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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Psalm 96 - Sing a New Song

Why did the psalmist stress that his song was new? Was he referring merely to the possibility that it had never been sung before? Or was it new in the sense that it was new to those who were singing it for the first time, although others may have sung it before them? I suspect the second option is correct: the psalmist wants people from all over the earth to begin singing (for them) a new song about God’s salvation (v. 1).

This new song is to be sung every day (v. 2) and is a means of telling others about the great things God has done. Such an activity has been called doxological evangelism. It also indicates that spreading the gospel should be a happy activity, that it is suitable for singing about to others.

The psalmist also reveals how to understand the glory of God (v. 3). Glory is what makes a person great, and salvation is the greatest activity that God could have engaged in. Salvation is far greater than his work of creation and if the Lord had limited himself to the work of creation we would not have seen the fullness of his glory. But in the work of salvation we see God’s highest expressions of love, wisdom, delight and power.

Because he is the God of salvation, the nations are called to leave their non-existent idols and praise him instead. Their praising of such idols is pointless because they are not able to do anything. They cannot even do things gradually whereas the Lord began his activities by making the universe (vv. 4-5).

Such a God is surrounded by splendour and majesty. Thinking about him leads us into an appreciation of his power and his beauty, even although we cannot see him. His power and beauty are seen specifically in his sanctuary, which is a reference to the Holy of Holies in the temple, and in that sanctuary all that could be seen were symbols of the pardoning nature of God (v. 6). All the earth is called by the psalmist to come there to worship the Lord, a reminder that Israel had been intended by God to function as a missionary nation to the world (vv. 7-8).

The thought of the splendour of the sovereign God leads the psalmist to reflect on the occasion in the future when his righteousness will be clearly seen – the Day of Judgement (vv. 9-13). His coming in judgement is depicted as an occasion of great joy for the inanimate creation, an Old Testament allusion to Paul’s statement in Romans 8 that the whole creation is longing for the day when the sons of God will be revealed.

The message we bring to the nations is that our God reigns today, and his rule is supremely seen at present in the stability of the earth. We should be reminded by the regularity of the earth’s cycles that God is ruling, and at the same time we should tell others that he will yet judge them. The fact is, we know that Jesus will gather all humans into his presence and pronounce his divine verdict on their eternal destiny.

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