INCLEMENT WEATHER UPDATE (click title for more info):

Psalm 96

Sermon Transcript

Lelia Morris (1862-1929) was quite the woman and wife.  As she cleaned the house, new melodies for Christ just bubbled out of her soul.  She would stop and write down the lyrics and eventually put them to music.  At the end of her life she had written lyrics to 1,000 hymnic pieces. You read that right.

One of the songs she wrote described her anticipation of meeting Christ at the Rapture of the Church.  The words which ministered to her some fifty years before my time, spoke to me as a young teenager:

Jesus is coming to earth again--
What if it were today?
Coming in power and love to reign—
What if it were today?
Coming to claim His chosen Bride,
All the redeemed and purified,
Over this whole earth scattered wide--
What if it were today?

Chorus:
Glory, glory!
Joy to my heart 'twill bring;
Glory, glory!
When we shall crown Him King.
Glory, glory!
Haste to prepare the way;
Glory, glory!
Jesus will come someday.

And to think that she wrote many of her songs as a woman who became blind at fifty-two.  Imagine the joyous expectation of trading perpetual physical darkness for the eternal glory of Jesus the Christ.

Based on her hymn, I can’t say how many times in my life I’ve asked myself: “Yeah, what if it were today?  What if this was the day of the Lord’s return? Would I be ready to give account for how I have lived out my faith? Would I, should I change anything?”  Don’t tell me worship music cannot impact your walk.  It’s songs like this which have challenged me more often than not to be not just a better man, a more devoted husband and father, but a saint focused on spiritual growth.

I guess I need to ask you, What if the Lord’s coming were today?  You ready? If you don’t know Christ as your Savior, today is the day to settle that question once and for all by asking Him, by faith, to forgive you and make you His child (Rom. 10:9-10). If you do know Him, today is the day to answer the question posed by Mrs. Morris’ song: “Lord, how should my life change in light of the fact that your appearance for your Church is imminent? (Phil. 4:5; Titus 2:13; James 5:7-9).

Psalm 96 is another enthronement type of ancient Israelite worship music.  As such, it excitedly and joyously looks forward to the day of the Lord’s final physical revelation to establish His kingdom of peace and holiness.  Oh how the righteous always look for and long for the arrival of the Messiah’s rule and reign over this old sin tattered and tainted earth (Isa. 2; 11).  In lieu of this grand, glorious event, the author of this old “hymn” instructs us how it should pragmatically impact our lives.  The first three stanzas of the song give us three areas of our lives which should be changed in light of the Lord’s soon coming, and, of course, they build to a melodic and thematic climax/crescendo in verses 10 through 13 where the author waxes eloquent about the Lord’s guaranteed arrival.

Stepping back from the structure of these four hymnic movements, we can readily present the author’s main theological motif:

Because The Creator Is Coming, We Should Get Going (Psalm 96)

After I left the Ph.D. program at Dallas Theological Seminary in 1985, I took a job as a fork lift driver in a large warehouse.  I learned a lot about myself and life while worship there.  One truth related to how the workers worked when the boss left and didn’t give them the time of his return.  When his return was open-ended, they pretty much stayed on task.  When, however, they knew exactly when he’d return, they tended to, well, float and cruise with their various responsibilities.  Applied spiritually, I’m sure you see the theological import.  Since we do know the Lord is returning, but we don’t know the day or the hour (may it be soon, Lord), this knowledge should radically impact how we live.  Is this true in your life? It should be if you are a follower of Jesus.  Psalm 96 insightfully shows us how this eschatological knowledge should touch and transform how we live our lives for Christ every day.

Four truths in this practical regard stand out:

Get Going With our Worship (Psalm 96:1-3)

First, let’s read the text.

1 Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Sing to the LORD, bless His name; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. 3 Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.

At first blush we need to stop and observe that in three verses we have six commands, not suggestions, from the Spirit of God Himself who inspired these words (2 Tim. 3:16). “Sing” is a command three times, “bless” is a command, as is “proclaim,” and “tell.”  The biblical truth about the coming of the Messiah to rule and reign (Dan. 2; 7; 9:24-27) should move us to worship Him when given the opportunity.  The fact He could appear at any moment should really motivate us on a Sunday morning, especially.  Whether you are able to worship in person or on-line, the point is you should be pumped up about the opportunity to do what you’re going to be engaged in for eternity, viz., worshipping the risen, glorified King of Kings, Jesus.

How should you go about this?  Sing Him a new song.  I know for those who love the old hymns this is a tough command, but it is true.  God is so great, so amazing in what He does, so incomprehensible in His character that there is no way old songs can possibly capture the essence of Him.  Did I say, No Way?  I know How Great Thou Art is a powerful, moving number and is chock-full of rich and profound theology.  Yet new songs are needed in every age to attempt to parse out just how great and wonderful He is to a whole new generation.  So, sit back and enjoy a new song, or two, or three, and, please, do it without grumbling.  There are no such things as godly grumblers.

Who are you singing to? The LORD of all the earth (whether the world realizes it or not).  Ten times in thirteen verses the inspired author employs this mighty name of the divine One (vv. 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13).  Trust me, this is no accident.  Capital LORD is Yahweh, the great covenantal name of God. He’s the God who will fulfill every facet of all the covenants He has made between Himself and mankind (The Abrahamic, The Mosaic, The Palestinian, The Davidic, and the New Covenants).  You are worshipping the LORD who is currently the LORD of the earth in the heavenly sphere, and when He returns He will be the LORD over the heavenly and the earthly domains. This is who you are worshipping.

And speaking of His name, you are commanded to come into worship blessing His great name.  Which name is that? As stated, it is the LORD, first and foremost. The name Jehovah is derived from the Hebrew verb havah, which means “to be” or “being.”  By definition, the verb applied to God, as it is with Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3, highlights the fact that God is always in a state of being.  As such, He is the eternal One who knows no beginning or no ending.  He is, in every sense of the term, self-existent and uncaused, or purely actualized.  We, on the other hand, are only potentially actually and we are also caused to “be” by the work of others.  It is not so with God.  He is the great I AM inside and outside of all time and space.  No wonder you are called to bless this particular name for all of His other names flow from it:

The I AM is El Shaddai, the Almighty God.

The I AM is Jehovah Jireh, The LORD who will provide for His people.

The I AM is Jehovah Rapha, the LORD who heals based on His great will.

The I AM is  Jehovah Shammah, the LORD who is there  . . . and is not silent, as the late Francis Schaeffer articulated so well in his book He Is There And He Is Not Silent.

I’ll stop there because I’m sure you get the theological picture. The divine One always is the divine One, and because this is true He possesses many other wonderful titles His worshippers can highlight when they come into His holy presence.  So go ahead. Let your worship be full of focusing on verbally and mentally blessing His great name.

Worship is not an end in and of itself either.  Great worship leads to great witness.  We gather this from the commands in verses 2 through 3.

. . . proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. 3 Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.

“Proclaim good tidings” comes from one word in Hebrew, bashru ( בַּשְּׂר֥וּ ). Literally it means to publish news for all to see and hear.  For us the publication we are to broadcast is all about God’s salvation. Interestingly enough, the word here for salvation is yeshuato  (יְשׁוּעָתֽוֹ  ). Sound familiar? It should for it is the stem upon which the Messiah’s great name is built. He is Jeshua, which means God Saves.   You will remember this is the name given to Mary and Joseph by the angel for their firstborn son, Jesus, which is his name as it appears in Greek (Matt. 1:21, Τέξεται δὲ υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν· αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν).  Jesus did, in fact, become the Savior for sinners by dying for their sin on the cross and rising the third day (1 Cor. 15:1-6).  Now, when He becomes your Savior, you naturally are motivated to go out of worship and tell others who are out of fellowship with Him, who are still in their sins (Rom. 3:23), who are still darkened in their thinking (Eph. 4:18), who are still His enemies because they love  darkness more than light (Rom. 5:10), there is hope and true peace for them when they, too, allow Jesus to save them when they confess Him as their Lord (Rom. 10:9).

Since the Lord is coming soon, how are you faring at sharing? Does your worship end at the tunnels leading out of the worship center, or does your worship really motivate you to share the wonder of the fact that Jesus saved you?  Your world is waiting to hear from you.

Beyond Christ’s salvation, what does your world need to hear?  You are under divine command to tell them about His glory and His deeds.  Tell them that He is the great God who appeared in the brightness of His glory to the Israelites at Mount Sinai (Exodus 24).  He is the great God who when He walked among us stepped aside from his physical body and showed Peter, James, and John the brilliance of His glory (Matt. 17:1-8).  The first two men laid their lives down for what they saw on the mountain that day, and the last one, John, was persecuted severely by Domitian but he never wavered in the faith wedded to the facts he had witnessed (1 John 1:1-4).

You are under divine command to allow worship to move you to witness concerning God’s miraculous deeds.  What is a miracle? Here is Norman Geisler’s definition:

“A miracle is divine intervention into, or interruption of, the regular course of the world that produces a purposeful but unusual event that would not have occurred otherwise.”

Jesus, as God, easily and readily validated His deity with every miracle He performed.

Turning water to wine (John 2:1-11).

Healing of the leper (Mar. 1:40-45).

Raising the widow’s son from the dead (Luke 7:11-18).

Stilling the storm (Matt. 8:23-27).

Curing the paralytic (Matt. 9:1-8).

Healing of the two blind men (Matt. 9:27-31).

Over sixty recorded miracles serve to validate the deity of Jesus, the Christ (John 3:2).  No wonder we are to move from worship to witness in this fashion for it is the veracity of the miracles which call the humanist, the skeptic, the atheist, the agnostic, the hedonist, and so forth to consider that there is a God who is there, who has revealed Himself in Jesus, and who waits now for our worship based on the evidences He has given to us to believe in Him.

So, what if today were the day Jesus returned for you and I, His saints?  Might He find that we had been devoted to giving ourselves to worship which constantly moved toward witness.

In addition to this, the Lord’s imminent appearance should instill in us the desire to . . .

Get Going With Our Worldview (Psalm 96:4-6) 

The Psalmist says this much here:

4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. 6 Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

Ostensibly, the inspired author gives us here the main reason for our worship: false gods made nothing, while the true God made everything, including the vastness of the celestial sphere.  The difference here is between Elohim, the true Creator and the false gods, elilim (  אֱלִילִ֑ים ),which made nothing because, as their name suggests in Hebrew, they are, in fact, nothing.  They are merely man-made objects designed to pull mankind away from the worship of the true God (Rom. 1:18ff).  He, conversely, is the God who is, the one who dwells in true splendor, majesty, and beauty and who possesses unlimited power to actually pull off the creation of the heavens above our heads.  Just our Milky Way Galaxy is 53,850 light years across.  What is a light year?  A “unit of astronomical distance equivalent to the distance that light travels in one year, which is 9.4607 x 1012 (nearly 6 trillion miles).” It would take a whopping 4,000 years just to cross our relatively small, insignificant galaxy.  Oh, how vast are the heavens.  According to scientists, there are an estimated 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe alone.  Jaw-dropping, isn’t it? At one point, scientists trained Hubble telescopes massive camera at a dark spot in the universe.  When the “film” was developed scientists were shocked to discover 30,000 magnificent and highly colorful galaxies just in this one small, out-of-the-way quadrant.  Again, how vast are the heavens.  And to think that God placed us strategically on the only fine-tuned planet amongst all of this mind-numbing greatness we could actually live on.

The biblical worldview of our origins is the most logical worldview.  Here are some quotes which help me understand the validity of this statement.

John Lennox, “Can rationality really arise through unguided natural processes working under the constraints of nature’s laws on the basic materials of the universe in some random way? Is the solution of the mind-body problem simply that rational mind ‘emerged’ from mindless body by undirected mindless processes.”

Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project, states, “Science is powerless to answer questions such as ‘Why did the universe come into being?; What are we all here for?”’ What is the point of living?’”  How true.  Science can tell us, to a certain degree, what is, but it cannot tell us why it is.  Yes, why is their this amazing, off-the-size-charts, complex and magnificent cosmos, which just happens to have very small section of us to enjoy life?  Why is there something rather than nothing, and how did something, with all of its stratified and inter-connected complexities appear all of a sudden out of absolutely nothing?

Allan Sandage, one of the fathers of modern astronomy and the discoverer of quasars and the winner of the Crafoord Prize, which in astronomy is something akin to the Nobel Peace Prize, asserts, “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence—why there is something rather than nothing.”

Richard Swinburne, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, looks at the complex, well-organized cosmos and surmises, “Nature . . . is a machine-making machine . . . men make not only machines, but machine-making machines. They may therefore naturally infer from nature which produces animals and plants, to a creator of nature similar to men who make machine-making machines.”

My friends, worldviews matter greatly.  False ones will lead you away from the living God and to the eternal pit.  Only Christianity provides a worldview which follows the scientific evidence to its most logical inference: an uncased, self-existent, highly complex, utterly intelligent Being, God, set the entire cosmos in motion for His purposes.  Once we embrace this viewpoint, then everything in life falls into place.  Morals matter, for instance, because they are wedded to an unchanging, highly moral Being.  Life has meaning because we come to understand how we got here, why we are sinful, and why we need a divine Savior to redeem us.  Once we bow before Him in faith, we readily come to understand we were, and are, created to worship Him above all things (Ecc. 12:13).

What’s wrong with our culture today?  The simple answer is  it is  embracing wicked, vacuous worldviews, be what they may, which reject the evidence for God and for the person and redemptive work of Jesus, the Christ.  What are we supposed to be doing in light of the fact Jesus can appear at any moment? Learning and sharing all the evidences God has given  us to point all people to Him.

You just might need to do a little homework to hone your skill on presenting a biblical worldview to an unbiblical world.  Here are a few books to get you started:

Norman Geisler, When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences.

J. P. Moreland and Tim Muehlhoff, The God Conversation.

I’ll stop right there for these are two good books to get you going in the right direction before Christ comes.

Additionally, we should . . .

Get Going With Our Witness (Psalm 96:7-9) 

The words of the Psalmist here are most moving:

7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts. 9 Worship the LORD in holy attire; tremble before Him, all the earth.

Sharing your biblical worldview is one thing.  Calling sinners to be saints is another thing altogether.  The first is apologetic, a defense of the faith, while the latter is evangelism, or a telling of the good news of Jesus Christ.  As these verses suggest implicitly, there is no way various races around the globe could ever worship the living Lord unless someone took the gospel to them and they, in turn, received it.  Paul went on three missionary journeys, as recorded in Acts, in order to take the gospel to the people of the known world.  Look at the results of his witness.  We are by-products of his courage, sacrifice, and love.

In light of this, I have a concise question for you: Should Jesus return today . . . who will be in heaven because of your witness?  Will there be anyone there because you shared how Christ’s death and resurrection changed you into a new creation  (2 Cor. 5:17)?

Further, based on what the psalm connotes, who, on this side of heaven, is learning how to approach the living God by your input? Who are you teaching about the  importance of bringing a tithe and an offering to not just worship Him but to fund the advancement of His kingdom’s work through His people?  Who are you teaching the importance, from a New Testament perspective, of putting off sinful clothing to put on holy clothing as you enter into a time of intimate worship (Eph. 4:22-24)?  Who are you teaching about the utter holiness of God and the importance of not just haphazardly and cockily waltzing into His holy, ominous presence?  Nothing greater could be said of you when the Lord appears than your witness moved many people to trade kingdoms and to learn how to walk with and worship God by your example and influence.

Lastly, the Psalm reaches its climax in the closing verses:

Get Going With Our Warning (Psalm 96:10-13) 

Let’s read the text and then circle back and make some salient observations:

10 Say among the nations,"The LORD reigns; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity." 11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all it contains; 12 Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy

13 Before the LORD, for He is coming; for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in His faithfulness.

What’s the warning?  “The LORD reigns.”  It’s the very concept many of our countrymen and women are either ignoring or not privy to.  When you firmly believe that the LORD, the Eternal One, reigns on His throne at all times, then this, ipso facto, changes the way you live in the here and now.  It changes everything from how you love your wife or husband to how you treat those who mistreat you.  When a culture understands that God reigns, there is peace.  When they don’t understand this, there is chaos, and smack dab in the middle of this chaos is injustice.  Yes, injustice reigns supremely when people forget God is sitting on His throne and He will eventually hold them accountable for their lives.

But as these closing verses remind us, not only does the LORD reign right now on His heavenly throne, He will return, as He promised, to rule on His Davidic throne (Psalm 2, 89).  When that day comes all of creation will burst into song, as it were, because it will be free from sin’s long march through history (Rom. 8).  When that day comes, God will be concerned about two things  as denoted by two prepositional phrases:  One, judging mankind in righteousness and the people in His faithfulness, or truth, as it reads better in the Hebrew text, emunat ( בֶּאֱמוּנָתֽו).  His truth about true spirituality never changes.  His truth about what constitutes a holy lifestyle never changes.  His truth about what is sin is not open to discussion, modification, or re-definition to suit cultural pressure.  His truth about how to gain entrance into His family and His heaven is inexorable and narrow, just as He said (John 14:6).  Like a laser level a contractor uses to make sure your construction project is not crooked, God’s Word will be brought to bear at that time  on the lives of sinners, and they, who have flaunted their godlessness in His face , they who have lived as if He did not exist will stand before Him convicted and worthy of the eternal punishment He will render to them.

And once they are removed from the earth, as Jesus says they will be in Matthew 25, then His kingdom of peace will envelope the planet.  Oh, what a day that will be.  Will you be there? Confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior to assure your entrance into His empire which is coming.

In the meantime, we, as believers, need to think long and hard about the question Mrs. Collins posited years ago:

Jesus is coming to earth again--
What if it were today?
Coming in power and love to reign—
What if it were today?
Coming to claim His chosen Bride,
All the redeemed and purified,
Over this whole earth scattered wide--
What if it were today?

Chorus:
Glory, glory!
Joy to my heart 'twill bring;
Glory, glory!
When we shall crown Him King.
Glory, glory!
Haste to prepare the way;
Glory, glory!
Jesus will come someday.

If His coming were today, I think Psalm 96 has properly equipped you to know how to prepare for the Lord’s glorious arrival.