(Part 5) A Call To Exalt The Lord As King And Righteous Judge Of All The Earth
By Pastor Robbie Casas
II. The Second Call (96:7-10)
a. The Next Call to the World to Worship God (vv. 7-9)
Read Ps 96:7-9: 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.
Again, the psalmist calls on the world to praise and worship God,
this time addressing the world as the “families of the peoples”.
Accd. to the Complete Word Study Bible, the Heb. noun translated “families” (מִשְׁפָּחָה, mišpāḥāh), in a more technical sense, was made up of several households. But it is also used in a less technical sense to indicate an entire people or nation (Ezek 20:32; Mic 2:3); an ethnic or racial group (Gen 10:5; 12:3); a tribe (Josh 7:17; Judg 13:2; 18:2, 11). I believe, based on its immediate context here, the psalmist uses it in this instance to mean tribes or nations. So, again, this is not just a call for God’s people, Israel, in the OT (or Christian believers in the NT), but for “all the earth” (v. 1) to worship God.
In vv. 7-8 is a description of the nature of the worship being called for.
The triple repetition of the phrase “Ascribe to the Lord” was, again, a common feature in OT liturgical calls to worship, here matching the triple “Sing to the Lord” in vv. 1-2.
“Ascribe” lit. means to “give” (KJV/NKJV) or “bring” or “offer”; it is used of attributing or crediting something to the Lord. This is therefore a call to offer a concrete expression of praise to God.
In view of this, there is a notable development in the worship commanded of the people at this point in the psalm. Earlier, the psalmist simply called “1… all the earth” to “1 Sing to the Lord a new song” and to “2… bless His name.” There were no specifics as to what the “new song” or the “bless[ing]” would contain. Here, the psalmist was commanding the peoples to concretely “Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength” – to tell Him that we not only recognize His glory and power, but that these rightfully and solely belong to Him. To this I would add what The Expositor’s Commentary says: “Praise takes the form of concrete expressions of submission to Yahweh. He expects that proper honor be given to his name in recognition of his greatness, majesty, and strength… The combination of ‘glory’ and ‘strength’ brings out the nature of his powerful acts. They reveal his ‘royal’ splendor. Thus the psalmist calls on all to praise the Lord for his rule, sovereignty, and majesty in relation to his people and to all of his works.”
In v. 8a, all the “peoples” were to “ascribe to the Lord” not just “glory” but “the glory of His name” (or “due his name”, ESV/NIV/NKJV). The call was to glorify God according to what His “name” deserved (“name”, of course, referring to who God was in all His attributes). This implies not only the manner but also the motivation of worship: If God was to be glorified in worship according to “His name”, then He would expect this to come from a heart that is motivated by reverence, submission and awe.
This “ascrib[ing] to the Lord” can be done through singing, praying and praising in actual worship, or through other worshipful acts like the giving of our resources, time and talents to Him. In v. 8b, it came in the form of a tribute “offering” in the temple “courts”: “Bring an offering and come into His courts.” The “offering” here was most likely a meal offering (cf. Ps 20:3: “May He remember all your meal offerings and find your burnt offering acceptable!”
Is there any application of this verse to us today?
I believe so, especially when we understand that the Heb. word for “offering” can also be translated as “gift”. This is something beyond the songs that we sing or the prayers that we offer in worship that we lovingly offer out of devotion and gratitude to God, “who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all” (Rom 8:32). We cannot and must not stop at just the usual activities of worship, since true worship must spill over to all other aspects of our Christian life. Our “gift” may, for example, come in the form of loving, joyful service, or material resources we cheerfully give to support the work of ministry. Giving “gifts” to God, then, is a necessary and natural part of true worship.
From an eschatological perspective, even in the millennial kingdom, offerings and sacrifices will still be presented to the Lord. In Ezekiel 40–46, we are given descriptions both of the millennial temple and the offerings that will made there.
In v. 9, the psalmist describes the character of this worship: “Worship the Lord in holy attire; tremble before Him, all the earth.” The phrase “in holy attire” (NASB) can be translated “in the splendor (ESV/NIV, “beauty,” KJV/NKJV) of holiness”. The NASB translation “in holy attire” helps us understand that “in the splendor (or “beauty,”) of holiness” refers to the worshipper, not God (although, of course, the holy character of this worship is because of God’s glorious holiness). The Crossway Classic Commentary describes it well: “Worship must not be rendered to God in a slovenly, sinful, superficial manner; we must be reverent, sincere, earnest, and pure in heart both in our prayers and praises.”
BECAUSE GOD IS HOLY, THE CHARACTER OF OUR WORSHIP MUST ALSO BE HOLY, COMING FROM A HEART THAT KNOWS THAT GOD'S HOLINESS DESERVES REVERENCE AND FROM A LIFE THAT PURSUES HOLINESS. How much worship today is offered to God that is wanting in true reverence of Him? How much worshipping of God comes from unsanctified lives?
The phrase “tremble before Him” further reinforces not only holy fear and awe before God but also the sense of unworthiness before Him. Recall Isaiah’s response to the vision of God he was given in Isa 6:5: “Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’” We can imagine him trembling as he uttered this.
In the world today, there is no more trembling before God among the peoples of the earth. In modern cultures all over the world, many false philosophies and value systems compete for the place that really only belongs to the true God. This is apparent in the way people live, the things they pursue or value, their response to the gospel or Scripture in general, their attitude toward Christianity and Christians. There is, for most of the population of the world, basically no acknowledgement of God at all! On the other hand, for those who are religious, their religious works most often do not carry over to their actual daily lives. Add to this the fact that the religious of this world think their religiosity is good enough to earn the favor God, betraying their ignorance of how truly holy God is.
Even among many professing believers, this trembling before God is often sorely lacking, as made apparent in the way they live, their attitude towards Scripture and towards spiritual things.
This is an important part of the psalm because here, the worshipper is told that the mere act of singing or declaring praises to God is not enough; how we do it and from what motivation it comes is just as important, if not more, to God.