The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice! (Psalm 97:1)
These words remind me of the event we now call Christmas when the angels spoke to the shepherds and proclaimed, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. The angels continued: Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
Prior to this an angel had visited Mary and told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end. (Luke 1:30-33)
Certainly, 18 months into a worldwide pandemic which doesn’t look like fizzling out any time soon, we need to be reminded of something substantial to rejoice about. And this psalm as well as Luke (and the coming Christmas celebration) give us the reminder we need. The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice!
But, in reality, there is much more to disturb us in our chaotic world than just an extremely virulent and infectious and dangerous virus, as bad as that is. There are leaders of nations threatening one another; there are leaders of nations crashing due to scandal, corruption or just plain incompetence; there are leaders of nations being ousted by their army generals and there are leaders of nations who just do not seem to know what to do to lead well for the benefit of their people and the world.
And yet, despite what we see all around us, we do need to get back to the truth that the Lord does reign supreme in all His creation and we can trust him. The psalmist helps us get things back into perspective. He says:
1 The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
2 Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him
and consumes his foes on every side.
4 His lightning lights up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all peoples see his glory.
7 All who worship images are put to shame,
those who boast in idols—
worship him, all you gods!
The psalmist speaks of God’s incredible power, but power alone can be dangerous in the hands of humans as we know, but not when in God’s hands. Two words are used of God’s reign and they are righteousness and justice. How we long for world leaders to remember this and also lead in this way.
Brueggemann says, “Along with massive power, the actual substance of [God’s] governance is characterized by righteousness and justice (v. 2), righteousness and glory (v. 6) … not only sheer force… also an introduction of human value into the life of the world… [a reign when] even the weak have rights not trampled on by the strong… social transformation is the purpose of the power… The real God is not morally indifferent, but permits a new public life of humane caring… [ we ought then to have] a life of disciplined response to God’s will for justice.” (# 2)
The psalmist continues:
8 Zion hears and rejoices
and the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments, Lord.
9 For you, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
Then he gives us some good advice:
10 Let those who love the Lord hate evil.
And a promise:
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light shines on the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.
And finally, back to the original message, an exhortation:
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous,
and praise his holy name.
“God has been King from ages past (Psalm 93:2), and he is King today, but the whole world will finally recognize his sovereign rule when Christ returns as King, Judge and Saviour (Revelation 19:6-7).” (# 30)