Skylight For The Heart
O sing to the Lord a new song;Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His name;Proclaim good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations,His marvelous works and wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised;He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are [worthless, lifeless] idols,But the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him;Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name;Bring an offering and come into His courts. Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;Tremble [in submissive wonder] before Him, all the earth. Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns;Indeed, the world is firmly and securely established, it shall not be moved;He will judge and rule the people with fairness.” Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;Let the sea roar, and all the things it contains; Let the field be exultant, and all that is in it.Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy Before the Lord, for He is coming,For He is coming to judge the earth.He will judge the world with righteousnessAnd the peoples in His faithfulness.
The late Oliver Wendell Holmes once suggested that persons be categorized into one of three levels of intelligence.
First, there are the one-story people- fact collectors who don’t have any aim beyond their facts. Second come the two-story intellects who go beyond the fact collectors by comparing, reasoning, and making generalizations. Finally, three-story people build upon the first two but go higher by idealizing, imagining, and predicting- their best illumination, however, coming from above, through the skylight.
Psalm 96 is for persons whose hearts contain a skylight for receiving encouragement from and giving praise to God. It was first sung in celebration of the bringing the Ark of the covenant into Jerusalem. The application of the psalm is timeless for it prepares our hearts for worship. It calls us out of our world into His,
Singing might be the last thing we want to do when we’re tired, discouraged, or depressed, but it’s the first thing skylight people do.
Why singing rather than just saying words of praise? I think it’s because God knows that words without music tend to be expressionless and flat and most often only touch the cognitive side and not the deeper emotional and intuitive aspects of our nature. Singing gives a lift and a lilt in our inmost selves. The more we express our songs, the more our hearts opens wide to Him.
The song of Psalm 96 is both “new”(verse 1) and continuous(day after day- verse 2). Could it be that our song has become “old?” Are we just mumbling mechanically through the words and tune? Or it it that our walk with the Lord fresh and up-to-date? Does your heart daily go toward those things which are unseen or do you instead focus not on things about you that you see?
It is in His presence we sing. He is our audience even if we’re in a large crowd-an audience of one. Those who have stood before a distinguished crowd or for that matter, any audience know the stage-frightening experience that can be. Although many have sung a part of an audience or even a choir, few ever solo even if they have the ability to do so. But we, you and I have been called upon to provide a concert- even a brief one- today for the Maker of heaven and earth, our Redeemer, the Eternal Who Dwells In Light Unapproachable. We have been summoned by Him to come and sing for Him, to Him, and about Him- “Sing to the Lord.”
As our solo starts, He bids us to turn around and when we do we find a vast audience: “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples”(verse 3). Once we amplify Him in our hearts, we next amplify Him to the world. When we come to fully understand who it is that we worship, all the lesser gods-those things from which we seek fulfillment from anything outside Him- pale. God responds from our priorities. Who is it that truthfully we are trying to please? Does the Lord really have first place in our lives?
The things of this world, the idols or false gods only take from us, they do not give back. We are tricked into thinking that they’ll do something for us, perhaps protect us, love you, or help you. But idols can give nothing for they are nothing.(verse 5). What a contrast they are to the majesty, strength, splendor and glory of the only true God(verse 6).
The pictures of worship in the Bible, especially in the Book of Revelation and Psalm 96 help us look through the skylight of our hearts into the majesty of God’s dwelling place, to the elders and living creatures and the battalions of angels, to a glassy sea of dazzlement and light before the throne, to the Church in it’s eternal assembly, and to God himself. Everyday through worship we can enter heaven and draw strength from the sights and sounds we see and hear there for indeed “glory is in his sanctuary.”
And because of that, we therefore invite the whole earth to join us as we express worship through “praise,”(7-8), “offering”(8), and “reverential awe”(9).
What offering is desired by Him? The trembling I feel in His presence never needs to come from our terror of Him, but rather reverence produced as I realize how unworthy I am to be in His Holy presence.
In verse 10, Psalm 96 switches our attention from heaven to earth. What we have observed through our heart’s skylight into heaven are truths meant to be declared among the nations: “the Lord reigns!”(verse 10)
Do we really believe this to be true as it pertains to us? Or have we settled into the subtle attitude that He really isn’t directing the course of our lives. Are we allowing Him to reign over our own hearts, or are we resisting what He asks of us? If He ultimately “judges people with equity,” will He not also treat us fairly?
The skylight opened by Psalm 96 lets us take a look into heaven(verses 1-9) and at the end of all things when God sits in judgement on earth(verse 13). This long view gives us perspective to our current situation, present problems and needs. If we live without a skylight into the realities of eternity, we live truly in a small room that feels like the walls are closing in on us. But with a skylight we can see not only God. Ut the wonderful world He has made- the heavens, seas, fields, and the trees of the fields- all of which exist to praise Him.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul opens a skylight for us so we may get a view of Christ:,
“For He has rescued us and has drawn us to Himself from the dominion of darkness, and has transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption [because of His sacrifice, resulting in] the forgiveness of our sins [and the cancellation of sins’ penalty]. He is the exact living image [the essential manifestation] of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible], the firstborn [the preeminent one, the sovereign, and the originator] of all creation. For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, [things] visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [that is, by His activity] and for Him. And He Himself existed and is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [His is the controlling, cohesive force of the universe.] He is also the head [the life-source and leader] of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will occupy the first place [He will stand supreme and be preeminent] in everything. For it pleased the Father for all the fullness [of deity—the sum total of His essence, all His perfection, powers, and attributes] to dwell [permanently] in Him (the Son), and through [the intervention of] the Son to reconcile all things to Himself, making peace [with believers] through the blood of His cross; through Him, [I say,] whether things on earth or things in heaven.”
Colossians 1: 13-20
If you’re in a dark place in your life today, fling open the skylight toward heaven and let that view calm your heart and soul, place life in its proper perspective, and give you hope for tomorrow.
Dr. John Thompson