Introduction – John Mason

Psalm 96 is set in a cluster of psalms that form a celebration of joyful praise to God. Announcing God’s reign over his creation, Psalm 96 alerts us to God’s justice and the mystery of his mercy, even in the face of our unfaithfulness. Nothing can stop the LORD from being himself: slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

At the Anglican Connection Conference last year, Dr. Jim Salladin, Senior Minister of Emmanuel Anglican Church, New York City, gave two Bible talks on Psalm 96 – morning and afternoon. Here is his second Reflection with the title, ‘The LORD Reigns’. While his notes were prepared for a spoken rather than a written presentation, we are grateful for his permission to use them for this week’s ‘Word on Wednesday’.

Reflection: Psalm 96 (2) – Jim Salladin

We are picking up where we left this morning. Psalm 96, verses 7-13. Now, you remember this morning we looked at the first 6 verses of the Psalm. And we said that worship animates evangelism. Worship motivates gospel ministry.

So the Israelite Psalmist stands up, looks out on to the whole Gentile world and says, “Hey, whole world, listen up! Join me. Get on board with declaring God’s glory. Evangelize and tell everyone about the Lord of Israel!

And do you know why you should do that? Because he is surpassingly worthy, glorious, beautiful. Worship drives gospel ministry. That was this morning. But there is still a bit of a nagging question. Here is the question: What produces worship?

Do you see the question? If we will only really evangelize when we worship the LORD, then what is it that will get us to worship the LORD? Now we hinted at the answer this morning, but now Psalm 96 gives us more details. And here is what I want you to see: the Gospel imparts the joy of worship.

Let me explain. Look at verse 10. Now verse 10 is important because it gives us the Gospel. What I mean is that verse 10 is the message that Psalm 96 wants us to proclaim. And the Gospel of Psalm 96 might surprise you: Say among the nations, the LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the nations with equity.

There is it is. That is the Gospel. The LORD reigns as King. He is coming to judge the world! Is that the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the word ‘Gospel’? It sort of surprises me, but we’ll come back to it.

First, watch the joy that breaks forth. Verse 11:

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, for he comes, to judge the earth…

Did you catch that? The Gospel is: ‘The LORD is King. He is coming to judge! The response is: The crowd goes wild; the universe explodes in cosmic joy. The Gospel ignites the world in the joy of worship.

This is how God brings the human heart to a place of worship. Remember the question from this morning: How can I get my heart to worship? This is the answer. The human heart ignites with worship when we internalize the Gospel.

The Gospel of the LORD’s reign & judgement ignites the cosmos to worship and it also ignites the human heart. Which explains why it is so important that as Gospel proclaimers we apply the gospel to ourselves before we apply it to others.

But go back to the reading because I want to know why does God’s reign and God’s judgment produce joy. God’s reign and God’s judgment do not seem like happy things. Why does that Gospel produce joy? I think this might be easier for a lot of people to grasp now than it was just a few years ago.

When I was younger it was vogue to deny the existence of evil. But I don’t know anyone doing that much now. It seems like everyone knows that something is really messed up. Now no one agrees what is causing the problem but everyone thinks something is wrong. And everyone wants someone to set it right. Democrats think the Republicans are the problem; Republicans think the Democrats are the problem, but the one thing everyone can agree on is that we need a good leader who will set things in order.

Now the Bible goes way deeper. It is not just the Republicans; it is not just the Democrats who are the problem. It is Sin. All of us have repudiated God’s Kingship. All of us have staged an insurrection against God and we have enthroned ourselves. But it ends up that we are horrible kings. In fact, we are so awful at running the world that we end up ruining not only our own lives, not only each other, not only the nations, but we have ruined the whole universe in a deep and profound way.

We are in a hopeless state of insurrection and we really need a good leader who will set things in order. And that is why when the Cosmos hears the Gospel, that the King is returning, that the LORD will judge – even the trees start to rejoice.

But slow down. If the King is returning, if the King will judge, then where does that leave the insurrectionists? You see this is why the Gospel makes me nervous. This is why the Gospel sort of scares me, because I am an insurrectionist. And if the LORD reigns then it means I don’t. And if the LORD judges, then it means I am condemned.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear…’ You see, this why verse 10 leads us to the Cross. Because it ends up a long time later the LORD was enthroned on a Cross. And while Jesus, the LORD was dying on the Cross, God the Father was judging my insurrection. Jesus was voluntarily taking my place suffering my penalty so that I could be declared ‘NOT guilty’.

And when Jesus rose from the dead, he proved first, that the time of amnesty had begun, and second that he would one day judge all who refused the amnesty. Now friends, look at Jesus. He is the LORD who reigns. He is the LORD who judges. And when you are an insurrectionist who has now received mercy, you can’t help but rejoice.

I mean, verse 11 says, the heavens and the earth and the sea and even the trees rejoice, but no one rejoices like a forgiven sinner, those who have been forgiven much, love much and only a forgiven sinner can appreciate the glory of the Gospel and the glory of God. The Gospel imparts the joy of worship and worship drives Gospel proclamation.

So, how does all this apply? It applies in all sorts of ways, but at least it gives us motivation, confidence and something of a method. We already said this morning that this gives us motivation. We will be bold in our proclamation when our hearts are warmed with the glory of the LORD. But it also gives us confidence if the LORD really is more glorious than any other competitor. Then who ever we talk to we can know without doubt that Jesus is precisely what they need.

And finally it gives us some help toward a method. Psalm 96 tells us to lift up the glory of Jesus and show how he is greater than everything else. And when the Spirit makes Jesus’ glory clear, people will drop their idols and turn to Christ.

But in another way, the best application is verse 7: Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples; Ascribe to the LORD, glory and strength; Ascribe to the LORD, the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.

And then, with heart filled with worship, go and declare his glory among the nations. Amen.

© Dr. Jim Salladin