Before we begin let us prayer:
Teach us your way, O Lord, and lead us on a level path. Teach us, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then we will keep them to the end. Give us understanding, and we will keep your law and obey it with all our hearts. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Psalm 96 just like Psalm 95 is also a kingship psalm. It is an enthronement psalm used during temple worship, festivals, and covenant renewal ceremonies. The Greek translation of this Psalms attributes authorship to David so we will considered it as such. Also, we can make the parallel of this same psalm in 1 Chronicles 16:23-33. This further establishes the authorship of David.
Now compared to psalm 95, this Psalm 96 contains all praises. We can discern some structure out of it and divide the praises into three parts. The first part calls us to sing to God because He is our Creator and Holy God. Then the second part exhorts us to recognize God as not only Our Creator but also our Ruler and Covenant Lord. The psalmist demands our response of gratitude, in faith and repentance. It also assumes our worship comes the all consuming Holiness of God. Lastly, the third part points us to the righteous judgement of God. David prophesied that in the future God will rule with righteousness and faithfulness. We are called to rejoice for his Righteous Reign.
In sum, Psalm 96 calls us to worship God for He is our Creator, Covenant Lord, Sanctifier and Righteous Judge. He delivered us from from sin and continues to reign over us. Soon he will bring everything to its consummating end. He will rule in majesty, glory, holiness, and righteousness.
Our sermon points this Lord’s Day morning are: 1) Sing to the LORD a New Song; 2) Ascribe to the LORD Glory and Strength; 3) He will Judge the World in Righteousness. This week we learn about the first point then next week we will continue with the second point and and with the third point.
Sing to the LORD a New Song
Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! 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. (verse 1-6)
Verse 1 and 2 command us to respond to God’s call to worship by praising Him for his work of salvation. Singing again is a figurative substitute for praising so it means we express our gratitude to God in worship by singing praises to him.
Now the psalmist wants us to praise God with a new song. A new song in Scripture happens when a great redemptive act occurs. This means the praise called for this first part of Psalm 96 focuses salvation of God’s people. We will pick up this theme again at the end of this sermon.
And because God’s redemptive actions are fulfillment of God’s promises of salvation, we know as a result, God also calls us to announce his grace and goodness to the world. This what verse 2 wants to communicate. The psalmist calls us to bless his name. The name is of course a figurative replacement for God’s character. And to “proclaim his salvation” means we herald to others who God is and what he has done.
Which is why in verse 3 David exhorts as to declare his glory or his wonderful deeds to the nations or the people. The term glory or kavod typically means weight but in theology and from scripture when associated with God it refers to the visible manifestation of his invisible qualities. This means as we sing praises to God, we are also called to make known his character and work.
And what are those?
Verse 4 to 6 answers this question. First, God is transcendent. He is above all else. This points to his greatness above all creatures. He alone is the Creator of all things and He rules in the heavens. Second, God is powerful and holy. He demonstrates his power in the glory of his creation as well as in redemption. His indwelling presence also shows his glory in the midst of his people.
The glory of God’s character and work is universally applied here. This means the psalm is prophetic. It looks forward to the day when the glory of God’s salvation is revealed.
This passage has been fulfilled in the New Testament with Christ. The expansion from Israel to the nations was fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus here on earth. We can read its account from Luke’s narrative on his Gospel chapter 4 beginning at verse 16.
From verses 16 to 23, Jesus, speaking at the synagogue for worship, said Scripture (Isaiah) has been fulfilled in their midst. He was obviously claiming messiahship. However, his revelation was received not with faith but anger and contempt. So Jesus rebuked them:
And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” (verses 24-27)
Jesus uses Scripture here to prove and illustrate his point against his enemies. His point is simple. The glory of God in redemption will extend to all the earth, to all nations. It is the fulfillment of Psalm 96.
And yet Jesus’ hearers were mocking God in the midst of their unbelief. They want him to demonstrate miracles despite of their disbelief. We know from last week that this is the sin of Meribah and Massah all over again. This is what Jesus means when he quoted a known proverb back then: “Physician, heal yourself.” He applied this to his unbelieving hearers from his own town in Nazareth. It simply means Jesus should focus his ministry to the group he belongs to.
And yet Jesus corrected their view of his ministry and what Messiahship is all about. He pointed our from Scripture that in the days of Elijah the prophet his ministry its demonstrations were not with the healing of the prophet’s own tribe but with outsiders. In 1 Kings 17, there was a great famine in the land but Elijah saves the widow from Zarephath by performing a miracle in her household. In 2 Kings 5, there were many lepers in Israel and yet Elijah healed Naaman who is a Syrian. The point is clear and Jesus uses Scripture to prove it. The scope of God’s redemptive plan is for all nations and his ministry inaugurated the inclusion of the Gentiles as signified by the ministry of the Old Testament prophets.
This is the encouragement we as believers in Christ have even today. Our worship expands to our mission. Our praising in thanksgiving before God in worship consecrates us in Christ by his Spirit and we take it our to the world! Our mission is grounded in worship. To be clear, there is no mission without worship, there is no evangelism without the gospel, no church planting without church discipline. Activeness in the ministry is never the cause of your sanctification nor it is indication of your progress in holiness. It is only an effect caused by a divine source afforded to us by the grace of our Triune God.
Worship as the activity where God provides his ordinary means of grace is where we meet with our Triune God. And It is indeed a sad state of spiritual affairs when we have more people attending concerts and festivals, gathering at rallies and public events, and also vacationing in popular beaches and resorts than the ordinary and physical public worship of God’s people every Lord’s Day. So it is important for all us to understand how God bless his people with this presence in worship and then consecrates them for the proclamation and declaration of God’s saving work to everyone we relate to, meet and interact with.
A word of warning against unbelievers and hypocrites. Just like the warning from Psalm 95, Jesus also loathes unbelief. Testing God at Meribah and Massah essentially means doubting God’s goodness and wisdom. It means charging God of any wrong doing and blaming him for our own sins.
This sin of rebellion is essentially unbelief at its core and those who do it does so wilfully and not out of ignorance. They charge God of tempting them to sin, and then shifts blame to him as cover of their own disbelief. This is what God abhors and this is why it deserves his wrath. It is ultimately disobedience.
Blaming God’s providence as a reason for not obeying his revealed will nor submitting to his divine wisdom is essential the same as the sin of Meribah and Massah. By setting our circumstances against God’s law, we make God into a moral monster. It is like saying God made me this that is why I sin or God left me on this condition I have no choice but sin. Anyone who makes such assumptions even though considered as a professing Christian is actually a hypocrite. For they betray their profession by their sinful thoughts and they eventually fall by their own actions.
So Christian, let us not harden our hearts when we hear his voice that comes from his Word. Instead, let us humbly come to his presence in thanksgiving and praise. Let us with humility and contentment pray sincerely for God to continue sustaining us and work everything for our good.
Now, to end with an encouragement, let us go back to the “new song” from verse 1. In Scripture, we know this has been eschatologically applied by John to the whole number of elect. In Revelation 14:3, John saw, “and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.”
Of course, the 144,000 mentioned there singing a new song is not literally a fixed number like what cults believe. Rather, it is a symbolic number which means 12×12×10×10×10. 12 means God’s people then 10 means generations. So it means the whole people of God for all generations and from all nations. They are the whole number of elect and what is the new song they are singing? Who are they singing to?
The song they are singing is the response of faith to the redeeming work of the Lamb! It is the song of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! In verse 4 it reads:”It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb”.
So as God’s people we too who are true believers in Christ, singing the praises to God for his salvation. We worship God and proclaim his marvelous works. Let us declare his glory of his
ZCRC (Imus), let us worship God and proclaim his message of redemption. May we continue to respond in thanksgiving and praise and heed the warning against unbelief. God is our Creator and Ruler and we are his creature and subjects. Let us worship and declare his marvelous works!
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.