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.