Tuesday, 12 August 2014

(225) August 13: Psalm 96-98 & Romans 12

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider why God is worthy of praise.

To ponder:
Psalm 96 is another call to worship the LORD. Once more, it equates praise with proclamation, here, of his salvation, glory and deeds among the nations (96v1-3). He alone is worthy of this praise because he is great and “to be feared” (ie. reverently honoured and obeyed) “above all gods.” As is clear from the context, this is not to suggest any other gods are real. They are idols, whereas God made the heavens (96v4-5). 96v6 may speak of the splendour, majesty, strength and glory of the impressive temple within which God dwelt. If so, it is being used as an illustration of God’s greatness. But it was a pattern of heaven itself (Heb 8v5). And Christ was ultimately the temple – the supreme picture of how great God is.
            In the light of God alone being the true God, all nations are called to honour and worship him at his temple with offerings and praise (96v7-9). “Families” here may picture the whole world now like the nation of Israel. They are to “ascribe” and so credit God for the glory and strength that are in his sanctuary (as 96v6). All this asserts the falseness of other religions, and looks to the inclusion of Gentiles with Jews in the true worship of God through Christ.
            Perhaps, in order to bring the nations to worship God in this way, 96v10-13 urges his people to proclaim to the world that he reigns, that he upholds the world, and that he will come to judge all peoples fairly and in truth. And this is of such wondrous good, that the entire creation is pictured singing with joy because of it. Do we declare it as good news, when we speak of Christ returning to judge the living and the dead?
            Psalm 97 continues the theme of judgement, again declaring that the earth should rejoice that God reigns (97v1). 97v2-6 use the imagery of Sinai to show that his coming in judgement will be terrifying. Indeed, he will be as a consuming fire to evil, because his reign is founded on righteousness and justice. Once more “the heavens” (ie. sky) are said to proclaim God’s glory, here this righteousness (ie. commitment to what is right), perhaps by displaying his beauty and order. And because all see it, all are without excuse. So those who worship idols are shamed and called to worship God (97v7, see Rom 1v18-23). By contrast, Jerusalem and Judah are glad because of God’s judgements – in context, probably his delivering the righteous from the wicked (97v8-10). In the light of God’s righteousness and justice, those who love God are therefore urged to hate evil knowing that their lives will be guarded from the wicked, and that they will be given light (ie. God’s truth and goodness) and joy in him (97v10-12).
            Psalm 98 assumes a more specific judgement in which God has saved Israel in faithfulness to his promises, and so revealed his righteousness in this to all the earth. For this reason, not just the worshippers, but the whole world and all who live in it are called to sing a new song and shout for joy before God as king (98v1-8). Yet the psalm ends praising God that he will come to judge the earth in righteousness and equity (ie. fairness). It may be this reflects the fact that by witnessing God prove himself righteous in his covenant commitments, we should be reminded that this righteousness will be shown in judgement too. Alternatively, it may be that by celebrating God saving Israel from her enemies, and so judging and punishing them with defeat, the psalmist looks us to the day of ultimate salvation, when God will judge the wicked and so bring the righteous into his everlasting kingdom. Whatever the case, for us the whole psalm can speak of this final salvation wrought through Christ, and the “new song” that will then be sung (Rev 5v9, 14v3). Indeed, it reminds us that God’s righteousness, faithfulness, salvation and judgement, are of such immensity and wonder that it is only fitting for the entire creation to praise him.
Praying it home:                                                                                   
Praise God for these qualities. Pray that you would increasingly see God’s judgement as something to rejoice in.

Thinking further: Judgement
To read a brief chapter by Jim Packer on judgement, click here.

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