The God of the Nations: Psalm 96

A note to readers: Today’s post is part of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will cover the Psalms, beginning to end, by focusing on a Psalm each Sunday. I can’t tell you how excited I am for his interest in contributing here. This will be a huge blessing to us all.

Psalm 96 (NIV)

1Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
    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 his holiness;
    tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
    The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
    he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
    let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
    he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples in his faithfulness.


As we approach the New Year, it is good to read this psalm which celebrates the kingly majesty of God. We live in the time between the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. This is no period of passive waiting. There is a 3-fold injunction to “Sing to the LORD” (vs.1, 2) and “declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples” (vs. 3). This psalm reminds us of the missional impulse that is the birthright of the people of God. The psalmist is not content to merely revel in the truth of the greatness of “our” God. No, he calls on all the nations and families of the earth to worship him with another 3-fold admonition: “Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name” (vv. 6-8). All the nations are called to acknowledge and worship the covenant God of Israel.

“Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth,” the psalm declares in verse 9. “Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns’” (vs. 10). And then, the psalm closes with a joyful outburst from all creation because “the LORD is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth” (vs. 13). We know from the New Testament that the Father has “entrusted all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22). This is why we affirm in the Apostles’ Creed that Jesus will “come again to judge the living and the dead.” Psalm 96 celebrates this great truth.

This season between the two comings of Jesus is the time for vibrant mission. Our message must be clear. It must be global. We must tell everyone the good news that “great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods” (vs. 4). May the New Year which is before us be a year of sharing the wonderful news of the gospel!

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