(Part 2) A Call To Exalt The Lord As King And Righteous Judge Of All The Earth
By Pastor Robbie Casas
I. The First Call (96:1-6)
a. The Opening Call to the World to Worship God (vv. 1-2a)
Read Ps 96:1-2a:
1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Here, the psalmist, clearly because of his devotion to God, opens with a call to “all the earth” to worship the Lord. Since God is both Creator and King of the whole earth, not just of Israel, the psalmist calls on all of God’s subjects to give Him praise that is due
Him. It is a call to worship God as Lord – YHWH, the Great I Am, the Self-Existent One. This is the one name of God in Scripture that belongs solely to God, and is used only of Him. This call to worship is therefore also a call to acknowledge YHWH as the one and only true God over “all the earth”, as against all the false and dead territorial gods of the pagan nations. This was the clear burden and desire of the psalmist in his heart.
In this instance, the whole earth is to worship Him in song: “Sing to the Lord”. Triple repetition (“Sing . . . Sing . . . Sing”) was a common feature in OT liturgical calls to worship (see “Ascribe… Ascribe… Ascribe” in vv. 7-9; see also, “Bless the Lord” in Ps 103:20-22; “Praise” in Ps 135:1; “Give thanks” in Ps 136:1-3).
This way of worship is something that we are very familiar with, and that most, if not all, Christians are quite fond of. Singing is a most natural way to praise the Lord (this is one of more than 70 references to singing in the Psalms). More often than not, singing is an expression of a glad heart. Ps 5:11: “But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy….” So this is also a call for the whole world to rejoice in God.
The call is also to “Sing to the Lord a new song.” In many places in the OT, you find examples of the creation of new music. This was common, for example, after military victories (e.g., Ex 15:1, The Song of Moses; Judg 5:1, Deborah and Barak over Sisera; 1Sam 18:6-7, the women after David defeated Goliath). Any fresh experience of God would often be an occasion for the writing of a “new song” so that “Sing[ing]… a new song” implies that new mercies from God had been received. The “new song” here may possibly refer to this psalm itself, especially since it originated (at least its first edition) from the context of the ark being brought back to Jerusalem (compare Ps 96 with 1Ch 16:23-33).
In our context today, the call to “Sing to the Lord a new song” does not imply that we always have to compose a new song for the Lord or even that there is something wrong with singing old songs. Absolutely not. As I mentioned in our study of Ps 98 last December, this statement may figuratively be a call to give God fresh praise – something that is not merely ritualistic and meaningless, but rather a proper response to a fresh experience of God’s grace. This is therefore a call to sing to the Lord in worship when He does something new in our lives or when we have a new experience of His grace. And since according to Lam 3:23 God’s mercies are new every morning, we always have something fresh to sing in worship to God about.
What we need to guard against is simply becoming routine in the act of worship so that we become like the Pharisees who “honor[ed God] with their lips, but their heart is far away from [Him]” (Matt 15:8).
In addition to this, the singing of a new song to the Lord also has eschatological connections. Just in this psalm alone we are given a picture of something that has not yet happened in the history of the world but will happen when the Lord Jesus returns to establish His millennial rule on the earth. That is when we will witness considerable numbers of worshippers from the nations joining in the universal chorus of praise to God. We catch a preview of this in John’s vision of heaven in Rev 5:8-9 when “8… the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb….” and “9… sang a new song….” to Him. We see a glimpse of this too in Rev 14:3 when “the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth” also “sang a new song before the throne” of the Lamb.
Moreover, the call is not only to “Sing to the Lord” but also to “bless His name.” To “bless” is to pronounce blessings, to give praise, to extol, to give thanks. The verb of “bless” in Heb. derives from the noun “knee” and perhaps suggests the bending of the knee in blessing. So to bless God seems to imply an act of honor and adoration by pronouncing blessings, giving praise and thanks to Him.
So this is not simply a call to just sing a song to God without the right heart attitude (like a little child who joylessly sings a song to an audience because he is “forced” to perform by his parents). Our singing to the Lord is to bless, to extol His name (referring to who God is, His character, His attributes) as a joyful expression of honoring and adoring Him.
To be clear, both the singing of a new song to the Lord and the blessing of His name by “all the earth” is something that will happen (probably sooner than we think, given everything that is happening in the world today) and that all true believers must look forward to with joyful anticipation.
During this major global crisis, no matter how bleak the future might seem to be, THE WORSHIP AND EXALTATION OF THE LORD MUST REMAIN AS OUR HIGHEST PRIORITY, AND THEREFORE, THE UNCEASING ENDEAVOR OF OUR LIVES AS BELIEVERS. This I strongly emphasize because if we are not careful, how easily we can be derailed from this priority when we allow our trust and joy in the Lord to be shaken by the current situation.
So, as this whole psalm is all about God (as I pointed out earlier), focusing us on the worthiness of God to be worshipped and exalted, SO MUST WE ALSO REALIZE THAT ULTIMATELY THIS WHOLE CRISIS IS NOT ABOUT US BUT ABOUT GOD AND HIS GLORY.