Worship the King (Psalm 96)
The best classic novels often draw us in with a thread of unfulfilled longing. We keep reading with an insatiable desire to close the loose end. We feel ourselves longing alongside the characters.
More often than not, authors wrap up their stories with satisfying conclusions. The mission is accomplished. The quest is completed. The boy gets the girl. The girl marries the boy and lives happily ever after. The end of the fictional story gives us hope in our story.
But tragedies are popular too. They provide a harsh dose of reality rather than the fairy tale ending…that never really comes. Of course, it takes more than a horrible ending to write great fiction, but the Pulitzer prize rarely goes to the dreamers anymore.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is probably the quintessential example of realistic endings. Gatsby begins with the theme of unfulfilled longing (boy meets girl, but can’t have her). Then it transitions to fulfilled but unsatisfying longing (boy gets girl, but she’s disappointing). The novel wraps up with a tragic ending (boy dies). It’s one of the most depressing conclusions ever written. If we have any high school students here, I just wrote your book report. You’re welcome!
So far in our Advent series each of the psalms have reflected a theme of longing:
- Longing for God’s protection and provision (Psalm 80)
- Longing, with expectation, for the fulfillment of God’s promises (Psalm 85)
- Longing for a new experience of past joy (Psalm 126)
- Longing for the Savior’s rescue from exile (Psalm 89).
We conclude our series with Psalm 96 which comes from a different context altogether. Should we wrap up the loose end with a happy or realistic conclusion? Thankfully, in God’s Word, the two are not mutually exclusive.
Psalms 93-100 reflect upon the Lord as King. They depict his worldwide reign (93), royal judgment (94), and his coming to bring salvation (95-96). Psalm 96 was written by King David after Israel recovered the ark from the Philistines. They brought the ark back to Jerusalem and worshipped God. Most of its verses make up their celebration song (1 Chron. 16).
So we transition this morning from the theme of longing to receiving and longing for more. The reality of what we have received exceeds every possible expectation and we anticipate it getting even better.
Read Psalm 96
The Glory of the King (1-6)
The Call to Worship (1-3)
Everyone on earth is commanded to sing to Yahweh a new song that blesses His name (1-2a). Another stage in God’s redemption compels us to compose fresh songs of victory for our triumphant King! His reign extends throughout the whole earth, thus everyone is called to worship.
We are called to sing to the LORD, while also telling others of his salvation (2b). Our songs of praise have an upward focus with and outward benefit. Those who hear our words of praise will hear God’s offer of salvation.
Therefore, we sing with the conviction that God receives our praise and converts souls through it! This doesn’t only happen at church. We are called to sing and declare the salvation of the LORD every day and everywhere!
Declare his glory among (not to) every nation (3). Representatives from every tribe, tongue, and nation will join the Church, singing praises to her King.
They will each tell their stories of God’s “marvelous works” fueling an eternity of fellowship and praise to…
The God We Worship (4-6)
Why worship? Because the Lord is great and praiseworthy (4)! No other god should be feared more than the LORD. All other gods = worthless idols (5). Hebrew pun: אֱלִילִ֑ים < אֱלֹהִים. The Philistine worship of Dagon is a great example of worthless idolatry. When he falls over, the people put him back only to fall again (1 Sam. 5:1-4). Idols literally do nothing, and worshipping them makes you like them (Ps. 115:4-8).
Unless you are practicing another religion, I doubt any of you actually bow before a physical idol. But you are worshipping someone/something at all times. At this very moment you are worshipping. You are giving yourself (time, attention, heart) to something. Is it to God through his word? Or is your mind wandering elsewhere? These questions have immediate implications.
We are called to worship the LORD who “made the heavens.” We worship the Creator who is full of splendor, majesty, strength, and beauty (6). His attributes and glory reside in his sanctuary. The ark, now in the tent David prepared for it, was a shadow of God’s heavenly presence. But an even greater display of God’s glory came to earth, born in a manger (John 1:14). We worship the King who was born in a manger and now reigns in splendor.
His glory compels worship.
The Worship of the King (7-10)
We are called to ascribe glory and strength to the LORD (7). We recognize God’s possession of these attributes and declare what we see.
We are not only to ascribe him the glory he alone is due, but we are to bring an offering (8). We pay our tribute to our Sovereign King. We give the Lord gifts in recognition of his worth. We declare him to be more important than our offering. No gift is adequate. No amount is sufficient. But we still give reverently and joyfully because he is worthy.
We bring our gifts and our praise and worship to the King of kings (9). He sits enthroned in the splendor of holiness.
Holiness is the only attribute of God given 3x. Holy, Holy, Holy! God is thrice holy. Last week we considered God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. But we never read “Love, love, love” or “Faithful, faithful, faithful.” God is utterly unique. There no god like him.
The whole earth ought to tremble before him. “Tremble” could be translated “writhe.” It reflects a deep, painful sense of God’s holiness. Fear begins a right relationship with God (4). Fear is the recognition that we are sinful, but God is holy. That should bother you!
To be indifferent about God’s holiness would be like standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon and being indifferent about the height. We visited the Grand Canyon six years ago. It was awesome! You want to enjoy the view, while clutching your children tightly. The edge of the Grand Canyon, or the top of the Half Dome are not places you want to throw caution to the wind. The same can be said for standing in the presence of a holy God…to an infinitely greater degree!
All you can do is acknowledge his holiness, admit your unworthiness, and submit to his Lordship. This is what we declare “among the nations” (10). This statement speaks of his present reign. We declare his reign over all of his domain, which is the world he established. We worship the King who was born in a manger and now reigns in splendor.
But v.10 also speaks of his future judgment. He will judge with equity/uprightness/justice. He judges with truth.
That judgment occurs upon his return.
The Return of the King (11-13)
All of creation will join together in a chorus of praise (11-12). All the realms of the worthless idols (5) will sing praise to the only true God when he comes to judge. Creation’s “eager longing” is now satisfied at Christ’s return (Rom. 8:19).
All of creation joins in because God is going to reverse the effects of the curse. The Fall’s impact will be lifted. This is not a picture of utter destruction, but renewal. God will restore creation to the original beauty and perfection it had when he created it, before sin corrupted it. Everything God created was distorted by the fall, so everything will be renewed upon Christ’s return.
His judgment will be universal (13). His decision will be in righteousness and faithfulness.
None would be able to stand before the holiness of the King at his return if he did not first come to us as Savior (2).
Sin brought guilt and shame into the world. Sin devastated our relationship with God. But out of his great love for us, God rescued us by sending his Son, born of a virgin, crucified for us, but rising again on the third day and ascending to the right hand of the Father, where he presently reigns. And he shall come again, with glory!
We anticipate his return with great joy because we know that he will make all things new. He will recover all that has been lost by the Fall. The thought that Jesus is coming soon fills us with hope (Rev. 22:20).
You have been called worship the King who was born in a manger and now reigns in splendor. It is your obligation and privilege to do so.