Scripture Reading: Psalms 96 - 98 …
If you are reading this it is because you have some knowledge of God and some interest in God's Word. Do you realize how rare that is? Do you have any idea how few people today, or even throughout history, have worshiped the true God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth? Knowing God is the greatest gift anyone can receive, for the knowledge of God comes only through His Word and through the instruction of His Spirit within you. No one can know God apart from His Word and Spirit. But once you DO know God, the natural response is JOY!!
That joy is expressed in the Psalms in our reading today. Joy seems elusive in our world, with all the consequences of sin affecting every aspect of our lives. Yet, those who know God can sing, worship and rejoice in HIM. How few people understand this? How few people DO this?? Christianity is not a religion that calls us to follow a bunch of rules so we feel good about ourselves and pretend that we are good enough to go to heaven when we die! Being a Christian is having a relationship with the living God, our Creator, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
Even before Jesus came, there were a few people who were filled with God's Spirit and who responded in true joy in the Lord. If you go back to Psalm 95 you begin to hear and feel the expressions of this inner joy from the heart of the Psalmist: "Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation" (95:1). Then to Psalm 96: "Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise His name; proclaim His glory day after day!" (96:1-2). And Psalm 98: "Sing to the LORD a new song, for He has done marvelous things ... shout for joy before the LORD, the King!" (98:1,6).
Worship is more than an experience ... yet it IS a glorious experience! Gathering with other believers to praise the Lord, our God, and to find our joy, our hope, our peace in Him is a taste of heaven. So why doesn't everybody do it? Because they don't know God! The theme of these Psalms reveals the motive for our worship and the source of our joy: "Our God reigns!" "The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad!" (97:1). Why is that so important and how does that inspire true joy?
Have you looked around you lately? This world is falling apart and the human race is trying desperately to solve the problems of the world, be it disease, hatred, war, famine, weather or any number of other things. Evil is on the rise and terror strikes the hearts of millions every day. Those who are realistic confess that there is little to give us hope that things will get better. So where do we find joy? In the knowledge that "the LORD reigns," and that God will judge the earth fairly. That's right, our joy comes in knowing that God will judge the earth and the people in it with righteousness and justice.
God's "glory" is His absolute perfection and as such He cannot look upon sin. The Psalmist speaks about salvation and says that we who believe should "proclaim His salvation day after day" (96:2). God's salvation is not some theory or formula to be applied to life, but rather, deliverance from the oppressive weight of sin and its guilt and shame. Those who are evil are so overcome by the sin within them that they do not even feel shame. Many are telling people today that shame and guilt are the fault of people like me who tell people that they are sinners. They truly do not understand that it is only in confessing your sin that you find freedom, for God offers forgiveness through His Son, the Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Psalmist knew the salvation of God nearly a thousand years before Jesus was born because the Holy Spirit revealed to him that God was patient, kind, compassionate and merciful, and in the sacrifices and ceremonies and feasts at the tabernacle and the temple God showed those who believed a way to come to Him ... by faith in His promise of forgiveness. Without forgiveness no one will stand in the presence of God and be saved from their sin - NO ONE! It may seem odd that joy would be tied to judgment, but think about it ... it is when you know you deserve judgment and you are forgiven that you experience the deepest joy in the Lord!
God is WORTHY of praise! He is worthy of all that I can give ... but I don't give it to Him. Sin is taking the life God gave you and living it for yourself. But when you know God's salvation, when you really believe that He has provided an escape from His coming judgment on the world, when you know that you have been forgiven and that you will spend eternity with your Father in heaven in a perfect world ... guess what you do ... you REJOICE in the glory of God! You give thanks for His mercy and His grace and you live your life for HIM, by the power of His Spirit working within you, not because you HAVE to, but because you WANT to!!
"Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for He guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous, and praise His holy name" (97:10-12). This is the calling of all who know God and it leads to heartfelt worship!
I pray today that you will consider the glory of God ... His absolute perfection, His majesty, His power and His justice. And I pray that you will be humble before Him, confessing your sin, trusting in the blood of Jesus shed once for all on the cross for forgiveness, and that you will then find joy ... true JOY, in knowing, loving and serving the God who reigns over all the earth. Jesus will come again to judge the earth in righteousness and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord! That gives me joy today and motivates me to proclaim the salvation of our God. I hope it does the same for you!
"Heavenly Father, Your glory is beyond what I can possibly understand, yet You have revealed Yourself in Your creation and in Your Son and in Your Word so that at this moment I can know You and worship You with JOY!! I praise You today for You are worthy to be praised and I thank You for Your forgiveness. Use me today in some way to glorify You, to exalt Your name, to declare that You alone are God. In Jesus' name, Amen"