A reminder for praise, this Psalm fits with a bunch in the Nineties (Pss. 93-99) heralding the Lord of all creation; the name of the Lord, high and lifted up, is worthy of universal acclaim:
“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it.”
~Psalm 96:11, 12a (NRSV)
This Psalm is not limited to the particular authorship of one writer; it is, rather, a beautifully composed song of praise for the coming kingdom of the Lord. It is found building from local concern—a charge for the Israelites—to the Gentile concern, before it decrees the universal Sovereignty of the Lord.
Singing A New Song
The people of God, as the Israelites were known, may have taken officiously to allusions of Gentile election—to the redemption of humankind. But the decree of this Psalm in verses 1-3 is that the holy nation needed to get used to its role within the sphere of mission: the evangelising of the world.
The living God—the God of this Psalm—is, and was always, too big to be just any one nation’s God.
Their singing a New Song meant, for the Israelites, a serious new task in learning to be evangelists; to be proclaimers and teachers of the faithful grace and steadfast love of their God.
There Is Only One GOD – A God Above All ‘gods’
When he was confronted by all the pagan gods of ancient Greece (Acts 17), the Apostle Paul centred on the caricature of a ‘god of no name’ so he could preach about the one and only living God. To the Grecians, the Lord was unknown to them.
Most of humankind is deceived in that it worships idols—lifestyle, substances, money, possessions, even religion. Even Christians are not beyond idolatry; splitting their worship between a Sunday God and a Monday god.
But the Lord, the living God, is to be revered above all gods.
A Message For The Whole Earth
The world’s response to the evangelistic program will be sketchy, though the psalmist calls the “families of the peoples” (verse 7) to ascribe to the Lord glory and strength—that which is due his holy name. This is where the evangelist needs to be resilient; able to not be deterred because of the many responses of indifference. The world grows quiet and vaguely apathetic when subjects of a spiritual nature are raised—unless they are seeking.
The message of God, the holy gospel, is one the whole world needs to hear about; though apathy is the expected response. It will only be the movement of the Spirit, goading a person, which will cause them to “tremble” (verse 9) before him.
Worshipping The Universal God
Verses 10-13 broaden the scope of the Psalm to the captivating majesty of the universe itself. The entire universe is the Lord’s.
The heavens are glad and the earth shall rejoice when her Lord judges righteously, the earth and all its people in truth.
The larger agenda of God is the program of redemption for all humankind—a charter the church has through Jesus’ Great Commission. God is bringing all creation under himself. Singing a New Song is about proclaiming the glory of God to the entire world. Let us continue that quest until The Day.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.