Who reigns? We used to think of the American president as the most powerful position in the entire world. Even if that were the case, would we say that a president reigns? Does the queen of England reign? According to Merriam-Webster, the meaning of the word involves, “the period of time during which a king, queen, emperor, etc., is ruler of a country.” Another meaning is, “the period of time during which someone is in charge…[or] is the most important, powerful, etc.” (merriam-webster.com).
In essence, within an American context, a president reigns for a limited period of time. Similarly, the queen of England does reign in the UK. Each of these (and other positions of authority) have boundaries, timeframes and limitations to their reign. Humanity often either views with admiration or disdain a person elected, placed or crowned into the position of one who reigns. Whichever lens a person chooses to view that particular reigning leader, there is a given relationship of ruler and ruled and of submission and authority.
The psalmist opens Psalm 99 with the recognition, “The LORD reigns” (Psalm 99:1a, NIV). Immediately, the reader is postured correctly before the Creator of the Universe. He alone reigns above all else. His reign is eternal, “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2). This is not a nationalistic issue. This is a global mandate. Our ultimate authority is our Creator God – our LORD. The verse continues, “let the nations tremble” (Psalm 99:1).
Is it possible to become so confident in our own abilities to self-govern that we forget the One truly seated upon the eternal throne? Should our mortality and frailty cause us a holy response, to tremble in His presence? The psalmist takes it even further, establishing where His throne exists and calls for the earth to shake in recognition of His sovereign reign.
Even if we forget, it does not change the fact, “Great is the LORD in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations” (Psalm 99:2). As arrogant or as Godless as we allow ourselves to become, we still sit below a Holy God. This psalm calls us to recognize and acknowledge His glorious level of awesomeness that sits high above a lowly humanity.
What should our proper response be to the facts presented in the first two verses? The psalmist leads us as any gifted worship leader would, “Let them praise your great and awesome name – he is holy” (Psalm 99:3). Praise is the proper response. Worship is an appropriate response in every situation. Worship gives honor to the sovereignty of our God, even in situations we don’t fully understand. King David, a man after God’s own heart, demonstrated worship in one of the darkest seasons of his life. His son was taken from him. As a parent, I cannot imagine the heartache of losing a child. David, “got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped” (2 Samuel 12:20).
“The King is mighty, he loves justice – you have established equity…exalt the LORD our God” (Psalm 99:4). In a world that screams of injustice and inequity, it is refreshing knowing that the heart of our Creator stands for justice and equity. Perhaps this is a good reminder, as image-bearers of the Almighty, and as the hands and feet of Jesus, that we pursue justice and equity in the name of the Gospel.
The psalmist then brings to mind several real-life examples, Moses, Aaron and Samuel as those who called on His name (Psalm 99:6). Examples from real life – examples the people can relate to – are helpful to connect the dots. Sometimes we flounder around, wondering if we are the only ones who have ever experienced the challenges we face. When we are pointed to familiar examples, it helps us to feel connected and not alone. The end result when the aforementioned men of faith called on the name of the LORD was that, “He answered them” (Psalm 99:6b). God does and will answer when we call out to Him.
Sometimes, dare I say, most times, God does not answer in the way we personally want Him to. God administers correction and redirection in order to refine us further. He prunes and redirects in order to help us mature and to be more conformed into proper reflections of Christ Jesus. The psalmist writes, “God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds” (Psalm 99:8). If He did not correct, punish or rebuke His people, would He truly be a God of justice and equity? Scripture reminds us that God disciplines His children because He loves them (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6). Without correction and redirection, we would have no vision or purpose.
In conclusion, the psalmist closes with words of worship, “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy” (Psalm 99:9). What a great model for our daily adventure in faith! Open our day with worship. End our day with worship. Acknowledge His sovereignty and His holy, eternal reign over everything.