By Walter C. Kaiser Jr.
in Biblical Worship: Theology for God’s Glory
Edited by Benjamin K. Forrest, Walter C. Kaiser Jr., and Vernon M. Whaley
Worship Yahweh by Announcing to the Nations That “Yahweh Reigns” (Ps. 96:10-11)
The central word, indeed the epicenter of Psalm 96 itself, is to be found in verse 10: “The Lord reigns.” In fact, the prophet Isaiah had also taught, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Isa. 52:7).
The peoples of the earth have heard the announcement of the joyful evangel that the kingdom of heaven has already begun on earth, yet it is also a taste of what is yet to come, a taste of what that final arrival of God’s kingdom will be like. Meanwhile, in the world below, underneath the heavenly throne of God, which is all too often shaken by war and other types of catastrophes, there is only anarchy and upheaval in opposition to all the truth of God. There is the awful turmoil of the soul, involving crises in the areas of economics, ethics, morality, politics, and international relations, to mention just a few. But the world to come as featured in God’s coming kingdom will be impossible to shake, for it stands on the foundation resting on the strength and truth of the Lord God. Here is a joy that will not only pervade the lives of all mortals but will infect the harmony and perfection of all creation as well. What joyful tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people!
Worship Yahweh by Joining All Creation in Rejoicing in the Coming of the Lord (Ps. 96:12–13)
Now even the fields and the trees of the forest join in the jubilation, bursting into song, because the Lord is returning back to earth to rule and reign as he had promised the men who stood on the Mount of Olives as our Lord ascended on high after his resurrection. Isaiah had likewise seen this same enthusiastic rejoicing on the part of mortals and nature itself over the Lord’s dramatic appearance a second time:
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst forth into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isa. 55:12)
Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all you trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel. (Isa. 44:23)
In Psalm 96, the commotion of unbounded joy and excitement of praise were exclusively over the arrival of the Lord, first as the ark of the covenant (the symbol of the presence of the Lord himself) was introduced into the city of David, Jerusalem, but then in that final day, as the Lord himself personally will return a second time to this earth. So important is the teaching that “he comes” (Hebrew participle ba‘) that the psalmist repeats it twice: “He comes, he comes to judge the earth” (v. 13). Only after our Lord has come in judgment will he rule and reign in the government of his kingdom in the righteousness of mercy and in the faithfulness of his ancient glorious promises. What a day that will be!
Psalm 100: An International Finale of Praise
Psalm 100 forms the basis for William Kethe’s hymn “All People That on Earth do Dwell” (1560). Its best-known stanza reads as follows:
Know the Lord is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His folk, He doeth us feed,
And for His sheep He doeth us take.
Kethe’s hymn is an example of the relationship between corporate singing (particularly in Protestant worship), the biblical text, and a proper theology of worship for the church. Worship, as has been noted throughout Psalm 96, is not primarily song, but when songs are sung by a congregation that use the biblical texts as their content, the whole body of believers is more authoritatively taught and lifted up in heart and voice in praise to the majestic name of our Lord, as men and women under the authority of the Word as we worship.
In Psalm 100 we have the grand finale of the nine psalms praising the fact that the Lord reigns. Here, all the nations are called on to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord all you lands” (Ps. 100:1). Moreover, every nation on earth in that day is to “come before the Lord with singing” (Ps. 100:2). It should be clear by this time in the progress of the end times that “the Lord, he is God” (Ps. 100:3). The audience is together urged to praise God’s name by entering into his gates of his sanctuary with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise (Ps. 100:4). Surely the Lord is extremely good and his love and faithfulness continue to endure forever (Ps. 100:5). Praise his high and holy name from now and forever more!
Book four ends with two sets of triad psalms: Psalms 101–3, which focus on David as the forerunner of the Messiah, and Psalms 104–6, which sing joyfully hallelujah to the King of kings and Lord of lords!
This post is adapted from Biblical Worship: Theology for God’s, edited by Benjamin K. Forrest, Walter C. Kaiser Jr., and Vernon M. Whaley. If you are interested in adopting this book for a college or seminary course, please request a faculty examination copy. We will also consider requests for your blog or media outlets.
“In a world that is driven by pragmatics and the appearance of success, I welcome any and all efforts to recover a biblical theology of worship and to demonstrate its importance for the church today. This volume makes an extremely important contribution to that project. The editors have given us access to a magnificent collection of essays by more than thirty scholars, all writing from their areas of expertise, and covering most of the genres of Scripture. The result is a kaleidoscope of images of biblical worship ranging from essays that focus on the function of liturgy and cult to daily life as worship, but all drawing on the Scriptures for their portrayal of worship that pleases and glorifies God.” ―Daniel Block, Guenther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament,Wheaton College Graduate School
“The authors accomplish their purpose of developing biblical doxology, submissive homage, and worshipful response to the revelation of the Almighty. By looking both backward to the worship of the Old Testament and forward to the worship of the New Testament, readers are able to see the consistency and seamlessness of God’s design for worship and make practical applications to present-day doxology, aiding the spiritual act of worship which is holy and pleasing to God.” ―Dr Hanna Byrd, Liberty University School of Music