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!

(Psalm 96:1-3)

Psalm 96 is all about the joy one has in placing God as the preeminent figure in one’s life. Furthermore it is an invitation for all to join the psalmist in expressing this truth. Notice at the beginning how every phrase is directed Godward; all on what He has done. Then, halfway through verse 2 that which is directed toward God is given as a decree to share to all the nations. Our worship of God was never meant to be a private or hidden experience. What we know needs to be shared with people around us. John Piper wrote, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t”(1). The truth of Piper’s words are expressed in the first three verses of Psalm 96; true worship involves telling the world the truth.

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.

(Psalm 96:4-6)

Here the sobering truth about everything which we choose to exalt above God is laid bare. An idol is a mere parody of God; it takes the place of Him who should reign in us and instead warps our perceptions and desires. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew term used in Psalm 96 for idols is elilim, a literal parody of the word God: elohim. Robert Davidson explains, “The word translated ‘idols’ is a neat pun on the Hebrew word for god. It indicates something which is weak or worthless”(2). Just as the term idol itself parodies the creator, so does the object of affection. The eternal splendor and majesty of the true God has been traded for a false and temporary object that provides nothing and only shows the need for direction and guidance in life. For this reason the psalmist then proclaims:

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!

(Psalm 96:7-9)

If there were doubts to the exclusivity of Christianity, to the only God who is to be worshiped, they are stilled here. You are not a follower of God if you are not worshiping the true God. Therefore, ascribe all to Him that He is rightfully due; exalt God alone.

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!

Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

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,

for he comes to judge the earth.

He will judge the world in righteousness,

and the peoples in his faithfulness.

(Psalm 96:10-13)

The psalm climaxes in verse 10, shouting, “The Lord Reigns!” His sovereign rule is without bounds, and that which He has established is without end. While the final verse pertaining judgment sounds ominous, in reality it is a timeless statement of comfort. God’s enemies will be judged by the idols they have chosen to place before them, and His true followers rewarded for their commitment.

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  1. John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad, 17.
  2. Robert Davidson, M.A., The Vitality of Worship, 318.
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