Every once in a while people can get a vision of just how tremendously awe-inspiring God is. They catch a glimpse of the enormity of God’s grace and love and they realize how small their understanding of God was prior to this vision. Psalm 96 falls in this category:
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Sing to the Lord! Bless his name!
Share the news of his saving work every single day!
3 Declare God’s glory among the nations;
declare his wondrous works among all people
4 because the Lord is great and so worthy of praise.
He is awesome beyond all other gods
5 because all the gods of the nations are just idols,
but it is the Lord who created heaven!
6 Greatness and grandeur are in front of him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7 Give to the Lord, all families of the nations—
give to the Lord glory and power!
8 Give to the Lord the glory due his name!
Enter his courtyards!
9 Bow down to the Lord in his holy splendor!
Tremble before him, all the earth!
10 Tell the nations, “The Lord rules!
Yes, he set the world firmly in place;
it won’t be shaken.
He will judge all people fairly.”
11 Let heaven celebrate! Let the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it roar!
12 Let the countryside and everything in it celebrate!
Then all the trees of the forest too
will shout out joyfully
13 before the Lord because he is coming!
He is coming to establish justice on the earth!
He will establish justice in the world rightly.
He will establish justice among all people fairly.
Here the psalmist sees how all-encompassing God is. The Lord is not just the God of Israel, but rather the God of the whole world. All the nations ought to come and worship the Lord, and it is the duty of those who are hearing this psalm to go and tell the nations about the glory of the Lord.
In ancient Israel, this was a vision of God’s grandeur that was beyond most understandings of God. With how little Israel truly grasped monotheism, since they were displaced from their land because of worshiping other gods, this idea that the Lord alone is God and ought to be worshiped by everyone is a leap forward.
The beauty of this psalm for me as well is that this idea of the nations worshiping the Lord is not coercive. It is good news proclaimed to all the nations. This is a psalm that is just as much a call to the Church as it was to Israel. We are to share the grandeur of God with the world, telling all nations about the glory of the Lord so that they can worship with us. This is an evangelistic psalm that reminds us of our mission to go into all the world and make disciples.