We have again another kingship psalm. This is the last of its kind from the series of enthronement psalms. Again, it is also in the form of a praise which commands us to worship God because he is the One who rules and reigns over us.
The psalm is structured into three parts. Each parts ends with the declaration of God’s Holiness. This the theme of the psalm. The Thrice Holy God rules righteously over his people. The psalmist emphasize God’s righteousness and holiness by mentioning the personal name of God ” Yahweh”. This is the covenant name of God was mentioned seven times.
Aside from God’s attribute of holiness, the psalm highlights the God’s personal communication and his loving mercy over his people. This allows everyone to understand God’s tender care to those whom he rules over.
In sum, Psalm teaches us to worship God because he is our most holy and merciful God. He alone personally rules over us. He demonstrated his rule generally over all creation but also particularly with Israel, his people. At the same time, God shows his mercy by telling them his perfect will. He also made provisions for forgiveness. It is not to compromise his holiness and justice but to demonstrate his mercy. All these finally points to Christ. He alone is the perfect expression of holiness, revelation, mercy, grace, and love.
Our sermon points for this Lord’s Day morning are: 1) The Righteous and Holy God; 2) The Righteous and Merciful God. Before we begin, let us pray:
God of mercy, you promised never to break your covenant with us. Amid all the changing words of our generation, speak your eternal Word that does not change. Enable us to respond to your gracious promises with faithful and obedient lives. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Worship Sourcebook)
The Righteous and Holy God
The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he! The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he! (Verses 1-5)
The psalmist begins with a repetition of the assertion “The LORD reigns”. We have heard several times how this declaration establishes God as our King who rules over all creation. The proper response to his sovereign reign is worshipping him with reverence and awe. This is what trembling signifies. It is metaphor for the effect cause by the fear of the Lord. And to fear God means to acknowledge his divine rule over us his creation and our dependence on his provisions.
Now the term “sits enthroned upon the cherubim” is symbolic of God’s position of power and authority. Cherubims are God’s celestial beings who follows God’s absolute reign. Rules from the heavens of course but the vision of God sitting above us means he is not only our righteous ruler or but our judge as well. He is our righteous king.
Verse 2 identifies the location of God’s rule in Mt. Zion which again symbolic of heaven. The psalmist calls us to exalt and praise God in verses 2 and 3 because he is both great and holy. To exalt means visually to put above. This communicates a kind of separation between what is above from what is below. And to apply it properly means we are called to focus on God and look at him for who he is and what has done.
This is what holiness points to. God is never like us and he alone is God. He is wholly other and distinct from all creation. And yet while is distinguished as our Creator, he is not an absentee landlord. He is not a deistic god who is like a clock maker putting together the piece of clock and once operating leaves it be. No, God while in his holiness makes him separate from us, personally rules and reigns in our midst.
Our God is a personal God. We are theistic in worldview. Theism means to believe in the one true God of Scripture and there is no room for any worldview aside from Theism.
We cannot accept false beliefs about God. Like in Pantheism or the belief that creation itself is god. By calling the earth as “Mother Nature”, they imagine a god as an impersonal force cannot rule or exercise judgement. This is not Yahweh because it makes him fully immanent but never transcendent. On the other hand, Gnosticism and Docetism, or the belief that the whole visible order is made of evil and only its immaterial aspect are truly divine, or that god can only make an illusory appearance here in earth, they imagine a god who is fully transcendent and never immanent. Again, this is not Yahweh because it makes him fully transcendent but never immanent.
But Yahweh is both righteous and transcendently and immanently holy, just, and true. Scripture declares God’s infinite and unchanging attributes. We worship God for he is great and almighty. He is above us and wholly different from us but at the same time he dwells with us and executes his will over us.
Churches today seem to have lost the understanding of holiness. Due to the secular influence of this world, most Christians are desensitized by sin and its evils. Morality while deemed important is rarely preached and practiced. For some having a understanding of God’s will has been reduced to sound bites and shallow platitudes.
We cannot know God and his perfect will without his Word. We cannot have the power to fight against sin and even walk in the path of godly living without God’s Spirit. Holiness comes the abiding presence and work of God.
For unbelieving sinners, the holiness of God is a terrifying thought but ultimately ignore such reality. Paul said in Romans 1 that every living creature witnesses God through the clear revelation of God’s creation and yet they do not acknowledge him nor give thanks to him. Hypocrites tend to pay lip service by saying good things about God but they betray him with their actions. Therefore for them the holiness of God is message to repent and believe.
This is why as believers we can regularly reminded by Scripture that the God we worship is holy, righteous, and just. None of these characteristic can come from our sinful flesh. Our thrice holy God determines for us what is right and just. He asserts his holy presence and does not compromise with sin.
The Righteous and Merciful God
Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the LORD, and he answered them. In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them; they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them. O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy! (Verses 6-9)
The psalmist mentions Old Testament figures like Moses, Aaron, and Samuel. This means he reads the Pentateuch and even the historical books of the Old Testament Scripture. This helps us confirm the understanding of the Old Testament as a source of types and shadows.
There are two kinds of types present in Psalm 99: 1) mediators; 2) temple sacrifices. The first one is explicit while the other is implicit. Moses and Aaron both came from the Levitical priesthood. Of course only Aaron becomes officially the line of priest but Moses mediated the law of God to Israel including the provisions for sacrifices and offering for sin. So implicit to this is the second type which are animal sacrifices in the temple. So in a way this mediation is both as prophet and priest.
So to harmonize the two we can say the type portrayed here is the mediation of the Old Covenant Law. Relating Samuel with them also points to the type of mediator. Samuel while dedicated to serve in temples eventually became a ruling judge over Israel. So in a way this is a kind of kingly mediatorship. He also mediator of the Old Covenant. A mediator is someone who goes between God and man.
Now this makes the application of whole psalm becomes eschatological. It looks forward to the fulfilment of God’s rule not only in Israel but to the whole world!
Since God’s holiness will never allow his righteousness compromised, we looked forward to the time where forgiveness of sin becomes permanent and not only by the provisional sacrifices of animal’s blood. God is just. He can never allow sin goes unpunished. The wrath of God must be appeased.
In Christ, the judgement and mercy of God meet. The active and passive obedience of Christ satisfies the righteous requirements of the law. Paul exclaims:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. ( Romans 3:21-26)
Our holiness is grounded by a righteousness that comes from faith. It is an imputed righteousness that is procured by the atoning work of Christ. By the active obedience of Christ, he earned heaven for us and by the indwelling presence of the Spirit, we progress in holiness, mortify sin, and do what is pleasing to God.
How this apply then in our daily lives?
Let me focus on the importance of praying for our sanctification.
Yesterday, we began our Reformed Study Group Las Pinas and our study is about the Origins of Prayer. As part of our practical application every week we will write prayers in our prayer journals.
Now part of the problem raised for not praying regularly aside from laziness, busyness, and tiredness is not finding the need to pray. I think laziness is curable by discipline, busyness by time management and tiredness by resting and even sleeping. But finding the need to pray daily is actually the core problem.
So I cited the need for holiness is actually our daily need we need to pray for as we always need them. As believing Christians, we are dependent on God to supply us with the forgiveness and strength to lead holy lives. We pray for God is forgive us when we sin so we confess our sins. Do we sin daily? We pray daily. Do we need protection against sin daily? So we pray daily. We pray daily for holiness for we need to live holy lives daily.
Let us continue to pray for God’s transforming grace in our lives.
ZCRC (Imus), God is holy, righteous, and just. He is merciful, loving, and gracious. He alone satisfies the righteous requirements of law and grant his people eternal life. Let us continue to reflect his holy Law in our lives by his Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.