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 two astounding “discoveries” thus far. We observed that all peoples from every nation are called to worship God and those who know God are called to make him known to those peoples who have not yet heard.
These two calls form the basis of the message bearer’s mandate. To me this is astounding – that in the Old Testament there is such a strong mandate for God’s people to declare his greatness among the peoples.
Yet it is our nature, especially when confronted with such a great vision, to ask the question, why? Why should the peoples worship God? Why should we make an effort to take God’s message to them?
The psalmist seems to anticipate these very questions for in verses 4-6, he presents numerous reasons why the peoples should worship God, reasons which also pertain to the message bearer’s motivation.
For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
Psalm 96:4-6 NIV
Note that these verses begin with the word “for,” which alerts us to the reasons for what was commanded in verses 1-3. Here is the first reason: “For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise.” Why should the peoples worship the Lord? Simply put, because he is great and truly merits the praise of all peoples.
Next the psalmist adds, “He is to be feared above all gods.” Some will ponder, why should the Lord be feared above all gods?
Again the psalmist anticipates our question with the second couplet: “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens.” (Note again the repetition of the word “for” – a word which introduces the reason for what was just said.)
This couplet sets up the contrast between the Lord and the gods which the peoples worship. The psalmist points out that they are “idols.” There are many words are used in the Old Testament for idols. This particular word literally means “something worthless.” Its root meaning is “to be weak, deficient.”
To paraphrase, the psalmist is saying “all the gods of the peoples are worthless weaklings.” So here are two striking contrasts between the gods whom the peoples worship and the Lord.
The gods of the peoples are worthless, but the Lord is worthy of praise.
The gods of the peoples are weaklings, but the Lord made the heavens, which shows his limitless power and wisdom.
Thus the psalmist asserts the absolute superiority of the Lord over the “gods.” He alone truly merits the worship of the peoples.
The final couplet rounds out the psalmist’s argument. “Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and glory are in His sanctuary.” Here the character of the Lord is highlighted, providing further reasons for the peoples to worship the Lord. Because of his excellent greatness, he alone truly merits the worship of the peoples.
Although we have been looking at the reasons why the peoples should worship the Lord, the psalmist uses the same reasons to explain why we should take the message about God to the peoples.
Message bearers have discovered the greatness and saving power of the Lord. Enthralled by his excellent greatness, 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.
It is interesting what reasons are not given to support the mandate to tell the peoples about the true God.
- We don’t see that we should go to the peoples because they are lost – though they are.
- We don’t see that we should do this because we are commanded or called – though we are.
- We don’t see that being a message bearer makes you a better person, more fulfilled, happy or prosperous – though it might.
These not mentioned because the focus here is not on you, but God. Being a message bearer is not about helping people or doing something great for God. It is all about Him. He alone truly merits the worship of the peoples. He alone merits your worship and wholehearted devotion.
So on a scale of one to ten, what is your motivation like? Do you know the Lord? Are you wholly devoted to him? Does your heart burn to see God worshipped by the nations?
If so, you are well on your way to becoming a message bearer.
On the other hand, it is possible that you see within your own heart significant obstacles to overcome in order to tell others about the excellent greatness of God. If so, you first step might be to tell God what these obstacles are. Be honest with him. Ask him to change your heart so that you can be fully devoted to him.