Tuesday, July 25, 2023

2023.07.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 96:1–6

Read Psalm 96:1–6

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Psalm 96:1a command to do? Unto Whom? What sort of song? Who is to sing this new song (verse 1b)? What does this singing aim at doing (Psalm 96:2a)? How frequently are they going to proclaim what (verse 2b)? Among whom are they going to declare what (Psalm 96:3a)? Among whom are they going to declare what else (verse 3b)? What are they to declare about YHWH Himself (Psalm 96:4a)? What should be done exceedingly unto Him? What else ought to be done unto Him (verse 4b)? Above whom? Why—what’s true about these other gods (Psalm 96:5a)? But what is true about YHWH (verse 5b)? What go in front of Him (Psalm 96:6a)? What are in the place of His holiness (verse 6b)?

What does the great conclusion to redemptive history declare? Psalm 96:1–6 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the great conclusion to redemptive history declares the glory of YHWH.  

This is a song for a monumental occasion in the future. It looks forward to the great day when YHWH rules over all the nations (cf. Psalm 33:3; Psalm 98:1; 1 Chronicles 16:23–33; Isaiah 42:10). The “new song” language doesn’t mean that we are to be constantly coming up with new songs but that this song belongs to the future great event referred to in all of these passages. There are several important things that we can observe about this song.

The duty to sing. Few commands are given as frequently and urgently in the Scripture as the command to sing, which is triply given in the first verse and half. It is well-suited to follow Psalm 95, which had mandated forceful amplitude in this singing. There, as here, the cause for singing is the greatness of YHWH. 

Those who know the God of such greatness must sing! I wonder, dear reader, how we are doing at giving ourselves to this obviously important and intensely urgent doty. SING unto YHWH!

The objects of this singing. This singing is obviously God-ward—to YHWH (Psalm 96:1a)! To YHWH (verse 1b). To YHWH (Psalm 96:2a), blessing His Name (verse 2a). But the singing is also directed at others—proclaiming (verse 2b) and declaring (Psalm 96:3a). This dynamic also features especially in Christian congregational singing (cf. Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). We must sing loudly enough, clearly enough, that we can all hear all of the rest of us. (Blaring pipe organs, or other accompaniment that drowns out the human voice, run directly contrary to what this and other Scriptures command for our singing). 

But if our singing is proclaiming and declaring, then not only must we sing; we must also listen. We must be soft-hearted. The “today if you will hear His voice do not harden your hearts” of Psalm 95:7–8 has a singing counterpart in the “submitting to one another in the fear of God” of Ephesians 5:21. As Psalm 96:2-3 says “Proclaim!” and “Declare!” they are reminding us that we need to sing (and hear others singing) soft-heartedly and submissively in the fear of God. 

Dear reader, as we sing in the public worship, is your mind engaged in understanding what is being said, and is your heart engaged in receiving it? In particular, when we are singing and hearing of His salvation and His glory as in Psalm 96:2-3, are you receiving the message, and seeking that grasping His salvation and glory penetrate your heart by the work of the Spirit (cf. Ephesians 5:18b, Colossians 3:16)?

The subject of the song. The subject of the song is YHWH Himself. It is occasioned by an event—salvation for the nations and all peoples (Psalm 96:2-3), among whom He now reigns and judges (Psalm 96:10), when He comes for that purpose (Psalm 96:13). 

But the occasion of the song is not its main theme. The song’s main theme is YHWH Himself. His glory (infinite weightiness, Psalm 96:3a). His wonders (marvels or marvelousness, verse 3b). His greatness (Psalm 96:4a). His awesomeness (fearsomeness, terribleness, verse 4b). His honor (splendor, Psalm 96:6a) and majesty (verse 6a). His strength (verse 6b) and beauty (verse 6b). 

So great is each of these attributes, so superlative, that when it appears by itself it may be translated as “glory.” But here is glory upon glory, each with its own shade of meaning. Here is the glory of the God Who Is—YHWH, Who is always everything that He is, all in one infinite, seamless perfection.

The very heavens, though seemingly infinite to us, are just His finite creatures (Psalm 96:5b). Even when man comes up with an idea of a god, it always ends up powerless and worthless (the meaning of the specific word translated “idols” in Psalm 96:5a). This is one reason that accurate theology is so important. When the idea about God is one that proceeds from ourselves, it falls short—literally infinitely short. It is not “god as I’d like to think of him” that is worthy of the praise of this Psalm but the true and living God, the God Who made all things, the God Who is coming to judge the earth, the God Who reveals Himself here and throughout the Scripture. The God Who reveals Himself ultimately and superlatively in Jesus Christ!

How heartily do you sing in public worship? How thoughtfully and submissively? Who is the God that you praise?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we bless Your Name and proclaim the good news of Your salvation and declare Your glory and Your marvelousness. You are great and greatly to be praised and feared. Give us the ministry of Your Spirit to stir our hearts up to this reverence and awe. You have gathered us from among many nations. Unite us in Christ, as we come through Him into the place of Your holiness to behold Your honor and majesty and strength and beauty. Present Yourself to us especially in Christ Himself, even as Your Spirit stirs up our faith in Him, that we might be presented to You in Christ, which we even ask through Him and His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP96A “O Sing a New Song” or TPH96 “Sing to the Lord, Sing His Praise” 

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