Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Light is Sown for the Righteous! (Psalm 97)

Psalm 97:1 As the Psalm opens, the LORD, Jesus Christ, has taken His throne. The crowning day has come. And there is worldwide rejoicing. The distant isles and coastlands have never known such gladness.

Psalm 97:2 The King’s arrival is described in symbolical terms that inspire the deepest reverential awe. First of all, He is swathed in clouds and darkness—a reminder that our Lord is often mysteriously hidden from the eyes of men and majestically inscrutable as to His ways. How little we know of Him! Then righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. His is the ideal government—a beneficent monarchy—where there are no miscarriages of justice, no perversions of the truth.

Psalm 97:3–5 Great sheets of fire sweep before Him, consuming those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (2 Thess. 1:8). The lightnings of His judgments illuminate the countryside. People look on in terror. This is the time when “every mountain and hill shall be brought low” (Isa. 40:4), in other words, when everything that lifts itself against the knowledge of God shall be humbled.

Psalm 97:6a The heavens declare His righteousness. As He comes in the clouds of heaven (Rev. 1:7) with all His blood-bought saints (1 Thess. 3:13), the world sees that He was righteous after all in restoring Israel as He promised. Also, as Gaebelein explains: "The many sons He brings with Him to glory make known His righteousness, that great work of righteousness on Calvary’s cross by which the redeemed were saved and are now glorified."

Psalm 97:6b And all the peoples see His glory.

    The King there in His beauty

    Without a veil is seen.

    It were a well-spent journey

    Though seven deaths lay between.

    The Lamb with His fair army

    Doth on Mount Zion stand;

    And glory, glory dwelleth

    In Immanuel’s land.

—Anne Ross Cousin

Psalm 97:7 What will idolaters think then? They will be completely nonplussed, realizing that they had been worshiping empty nothings.

“Worship Him, all you gods” in the Septuagint reads, “Let all God’s angels worship him,” and it is quoted that way in Hebrews 1:6. The Hebrew word here (Elohim) usually means God but it may also refer to angels, judges, rulers, or even to heathen gods or deities.

Psalms 97:8-9 The city of Zion hears the news of the King’s victories against rebels and idolaters, and is glad. The hamlets of Judah join in the jubilation. “Glad news for Sion, rejoicing for Judah’s townships, when thy judgments, Lord, are made known” (Knox). At last the LORD is seen to be what He always was—most high above all the earth, and exalted far above all other potentates, real or manufactured.

Psalm 97:10 You who love the LORD, hate evil. The two are moral correlatives—love for Jehovah and hatred of all that is contrary to Him. Those who pass this test are special objects of His preserving care.

Psalm 97:11 Light is sown like seed for the righteous, that is, the coming of Christ means the diffusion of light for the man who does what is right and joy unspeakable for all those whose hearts are honest and sincere.

Psalm 97:12 So the happy summons rings out to all God’s righteous people to join in the rejoicing and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness. This is a surprise ending for the Psalm. We would have expected it to say “Give thanks at the remembrance of His love—or mercy—or grace—or glory.” But no, it is His holiness. Once His holiness excluded us from His presence. But now, through the redemption accomplished by the Lord Jesus, His holiness is on our side instead of being against us, and we can rejoice when we remember it.

God blesses His people with happiness and righteousness. Until we are made righteous in Christ, we cannot know the joy of the Lord. But God has promised to shed light upon the righteous and to instill joy in the upright in heart. Our response to such abundant blessings is to “Rejoice in the LORD … and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name” (Ps. 97:12).