By Russ Mitchell
Russ is the field director for One Challenge (OC International) in Romania – www.oci.ro.
What is your part in God’s plan to glorify his name among all peoples? There are tens of passages in the Bible that could be used to develop this theme.
But here we will focus on one Old Testament passage – Psalm 96. This is one of the clearest and most amazing mission passages in the entire Bible. In fact, it has been called “the missionary psalm.”
It is helpful to know that Psalm 96 is divided into two parts: Verses 1-6 and 7-13. We will see that themes introduced in the first part of the Psalm are repeated and further explained in the second part. Looking at this Psalm we will discover three major themes which will help us clarify our role as message bearers. So let’s begin with the first theme found in verses 1 and 2 and repeated in verses 7-9.
Worship the LORD
Part 1: Psalm 96:1-2
Sing to the LORD a new song;
Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless His name…
Part 2: Psalm 96:7-9
Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name;
Bring an offering and come into His courts.
Worship the LORD in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
What do we see in these verses?
- In the first part, we see that “Sing to the LORD” is repeated three times.
- In part two, “Ascribe to the LORD” is also mentioned three times.
- In addition part one adds “bless his name” and part two continues:
- “Bring an offering and come into His courts.”
- “Worship the LORD in holy attire.”
- “Tremble before Him, all the earth.”
What do all these have in common? Worship. In all there are eleven commands involving seven different aspects of worship. Thus the first theme of Psalm 96 is worship.
Who is called to worship?
It would be a temptation to stop here, pleased with our discovery about worship. But by doing so we would miss the most significant part of the message. There is another important question that we need to answer, namely, who is called to worship the LORD?
Look closely. What more do we see about who is called to worship?
Verse 1: Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Verse 7: Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
Verse 9: Tremble before Him, all the earth.
So who is called to worship the LORD? “All the earth” (mentioned twice). “O families of the peoples” Thus all people everywhere– all the inhabitants of the earth — are called to worship the Lord! Does it surprise you that all peoples, even in the Old Testament, are called to worship? It does me! Why is this so? Psalm 96 gives us a “clue” why the nations are called to worship.
“O Families of Peoples” – The Abraham Connection
Let’s take a closer look at the phrase “families of peoples” found in verse 7. Following this clue takes us to the first book of the Bible, Genesis. The phrase “families of peoples” is first found in Genesis chapter 10. After the tower of Babel, the peoples were divided into 70 “families” or nations. Then in Genesis 12:1-3, God called Abram. God made a covenant with Abram, giving him seven promises.
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
Especially note the last promise that through Abraham, God would bless all the families of the earth.
For those who lived in the Old Testament, it was a great mystery how God would bless all the families of the earth. But for us today this mystery has been made clear. Even if the “how” of fulfilling the promise was a mystery, the Psalmist confidently looked to the future when God would fulfill his promise and bless all the families of the earth. In anticipation, he calls the nations to worship the Lord.
Something to Sing About
So anticipating the time when God would fulfill his promise to Abraham to bless all peoples (Genesis 12:3), it is no wonder that the psalmist begins with “Sing to the LORD a new song.” He expects that God is going to do something so extraordinary that it must be celebrated by all peoples, finding expression in new songs.
From our perspective, we know much better what the nations have to sing about: For example the last book of the Bible, Revelation, gives us a glimpse of heavenly worship.
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9)
What is the theme of this new song? The redemption of all peoples. So what the Old Testament anticipates, we see fulfilled in the New Testament. God has provided salvation for all peoples through the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ on the cross. God has fulfilled his promise to Abraham to bless all families of peoples. Now that is something to sing about!