance and faith.

This was the message that came out of all the Great Awakenings or revivals and during the second great Awakening a famous hymn was written by a converted slave trader who became a Anglican minister by the Name of John Newton and his hymn testimony is called Amazing Grace which goes like this,

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

 T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

 Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

 When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

 This hymn expresses so wonderfully the marvelous deeds of God, which God wants us to continue to sing and proclaim to the world.

  1. 4 – 6   Why we should sing and proclaim God’s salvation to the nations

David kicks off verse 4 with the word, “for” which indicates he is now going to tell us why we should sing and proclaim God’s wonderful deeds of Salvation to the nations. I can see three reasons David gives for us to proclaim to the Nations God’s wonderful deeds of salvation and they are:

  1. God is great and worthy of praise (vs. 4a)
  2. God is to be feared above all other God’s (vs. 4b – 5)
  3. God is surrounded by splendor and Majesty (vs. 6)

Lets have a look at each of these three reasons why we should sing and proclaim God’s marvelous deeds of salvation to the nations.

  1. God is great and worthy of praise (vs. 4a)

The opening of verse 4 simply says,

“For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise”.

 Which is a concept we have seen a few times before in other Psalms like Psalm 48: 1,

“Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain”.

When someone we know or have heard of does something remarkable we usually praise them and speak of how great or wonderful they are and so the God of the bible has done marvelous loving deeds of salvation for us so we should call him great and give him the praise he deserves.

David might have known these words in Deuteronomy 10: 17,

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes”.

Our God is the king of kings or as this verse says, “Lord of Lords” but note the verse goes on to say he shows no partiality.

The context of this verse in Deuteronomy is how God loved Israel and chose them to be his special people and because of what God is like the verses that follow speak of how God wanted his people to treat aliens and widows, Deuteronomy 10: 19 – 21,

 “And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

20 Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.”

Note again they are to praise God because he is the one who performed great and awesome wonders or deeds for his people when he led them out of slavery in Egypt.

We are saved by God’s grace Paul says in that famous Ephesians 2 passage about God grace to do great good works for God, Ephesians 2: 10,

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

Through these good works for God we bring praise to our God as Jesus declares in Matthew 5: 16,

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”.

We do the good deeds for God because God has done so much for us and in doing the good deeds we bring glory and praise to our God because he is worthy of our praise because of what he has done for us.

The book of Revelation speaks of God and Jesus being worthy of praise. Revelation 4: 11 says,

“You are worthy, Our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being”.

Then in the next chapter of the book of Revelation Jesus is spoken of as being worthy of praise, Revelation 5: 9, here Jesus is called the lamb that was slain referring to his death on the cross for our sins,

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

 So we should sing and proclaim God’s message to the Nations of his salvation through his marvelous deeds in Christ because through that we see how great and worthy of praise he really is.

  1. God is to be feared above all other God’s (vs. 4b – 5)

The second half of verse 4 and verse 5 speak of how great the God of the bible actually is and because of this greatness we should fear him or more specifically revere him. Verse 4b and verse 5 read like this,

“He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens”.

 David had the concept of the Heathen God’s of the Canaanites to contend with usually wrapped up in the worship of Baal, a fertility God represented by a bull like idol. This religion or idea of God was attractive to David’s people because it appealed to their basic drive and desire for fertility for their crops and their families and even involved sexual prostitution in its worship of this God.

The exiles returning from Babylon, when David’s Psalm was reviewed and placed in the fourth book of Psalms also had many non -bible views of God to tempt them away from the one true God of the bible.

However verse 4b says,

“He is to be feared above all gods”

 Even if other God’s existed, and the next verse says they don’t, then the God of the bible is above them or over them, he is the one true God who we have just learnt is worthy of our praise alone.

The book of Proverbs says, Proverbs 1: 7,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline”.

 At a recent bible study group I attended we were discussing the current opposition to school scripture. In my state, New South Wales in Australia because the schools were run by the churches originally the colonial government when they took over most of the church schools agreed to legislate into our state laws that the churches must have access to all public schools to teach scripture.

Our church along with many throughout our state have sent lay scripture teaches into our schools to teach God’s word for half an hour each week to all children for many years now. However in recent years parents of children in the school can opt for their children to attend non- scripture classes, which often mean sitting in a classroom and doing nothing while the scripture classes are being conducted.

One member of our bible study group said parents choosing non- scripture are choosing for their children to learn nothing instead of their child learning what is their only secure hope in this life and in the life to come.

These non – scripture believing parents not only want their children to learn nothing about God but many of them want all children to learn nothing and they are growing at this present time with lots of political clout to achieve this.

People today are in such rebellion to the idea of a God they would prefer to learn nothing about him in a hope he does not exist and therefore has no claim on their day to day lives. Paul says this about these people, Romans 1: 21,

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened”.

Verse 5 goes on to point out the uselessness of other God’s or even God ideas other than that of the God of the bible,

 “For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens”.

 Many scriptures teach this fact that idols and other supposed God’s are nothing. I like Isaiah’s many references to this and particularly this almost amusing reference about a tradesman making a idol that becomes a God in Isaiah 44: 12 – 15,

“The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint.13 The carpenter measures with a line

 and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in human form, human form in all its glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. 14 He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.15 It is used as fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it;  he makes an idol and bows down to it”.

I have only come close to idol worship once in my life and that was to only witness its ridiculous stupidity. On my first trip through Europe we travelled through Spain and visited a beautifully located catholic monastery at a place called Montserrat where there is a statue of Mary called The Black Madonna. I stood in a long line to climb some stairs up to the front of the church were a old wooden statue of Mary with the baby Jesus sits behind a sheet of glass.

However one of her hands is clear of the glass and people kiss the hand as they say a prayer to Mary. I thought of Isaiah’s words as I passed the statue, this is made of wood and crafted by a man yet somehow it has spiritual power and I’m sad to say I saw people worshipping the statue. I’m sure my Roman Catholic friends will say it only represents Mary but the truth is in the minds of many who bow before that statue it is to them like bowing before a god.

Because of the dangers of crossing the line to the statue or idol becoming a god to a person God says in Deuteronomy 5: 8 – 10,

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments”.

So we should sing and proclaim God’s marvelous deeds of salvation because he is not a dead useless idol but the living great God who is so great and powerful we should fear or reverence him and our world needs to know about him as without that they have nothing when it comes to knowledge of God.

  1. God is surrounded by splendor and Majesty (vs. 6)

The third reason David offers why we should sing and proclaim the marvelous deeds of salvation of the God of the bible is in verse 6, which says,

“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary”

 Some commentators believe David in this verse is not speaking of the earthly sanctuary in Jerusalem but the heavenly sanctuary that the earthly one symbolizes. If this is the case than the splendor and majesty before him is all the heavenly hosts that surround the heavenly throne of God.

Isaiah caught a glimpse of this in his vision of heaven at his commission by God recorded in Isaiah 6: 1 – 4,

“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”.

In the later life of John the apostle he to had a vision of God on his throne in heaven and he describes it this way, Revelation 4: 1 – 11,

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 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.”

 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 we must sing and proclaim the marvelous deeds of God of salvation because God is the king who sits on his throne in heaven surrounded by splendor and majesty and he is the one who is all strength and glory which he through Christ offers us the opportunity of approaching him on the throne of grace with our prayers for help and direction in our daily lives.

As the writer to the Hebrews puts it 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”.

We can only approach this throne of grace because of what Jesus has done through his death on the cross he opened up access to heaven through him. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man and that is because it is only through him do we have this access to God as Paul says 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”.

  1. 7 – 9   ACKNOWLEDGE AND WORSHIP THE GOD OF SALVATION TO THE NATIONS

The second section like the first starts with a three- fold command from the Lord. In the first section it was “Sing to the Lord” three times now in this second section it is “Ascribe to the Lord” three times. In this section we will explore what it actually means to “Ascribe to the Lord and we will also learn of the wonderful connection of worshipping the Lord and how it relates to proclaiming to the nations what the Lord has done for us in saving us.

I have broken this second section into two parts:

  1. 7- 8   All people must acknowledge the God who offers salvation to the nations
  1. 9 –     All people must worship the God who offers salvation to the nations

Lets now have a close look at each of these two parts:

  1. 7- 8   All people must acknowledge the God who offers salvation to the nations

As I have just said three times in verses 7 – 8 David commands,

“Ascribe to the Lord”

This command has been translated in a number of translations as,

“Give unto the Lord”

Which simply means we are to acknowledge who is the Lord and what he is like and of course what he has done for us. This is a call to the nations of the world to worship the God of the bible as the Lord or king of everything and everyone.

So what can we learn from these three commands to acknowledge and worship the Lord?

I have come up with three things we can learn from these three commands to ascribe to the Lord:

  1. Ascribe to the Lord is addressed to all people (vs. 7a)
  2. Ascribe to the Lord is to focus on God’s glory and strength (vs. 7b)
  3. Ascribe to the Lord is expressed primarily in worship (vs.8)

Lets then have a close look at each of these three things we can learn from this command to ascribe to the Lord.

  1. Ascribe to the Lord is addressed to all people (vs. 7a)

This call of God to acknowledge God as the God over all things and worship him that David gives us is not directed to the Nation of Israel but to all the world or as the verse 7a calls them. ‘Families of nations”, 7a says,

“Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations”.

Albert Barnes points out this,

“O ye kindreds of the people – Hebrew, “Families” of the people: people, as united by family ties. The idea is that of worship not merely as individuals, nor as a mere “aggregate” of individuals united by no common bonds, but as those united by strong ties; bound by blood and affection; constituted into communities. It is a call on such to worship God in their capacity as thus bound together; to come as families and to worship God”.

 Sadly the people of the world have seen the Jews and the Jewish faith as an exclusive people cut off from the rest of the world because they believe they alone are God’s special people.

This is not God’s intention for the Jews as we see in their original call to be a special nation of God in Exodus 19: 5 -6,

“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.”

Israel was made a special nation of God for good reasons and they were to take to the world as a people the message of God’s salvation. Through them God spoke to the world which is what the term “Kingdom of priests” implies.

Sadly it seems the Jews throughout history heard God say they were a treasured possession of the God of heaven and earth but seem to have not heard or come to terms with the concept of being a kingdom of priests to the world at large.

The irony is that even though the Jews seemed to have failed to be an effective kingdom of priests God still used them and their story as his great message of salvation to the world. Then of course Jesus was born a Jew and through him as God’s Son from heaven salvation has been won for anyone who has faith in him from no-matter what nation of earth we come from.

Those then who put their faith in Christ are part of what the bible calls the family of God or as this verse calls them “The family of Nations”.

Peter picks up the concepts of Christian believers being both God’s kingdom of priests and God’s family made up of people from every nation on earth 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”.

As part of God’s family then Psalm 96 verse 7a is telling us we are to “ascribe” to the Lord, acknowledging as the God of heaven and earth and worship him together which will come even clearer in the next verse.

One of the privileges I have had is visiting Christian churches in other countries and joining with people from a totally different culture and feeling immediately the same bond of faith in the Lord Jesus that I have at home and that makes me not an alien or stranger in that foreign country but a fellow family member of the kingdom of God. Together we worship the same God and acknowledged him as our father in heaven head of our wonderful family made up of people from all nations and walks of life.

  1. Ascribe to the Lord is to focus on God’s glory and strength (vs. 7b)

In the second half of verse 7 David again speaks of acknowledging the common God of the bible we have just learnt is the father of a great family of true believers and he writes,

“Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength”

Spurgeon writes,

“Give unto the Lord glory and strength, that is to say recognize the glory and power of Jehovah, and ascribe them unto him in your hymns. Who is glorious but the Lord? Who is strong, save our God?”

When we worship our Lord and God we need to focus our hearts and minds on who he really is and what he is really like. David did just that in so many Psalms like Psalm 21: 13,

“Be exalted, O Lord in your strength; we will sing and praise your might”.

The old gospel song I love to sing says,

“I am weak but thou art strong

Jesus keep me from all wrong

I’ll be satisfied as long

As I walk dear Lord close to thee”

David knew he was not strong and needed the lord to make him strong as he indicates in a Psalm like Psalm 28: 7,

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped”.

Paul spoke about his own weakness and how he is strong in God in Philippians 4: 13,

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength”.

So when we focus on the glory and strength of the Lord we realise our sinfulness and weaknesses but at the same time when we ascribe to the Lord we also realise that in the Lord we can know his strength and glory in our lives.

Paul speaks of the process of sanctification which I understand is the process of God working in the believer to become more like Christ in 2 Corinthians 3: 18 with these amazing words,

“And we all, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”.

So the process of sanctification is the process of realizing we are weak and sinful in ourselves without Christ but as we trust in him and what he has done for us we gain new strength in the Lord and this changes us to become more like Christ which is an ongoing process in this life.

  1. Ascribe to the Lord is expressed primarily in worship (vs.8)

In David’s third “ascribe to the Lord” he uses Old Testament language to speak of acknowledging God in acts of worship, he writes in verse 8,

“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name; bring an offering and come into his courts”.

So in our recognition of the glory and strength of our Lord we are to perform acts of worship, which in David’s time meant offering some kind of animal sacrifice. It is interesting that these acts of worship are seen as part of our proclamation of God’s marvelous deeds of salvation to all nations.

The Old Testament worship practices followed generally similar worship practices of other Gods in that they offered animal sacrifices to gods which seems part of all ancient religions. However the significance of what Old Testament bible based animal sacrifices was very different than the worship practices of the Nations around ancient Israel.

Gotquestions?org answers the question why did God want animal sacrifices in Old Testament worship this way,

“God required animal sacrifices to provide a temporary covering of sins and to foreshadow the perfect and complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Leviticus 4:35, 5:10)”

 Leviticus 4: 35 says this,

“They shall remove all the fat, just as the fat is removed from the lamb of the fellowship offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar on top of the food offerings presented to the Lord. In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven”.

John the Baptist describes Jesus this way in John 1: 29,

“”Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.

The tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews deals in some detail with the reason and nature of Old Testament sacrifice and it speaks of it as only a shadow of the great and final sacrifice to come. Then in Hebrews 10: 11 – 14, we read these words,

“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”.

The priest the book of Hebrews speaks of is non other than Jesus Christ who is both the priest offering the sacrifice and the object of the sacrifice itself. Jesus being perfect gives his life as the payment for our sins and in doing so became the perfect sacrifice for all sins.

How then is this part of the proclamation of the message of God’s salvation to the Nations?

Well in Old Testament terms the practice of sacrifices told the world two things:

  1. That the God off the bible treated sin seriously
  2. Some kind of sacrificial offering was needed to deal with sin.

In New Testament terms it says to the world two things as well,

  1. Sin must be paid for
  2. God has paid for our sin by the giving of his only son to death on the cross.

We of course do not offer sacrifices to God any more because the one perfect sacrifice has been offered but Paul tells us the basis of New Testament in Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship”.

So we ascribe to the Lord in worship when we offer ourselves in service to God and his church and in doing this we are proclaiming to the world that he has saved us and wants to save everyone through Christ who we now serve.

  1. 9 –     All people must worship the God who offers salvation to the nations

The theme of worship continues with the scope of the worship offered being widened to all the earth. Verse 9 reads like this,

“Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him all the earth”.

David certainly did not have the Jewish problem of exclusiveness as he calls now for the worship of the God of the bible to extend to everyone on the earth.

This is a logical way of thinking when we consider what he has already said about God in this Psalm, like verse 4,

“For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all god’s”.

When we consider what the next verse says about all the other so called God’s being just idols and the God of the bible being the one who,

“Made the heavens”

In another sense David is exclusive as the only God who is worthy of praise and worship is the God of the bible but this praise and worship of this God is not limited to the tiny nation of Israel but is something people of all nations of the earth should be involved in.

God is worthy of praise then because he made everything in heaven and on earth and as the next verse, verse 10 says,

“The Lord reigns”.

God, we have learnt from this Psalm already is surrounded by splendor in heaven as verse 6 says,

“Splendor and majesty are before him”.

So verse 9 describes the kind of worship the people of this world should be involved in as worship,

“In the splendor of his holiness”.

What does this really mean?

John Gill believes that this expression is explained by the normal protocol of coming into the presence of ancient kings at the time of the writing of this Psalm and for a long time after. He believes that the past three verses on ascribing to the Lord also become clearer in the light of how ancient kings on earth were approached spoke to and Gill writes,

“This and the three preceding verses there is a manifest allusion to the form of addresses made to kings in the eastern nations; who being arrayed, and seated in a majestic manner, with all the marks of royal honor and dignity about them, whom their subjects approach with ascriptions of glory to them; bringing presents in their hands, and bowing down to the ground before them”.

This is the reverent kind of worship God must expect. We are warned over and over again about not showing reverence and respect to the God of the bible in many parts of the bible. Isaiah warns of the danger of approaching God in worship in a non sincere and irreverent way in Isaiah 29: 13,

“The Lord says: ‘These people come near me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their heats are far from me. Their worship of me is made up of rules taught by men”.

Such was the formal worship of Jesus day as he pointed out on a number of occasions like when Jesus cleared the Temple because Jewish merchants under the control of the Jewish leadership of the time turned the outer courts of the Temple where even Gentiles were allowed, into a market place to exploit would be worshippers.

I like Marks version of this event because Mark pin- points the central shocking nature of the irreverence of this activity with Jesus teaching on why he was doing this startling clearing of the Temple courts with what we call righteous anger.

Jesus quotes from Isaiah 56: 7 and then adds a particularly apt conclusion in Mark 11: 17,

“And as he taught them, he said, ‘It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

But you have made it a den of robbers”.

The Jewish leaders of Jesus day had turned worship of the God of the Bible into a money making racket and therefore the sincerity of heart so necessary for true reverent worship was sadly lost. This was not only a tragedy for the Jewish worshippers but also God seeking Gentile worshippers who came to the Temple courts to by animals for sacrifice to the great God of the bible.

Paul writing in the first letter to the Corinthians had to deal with irreverent worship practices that had emerged in the Corinthian church. Paul deals with this in 1 Corinthians 11: 17 – 33. Here we learn that the worship of The Lord Jesus Christ through what he calls The Lords Supper had degenerated into a love feast. This corporate meal or feast had gotten right out of hand with some eating well and others not having much to eat at all.

Some participants even got drunk at these meetings and worse the real meaning of celebrating Jesus constituted basis of worship was lost and people instead were sinning in a number of ways in the guise of Christian worship.

Paul lays down the basis for The Lords supper worship ceremony in 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26,

“ For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

Paul is setting down this basis of The Lord Supper worship ceremony to help the Corinthian church conduct corporate worship in a decent and orderly way. He completes his word on this with these solemn words of warning in 1 Corinthians 11: 33 – 34,

“So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment”.

Real worship of the God of the bible is both a joyful and serious activity, which is what is behind David’s words in verse 9 of Psalm 96, which says,

“Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him all the earth”.

Note those last words of this verse,

“Tremble before him all the earth”.

I like Spurgeon’s comment on this phrase,

“There is a sacred trembling which is quite consistent with joy, the heart may even quiver with an awful excess of delight. The sight of the King in his beauty caused no alarm to John in Patmos, and yet it made him fall at his feet as dead. O, to behold him and worship him with prostrate awe and sacred fear!”

  1. 10 – 13 REJOICE ALL CREATION IN THE GOD WHO JUDGES AND SAVES THE WORLD

We come then to the third and final section of this Psalm 96 lifted from the pages of 1 Chronicles 16 where we find a even larger Psalm of David written for Sanctuary or Temple worship to help celebrate the ascension of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.

In this final section of the Psalm we will hear of the worship of the God of the bible of the innate natural world followed by a word of prediction of the coming of the Lord in judgment of this world and its people.

I have broken this final section into two parts:

  1. 11 – 12 The praise of the natural world to the God who offers judgment and salvation to the world
  1. 13 –       The praise all people must offer the God who judges and saves the world.

 Lets then look at this final section of the Psalm:

 

  1. 11 – 12 The praise of the natural world to the God who offers  judgment and salvation to the world

When I was in my twenties and thirties I tried to write a number of creative poems under the general title of “Prayers of the Created”. The idea behind this concept of “Prayers of the Created” was that I believed nature spoke of God in various ways and my main proof text for this idea was Psalm 19 verse 1,

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

 Here is an example of one of those poems:

PRAISE THE MORNING

 I love to see the morning, so fresh and clear each day,

Piecing through the darkness the sun sends down its ray,

And I love to see the morning; it is my hope each day.

So praise to the morning,

May the morning hold it’s sway today.

 

A haze of crystal water laps the shores of a tranquil bay.

Reflecting the wholesome beauty of every sunlit ray.

The birds all sing and chatter, their chorus for the day

“Praise to the morning

May the morning hold its sway on us today.

 

And I like to stop and ponder as I read God’s word each day,

How precious is the morning that herald’s in each day.

For the morning speaks of mercy as it drives the night away;

So praise to the morning

May the morning hold its sway on all my day.

 

And in the distant city, soft white clouds seem to say,

“The morning is our vision for in the morning children play”;

And so I ask the Lord to grant me a purpose for my day,

And he answers, “Praise the Morning,

The morning is yours today and every day”.

This rather romantic style poem is an attempt to get one innate aspect of God’s creation, “The Morning” to speak and even offer or at least inspire a prayer. David does the same kind of thing with verses 11 and 12 of Psalm 96,

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy”.

It seems that I picked up the same idea David had of how nature or the natural world can and does speak to us. I’m the kind of person that is not really impressed or inspired by a man made building like a Cathedral but take me to some impressive naturally beautiful place and I can get really inspired and sense the wonder and greatness of the God who made all that I see.

David calls the heavens and earth to rejoice,

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad”

This is a similar idea to what I quoted he said in Psalm 19: 1,

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

 Psalm 19 is one of David’s Psalms called a creation Psalm and another is Psalm 8, which starts with the words,

“O Lord, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens”.

 This seems to be a reference to the stars of the night sky which also can make you think of the greatness and wonder of the God who made all that.

So David wants all creation to sing the praise of its creator so he speaks of the chaotic often-turbulent sea and all that’s in it to again rejoice in its wonderful creator,

“Let the sea resound, and all that is in it”

We have seen in recent Psalms the image of the sea as that mighty untamed often -chaotic place being under the control of the God of the bible, as we saw in Psalm 93: 3 – 4,

“The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty”.

God has something to say through the sea and maybe it is something like I am so great and powerful and mighty because I even control the sea.

Then David turns to the dry land in verse 12,

12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy”.

Isaiah seems to have been inspired by this verse when he writes in Isaiah 44: 23,

“Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel”.

Here the innate natural world speaks praise for God’s salvation of the nation of Israel

Paul in Romans 8: 18 – 21 links God’s creation with God’s salvation of mankind, he writes,

“ 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.

 So creation itself has been sadly effected by the fall of man into sin and it groans in expectation for God’s total salvation to come as we will see in final two verses through the final judgment of God to come when Jesus returns to earth in all his heavenly glory.

I mentioned before that in my twenties and thirties I wrote some poems under the general concept of “Prayers of the Created”. I shared one of those poems that spoke of praise for the morning. Some of these poems were not prayers of praise but because of the bondage of creation through man’s sins creation sometimes my poems spoke of the negative aspects I observed in the world of nature, which has come about through the many sins of mankind. An example of this kind of poem follows:

CREATIONS GROANINGS

 What has happened to the fields where once the flowers bloomed?

Stone upon stone man has built to feed his greed and gloom.

 

Even in the rugged bush mankind has left his mark.

Paper bags and soft drink cans lie around in every part.

 

Creation groans and suffers pain it often seems in turmoil.

High rise buildings and honking cars all cause our blood to boil.

 

Decay and death have entered into our world and it’s in a mess.

Even though there’s life around bad air mixes with fresh.

 

Creation longs to be released and find its liberty.

One day the sky will crack and the clouds will part and all will be set free.

  1. 13 –       The praise all people must offer the God who judges and saves the world.

The last two lines of my the poem, “Creations Groaning” I just quoted relate very well to the last verse of this Psalm.

Creation longs to be released and find its liberty.

One day the sky will crack and the clouds will part and all will be set free.

This is because these two lines of my poem and the last verse of Psalm 96 speak of the Lord coming in judgment to this world,

“They sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth”.

 Christians believe that this verse is a prediction of the coming of the Messiah who we believe is The Lord Jesus Christ. Jews reject the idea that Jesus is the Messiah and apparently one of the reasons they do this is because the coming of Jesus 2000 years ago did not fulfill all the Messianic prophecies.

It has been claimed that Jesus fulfilled 353 (see web page – www.accordingtothescriptures.org) However there are other Messiah prophecies Jesus did not fulfill in his life, ministry, death and resurrection and these like this last verse of Psalm 96 deal with God’s final day of judgment. Jewish critics of Christianity usually point to these unfulfilled prophecies and conclude that Jesus cannot therefore be the Messiah.

However the New Testament clearly teaches that Jesus first coming to this world was not to judge the world but to save it. The verse in John’s Gospel that follows the famous John 3:16 about how God sent Jesus into the world to save those who believe in him says this, John 3:17,

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

Jewish critics would say this is a cop out to cover up the deficiencies of Jesus as the Messiah but most of the 353 Old Testament prophecies Jesus fulfilled deal with the Messiah’s role as a savior of mankind like, Isaiah 53: 5,

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

This is not a cop out as the Messiah was predicted in the Old Testament to come as our savior from our sins. However he is also predicted as the great bringer of judgment as this final verse of Psalm 96 says,

“He comes to judge the earth”.

 Jesus himself explains how he is both the world’s savior and Judge in John 12: 44 – 48,

Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

 47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day”.

Jesus speaks, however in a number of places of a second coming to this world and in that second coming he will come as the judging Messiah. As we see for instance in Matthew 25: 31 – 32,

“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”.

 So why have at least 2,000 years, maybe more between these comings of Christ?

The answer to that is God does not want anyone to perish and now through what his son, the saving Messiah he can offer salvation to avoid his judgement. Peter speaks of this very issue in 2 Peter 3: 8 – 9,

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.

 We then are living in a special age of God, which has been called “The Gospel Age” where we are called to, like verse 3 of this Psalm says,

“Declare his glory among the Nations, his marvellous deeds among all people”.

 So creation, Paul says in Romans 8: 22 is groaning awaiting God’s final judgment to come to free it like us from the bondage of sin. This is how I understand what the start of Psalm 96 verse 13 is saying in the words,

“They sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth”.

 The final words of the Psalm tells us how God will judge the earth,

He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth”.

 Albert Barnes explains these final words of the Psalm this way,

“The allusion would seem to be to some future time when God would come to reign among people; to dispense justice; to vindicate his people, and to establish truth”.

 This again seems to me to be yet another Old Testament prophecy of the coming of the great Messiah king who again I believe is The Jesus Christ. Not Christ in his first coming but Christ in his second and final coming to this world when the Gospel age is ended and Christ comes from heaven to reign on earth as the great judge of all the earth as we read of in Revelation 20: 11 – 15,

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

Unto that great day comes we are to follow the command of Christ as he gave us all in Mark 16: 15 – 16,

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”.

These words are mirrored by the opening three verses of this Psalm, which read this way,

“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples”.

I close as usual with an original poem and a prayer,

PREACH HIS GOSPEL NOW

(Based on Mark 16: 15 – 16 and Psalm 96)

 

Go into the world

And preach the Gospel Now

Tell all creation

Of his mighty saving power

 

Sing this brand new song

Sing to all the earth

Sing of his salvation

When God’s Son came to earth.

 

Chorus:

Our God is so great

So worthy of praise each hour

He reigns supreme

We must preach his Gospel now.

 

Who ever believes

And is baptised will be saved.

For we must give God the praise

When we remember what he has made.

 

Say to all the world

That our God surely does reign.

His judgments are fair

And we must praise his mighty name.

 

Chorus:

Our God is so great

So worthy of praise each hour

He reigns supreme

We must preach his Gospel now.

 

If you don’t believe

Your sin has condemned you.

For the heavens and earth rejoice

In the God they know is true.

 

The trees and the forests sing

Of the Lord who is surely coming

To Judge all the earth

And to do away with sin.

 

Chorus:

Our God is so great

So worthy of praise each hour

He reigns supreme

We must preach his Gospel now.

 

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven I thank you for your great and wonderful message of the Gospel, which came to us by the coming of your only Son Jesus Christ to our world. The Gospel message tells us that we are sinners and are all under your just and righteous judgment. But your Gospel message also tells us that through the death of your Son, Jesus Christ we can know your amazing forgiveness if we would but turn from our sin and accept what Jesus has done for us. Help us to take this Gospel message to the world as you have commanded us to do and may many come to know your love through the message of your Gospel. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

 

PSALM 96 TALK: OUR GOD THE KING WHO CALLS US TO PROCLAIM SALVATION TO THE NATIONS

 

(A Psalm that explores God’s call to all believers to take God’s message of salvation to every nation in this world. The message we must declare is that God is the king of this world and mankind has turned their backs on God and is in rebellion to God as their king and one day God will judge all mankind for their many sins. However God’s message of salvation says that God has made a way for all people to be saved from his coming judgment but they must turn to him and acknowledge him as their Savior and Lord or king of their lives.)

 

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

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Harold Schofield was only 31 when he died of typhus in a remote area of China on the 1st of August 1883. He had only served the Lord in China for two and a half years as a missionary pioneer doctor but he will always be remembered for his well known desperate prayer to God for more missionaries to China as at the time Harold was only one of eight evangelical missionaries with the recently formed mission society called The China Inland Mission started by the famous missionary pioneer Hudson Taylor.

 

The unique nature of Schofield’s prayer was that he wanted God to raise up saved and committed university men, men who had been equipped at the top universities of England who represented the finest mental and physical training England could supply in his day.

 

Schofield died a year and a half before God answered his prayer in a most remarkable way for unknown to Schofield even before he started praying this prayer God had sent the famous evangelical Gospel preaching evangelist name D.L. Moody with his music director and singer named Ira Sankey on another Gospel preaching mission trip to England and Great Britain in 1877. On this mission trip an elderly prominent millionaire business man named Edward Studd went to a Moody / Sankey Gospel meeting and was thoroughly converted to Christ. Studd only lived two years after his conversion but he gave lots of money to Moody and others for world wide missionary activities.

 

Edward Studd also witnessed to his three sons and one of sons was to become a famous English cricketer, C.T. Studd who played a major role in the famous cricket match with the visiting Australian cricket team at the Oval cricket ground in 1882 where after England was narrowly defeated by Australia the legend of the “Ashes” was born. C.T Studd went on the first English tour of Australia in 1883 where it was reported he helped return the Ashes to Australia a small urn containing the burnt remains of a set of cricket bails.

 

D.L Moody was also used to help call C.T Studd to Christ and he later joined six other Cambridge graduates in 1885 to go together to China as missionaries and they became known as the Cambridge Seven. Some of the other Cambridge Seven had also come to Christ through the preaching ministry of D.L. Moody and the beautiful Gospel singing of Ida Sankey.

 

Before the famous Cambridge Seven left for missionary service in China they travelled the country attending and speaking at many packed meetings and raised incredible interest and support for The China Inland Mission and led many to faith in Christ and some for many missionary service. Out of this highly successful and well publicized campaign was born The Student Volunteer Movement and The Inter- Varsity Fellowship.

 

C.T. Studd served Christ in successful missionary service in China for ten years when owing to his wife’s illness returned to England. He travelled widely back home conducting many evangelistic meetings and China Inland Mission meetings. In 1900 C.T. Studd went with his family to South India to pastor a church in a place called Ootacamund which he did for six years.

 

C.T. Studd went out as a missionary for the third time at the age of 46 to Central Africa and brought the Gospel message to The Sudan for the first time and worked their unto his death in 1931. While serving in Africa he started the “The heart for Africa” mission, which was changed to WEC, World Wide Evangelization Crusade, which was later, changed to Worldwide Evangelization for Christ.

 

So Harold Schofield did not live to see the answer of his desperate prayer for university trained, healthy young men to take the Gospel message to China in his life time but his prayer or many prayers was wonderfully answered only 18 months after his death. Not only did seven young men go to China for all except C.T Studd spent a lifetime of faithful missionary service China but through the witness and commitment of these seven young Cambridge graduates hundreds and eventually thousands of others went not only to China but many other Nations in this world with the wonderful message of Salvation through Christ.

 

C.T Studd went to the Nations of China, India and later Africa and started a major missionary sending organization, WEC that still sends today young men and women to the nations of the world with the Gospel message.

 

This call of God to proclaim his message of salvation is not just at the end of the Gospels like Matthew 28: 18 – 20 or Mark 16: 15 – 16, which says,

 

“ He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”.

 

But is spoken of or hinted at in the Old Testament as well, like this Psalm, Psalm 96. A Psalm probably edited and put in the fourth book of Psalms after the return from exile from Babylon but originally written by non other than King David himself around 500 years before the fourth book of Psalms was put together. We know this because this Psalm is almost identical to a Psalm or song David wrote immediately after the ark of the covenant was taken up into Jerusalem and placed in the Tent Sanctuary on Mount Zion to later be installed in the Temple build by David’s son, King Solomon.

 

The original Psalm of David was recorded for us in 1 Chronicles 16: 23 – 34 and some modern so called bible scholars who always seek to discredit the historical truth of the bible say that a unnamed writer wrote the books of chronicles after the Babylonian exile and put this Psalm in making up the story of David composing it originally.

 

 

This simply cannot be true as many other Psalms and Old Testament scriptures much older than the return from exile also quote or use wording from this Psalm. A big example of this is the book of Isaiah that Leupold points out alludes to or directly uses seven of the 13 verses in his writings.

 

I will point some of these Isaiah references in my Psalm talk to follow on this Psalm. So Psalm 95 seems to be addressed to the Jews themselves for a call to worship, which also has universal implications. The Church of Jesus Christ being the New Israel of God are called by this Psalm to lead the world to joyful and holy worship of the God of the bible.

 

Now in Psalm 96 tells us that everyone who believes in the God of the bible and even the very creation itself is to proclaim the wonderful message of God’s salvation which we know has come through God’s great Messiah, Jesus Christ who will come again as Psalm 96 sets out to bring about this worlds final day of Judgment.

 

With the theme of “Our God the King who calls us to proclaim salvation to the nations” in mind my breakdown for this Psalm is:

 

  1. 1 – 6   SING AND PROCLAIM GOD’S SALVATION TO THE NATIONS

 

  1. 1 – 3   Sing the new song of Salvation
  2. 4 – 6   Why we should sing and proclaim God’s salvation to the

                           nations

 

  1. 7 – 9   ACKNOWLEDGE AND WORSHIP THE GOD OF SALVATION TO THE

               NATIONS

 

  1. 7- 8   All people must acknowledge the God who offers salvation to

                         the nations

  1. 9 –   All people must worship the God who offers salvation to the

                         nations

 

  1. 10 – 13 REJOICE ALL CREATION IN THE GOD WHO JUDGES AND SAVES

                 THE WORLD

 

  1. 11 – 12 The praise of the natural world to the God who offers

             judgment and salvation to the world

  1. 13 –       The praise all people must offer the God who judges and

                             saves the world.

 

Lets then have a close look at this amazing Psalm that started life 700 years before the coming of Christ yet it speaks of his great commission to proclaim the message of God’s Salvation tor the Nations of this world.

 

  1. 1 – 6   SING AND PROCLAIM GOD’S SALVATION TO THE NATIONS

 

I have broken this first section into two parts:

 

  1. 1 – 3   Sing the new song of Salvation
  2. 4 – 6   Why we should sing and proclaim God’s salvation to the

                           nations

 

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

 

  1. 1 – 3   Sing the new song of Salvation

 

Three times the psalmist says, “Sing to the Lord” in just two verses and this emphasis that the writer of this Psalm really wants to promote is the proclamation of God’s great message to the world in song. This is not surprising coming originally from David who is described this way at the end of his life in 2 Samuel 23: 1b,

 

“ Israel’s singer of songs”

 

David used music to proclaim God’s message of salvation on many occasions and he encourages us all to do the same on many occasions like Psalm 9: 11,

 

“Sing praises to the Lord enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done”.

 

Music with a high note of praise has featured all of the great Christian revivals in the history of the church and as the message has gone out of God’s great love and salvation so to has great singing and music.

 

What we call the four great Christian revivals can pinpoint two amazing characteristics great preachers of the Gospel and great singers and new songs or hymns:

 

First Great Awakening 1730 – 1755 – Two great preachers stand out George Whitfield and John Wesley. The music comes from great hymn writers like Charles Wesley and his thousands of new hymns and it is said he wrote 8, 989 hymns in his life time and I think one of his greatest is “And Can It Be”.

 

Second Great Awakening 1790 – 1840 – Mainly in America this great time of the preaching of the Gospel featured large tent meetings with powerful preaching and enthusiastic singing and revival preachers like Charles Finney. Even in England a renewed emphasis on the preaching of the Gospel and new wonderful hymn singing developed and this is the period that John Newton and when his great hymn, “Amazing Grace” was written.

 

Third Great Awakening 1850 – 1900 – This is the renewed preaching of the Gospel developed under the amazingly popular mass evangelistic rallies of D. L Moody took place. Here we saw the development of the team of a preacher and a great singer at these rallies and of course the great singer with D.L Moody was Ira Sankey who wrote many new hymns and collected many as well like the famous hymn, “Tell Me The Old Old Story” written by a lady named Arabella Kathrine Hankey in those days.

 

Fourth Great Awakening 1960 – 1980 – This is the great awakening I have personally witnessed in my life time and featured the international preaching of the Gospel crusades of Billy Graham who like D.L Moody before him featured a singer George Beverly Shea and the revival of many great old hymns and the birth of new ones like “How Great Thou Art”, originally a Swedish hymn by Cart Gustav Boberg and translated into its English version years later by Stuart Hine.

 

 

 

So singing and the proclamation of the Gospel or God’s message of Salvation to the Nations go hand in hand and David knew this and practiced this throughout his life where he experienced over and over again the Salvation or deliverance of God in his life and in his own Nation of Israel.

 

Maybe after the return from exile the editor of the fourth book of Psalms realised this as well and remembering David’s famous Psalm or song in the first book of Chronicles revised it to also tell his people of his day that they too should sing and proclaim God’s wonderful message to the Nations of the world of God’s salvation of the Jews from captivity in Babylon.

 

So what does David want us proclaim in song?

 

I see four things God wants us to proclaim are in these opening three verses:

 

  1. A New Song (vs. 1)
  2. God’s Salvation (vs. 2)
  3. God’s glory (vs.3b)
  4. God’s marvelous deeds (vs. 3b)

 

Lets have a closer look at each of these three things David wanted his people to proclaim:

 

  1. A New Song (vs. 1)

 

David says in verse 1 as he has said in many Psalms,

 

“Sing to the Lord a new song”

 

This is a tricky concept because coming from David, the writer of many new songs we now call Psalms he could literally mean write new songs and sing them but H.C. Leopold points out,

 

“A new song does not involve the idea of a new poetic or musical composition, but as we Briggs rightly points out ‘a new outburst of song because of a new event that evokes it.”

 

We might say sing the old song with new insight and new enthusiasm for its content. I mentioned the famous old hymn from third great Awakening or revival and the hymn Ira Sankey loved to sing “Tell Me The Old Old Story” written by a lady named Arabella Kathrine Hankey. I sure the many times Ira would have sung that great old hymn its words for him and his listeners reminded them of his constant need for salvation through the wonderful story of the Gospel a story that is old but new every time we experience its saving and changing power to our daily lives. The words of the hymn go like this:

 

Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,
For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.

 

 

 

Refrain

Tell me the old, old story, tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and His love.

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,

 

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,
That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon;
The early dew of morning has passed away at noon.

 

Refrain

 

Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save.
Tell me the story always, if you would really be,
In any time of trouble, a comforter to me.

 

Refrain

 

Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.
Yes, and when that world’s glory is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story: “Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”

 

Refrain

 

Tell me the old, old story, tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and His love.

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,

 

Another famous use of this term is in Psalm 33: 1 – 3, (also see Psalm 40: 3 and Psalm 98:1)

 

“Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy”.

 

I have been in many church gatherings where enthusiastic singing of old hymns has lifted my spirit as I had the pleasure of joining with others in singing out the wonderful message of God’s love, an old old story yet a fresh experience of the amazing love of God in praise and worship. This kind of experience has caused many over the years who do not believe become interested and led by God’s Spirit to find out more and through that come to faith in him.

 

  1. God’s Salvation (vs. 2)

 

Then in verse 2 David writes,

 

“Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day”.

 

The major message of our songs of the Lord is his salvation which is tied to his name or who he really is. The God of the bible is a saving God, a God who saved his people out of Egypt, a God who saved his people over and over again from far more worldly powerful other nations.

Finally he is a God who through the sending of his son saves all from the consequences of their sins if they believe that his death and resurrection was for them.

 

As the well known famous John 3: 16 verse says,

 

“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 is our message of salvation that our God the king offers to the world and he calls on us to be his mouth piece through song and the proclamation of his word to bring that message to all the world as Paul says in Romans 10: 15b,

 

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”!

 

The message of God’s salvation is good news as it says your sins are leading you to death and hell but I offer your forgiveness and eternal life through my Son who paid for your sins on the cross.

 

As the first verse of the great Hymn of Charles Wesley written in the first great awakening or revival says,

 

“And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?


Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

 

I have sang that hymn many times in Christian gatherings and every time my soul has be lifted as the wonderful message of God’s salvation rings through both the words and the amazing stirring tune that hymn is sung to.

 

  1. God’s glory (vs.3b)

 

The message we must sing out and now at the start of verse 3 says, declare, also includes the message of the glory of the God who saves, as the first part of verse 3 says,

 

“Declare his glory among the nations”.

 

David knew that God’s glory is wrapped up in who he is and what he has done as he speaks of in a earlier Psalm 9 verse 11,

 

“Sing praises to the Lord, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done”.

 

 

 

 

David knew that God was the king of heaven and earth and sat on his throne in Heaven represented on earth by Zion where his sanctuary in David’s time sat and where the Temple sat in Solomon’s time and onwards unto it was completely done away with once the Lord Jesus had come, died for our sins, rose from the dead and went back to the heavenly Zion of God.

 

This was his glory, his rightful place as the King of heaven and earth and yet this great glorious king so high and unlike anything in this world descended to earth in and through his Son Jesus Christ to achieve the salvation of all who look to him.

 

The prophet Isaiah who seems to have known this Psalm looked into the future and said this hundreds of years before the coming of Christ, Isaiah 66: 18,

 

“And I, because of what they have planned and done, am about to come and gather the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory”.

 

This gathering of all nations has been fulfilled and will be fulfilled as just before Jesus went back into heaven he commissioned the disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations making disciples of them, Matthew 28: 19 – 20,

 

 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

This they faithfully started and even on the first occasion after Jesus had ascended that the Gospel was preached by the disciple Peter we read this in Acts 1: 5 – 11,

 

“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

        

From that day on the declaration of the Salvation of God through the Gospel Message and the message of the glory of God has continued to go out to every nation, even today men and women are declaring the glory of God in many Nations as we live and breath.

 

However what Isaiah is speaking of in Isaiah 66 about the gathering of all nations to see and hear about the glory of God will come about completely at end of this Gospel preaching age we live in when Jesus returns to earth in his full heavenly glory and gathers all nations of the world together to be both judged and saved. Those who will be saved are those who truly trust in him also called the elect (as it describes them in the referene below) , as it says 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”..

Just as the great modern hymn, “How Great Thou Art”, sung by George Beverly Shea in the fourth great awakening or revival declares so clearly,

 

Oh Lord my God when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout The universe displayed

 

Chorus:

 

Then sings my soul My Saviour, God, to Thee
How great thou art, How great thou art
Then sings my soul, My Saviour, God, to Thee
How great Thou art, How great Thou art

 

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Chorus:

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin

 

When Christ shall come with shouts of adulation
And take me home what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow In humble adoration
And there proclaim My God How great Thou art

 

Chorus:

 

  1. God’s marvelous deeds (vs. 3b)

 

The final thing God wants us to proclaim I have already mentioned because God’s glory contains it namely, verse 3b

 

“His marvellous deeds among all people”.

 

I said before that the glory of God is wrapped up in who the God of the bible is or what his character is like and what he has done and continues to do.

 

In David’s time, David would be thinking of all the marvellous deeds God did for Israel up to the ascension of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. This would include the founding of the Nation through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the freeing of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. David would also be thinking of the taking of the Promised Land of Israel from the Canaanites and how even God had called him from being shepherd boy to become the king of Israel.

 

David had experienced already at the original time of writing many marvellous deeds of God as he speaks of in one of his early Psalms, 26: 6 – 7,

 

“I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, Lord, proclaiming aloud

your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds”.

 

David often connected God’s marvelous deeds with his expressed character of love and faithfulness as we see in Psalm 57: 2 – 3,

 

“I cry out to God Most High to God, who vindicates me. He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me—God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

 

The editor of the fourth book of Psalms, who we think lived and did his work on the fourth book of Psalms after the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile probably would have been thinking of God’s marvelous deeds of having their Babylonian overlords defeated and destroyed by the Persians who in turn allowed and even encouraged the Jews to return to Judah and its ancient capitol of Jerusalem.

 

This also was an act of God’s love and faithfulness, which in the New Testament gets the new name of grace. Paul speaks of God’s marvelous deeds of grace as the basis of our salvation in God in Ephesians 2: 4 – 9,

 

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 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”.

 

David did not deserve God’s love yet because of God’s love David and his Nation of Israel was saved by God’s marvelous deeds. Israel did not deserve to be returned from exile in Babylon yet out of God’s underserved love God did marvelous deeds to return them to the Promised Land of Israel.

 

We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness and salvation but out of God’s grace, or undeserved love God has forgiven us and saved us through the work of Christ.

 

This is what God wants us to proclaim to the world the Good News that salvation has been won for anyone who simply turns the Christ in repentance and faith.

 

This was the message that came out of all the Great Awakenings or revivals and during the second great Awakening a famous hymn was written by a converted slave trader who became a Anglican minister by the Name of John Newton and his hymn testimony is called Amazing Grace which goes like this,

 

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

 

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

 

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

 

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

 

This hymn expresses so wonderfully the marvelous deeds of God, which God wants us to continue to sing and proclaim to the world.

 

  1. 4 – 6   Why we should sing and proclaim God’s salvation to the

                          nations

 

David kicks off verse 4 with the word, “for” which indicates he is now going to tell us why we should sing and proclaim God’s wonderful deeds of Salvation to the nations. I can see three reasons David gives for us to proclaim to the Nations God’s wonderful deeds of salvation and they are:

 

  1. God is great and worthy of praise (vs. 4a)
  2. God is to be feared above all other God’s (vs. 4b – 5)
  3. God is surrounded by splendor and Majesty (vs. 6)

 

Lets have a look at each of these three reasons why we should sing and proclaim God’s marvelous deeds of salvation to the nations.

 

  1. God is great and worthy of praise (vs. 4a)

 

The opening of verse 4 simply says,

 

“For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise”.

 

Which is a concept we have seen a few times before in other Psalms like Psalm 48: 1,

 

“Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain”.

 

When someone we know or have heard of does something remarkable we usually praise them and speak of how great or wonderful they are and so the God of the bible has done marvelous loving deeds of salvation for us so we should call him great and give him the praise he deserves.

 

David might have known these words in Deuteronomy 10: 17,

 

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes”.

 

Our God is the king of kings or as this verse says, “Lord of Lords” but note the verse goes on to say he shows no partiality.

 

 

The context of this verse in Deuteronomy is how God loved Israel and chose them to be his special people and because of what God is like the verses that follow speak of how God wanted his people to treat aliens and widows, Deuteronomy 10: 19 – 21,

 

 “And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

 

20 Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.”

 

Note again they are to praise God because he is the one who performed great and awesome wonders or deeds for his people when he led them out of slavery in Egypt.

 

We are saved by God’s grace Paul says in that famous Ephesians 2 passage about God grace to do great good works for God, Ephesians 2: 10,

 

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

 

Through these good works for God we bring praise to our God as Jesus declares in Matthew 5: 16,

 

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”.

 

We do the good deeds for God because God has done so much for us and in doing the good deeds we bring glory and praise to our God because he is worthy of our praise because of what he has done for us.

 

The book of Revelation speaks of God and Jesus being worthy of praise. Revelation 4: 11 says,

 

“You are worthy, Our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being”.

 

Then in the next chapter of the book of Revelation Jesus is spoken of as being worthy of praise, Revelation 5: 9, here Jesus is called the lamb that was slain referring to his death on the cross for our sins,

 

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

 

So we should sing and proclaim God’s message to the Nations of his salvation through his marvelous deeds in Christ because through that we see how great and worthy of praise he really is.

 

  1. God is to be feared above all other God’s (vs. 4b – 5)

 

The second half of verse 4 and verse 5 speak of how great the God of the bible actually is and because of this greatness we should fear him or more specifically revere him. Verse 4b and verse 5 read like this,

 

“He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens”.

 

David had the concept of the Heathen God’s of the Canaanites to contend with usually wrapped up in the worship of Baal, a fertility God represented by a bull like idol. This religion or idea of God was attractive to David’s people because it appealed to their basic drive and desire for fertility for their crops and their families and even involved sexual prostitution in its worship of this God.

 

The exiles returning from Babylon, when David’s Psalm was reviewed and placed in the fourth book of Psalms also had many non -bible views of God to tempt them away from the one true God of the bible.

 

However verse 4b says,

 

“He is to be feared above all gods”

 

Even if other God’s existed, and the next verse says they don’t, then the God of the bible is above them or over them, he is the one true God who we have just learnt is worthy of our praise alone.

 

The book of Proverbs says, Proverbs 1: 7,

 

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline”.

 

At a recent bible study group I attended we were discussing the current opposition to school scripture. In my state, New South Wales in Australia because the schools were run by the churches originally the colonial government when they took over most of the church schools agreed to legislate into our state laws that the churches must have access to all public schools to teach scripture.

 

Our church along with many throughout our state have sent lay scripture teaches into our schools to teach God’s word for half an hour each week to all children for many years now. However in recent years parents of children in the school can opt for their children to attend non- scripture classes, which often mean sitting in a classroom and doing nothing while the scripture classes are being conducted.

 

One member of our bible study group said parents choosing non- scripture are choosing for their children to learn nothing instead of their child learning what is their only secure hope in this life and in the life to come.

 

These non – scripture believing parents not only want their children to learn nothing about God but many of them want all children to learn nothing and they are growing at this present time with lots of political clout to achieve this.

 

People today are in such rebellion to the idea of a God they would prefer to learn nothing about him in a hope he does not exist and therefore has no claim on their day to day lives. Paul says this about these people, Romans 1: 21,

 

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened”.

 

Verse 5 goes on to point out the uselessness of other God’s or even God ideas other than that of the God of the bible,

 

“For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens”.

 

Many scriptures teach this fact that idols and other supposed God’s are nothing. I like Isaiah’s many references to this and particularly this almost amusing reference about a tradesman making a idol that becomes a God in Isaiah 44: 12 – 15,

 

“The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint.13 The carpenter measures with a line

 and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in human form, human form in all its glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. 14 He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.15 It is used as fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it;  he makes an idol and bows down to it”.

 

I have only come close to idol worship once in my life and that was to only witness its ridiculous stupidity. On my first trip through Europe we travelled through Spain and visited a beautifully located catholic monastery at a place called Montserrat where there is a statue of Mary called The Black Madonna. I stood in a long line to climb some stairs up to the front of the church were a old wooden statue of Mary with the baby Jesus sits behind a sheet of glass.

 

However one of her hands is clear of the glass and people kiss the hand as they say a prayer to Mary. I thought of Isaiah’s words as I passed the statue, this is made of wood and crafted by a man yet somehow it has spiritual power and I’m sad to say I saw people worshipping the statue. I’m sure my Roman Catholic friends will say it only represents Mary but the truth is in the minds of many who bow before that statue it is to them like bowing before a god.

 

Because of the dangers of crossing the line to the statue or idol becoming a god to a person God says in Deuteronomy 5: 8 – 10,

 

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments”.

 

So we should sing and proclaim God’s marvelous deeds of salvation because he is not a dead useless idol but the living great God who is so great and powerful we should fear or reverence him and our world needs to know about him as without that they have nothing when it comes to knowledge of God.

 

  1. God is surrounded by splendor and Majesty (vs. 6)

 

The third reason David offers why we should sing and proclaim the marvelous deeds of salvation of the God of the bible is in verse 6, which says,

 

“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary”

 

Some commentators believe David in this verse is not speaking of the earthly sanctuary in Jerusalem but the heavenly sanctuary that the earthly one symbolizes. If this is the case than the splendor and majesty before him is all the heavenly hosts that surround the heavenly throne of God.

 

Isaiah caught a glimpse of this in his vision of heaven at his commission by God recorded in Isaiah 6: 1 – 4,

 

“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”.

 

In the later life of John the apostle he to had a vision of God on his throne in heaven and he describes it this way, Revelation 4: 1 – 11,

 

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 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.”

 

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 we must sing and proclaim the marvelous deeds of God of salvation because God is the king who sits on his throne in heaven surrounded by splendor and majesty and he is the one who is all strength and glory which he through Christ offers us the opportunity of approaching him on the throne of grace with our prayers for help and direction in our daily lives.

 

As the writer to the Hebrews puts it 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”.

 

We can only approach this throne of grace because of what Jesus has done through his death on the cross he opened up access to heaven through him. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man and that is because it is only through him do we have this access to God as Paul says 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”.

 

  1. 7 – 9   ACKNOWLEDGE AND WORSHIP THE GOD OF SALVATION TO THE

                 NATIONS

 

The second section like the first starts with a three- fold command from the Lord. In the first section it was “Sing to the Lord” three times now in this second section it is “Ascribe to the Lord” three times. In this section we will explore what it actually means to “Ascribe to the Lord and we will also learn of the wonderful connection of worshipping the Lord and how it relates to proclaiming to the nations what the Lord has done for us in saving us.

 

I have broken this second section into two parts:

 

  1. 7- 8   All people must acknowledge the God who offers salvation to

                         the nations

  1. 9 –     All people must worship the God who offers salvation to the

                         nations

 

Lets now have a close look at each of these two parts:

 

  1. 7- 8   All people must acknowledge the God who offers salvation to

                         the nations

 

As I have just said three times in verses 7 – 8 David commands,

 

“Ascribe to the Lord”

 

This command has been translated in a number of translations as,

 

“Give unto the Lord”

 

Which simply means we are to acknowledge who is the Lord and what he is like and of course what he has done for us. This is a call to the nations of the world to worship the God of the bible as the Lord or king of everything and everyone.

 

So what can we learn from these three commands to acknowledge and worship the Lord?

 

I have come up with three things we can learn from these three commands to ascribe to the Lord:

  1. Ascribe to the Lord is addressed to all people (vs. 7a)
  2. Ascribe to the Lord is to focus on God’s glory and strength (vs. 7b)
  3. Ascribe to the Lord is expressed primarily in worship (vs.8)

 

Lets then have a close look at each of these three things we can learn from this command to ascribe to the Lord.

 

  1. Ascribe to the Lord is addressed to all people (vs. 7a)

 

This call of God to acknowledge God as the God over all things and worship him that David gives us is not directed to the Nation of Israel but to all the world or as the verse 7a calls them. ‘Families of nations”, 7a says,

 

“Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations”.

 

Albert Barnes points out this,

 

“O ye kindreds of the people – Hebrew, “Families” of the people: people, as united by family ties. The idea is that of worship not merely as individuals, nor as a mere “aggregate” of individuals united by no common bonds, but as those united by strong ties; bound by blood and affection; constituted into communities. It is a call on such to worship God in their capacity as thus bound together; to come as families and to worship God”.

 

Sadly the people of the world have seen the Jews and the Jewish faith as an exclusive people cut off from the rest of the world because they believe they alone are God’s special people.

 

This is not God’s intention for the Jews as we see in their original call to be a special nation of God in Exodus 19: 5 -6,

 

“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.”

 

Israel was made a special nation of God for good reasons and they were to take to the world as a people the message of God’s salvation. Through them God spoke to the world which is what the term “Kingdom of priests” implies.

 

Sadly it seems the Jews throughout history heard God say they were a treasured possession of the God of heaven and earth but seem to have not heard or come to terms with the concept of being a kingdom of priests to the world at large.

 

The irony is that even though the Jews seemed to have failed to be an effective kingdom of priests God still used them and their story as his great message of salvation to the world. Then of course Jesus was born a Jew and through him as God’s Son from heaven salvation has been won for anyone who has faith in him from no-matter what nation of earth we come from.

 

Those then who put their faith in Christ are part of what the bible calls the family of God or as this verse calls them “The family of Nations”.

 

Peter picks up the concepts of Christian believers being both God’s kingdom of priests and God’s family made up of people from every nation on earth 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”.

 

As part of God’s family then Psalm 96 verse 7a is telling us we are to “ascribe” to the Lord, acknowledging as the God of heaven and earth and worship him together which will come even clearer in the next verse.

 

One of the privileges I have had is visiting Christian churches in other countries and joining with people from a totally different culture and feeling immediately the same bond of faith in the Lord Jesus that I have at home and that makes me not an alien or stranger in that foreign country but a fellow family member of the kingdom of God. Together we worship the same God and acknowledged him as our father in heaven head of our wonderful family made up of people from all nations and walks of life.

 

  1. Ascribe to the Lord is to focus on God’s glory and strength (vs. 7b)

 

In the second half of verse 7 David again speaks of acknowledging the common God of the bible we have just learnt is the father of a great family of true believers and he writes,

 

“Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength”

 

Spurgeon writes,

 

“Give unto the Lord glory and strength, that is to say recognize the glory and power of Jehovah, and ascribe them unto him in your hymns. Who is glorious but the Lord? Who is strong, save our God?”

 

When we worship our Lord and God we need to focus our hearts and minds on who he really is and what he is really like. David did just that in so many Psalms like Psalm 21: 13,

 

“Be exalted, O Lord in your strength; we will sing and praise your might”.

 

The old gospel song I love to sing says,

 

“I am weak but thou art strong

Jesus keep me from all wrong

I’ll be satisfied as long

As I walk dear Lord close to thee”

 

David knew he was not strong and needed the lord to make him strong as he indicates in a Psalm like Psalm 28: 7,

 

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped”.

 

Paul spoke about his own weakness and how he is strong in God in Philippians 4: 13,

 

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength”.

 

So when we focus on the glory and strength of the Lord we realise our sinfulness and weaknesses but at the same time when we ascribe to the Lord we also realise that in the Lord we can know his strength and glory in our lives.

 

Paul speaks of the process of sanctification which I understand is the process of God working in the believer to become more like Christ in 2 Corinthians 3: 18 with these amazing words,

 

“And we all, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”.

 

So the process of sanctification is the process of realizing we are weak and sinful in ourselves without Christ but as we trust in him and what he has done for us we gain new strength in the Lord and this changes us to become more like Christ which is an ongoing process in this life.

 

  1. Ascribe to the Lord is expressed primarily in worship (vs.8)

 

In David’s third “ascribe to the Lord” he uses Old Testament language to speak of acknowledging God in acts of worship, he writes in verse 8,

 

“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name; bring an offering and come into his courts”.

 

So in our recognition of the glory and strength of our Lord we are to perform acts of worship, which in David’s time meant offering some kind of animal sacrifice. It is interesting that these acts of worship are seen as part of our proclamation of God’s marvelous deeds of salvation to all nations.

 

The Old Testament worship practices followed generally similar worship practices of other Gods in that they offered animal sacrifices to gods which seems part of all ancient religions. However the significance of what Old Testament bible based animal sacrifices was very different than the worship practices of the Nations around ancient Israel.

 

Gotquestions?org answers the question why did God want animal sacrifices in Old Testament worship this way,

 

“God required animal sacrifices to provide a temporary covering of sins and to foreshadow the perfect and complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Leviticus 4:35, 5:10)”

 

Leviticus 4: 35 says this,

 

“They shall remove all the fat, just as the fat is removed from the lamb of the fellowship offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar on top of the food offerings presented to the Lord. In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven”.

John the Baptist describes Jesus this way in John 1: 29,

 

“”Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.

 

The tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews deals in some detail with the reason and nature of Old Testament sacrifice and it speaks of it as only a shadow of the great and final sacrifice to come. Then in Hebrews 10: 11 – 14, we read these words,

 

“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”.

 

The priest the book of Hebrews speaks of is non other than Jesus Christ who is both the priest offering the sacrifice and the object of the sacrifice itself. Jesus being perfect gives his life as the payment for our sins and in doing so became the perfect sacrifice for all sins.

 

How then is this part of the proclamation of the message of God’s salvation to the Nations?

 

Well in Old Testament terms the practice of sacrifices told the world two things:

 

  1. That the God off the bible treated sin seriously
  2. Some kind of sacrificial offering was needed to deal with sin.

 

In New Testament terms it says to the world two things as well,

 

  1. Sin must be paid for
  2. God has paid for our sin by the giving of his only son to death on the cross.

 

We of course do not offer sacrifices to God any more because the one perfect sacrifice has been offered but Paul tells us the basis of New Testament in Romans 12: 1,

 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship”.

 

So we ascribe to the Lord in worship when we offer ourselves in service to God and his church and in doing this we are proclaiming to the world that he has saved us and wants to save everyone through Christ who we now serve.

 

  1. 9 –     All people must worship the God who offers salvation to the

                         nations

 

The theme of worship continues with the scope of the worship offered being widened to all the earth. Verse 9 reads like this,

 

“Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him all the earth”.

 

David certainly did not have the Jewish problem of exclusiveness as he calls now for the worship of the God of the bible to extend to everyone on the earth.

This is a logical way of thinking when we consider what he has already said about God in this Psalm, like verse 4,

 

“For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all god’s”.

 

When we consider what the next verse says about all the other so called God’s being just idols and the God of the bible being the one who,

 

“Made the heavens”

 

In another sense David is exclusive as the only God who is worthy of praise and worship is the God of the bible but this praise and worship of this God is not limited to the tiny nation of Israel but is something people of all nations of the earth should be involved in.

 

God is worthy of praise then because he made everything in heaven and on earth and as the next verse, verse 10 says,

 

“The Lord reigns”.

 

God, we have learnt from this Psalm already is surrounded by splendor in heaven as verse 6 says,

 

“Splendor and majesty are before him”.

 

So verse 9 describes the kind of worship the people of this world should be involved in as worship,

 

“In the splendor of his holiness”.

 

What does this really mean?

 

John Gill believes that this expression is explained by the normal protocol of coming into the presence of ancient kings at the time of the writing of this Psalm and for a long time after. He believes that the past three verses on ascribing to the Lord also become clearer in the light of how ancient kings on earth were approached spoke to and Gill writes,

 

“This and the three preceding verses there is a manifest allusion to the form of addresses made to kings in the eastern nations; who being arrayed, and seated in a majestic manner, with all the marks of royal honor and dignity about them, whom their subjects approach with ascriptions of glory to them; bringing presents in their hands, and bowing down to the ground before them”.

 

This is the reverent kind of worship God must expect. We are warned over and over again about not showing reverence and respect to the God of the bible in many parts of the bible. Isaiah warns of the danger of approaching God in worship in a non sincere and irreverent way in Isaiah 29: 13,

 

“The Lord says: ‘These people come near me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their heats are far from me. Their worship of me is made up of rules taught by men”.

 

Such was the formal worship of Jesus day as he pointed out on a number of occasions like when Jesus cleared the Temple because Jewish merchants under the control of the Jewish leadership of the time turned the outer courts of the Temple where even Gentiles were allowed, into a market place to exploit would be worshippers.

 

I like Marks version of this event because Mark pin- points the central shocking nature of the irreverence of this activity with Jesus teaching on why he was doing this startling clearing of the Temple courts with what we call righteous anger.

 

Jesus quotes from Isaiah 56: 7 and then adds a particularly apt conclusion in Mark 11: 17,

 

“And as he taught them, he said, ‘It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

 

But you have made it a den of robbers”.

 

The Jewish leaders of Jesus day had turned worship of the God of the Bible into a money making racket and therefore the sincerity of heart so necessary for true reverent worship was sadly lost. This was not only a tragedy for the Jewish worshippers but also God seeking Gentile worshippers who came to the Temple courts to by animals for sacrifice to the great God of the bible.

 

Paul writing in the first letter to the Corinthians had to deal with irreverent worship practices that had emerged in the Corinthian church. Paul deals with this in 1 Corinthians 11: 17 – 33. Here we learn that the worship of The Lord Jesus Christ through what he calls The Lords Supper had degenerated into a love feast. This corporate meal or feast had gotten right out of hand with some eating well and others not having much to eat at all.

 

Some participants even got drunk at these meetings and worse the real meaning of celebrating Jesus constituted basis of worship was lost and people instead were sinning in a number of ways in the guise of Christian worship.

 

Paul lays down the basis for The Lords supper worship ceremony in 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26,

 

“ For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

 

Paul is setting down this basis of The Lord Supper worship ceremony to help the Corinthian church conduct corporate worship in a decent and orderly way. He completes his word on this with these solemn words of warning in 1 Corinthians 11: 33 – 34,

 

“So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment”.

Real worship of the God of the bible is both a joyful and serious activity, which is what is behind David’s words in verse 9 of Psalm 96, which says,

 

“Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him all the earth”.

 

Note those last words of this verse,

 

“Tremble before him all the earth”.

 

I like Spurgeon’s comment on this phrase,

 

“There is a sacred trembling which is quite consistent with joy, the heart may even quiver with an awful excess of delight. The sight of the King in his beauty caused no alarm to John in Patmos, and yet it made him fall at his feet as dead. O, to behold him and worship him with prostrate awe and sacred fear!”

 

  1. 10 – 13 REJOICE ALL CREATION IN THE GOD WHO JUDGES AND SAVES

                  THE WORLD

 

We come then to the third and final section of this Psalm 96 lifted from the pages of 1 Chronicles 16 where we find a even larger Psalm of David written for Sanctuary or Temple worship to help celebrate the ascension of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.

 

In this final section of the Psalm we will hear of the worship of the God of the bible of the innate natural world followed by a word of prediction of the coming of the Lord in judgment of this world and its people.

 

I have broken this final section into two parts:

 

  1. 11 – 12 The praise of the natural world to the God who offers

             judgment and salvation to the world

  1. 13 –       The praise all people must offer the God who judges and

                              saves the world.

 

Lets then look at this final section of the Psalm:

 

  1. 11 – 12 The praise of the natural world to the God who offers

             judgment and salvation to the world

 

When I was in my twenties and thirties I tried to write a number of creative poems under the general title of “Prayers of the Created”. The idea behind this concept of “Prayers of the Created” was that I believed nature spoke of God in various ways and my main proof text for this idea was Psalm 19 verse 1,

 

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

 

Here is an example of one of those poems:

 

PRAISE THE MORNING

 

I love to see the morning, so fresh and clear each day,

Piecing through the darkness the sun sends down its ray,

And I love to see the morning; it is my hope each day.

So praise to the morning,

May the morning hold it’s sway today.

 

A haze of crystal water laps the shores of a tranquil bay.

Reflecting the wholesome beauty of every sunlit ray.

The birds all sing and chatter, their chorus for the day

“Praise to the morning

May the morning hold its sway on us today.

 

And I like to stop and ponder as I read God’s word each day,

How precious is the morning that herald’s in each day.

For the morning speaks of mercy as it drives the night away;

So praise to the morning

May the morning hold its sway on all my day.

 

And in the distant city, soft white clouds seem to say,

“The morning is our vision for in the morning children play”;

And so I ask the Lord to grant me a purpose for my day,

And he answers, “Praise the Morning,

The morning is yours today and every day”.

 

This rather romantic style poem is an attempt to get one innate aspect of God’s creation, “The Morning” to speak and even offer or at least inspire a prayer. David does the same kind of thing with verses 11 and 12 of Psalm 96,

 

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy”.

 

It seems that I picked up the same idea David had of how nature or the natural world can and does speak to us. I’m the kind of person that is not really impressed or inspired by a man made building like a Cathedral but take me to some impressive naturally beautiful place and I can get really inspired and sense the wonder and greatness of the God who made all that I see.

 

David calls the heavens and earth to rejoice,

 

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad”

 

This is a similar idea to what I quoted he said in Psalm 19: 1,

 

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

 

Psalm 19 is one of David’s Psalms called a creation Psalm and another is Psalm 8, which starts with the words,

 

“O Lord, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens”.

 

This seems to be a reference to the stars of the night sky which also can make you think of the greatness and wonder of the God who made all that.

 

So David wants all creation to sing the praise of its creator so he speaks of the chaotic often-turbulent sea and all that’s in it to again rejoice in its wonderful creator,

 

“Let the sea resound, and all that is in it”

 

We have seen in recent Psalms the image of the sea as that mighty untamed often -chaotic place being under the control of the God of the bible, as we saw in Psalm 93: 3 – 4,

 

“The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.

 

Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty”.

 

God has something to say through the sea and maybe it is something like I am so great and powerful and mighty because I even control the sea.

 

Then David turns to the dry land in verse 12,

 

12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy”.

 

Isaiah seems to have been inspired by this verse when he writes in Isaiah 44: 23,

 

“Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel”.

 

Here the innate natural world speaks praise for God’s salvation of the nation of Israel

 

Paul in Romans 8: 18 – 21 links God’s creation with God’s salvation of mankind, he writes,

 

“ 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.

 

So creation itself has been sadly effected by the fall of man into sin and it groans in expectation for God’s total salvation to come as we will see in final two verses through the final judgment of God to come when Jesus returns to earth in all his heavenly glory.

 

I mentioned before that in my twenties and thirties I wrote some poems under the general concept of “Prayers of the Created”. I shared one of those poems that spoke of praise for the morning. Some of these poems were not prayers of praise but because of the bondage of creation through man’s sins creation sometimes my poems spoke of the negative aspects I observed in the world of nature, which has come about through the many sins of mankind. An example of this kind of poem follows:

 

CREATIONS GROANINGS

 

What has happened to the fields where once the flowers bloomed?

Stone upon stone man has built to feed his greed and gloom.

 

Even in the rugged bush mankind has left his mark.

Paper bags and soft drink cans lie around in every part.

 

Creation groans and suffers pain it often seems in turmoil.

High rise buildings and honking cars all cause our blood to boil.

 

Decay and death have entered into our world and it’s in a mess.

Even though there’s life around bad air mixes with fresh.

 

Creation longs to be released and find its liberty.

One day the sky will crack and the clouds will part and all will be set free.

 

  1. 13 –       The praise all people must offer the God who judges and

                              saves the world.

 

The last two lines of my the poem, “Creations Groaning” I just quoted relate very well to the last verse of this Psalm.

 

Creation longs to be released and find its liberty.

One day the sky will crack and the clouds will part and all will be set free.

 

This is because these two lines of my poem and the last verse of Psalm 96 speak of the Lord coming in judgment to this world,

 

“They sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth”.

 

Christians believe that this verse is a prediction of the coming of the Messiah who we believe is The Lord Jesus Christ. Jews reject the idea that Jesus is the Messiah and apparently one of the reasons they do this is because the coming of Jesus 2000 years ago did not fulfill all the Messianic prophecies.

 

It has been claimed that Jesus fulfilled 353 (see web page – www.accordingtothescriptures.org) However there are other Messiah prophecies Jesus did not fulfill in his life, ministry, death and resurrection and these like this last verse of Psalm 96 deal with God’s final day of judgment. Jewish critics of Christianity usually point to these unfulfilled prophecies and conclude that Jesus cannot therefore be the Messiah.

 

However the New Testament clearly teaches that Jesus first coming to this world was not to judge the world but to save it. The verse in John’s Gospel that follows the famous John 3:16 about how God sent Jesus into the world to save those who believe in him says this, John 3:17,

 

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

 

Jewish critics would say this is a cop out to cover up the deficiencies of Jesus as the Messiah but most of the 353 Old Testament prophecies Jesus fulfilled deal with the Messiah’s role as a savior of mankind like, Isaiah 53: 5,

 

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

 

This is not a cop out as the Messiah was predicted in the Old Testament to come as our savior from our sins. However he is also predicted as the great bringer of judgment as this final verse of Psalm 96 says,

 

“He comes to judge the earth”.

 

Jesus himself explains how he is both the world’s savior and Judge in John 12: 44 – 48,

 

 “Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

 

47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day”.

 

Jesus speaks, however in a number of places of a second coming to this world and in that second coming he will come as the judging Messiah. As we see for instance in Matthew 25: 31 – 32,

 

“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”.

 

So why have at least 2,000 years, maybe more between these comings of Christ?

 

The answer to that is God does not want anyone to perish and now through what his son, the saving Messiah he can offer salvation to avoid his judgement. Peter speaks of this very issue in 2 Peter 3: 8 – 9,

 

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.

 

We then are living in a special age of God, which has been called “The Gospel Age” where we are called to, like verse 3 of this Psalm says,

 

“Declare his glory among the Nations, his marvellous deeds among all people”.

 

So creation, Paul says in Romans 8: 22 is groaning awaiting God’s final judgment to come to free it like us from the bondage of sin. This is how I understand what the start of Psalm 96 verse 13 is saying in the words,

 

“They sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth”.

 

The final words of the Psalm tells us how God will judge the earth,

 

He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth”.

 

Albert Barnes explains these final words of the Psalm this way,

 

“The allusion would seem to be to some future time when God would come to reign among people; to dispense justice; to vindicate his people, and to establish truth”.

 

This again seems to me to be yet another Old Testament prophecy of the coming of the great Messiah king who again I believe is The Jesus Christ. Not Christ in his first coming but Christ in his second and final coming to this world when the Gospel age is ended and Christ comes from heaven to reign on earth as the great judge of all the earth as we read of in Revelation 20: 11 – 15,

 

 “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

 

Unto that great day comes we are to follow the command of Christ as he gave us all in Mark 16: 15 – 16,

 

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”.

 

These words are mirrored by the opening three verses of this Psalm, which read this way,

 

“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples”.

 

I close as usual with an original poem and a prayer,

 

PREACH HIS GOSPEL NOW

(Based on Mark 16: 15 – 16 and Psalm 96)

 

Go into the world

And preach the Gospel Now

Tell all creation

Of his mighty saving power

 

Sing this brand new song

Sing to all the earth

Sing of his salvation

When God’s Son came to earth.

 

Chorus:

Our God is so great

So worthy of praise each hour

He reigns supreme

We must preach his Gospel now.

 

Who ever believes

And is baptised will be saved.

For we must give God the praise

When we remember what he has made.

 

Say to all the world

That our God surely does reign.

His judgments are fair

And we must praise his mighty name.

 

Chorus:

Our God is so great

So worthy of praise each hour

He reigns supreme

We must preach his Gospel now.

 

If you don’t believe

Your sin has condemned you.

For the heavens and earth rejoice

In the God they know is true.

 

The trees and the forests sing

Of the Lord who is surely coming

To Judge all the earth

And to do away with sin.

 

Chorus:

Our God is so great

So worthy of praise each hour

He reigns supreme

We must preach his Gospel now.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 

Dear Father in heaven I thank you for your great and wonderful message of the Gospel, which came to us by the coming of your only Son Jesus Christ to our world. The Gospel message tells us that we are sinners and are all under your just and righteous judgment. But your Gospel message also tells us that through the death of your Son, Jesus Christ we can know your amazing forgiveness if we would but turn from our sin and accept what Jesus has done for us. Help us to take this Gospel message to the world as you have commanded us to do and may many come to know your love through the message of your Gospel. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.