Psalm 96 | October 20, 2019
This week we take an up-close look at what many consider to be one of the great missionary Psalms of the Bible—Psalm 96—showing us why our witness and worship are beautifully and powerfully inseparable.
Take Home Truth
The church’s missionary song is one of witness and worship and it is motivated by God’s greatness.
What do you think are the common elements that define worship at First Family? How do these differ from other churches you have experienced in your life’s journey?
Is there anything about worship, in your experience, that has connected you to God’s heart for the nations?
Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead to one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.
Read the Text
Psalm 96 (ESV)
1 Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! 2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! 4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. 6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! 8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! 9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
10 Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.” 11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12 let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 13 before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.
In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention, so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.
What does the repetition in Psalm 96 emphasize?
When trying to get the main focus of a passage of Scripture, it is helpful to mark up the text and highlight the repetitive words and phrases. Here’s an example of Psalm 96:
As you can see, the key repetitive phrases are “sing to the Lord,” “ascribe to the Lord,” and “among the nations.” Immediately, we can see the connection between worship and the nations.
What reasons did the psalmist give to the nations to praise the Lord?
In many ways, the entire psalm justifies why the nations should praise the Lord, but verses 4-6 provide specifics:
4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Based on this psalm, what should be our message to the nations?
Looking at the text, you can see three instructions for us as we consider world missions:
- Declare God’s Glory. Verses 2-3 tell us, “Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” Tell of his salvation, declare his glory, declare his marvelous works among the nations. Verse 10 provides a clear summary: “Say among the nations, ‘The Lord Reigns!’”
- Summon the nations to Join In. Verses 7-9 serve as an invitation to the nations. We do not just declare God’s glory, we are to invite all nations to join in: “Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!” This is a call to conversion, to bow the knee before the one true God of Israel, the Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah.
- Warn the People of Judgment. This underscores the Why of this Psalm: those who fail to recognize God’s glory and fail to heed God’s invitation will be judged. Verse 5 tell us, “For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.” Verse 10, “Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.” And finally, verse 13: “before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.”
What about this psalm is countercultural?
We live in a time when the world system pushes back hard against the exclusivity of the gospel and, unfortunately, many within the church today are bowing their knee to this pagan pushback.
What do we mean when we say “the exclusivity of the gospel?” In short, it is the doctrinal belief that only those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord can gain eternal life. Jesus said this clearly and simply in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That is the exclusivity of the gospel.
That belief, however, is very unpopular within our culture of “tolerance.” As postmodernism and progressivism rooted in Marxism continues its long march through the institutions of education, the media, and government, any competing belief system is being attacked and forcefully removed from the cultural dialog. As the bedrock foundation of Western Civilization, our Judeo-Christian belief system is especially under attack.
Many in the church are giving in to this new “tolerance.” A recent Lifeway Research and Ligonier Ministries study revealed that 45 percent of Americans believe there are many ways to heaven and 71 percent believe an individual must contribute his/her own effort for personal salvation.
Psalm 96 underscores Jesus’ assertion in John 14:6 by declaring that all people of all nations must convert to the true and living God and abandon all their other gods.
As God’s called and appointed messengers, we cannot shrink back from the exclusive message of the gospel. Jesus is the only way to salvation. He is the narrow gate and the voices of tolerance are the broad gate that leads to destruction.
How do we connect singing with mission based on Psalm 96?
Before this week, you may have not equated singing with mission, but, singing is one of the most significant ways a people can unite behind a mission and a movement.
This past month we have watched as young people in Hong Kong grow more and more resistant to Chinese rule. For 150 years, Hong Kong was a colony of Great Britain. In 1898 Britain agreed to a 99-year lease of the territory. This lease expired in 1997 at which point the territory was transferred to China.
For the last 20 years, China has maintained a “one people, two systems” policy towards Hong Kong, but tensions between mainland China and Hong Kong have been tense. Those tensions boiled over during the summer of 2019 when the Hong Kong government attempted to pass an amendment to their extradition law that would permit “fugitive offenders” to be extradited to China. As you can imagine, the definition of a “fugitive offender” is very subjective and could possibly give China the right to begin extraditing any citizen of Hong Kong who disagreed with Chinese policy.
During the summer, large-scale protests began to breakout across the district of Hong Kong. On June 9, an estimated 500,000 people protested the proposed extradition policy. On August 18, an estimated 1.7 million people marched in protest.
Protestors singing in Hong Kong.
During these protests, large crowds of protestors, many of them students, have broken out in song. With the police looking on and the threat of violence and arrest hanging in the air, you can hear the voices of people singing “sing hallelujah to the Lord!” There are many videos on YouTube showing these masses of people singing in unison. One person on YouTube even commented, “Ever seen 2 million people singing Sing Hallelujah to the Lord at the same time? I’m atheist and this even impresses me. I hope the people of Hong Kong will win and preserve the freedoms they deserve.”
Throughout history, singing unites people behind a common cause and a common mission. It is not surprising then that we, the people of God, should be instructed to sing! This is not a mass choir of protestors, however, this is a mass choir singing in unison of God’s greatness and his mercy and his glory.
John Piper captures this image well:
“Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!” This is a singing mission. This is the way you feel when your team has won the Super Bowl or the World Cup or the cross-town rivalry—only a thousand times greater. “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” We are speaking of glory. We are speaking of marvelous works, not boring works. Nor ordinary works. We have tasted and seen that this God is greater to know than all other greatness. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised” (verse 4). We are exhilarated to know him and sing to him and call the world to sing with us to him.
You were made for this. I mean all of you who say from the heart, “Jesus is Lord.” When you confess Jesus as the Lord of the universe, you sign up for significance beyond all your dreams. I mean businessmen, homemakers, students. To belong to Jesus is to embrace nations for which he died and which he will rule. Your heart was made for this, and there will always be a serious or mild sickness in your soul until you embrace this global calling.1
Personal Reflection Questions
- All people sing whether it be in the car, at a concert, a stadium or at church. What makes you sing? When do you sing the loudest and with the most energy?
- The truth is that we talk about what we love. Based upon what you talk about the most, what would people say you love?
- How can we declare the Lord’s glory to others this week?
- What is one thing you can do to revive your worship of God or make it more meaningful?
- What gift of time, money, or service could you give to the Lord this week?
- Who is one person you could tell about God’s goodness?
Becoming A House of Prayer
“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices; Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – Isaiah 56:7.
Prayer is an important part of being in a small group. Group prayer goes better when we follow three simple guidelines.
- WE PRAY FOR ONE TOPIC AT A TIME – Anyone in the group is free to introduce a prayer request either before prayer begins or during the prayer time. Once a topic is introduced, the group focuses on that request alone. Once it’s covered, the group moves on to the next topic.
- PRAY MORE THAN ONCE – Because the group is focusing on one topic at a time, each person is encouraged to pray several times during the prayer time for those topics they feel most led to pray about. No one is required to pray.
- WE KEEP OUR PRAYERS SHORT AND SIMPLE – Group prayer goes better when members keep their prayers short and to the point. When someone prays for a long time, it’s hard for the other members to stay focused and long prayers tend to intimidate those who are just learning to pray out loud in a group. No one is required to pray out loud.
- John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (2000–2014) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2014). ↩