By Russ Mitchell
Russ is the field director for One Challenge (OC International) in Romania – www.oci.ro.
As we have been looking at Psalm 96, we have made a number of important discoveries about God’s mission and our part in it.
First, we discovered that God’s mission or purpose is to be known, worshipped and obeyed by all peoples. We also discovered that we have an important part in God’s mission.
Even in the Old Testament we see a clear mandate that God’s people are to take the good news of salvation to those peoples who have yet not heard about the greatness of God.
Also we discovered something important about our motivation to take God’s message to the peoples; namely message bearers are motivated by the desire to see God worshipped by the nations and realize that they, having come to know God, are responsible to make his greatness known to all peoples.
Still this Psalm has much more to say to us, specifically about our message. Three times we are told to tell the nations about God. But want shall we say? Let’s look once again at Psalm 96 asking ourselves what we can learn about God so that we can tell this to the nations. Specifically we want to ask: Who is God? What is he like? What has he done? And how should we respond to him?
The Identity of God
So let’s begin by looking at the identity of God. Just as in the psalmist’s day, there are still many different “gods” worshipped by the peoples. So they will want to know which god we are talking about.
The psalmist is very specific about the identity of God. He is the LORD. In Hebrew “LORD” is the special covenant name of God, Yahweh.
In most English translations of the Bible this word is type set in small caps to differentiate the covenant name of God, Yahweh, from another Hebrew word translated Lord, Adonai. Eleven times in this Psalm the writer uses the covenant name of God.
Thus, the psalmist clearly identifies who he is talking about. He is talking about the God who made the heavens and the earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who delivered his people from slavery in Egypt and continues to make himself known, not only to his people Israel, but also to the nations. Thus our message should clearly answer the question, “Who is God?”
Second, the psalmist speaks of God’s excellent greatness or his character. He speaks of God’s glory (v. 3) and his greatness (v. 4); he ascribes to the Lord splendor, majesty, strength and beauty (v. 6). In the second part of the Psalm he speaks of God’s holiness, equity, righteousness and faithfulness. All these describe what God is like.
It is important to make clear God’s excellent greatness so that peoples will come to appreciate the beauty of his character, recognize that he is worthy of praise and respond in worship, as we see in verses 7-9.
God’s Marvelous Deeds
Third, the psalmist focuses on the Lord’s marvelous deeds. We see that “the LORD made the heavens” (v.5), that is to say, he is the creator. We are to “proclaim good tidings of his salvation from day to day” (v. 2). So the Lord is our savior. We are to “say among the nations, the LORD reigns” (v. 10). So he is Lord.
We also see that “the LORD…is coming to judge the earth” (v. 13). Observe the breadth of God’s wonderful deeds! In the past he made the heavens; he is the creator. In the past, he has acted to deliver us; he is our savior. In the present, he reigns. He is Lord. In the future, he will come as the righteous judge of all peoples. These four marvelous deeds have much meaning and relevance for all peoples.