The Lord Reigns….Does He?
The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;Let the many islands and coastlands be glad. Clouds and thick darkness surround Him [as at Sinai];Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Fire goes before HimAnd burns up His adversaries on all sides. His lightnings have illuminated the world;The earth has seen and trembled. The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord,At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness,And all the peoples see His glory and brilliance. Let all those be [deeply] ashamed who serve carved images,Who boast in idols.Worship Him, all you gods! Zion heard this and was glad,And the daughters (cities) of Judah rejoiced [in relief]Because of Your judgments, O Lord. For You are the Lord Most High over all the earth;You are exalted far above all gods. You who love the Lord, hate evil;He protects the souls of His godly ones (believers),He rescues them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown [like seed] for the righteous and illuminates their path,And [irrepressible] joy [is spread] for the upright in heart [who delight in His favor and protection]. Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous ones [those whose moral and spiritual integrity places them in right standing with God],And praise and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
It was a Sunday and a beloved leader was preparing to announce the monthly prayer emphasis: Thanksgiving. At that moment he learned that two of his pastors had been martyred in a country where believers face great persecution. He prayed, “Lord, what do you have to say to your people? How can we continue with thanksgiving? Can we praise You for these murders and martyrdoms? Can we praise You for injustice? For these families who have lost fathers and husbands?”
He answered his questions this way: “Of course not. How can we praise Him for bad things? We do not praise Him for evil things, but we can praise Him because He is sovereign over whatever happens. Revelation 19:6 says, “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.”
He added, “The situation does not dictate to us what to do. People around us are not the ones directing; it’s not enemies who determine what we can and cannot do. What a pitiable person operates like that. We have disciplined ourselves to see martyrdom as does God. When we look through the eyes of God, then we no longer have difficulties. We don’t look from down here to up there, but up there to down here. We don’t focus on the surrounding difficulties, but to what God says.”
The spirit of Psalm 97 reflects one alive with the contemplation of God and fundamental confidence that “the Lord reigns” (verse 1).
Far too often in our chaotic world, it seems as though He does not reign. We can just look at the daily headlines for the evidences of evil. Beyond that, the events in our own lives seem to so easily spin out of control. We either find choices made for us against our will or we’re unsure of what decisions we should make, and we often live under the consequences and the downside effect of others decisions and actions.
We might ask: “Is there any sanity in this world? Does it have any design? Is there anything for sure?” And the answer to those questions is an unqualified Yes! “The Lord reigns!” What a joy and relief to know that.
But seeing the evidences of His reign isn’t easy. The things that point to the proof of His reign are visionary in quality though we may not be able to see them now(verses 2-5).
We may have seen clouds and thick darkness, but not His throne. We might have witnessed lightening and fire, but not as components of His immediate presence. While most of us have seen lofty mountains- high and hard with compacted earth and rock, I doubt we’ve ever seen one melt as wax.
However, when our faith seats us with Christ at the right hand of the Father(Ephesians 2:6), we can see all these things including that coming Day when invisible becomes visible(2 Corinthians 4: 17-18).
It is through spiritual vision that we look into that future day when “all people’s see his glory, and all who worship images are put to shame”(verses 6-7). It is only those who dwell in “Zion” and “the villages of Judah,” God’s people, already know that He is the Most High above the earth(verses 8-9).
Are you in one of those “villages in Judah” where you find yourself feeling disconnected from the mainstream or perhaps exiled from where you’d rather be? Has the news reached your heart yet that Jesus is Victor- even over every difficulty in your life? In our small spot on earth, is it possible for us to have the big picture that the Lord reigns over the earth?
George Wood says that Christians are like prisoners of war who know their side has won and it’s only a matter of time until release. Even though we may feel like POW’s, while we’re waiting, let us aspire to live in a manner consistent with our status of citizenship of heaven-“Let those who love the Lord, hate evil.”(verse 10)
Let us admit that we’ve not always hated evil for sometimes it has come to us masquerading as light and we’re not perceptive enough to see that behind the mask, the facade, is the face of the devil himself. We truly need the Lord to help us recognize evil- the gift of discernment- and to deplore it as well, especially in ourselves: “Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart(verse 11).
The sequence of this psalm and the Lord’s Prayer should be noticed. They do not begin with amplifying life’s difficulties but by magnifying the Lord. Far too often our prayers consist of describing the mess we’re in rather than getting into the spiritual balloon provided by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. The Lord invites us to first get above the pain, the sorrow, and the questioning by inviting us into His presence.
Psalm 97 along with the other songs of the Scripture are earbuds given to us by the Holy Spirit so we can listen to music from above, to apprehend and ponder truth that is beyond our current experience. The lesser I listen or enter in to music from above, the greater becomes the sorrow in my life. In that place, I find it difficult to do what this psalm asks me to do: “Rejoice in the Lord.” Those who feel defeated are never happy. But when we’re “up there,” beyond earth and space, we can see “out there” to the furthest reaches of time and space. Everywhere we go, up and out, we see God. There is no place “up there” or “out there” where He does not rule.
Finally when we come back to our “real” of pain and need, we still see things differently. I must learn to see things from heavens view rather than from earth’s limited view. As we’ve opened this psalm, we’ve been above where they’re singing praises to the risen Christ and the joy of that world has taken up residence in mine.
Dr. John Thompson