Before we begin, let us pray:
Living God, help us to hear your holy Word with open hearts so that we may truly understand; and, understanding, that we may believe; and, believing, that we may follow in all faithfulness and obedience, seeking your honor and glory in all that we do. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Again, Psalm 97 is an enthronement psalm. It is used during festival temple worship. The theme is also praise and it contains both typological and eschatological elements.
In sum, Psalm 97 teaches us to recognize the Sovereign Rule and power of God over creation and redemption. He personally appears in history to establish himself in the midst of his people and enables them to lead godly lives. So in response we are exhorted to worship God with joy and gladness.
We have two sermon points this morning: 1) The Sovereign Rule of the LORD over His People, and 2) The Loving Response of God’s People to their LORD.
The Sovereign Rule of the LORD over His People
The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory. All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods!
Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O LORD. For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. (Verses 1-9)
Verse 1 stands as the ground for everything that follows. The statement “The LORD reigns” occurs in most of the kingship psalms. As explained in our previous preachings, it is simply a declaration of either the current or future state of affairs. It is a recognition of God’s sovereign rule over all things in creation and providence and specifically speaking, redemptive history. The merism earth and coastlands pertains to the scope of God’s rule both near (coastland) and far (earth). And the proper response to God’s sovereignty as a divine attribute is again worship. Rejoice and gladness are both responses of gratitude in worship.
Now verses 2 to 5 expounds on how God demonstrates his sovereignty over redemptive history. Taken as a whole we can say it is typological. Again typology means in this case an event that happened in OT history considered as a type or shadow that points to Christ as the antitype or reality. Exegetically speaking the language is largely symbolic which means it takes a metaphor or anthromorphic expressions to communicate the divine activities of God.
The Old Testament history portrayed here in these verses echoes the divine encounter of God’s people in Mt. Sinai. The cloud and thick darkness of verse 2 and the fire and lightning of verses 3 and 4 speaks of God’s terrifying presence. They are symbolic of God’s judgement and it is clear from the end part of verses 2 and 3 that God is both righteous and just. Surely, no one can escape his judgement (verse 4).
At this point the resemblance with Exodus 19 is maintained but moving to verse 5, the metaphor seems to increase in strength. The mountains melting like wax appears to bear an apocalyptic tone. It points out a terrifying end of all creation. The mountain represents the whole created and order and the metaphor melting like wax communicates dissolution by means of heat and fire. Again these verses are not only taken as history events that happened but more so are expected to happen in the future. They are not typological but eshatological as well. (At this point we can say the book of Revelation draws heavily from the Psalms for its apocalyptic visions).
If what we observed from these verses are true then we can continue with the assumption that verses 6 and 7 are taken as future events as well. At this point it is again important for us to point out how the OT saints assume the triumph of God over all his enemies and his judgement over them happens in a singular event.
However with the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in humility and afterwards exaltation then succeeded by the sending of the Holy Spirit both in power and presence with his people expands these events of the Day of the Lord into two comings. The first coming is the inaguration while the second coming is the consummation. The theological term for this semi-eschatological reality. It is the already-and-not-yet period explained by Jesus in Acts 1:6-8:
“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Christians will enjoy the spiritual reign of God in his Word and Spirit and anticipates the coming of Jesus in all his glory then the end will come.
Going back to Psalm 97:6-7, verse 6 speaks of the heavenly reality of God throned with Jesus sitting at his the right hand symbolic of his authority and power. Then verse 7 prophesy the defeat of all God’s enemies. This is what Paul echoed in Philippians 2:9-10 and it reads “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”. This is a sure application of the doctrine that we are indeed living in the last days and it is the period of the Son’s first and second coming, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…(Hebrews 1:1-2)”
The last days is a period between Christ’s first and second comings. It is the overlapping period between this age and the age to come. Paul referred to it in Ephesians 1:20-21, “God (he) worked in Christ…far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
This is why the age to come breaks in with the coming of Christ and the sending of the Spirit. It is the reality now as pilgrims living the two ages. Our worship is now in Zion and we are glad (verse 8-9). We are called the daughters of Judah which is synodoche for the parts representing the whole of God’s elect. We worship every Lord’s Day knowing this reality in our midst. The preacher of Hebrews remind us this reality, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant…(Hebrews 12:22-24).
As sinners we all carry the weight of God’s glory as God’s wrath towards sin. Let us not mistake that because of God’s grace, the God of the Old Testament is now a tamer god than the New Testament. No, that is far from reality. Yes, the humiliation of Christ shines forth the glory of God’s grace and make no mistake that the vindicating wrath of God in Christ’s return brings judgment to all men. So if we have not yet sought Christ in faith and repentance. Trust not in yourself for your deliverance. Christ alone is the Savior of sinners. Repent and believe in him for your salvation.
Believing sinners, our current state of sufferings can never be compared to the surpassing promise of our eternal glory in Christ. Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
So Christian, let us fix our eyes on Christ. He is author and perferter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2)
The Loving Response of God’s People to their LORD
O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name! (Verses 10-12)
Verse 10 begins to contemplate the consequences of God’s sovereign rule of God to his people here and now. Our duty is clear. We are called to love God and hates sin and evil. As made clear in our sermon last Lord’s Day, God is Holy and he will make us holy. But at the same time, He will do it by changing our minds, wills, and desires. This means by faith in Christ and by the indwelling work of the Spirit, all converted believers will progress in Holiness. So as result, Christians will understand, continue to enjoy, and choose to obey God’s revealed will. And the top of this list is worship and respond with gratitude and praise.
The psalmist grounds this command to lead godly lives with the application of God’s grace in our lives. Continuing in verse 10, he assures as of God’s preservation and continuing delivance from evil. At the same time, verse 11 states how worship affects its participants and extends to everyone in their lives, “Light is sow for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.”
This unsual construction is of course metaphorical but the relationship seems obsure. You cannot plant or grow light. It is simply refracted and bounces off. So making sense of this idiomatic expression, we know from Scripture that light usually means understanding that comes the revealing wisdom of God. And having it sown for the righteous means those who worship God reflect the wisdom and knowledge of God to others. God is the source of godly living and spiritual discernment lived by individual Christians in society makes a difference in the lives of other people. Indeed we are called as salt and light of this world in Christ (Matthew 5:13-16).
Finally, verse 12 exhorts God’s people to worship God for he is holy and in response we worship him with joy and gladness. This closes the psalm with an exhortation.
Before we end, let me remind each of us the worship itself is a command. Actually, only those who love God can truly worship. As sinners living under God’s wrath, we lack the moral capacity to comply with the perfect requirement of obedience. We are not talking here of external compliance but also internal capacity. Our obedience flows from faith. This means only true believers worship.
But praise be to God for what he requires, he also supplies. Regeneration guarantees conversion and sanctification is the fruit of regeneration. This means the elect of God when regenerated receives a new nature in Christ which the Spirit continues to sanctify.
I realized how difficult it must be to maintain a weekly habit of regularly attending the Lord’s Day and receive the blessings of God’s ordinary means of geace when everything that surrounds us runs contrary to its practice. Especially when our own relatives, friends, and even colleagues treat them in ridicule and contempt.
Then it is one thing that there are those who tolerate the neglect of weekly worship but there is also great temptation from modern churches today to either treat the Lord’s Day as a source of entertainment or even cast them as a legalistic requirement for ministry and service.
Worship every Lord’s Day is serious business. It is given to us by God so we can delight and rest in Him. He promises to provide us with everything we need to glorify him and enjoy him forever. This is our chief end and worship here on earth reminds us of this reality.
So Christian, let us worship God in reverence and awe.
ZCRC (Imus), God rules sovereignly over our lives. He continues to preserves and delivers us. Let us live in the light of this reality and worship Him in gratitude and praise. 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.