New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 96:1

Sing to Yahweh a new song! Sing to Yahweh, all the earth-

Even in the Old Testament, the idea of living in a spirit of newness of life is to be found. David six times invites us to sing with him “a new song” (Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1 cp. Is. 42:10). Invariably these songs are associated with the experience of God’s redemption (cp. Rev. 5:9). Obviously those ‘new songs’ were intended to be repeatedly sung. Our regular experience of forgiveness and redemption should urge us onwards in the spirit of ‘newness of life’. Like Paul we die daily with the Lord, and the power of His resurrection life likewise daily breaks out in us.

Psa 96:2

Sing to Yahweh! Bless His name! Proclaim His salvation from day to day!-
The LXX uses the word evangelion concerning how daily we should “show forth his salvation” (Ps. 96:2). Witness is therefore a daily feature in the life of those who have known salvation; it is not something done solely by attending an ecclesial gathering once per week. This explains why frequently Paul uses the word "Gospel" as meaning 'the preaching of the Gospel'; the Gospel is in itself something which must be preached if we really have it (Rom. 1:1,9; 16:25; Phil. 1:5 (NIV),12; 2:22; 4:15; 1 Thess. 1:5; 3:2; 2 Thess. 2:14; 2 Tim. 1:8; 2:8). The fact we have been given the Gospel is in itself an imperative to preach it.
Many of the Psalms reflect David’s realization that confession of sin is the basis for powerful preaching. The LXX often uses the verb euangelizesthai to describe his preaching after the Bathsheba incident (Ps. 96:2). Because God has mercifully forgive His people and His face shines upon them in renewed fellowship, His way is thereby made known upon earth to all nations (Ps. 67:1,2). He utters forth the mighty acts of God with the preface: “Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord, who can shew forth all his praise?” (Ps. 106:2)- and then proceeds to do just that. He did so with a clear recognition of his own inadequacy. The Psalms of praise are full of this theme. David exhorts all those who have been redeemed to show forth God’s praise (Ps. 107:2,22,32). He wanted all Israel to be a joyful, witnessing people. And even though it seems God’s people didn’t respond, David went on undeterred. Time and again he fearlessly sets himself up as Israel’s example. He speaks of how he trusts in the Lord’s grace, and then appeals to Israel to do just the same (Ps. 62:7,8). The strength of his appeal was in the fact that his sin and experience of grace was the bridge between him and his audience.

It was God’s prophesied will that the Gospel would go world-wide; but it required the freewill strivings of Paul to enable it, and the strivings with God in prayer by the brethren. With these thoughts in mind, bear in mind the parallels between Psalms 96 and 98.  Sing unto the Lord a new song (96:1) = O sing unto the Lord a new song (98:1); His wonders among all people. For He hath done marvellous [s.w. ‘wonders’] things in the sight of the nations (96:2 RV) = declare His glory among the nations (98:3); righteousness and truth (96:13) = righteousness and truth (98:3); Let the sea roar and the fullness thereof (96:11) = Let the sea roar and the fullness thereof (98:7); for He cometh to judge the earth (96:9) = for He cometh to judge the earth (98:13); The Lord reigns (96:10) = The Lord the king (98:6).

But there are some subtle differences. Ps. 96:2,3 exhorts us: “Show forth His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the heathen”. But Ps. 98:2 puts it another way: “The Lord has made known His salvation. His righteousness has He openly shewed in the sight of the nations”. These latter words are only true in that we make known that salvation, and we declare His glory among the nations. Thus a statement in Ps. 98 that Yahweh has shewed His glory to the nations becomes an imperative for us to go and do that in Ps. 96.

Psa 96:3
Declare His glory among the nations, His marvellous works among all the peoples-
See on :7. Perhaps the triple command to 'Sing to the Lord' in the opening verses of Ps. 96 alludes to Israel's three feasts, as does the triple, repetitive verses of Ps. 99:1-3, 4,5, 6-9; which likewise bid the Gentile world to come to Israel's worship.

Psa 96:4
For great is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised! He is to be feared above all gods-
David's focus of all his praises upon Yahweh as alone "worthy" of praise was what he now wanted his people to follow (Ps. 18:3; 22:3). The implication of "worthy" could imply a contrast with other gods, as here in Ps. 96:4 "He is to be feared / praised above all gods". This would confirm the hints we have that Saul was an idolater (see on :31; Ps. 12:8; 16:4), and that idolatry was prevalent in Israel at the time.

Psa 96:5
For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but Yahweh made the heavens-
The gods / idols aren't in so many words criticized as not existing, but rather, Yahweh is so exalted above them as creator of all that even if they do exist, they are so relatively powerless that they are show to have no effective existence. It's the same with how the language of demons is used in the New Testament; the Lord's miracles demonstrated that God's power was so infinitely greater, that effectively demons don't exist.

Psa 96:6
Honour and majesty are before Him, strength and beauty are in His sanctuary-
See on :7. This is a reference to the Most Holy Place; the reference to His "strength and beauty" going into captivity may refer to the ark (Ps. 78:61 s.w.).

Psa 96:7
Ascribe to Yahweh, you families of nations, ascribe to Yahweh glory and strength-
The very same Hebrew words used about how David felt he wanted to give glory and strength [honour] to the Lord (Ps. 62:7). "Families of nations" recalls the promises made to Abraham of his seed. He wished for the whole world to share his relationship with God. The radical nature of what is being suggested in Ps. 96 (especially :7,8) and many similar Psalms can easily be overlooked. The Psalmist is urging Gentiles to come and worship with Israel, proceeding into the tabernacle courts and thence into "the beauty of holiness" (:6), i.e. the Most Holy Place ['holiness' being read here as a noun rather than an adjective- it is the same Hebrew word elsewhere translated "sanctuary" and related to the Hebrew word used for "sanctuary" in :6].  The Psalmist is inviting Gentiles to come in to the worship of Israel and proceed where only the High Priest could venture once / year. It was the equivalent of proclaiming an open table policy in the most exclusive of churches.

The common assumption of expositors is that the Psalmist has in view the Kingdom age, but this seems precluded by his appeal to the Gentiles to come and worship exactly because of the good news that the Lord is coming to judge the earth in righteousness (:13)- which is quoted about the return of Christ to earth in Acts 17:31. The holiness boundaries taught by the Law were only teaching mechanisms, which is why they were removed by the open Christ. David for one got to this point well before most other Israelites did, acting as the High Priest (1 Chron. 16:3), entering the sanctuary when not a Levite (Ps. 63:2) and experiencing forgiveness and salvation quite outside the Law rather than the Law's penalty of death.

Most of Ps. 96 is to be found in David's Psalm at the bringing of the ark to Zion in 1 Chron. 16, so we can safely assume David to have been the author. His outreach to the Gentiles is typical of the spirit of the Bathsheba Psalms, where he vows to tell the whole world of God's grace. It's not that the experience of sin and forgiveness makes a person somehow weak and wishy washy acceptant of anyone and anything. The experience of God's grace at close quarters leads us to realize how radical was His acceptance of us and thereby we should proactively seek to be acceptant of all those who are afar off. And so David perceived that God's Name (His characteristics, of which grace is uttermost) deserved glory to be given to it- simply for what it was (:8). And that glory is "due" from all, including the Gentiles- and so they should be invited across all holiness boundaries to come with their offerings to God. Thus Yahweh's greatness above all other gods was what led David to appeal to "all you gods" [perhaps put by metonymy for the idol worshipping peoples] to come and worship before Yahweh (Ps. 97:7).

The appeal was to be global and not just to Israel because David perceived that actually the truth of God is proclaimed by "the whole earth" and "heavens" (Ps. 97:5,6). Of course, the call is for the Gentile idolaters to "come" to Yahweh's sanctuary, and not for God's people to leave Yahweh and go to them. And they were to "bring an offering", to make a commitment to the God they were being invited to come close to (Ps. 96:8). Ps. 98:3-5 continues this radical appeal to the Gentile world, but it urges them to come and worship (which involved coming to the sanctuary in Israel) exactly because God has been so gracious to sinful Israel. Israel's extreme sin and God's radical grace and patience with them for not being good witnesses to the Gentiles... was to serve as encouragement for the Gentiles to come to Israel's God and praise Him, confident that their sins too could be forgiven.

The same idea is found in Ps. 99:1-5- because of God's grace to Jacob / Israel, an undefined group are bidden come to Zion, to the very cherubim (in the Most Holy Place) to exalt and praise God at His footstool. This group, in line with the preceding Psalms, are surely the Gentile world. "Let them praise Your great Name" (Ps. 99:3) would surely make most sense if it referred to the Gentiles, seeing that David or the Psalmist was Israelite. We see the same idea in Ps. 97:1; it begins with an appeal to the islands of the Gentiles to 'rejoice' and 'be glad', but the same two Hebrew words are used in Ps. 97:8 about how Zion- those in the very temple mount- likewise rejoice and are glad. The very "ends of the earth" who saw God's salvation of His people are invited to praise Him for it (Ps. 98:3,4)- the invitation to join in praise was effectively an invitation to join in worship, and thereby to become part of God's covenant people.

Psa 96:8
Ascribe to Yahweh the glory due to His name, bring an offering and come into His courts-
According to the LXX titles, there were certain Psalms which were written for the dedication of the rebuilt temple, and others written by Haggai and Zechariah. They include: Psalms 96,138,147,148. These all seem to speak as if the time of a glorious temple was to be the time of God’s Kingdom; this was the possibility, and it was the prevailing hope in the minds of the faithful minority. But the Psalms had to remain prophecies of the future day of Zion’s glory, for the temple was not rebuilt by the returned exiles according to the specifications of Ez. 40-48. Psalm 96 is very clear: “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name [i.e.] bring an offering, and come into his courts” (:8). But Judah did not bring the right offerings, although the glory of Yahweh’s Name ought to have elicited them (Mal. 1:11-16). Psalm 96:13 confidently anticipate the coming of Messiah there and then: “then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord: for he cometh, he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness”. These words are quoted about the second coming of Jesus in Acts 17:31. 

Psa 96:9

Worship Yahweh in holy array, tremble before Him, all the earth-
As it was God’s intention that Israel were to be a nation of priests to the rest of the world, so the new Israel likewise are to all discharge the priestly functions of teaching their brethren (Ex. 19:6 cp. 1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 1:6; 5:9,10). Under the new covenant, we should all teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16). Indeed, God told Israel [unrecorded in the historical records]: “Ye are gods [elohim] and all of you are sons of the Most High” (Ps. 82:6 RV). Further, Ps. 96:9 makes the paradigm breaking statement that even the Gentiles could come before Yahweh of Israel in holy, priestly array- they too could aspire to the spirit of priesthood (Ps. 96:9 RVmg.). Moses spoke of how all Israel should pray that God would establish the work of their hands (Ps. 90:17)- but this was in fact his special request for the blessing of Levi, the priestly tribe (Dt. 33:11). Ps. 135:19,20 parallels all Israel with the priestly family: “Bless the Lord, O house of Israel: bless the Lord, O house of Aaron: bless the Lord, O house of Levi: ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord... praise ye the Lord”. All Israel were to aspire to the spirit of priesthood. Indeed, the Psalms often parallel the house of Aaron (i.e. the priesthood) with the whole nation (Ps. 115:9,10,12; 118:2,3).

Psa 96:10

Say among the nations, Yahweh reigns! The world is also established, so that it can’t be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity-

David knew his sinfulness, he knew his reliance upon the grace of God, more and more as he got older. One would have thought that after the Bathsheba incident, David would have kept his mouth shut so far as telling other people how to live was concerned. But instead, we find an increasing emphasis in the Psalms (chronologically) upon David's desire to teach others of God's ways- particularly the surrounding Gentile peoples, before whom David had been disgraced over Bathsheba, not to mention from his two faced allegiance to Achish (1 Sam. 27:8-12). There is real stress upon this evangelistic fervour of David (Ps. 4:3; 18:49; 22:25,31; 35:18; 40:9,10; 57:9; 62:8; 66:5,16; 95:1,8; 96:5-8,10; 100:1-4; 105:1,2; 119:27; 145:5,6,12). Indeed, Ps.71:18 records the "old and greyheaded" David pleading with God not to die until he had taught "thy strength unto this generation". As with Paul years later, the only reason he wanted to stay alive was in order to witness the Gospel of grace to others. David therefore coped with his deep inner traumas by looking out of himself to those around him, eagerly desiring to share with them the pureness of God's grace. He didn't do this as some kind of self-help psychiatry; it came naturally from a realization of his own sinfulness and God's mercy, and the wonderful willingness of God to extend this to men.

Psa 96:11

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, let the sea roar, and its fullness!-
The idea is that all of the planet, the sea representing the peoples, would rejoice at the prospect of the coming of Israel's Lord in judgment (:13). This is not therefore speaking of the Kingdom; but rather of David's desire that before the Lord's coming, the Gentile peoples would come to such relationship with Him that they rejoiced at the prospect of His coming in judgment, knowing by faith that they would not be condemned.

Psa 96:12

Let the field and all that is in it exult! Then all the trees of the woods shall sing for joy-
David seems to have foreseen the joy of the natural and spiritual creation of the last days as they sense the approach of the Lord (see on :13). 

Psa 96:13
before Yahweh; for He comes, for He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, the peoples with His truth
This is quoted in Acts 17:31 concerning the final day of judgment at the Lord's return. David feels God's judgment is ongoing now (Ps. 9:4), but that is preparation for the future day of judgment. Appreciating this means that we live our lives before the judgment presence of God. See on :8. Note that the prospect of judgment to come elicits joy for David. He was not scared at the thought of meeting God in judgment.