Today’s Sunday Psalms entry is written by Timothy Tennent.
Psalm 97 (NIV)
1 The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
2 Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him
and consumes his foes on every side.
4 His lightning lights up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all peoples see his glory.
7 All who worship images are put to shame,
those who boast in idols—
worship him, all you gods!
8 Zion hears and rejoices
and the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments, Lord.
9 For you, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
10 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.
11 Light shines on the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous,
and praise his holy name.
Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.
One of the great doctrines of the Christian faith is the doctrine of the incarnation, Jesus Christ stepping into human history and dwelling among us. The word incarnation means “in the flesh.” It reflects the great truth that God is not simply enthroned in the heavens, but that he has walked among us, full of grace and truth (John 1:17). This psalm recalls the time when God’s presence descended on Mount Sinai. He was surrounded by “clouds and thick darkness” (v. 2). Fire and smoke went up all around him (v. 3) and the “mountains melt[ed] like wax before the Lord” (v. 5; compare the description in Exodus 19:16–19).
The incarnation on that first Christmas wasn’t like this. God came among us in humility, and unlike the tumultuous time on Mount Sinai, we could see him face-to-face. This psalm prepares us for Christ’s second advent, which the New Testament describes with similar language to Psalm 97: “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels” (2 Thess. 1:7). His first advent was in weakness; his second will be in power. His first advent came in the stillness of a star-filled night; his second will come in a blaze of glory. His first advent was seen by only a few shepherds, but at his second, “every eye will see him” (Rev. 1:7). When he returns, as this psalm declares, all will “see his glory” (Ps. 97:6) and “all who worship images [will be] put to shame” (v. 7).