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Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13)

Sometimes the irony that runs through Scripture is thick. The words of this Psalm are similar to those found in I Chronicles 16, with the addition of the phrase, “Sing to the Lord a new song.” How interesting is it that what follows is likely, instead, a song that is loaded with history and saturated with tradition. It is not new, but perhaps fresh perspective can be found even in the familiar.

This is a Psalm of inclusive praise. It’s easy to skip over the phrase, “all the earth,” in verse one, but this sets the tone for the entire passage, for with these words, “all nations are invited to unite in this most joyful praise—”[1] praise to the Lord who offers salvation to all, even in this period of history that precedes an expanding understanding of, and inclusion in, the people of God. The Hebrew word, נִפְלְאֹותָֽיו׃ (nifleovtav), which is translated to “marvelous works,” may be best understood as surpassing or extraordinary, which certainly fits well with the idea that this God who does not show favoritism, even among nations, is beyond what the people have previously understood.

For this, and for the reasons that follow in the ensuing stanzas, we are to praise the Lord, day after day, throughout time, as the Lord is described in ways that cause us to see the past, present, and future action of God in the world.

The Lord is Creator, present to us in the past, the very one who made the heavens, more powerful than any god the people have made with their own hands.

The Lord is King, present to us now, sustaining the firmly established world, the stable, unshakable world where we live, bridging the gap between what was and what is to come.

The Lord is Judge, present to us in the coming days, just and righteous and proclaiming truth as God saves and continues to save, which includes judgment.

Interestingly, interspersed among these descriptions of a timeless God are petitions for both humanity and natural creation to yield in worship, relinquishing idols that serve no sufficient purpose, anyway. Is this a sacrifice at all? The idea seems to be that we might offer up adoration and ascribe greatness to the Lord—the greatness we already know to be true by God’s very act of being God.

In some ways, this is an ‘easy’ passage. We are to sing and to speak of the wondrous things about God, the things we already know. And yet there is also a challenge to the simplicity, because these words call us to offer worship in its most sincere, guttural form, rejoicing from the very depths of who were are at the core of our beings, accepting the Lord for everything the Lord is (rather than what we might like to make the Lord out to be) and rejoicing in this as we offer our praise expressed in unity and diversity.

[1] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 375.