Psalm 96 (ESV)
1 Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!
9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
10 Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.
Day 1: Loving God
Verse 1 begins, “Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!” The command to “sing … a new song” doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want us to sing the same worship song to Him twice, and that we must continually compose new songs. Rather, it’s calling for fresh worship that springs from a live, present experience of God’s grace rather than a stagnant worship that is a rote regurgitation of a no-longer experienced reality. Is your relationship God with such that it inspires new songs? New prayers? New worship? A Christian is a fountain of new songs that will never dry up, because his source is an eternal God who is infinitely full of grace toward us! Does your heart sing with the joy of salvation as you begin 2019?
The reason for this is given in verses 4-6, “For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.” In the Old Testament, no one but God is described as “great” in an absolute sense. For example, Moses is described as “great” “in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people” in Exodus 11:3 and Mordecai is described as “great” “among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers,” but only God is great. Period. It’s almost like an attribute of God. And because God is great, He is greatly to be praised.
Not only that, God is to be “feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.” The word “gods” and the word “worthless” look and sound very similar in Hebrew, so there is a wordplay here that is a deliberate dig at these idols. To capture it in English, we might say something like this, “for all the divine beings of the peoples are divinely worthless.” “But the LORD made the heavens.” The LORD God whom Israel worships is the God who made the heavens. “Splendor and majesty are before him,” signifying His Kingship (cf. 21:5; 45:3), and as befits the King, “strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.” There are a lot of pretenders in this world, ones who claim to rule, ones who seek to exercise power over us, so-called gods and people aspiring to be god, but there is only one God in the world, and He is our God, the LORD who made the heavens. What are the things and people (the so called “gods”) that compete with God to “rule” your attitudes, actions, and affections?
- Renounce the “gods” that rule your heart for this New Year, and praise God for His glorious reign over your life.
- Pray that God would fill you with the joy of salvation everyday for the upcoming year.
Day 2: Loving One Another
Verse 8 extends an invitation to the “families of the peoples” to renounce their idols and “bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!” This invitation to Gentiles to “come into [the temple] courts” for worship and sacrifice looks forward to a time of universal worship, when Jews and Gentiles will be included in the family of God through Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:12-13 tells us that Gentiles were once “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now, in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” By dying on the cross, Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law and satisfied God’s wrath, thereby making a way for sinners from all nations to be reconciled to God. This is why the church is gathered and united, not by ethnicity or affinity, but by our common faith in Jesus Christ.
- Pray that God would make all of our church members evangelists who share the gospel with their neighbors who come from the “families of the peoples.”
- Pray that God would grow our church this New Year through the conversion/baptism of new members.
- Pray that God would make us a diverse church that is unified in Christ and His gospel.
Day 3: Loving Our Neighbors
Verses 11-13 say,”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! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD.” And here’s the reason for their gladness, verse 13, “for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.” So many people in this world, and so often even we, as Christians, resist God’s rule in our lives, presuming to think that we know better than God, seeking to rule our own lives. But true gladness and joy are found in submission to God’s rule, for it is God who “judge[s] the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.” No one in the world, that includes us, can rule more graciously or judge more fairly than our God. It is when we are most submitted to our Creator-King that we are most free. It is when we humble ourselves before our Creator-King that we are most happy. How are you spreading God’s equitable reign over the earth?
- Pray that God would increase your joy in the Lord, and that this would be a testimony of God’s truth and grace to those around you.
- Pray for the salvation of specific family members, friends, and neighbors who have not yet submitted to the gracious rule of God.
- Pray for the brokenness and injustice that plague our city, nation, and world. Pray for the return of Christ and the full establishment of His Kingdom on earth.