Not Just a Name

In Psalm 97 David continues the regnal theme, beginning once more with the emphatic exultation, “The LORD reigns,” but rather than appealing to the Israelites to announce this to the nations against the futility of their paganism, the whole earth now has reason to rejoice in recognizing the LORD’s reign (Psa. 97:1). Building on the imagery of Sinai as did the Song of Deborah (Ex. 19:16-18; Jdg. 5:4-5), he declares the LORD’s righteous judgment, sure victory, and powerful presence (Psa. 97:2-5).  However, this declaration from above shines forth to all (Psa. 97:6) with such force that it offers evidence to pagan idolaters of their error and provides impetus for the angelic throng to worship (Psa. 97:7). Israel also responds to the LORD’s will (Psa. 97:8) in recognition of His exaltation (Psa. 97:9). Thus having established His worthiness to reign and the expanse of His kingdom in a reign built on righteousness, he turns his attention to the subjects of the kingdom. Describing them in essence by their love for the LORD, he follows with an unexpected contrast: “hate evil!” (Psa. 97:10). The powerful contrast of love and hate adds immediate strength to other implied contrasts between the LORD and evil. However, the exhortation of responsibility holds manifold blessings as well, because the LORD will then deliver and preserve His people (Psa. 97:10). Therefore, the righteous and upright have reason to hope (Psa. 97:11), reasons to rejoice, and reasons to give thanks when they recall what the LORD has done (Psa. 97:12).

Taken generically, all of this sounds pleasing to the godly ear, but the placement of the psalm and the nuances of the text offer far more than general encouragement, and this becomes clear upon considering Hebrews 1:6, “But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’” (Heb. 1:6), a quotation of Psalm 97:7 identifying without question the “gods” as angels and the “Him” as Jesus Himself. Therefore, just as the previous psalm anticipated the crowning of Jesus as King, so also does Psalm 97 anticipate the time when the Son of God would reign. This, then, formed the foundation of the psalm’s promised blessings, of the reason to hope, rejoice, and give thanks. Jesus’ incarnation and sacrifice offered exactly what the world needed, Jew and Gentile alike (Rom. 3:23). Thus, the deliverance and preservation He made possible transcend this life and extend into eternity. The message announced with the imagery of the Old Covenant is the New Covenant which supplanted it, a covenant for Jew and Gentile alike. Most of all, the One who came, the One who reigns, the One who saves, and the One worthy of angelic worship is none other than Yahweh Himself. Encased in a simple psalm extolling the virtues and majesty of the one true God, the Holy Spirit placed the seed to demonstrate the deity of the Son of God. While the subtleties of the text kept the full meaning dormant for centuries, the simple reality of Jesus and the gospel proves not only the beauty of the Davidic hope but its true force as well.

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