Read Psalm 97
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.
“The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad.” Why is the earth to be glad? Because the Lord reigns, of course! Many Christians would agree with this statement, but many couldn’t say why. Psalm 97 serves as a reflection on the power and majesty of the Lord our God. It shows His ultimate power and authority over all of creation, the insurmountable gap between Him and anything humans may place as an idol, and it shows His loving protection for His people, using that power for their good and His glory.
In verses 2-6, we see the illustrations of His power. We see His throne, with the foundation of righteousness and justice, surrounded by thick darkness. We see fire going before Him, His lightning lighting up the world, and mountains melting like wax in His presence. All of these things seem terrifying to many readers, and surely they would be to see in person. Scripture actually holds an example of human reactions to this very sight. It is found in Exodus chapters 19-20.
“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast…Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended in fire…” (Exodus 19:16-18).
In this scene, Moses is serving as a middle-man between God and the Israelites. The depictions of God’s power are strikingly similar, are they not? He appears with fire, dark clouds, and lightning, so it’s understandable when, in chapter 20, the Israelites tremble in fear rather than interacting with God. Instead, they have Moses handle all of the interaction, and Exodus 20:21 says Moses “approached the thick darkness where God was,” while the rest of the people stayed at a distance.
This isn’t something merely hidden in the Old Testament, however. Christians still act like this today! Instead of meeting God where He calls, many shrink back, willing to only meet with Him from a distance, whether from the base of a mountain or the foot of a stage. Psalm 97, though, promises us that, while the Lord is powerful, He is also good. His power should be absolutely respected, but His love and goodness will cover all. Rest in this, Christian. The Lord God “guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked” (v. 10).
- Are you trying to have a relationship with God “from a distance” rather than up close and personal? What is holding you back from taking that next step?
- Where is one area in your life in which you can “approach the darkness” as Moses did? What would it look like to step out in faith today?
- Who is someone who can push you to take this step? Let them in on this; stay accountable!
Did You Know:
In his book “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” author CS Lewis has one of the most appropriate depictions of God’s character hidden in a conversation between a beaver and a girl.
“Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion”
“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall fear rather nervous about meeting a lion…”
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
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