Summary: Creation's harmonious praise.
THE GREATER CANTATA
Psalms 93-100 are sometimes known as the “enthronement” Psalms. Yet this is not the enthronement of any earthly king (Psalm 93:1; Psalm 97:1; Psalm 99:1). Many of the words of this particular Psalm (Psalm 96) make their first appearance at the instalment of the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of the presence of the LORD, in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 16:23-33).
That acknowledgement is based retrospectively in the realities of the creation (Psalm 96:5), to which the heavens already testify (Psalm 19:1-3). It is based in our present salvation (Psalm 96:2). And it is based in the anticipation of the coming of the LORD to judge the earth (Psalm 96:13).
Man has plunged the earth into chaos through sin (Genesis 3:17-19). Significantly, then, it is the creation which groans for deliverance (Romans 8:19-22). The Psalmist exhorts the creation to praise in faith - rather than waiting for favourable circumstances - and creation ultimately rejoices (Psalm 96:11-12).
The earth is instructed to declare the glory of the LORD to the nations, and His wonders among all peoples (Psalm 96:3). The fulfilment of this command is what leaves men - even those who have never heard of our Lord Jesus Christ -without excuse (Romans 1:18-20). What an incentive to the church to join creation in the task of evangelism (Romans 10:14-15)!
2. THE GLORY OF THE LORD
The Psalmist declares the greatness of the LORD (Psalm 96:4). He is to be revered above all other “gods” because the so-called “gods” of the peoples are nothing but dumb idols (Psalm 96:5). It is the LORD who made the heavens (this is still being addressed to the earth): and He alone is attended by the attributes of Honour and Majesty, Strength and Beauty (Psalm 96:6).
The Psalmist exhorts all families of the peoples, all clans, to ascribe to the LORD the glory and honour due to His name (Psalm 96:7-8). This was perhaps partially fulfilled when the Gospel went forth from Jerusalem after Pentecost (Acts 1:8), but the prophets envisage all nations one day coming to Jerusalem to worship the LORD (Isaiah 2:2-3; Micah 4:1-2; Zechariah 14:16). The earth is again exhorted to worship the LORD, this time in the splendour of His holiness (Psalm 96:9).
3. THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT OF THE LORD
We have already noticed that the central message of this Psalm, as with all the enthronement Psalms, is that “the LORD reigns” (Psalm 96:10). It is He who has established the earth (cf. Psalm 93:1), and it is He who is coming in judgement of the children of men (Acts 17:30-31). Finally, the heavens and the seas, and the fields and the trees, join the earth in their joyful song of praise (Psalm 96:11-12) - and all because of the true and righteous judgement of our God (Psalm 96:13 - cf. Revelation 19:1-2).
4. WORSHIP CHANGES THINGS
When Paul and Silas were wrongfully imprisoned in Philippi - beaten and bruised for preaching the gospel - we do not read that they complained and murmured, but that at midnight they prayed and sang praises to God. This is in keeping with Paul’s own teaching (Philippians 4:4). Then there was an earthquake and, to cut a long story short, their fortitude helped bring the keeper of the prison from the brink of suicide into the joy of the Lord (Acts 16:25-34).
As we leave the joyful sound of Creation’s harmonious praise, we are reminded that worship changes things.