Is the psalmist serious?

The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!

Psalm 97:1

The LORD reigns? Is the psalmist serious? Have you looked around at this world lately? Just click over to the news websites and read the headlines. There are wars, earthquakes, storms, starvation, genocide, etc. and the psalmist says the LORD reigns? How many centuries have gone by since Jesus died on the cross? And the gospel is just as neglected today, inside and outside of the church, as it was when Christianity first started. The LORD reigns? Is God being honored in the lives of his people? So many churches are frenetically trying to attract the masses, but instead the majority of churches are being deserted instead of inhabited. Every day you and I both are surrounded by people who could care less about the things of God and God has no perceived authority over these people? The LORD reigns – are you kidding me? Can we really look around at this world and declare with the psalmist, The LORD reigns?

The psalmist is NOT looking to the day when the LORD will reign. It doesn’t say some day the LORD will reign. It doesn’t say that the LORD used to reign more than he does now. It says the LORD reigns, present tense. He has always been sovereign and he will always be sovereign. Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Psalm 135:6, “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” Ps. 47:8, “God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.” The overwhelming message of scripture is that our God reigns.

In this visual culture in which we live, the problem has become that it is our observation of what we see in this world that has become our starting point. We take all that we observe and we say this is reality – now how do I interpret the scriptures in light of the reality that I observe. Instead, the starting point for interpreting everything we see should be our knowledge of God. We have completely reversed this. We take what we perceive as reality and impose those presuppositions upon what God has said about himself. So instead of saying how do I interpret what God has said in light of the reality that I observe…we should be saying how do I interpret the things I’m observing in light of the reality of what God has declared.

For example, what if you had been alive during our nation’s civil war; a time in our nation’s history when, literally, our country was being decimated by war. What if you had been the President of the United States during such days? If things were merely based on what you saw with your eyes, then you would’ve scoffed at the words of Psalm 97:1. That is not how Abraham Lincoln saw things. You can go to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and read the words etched in stone that he spoke at his 2nd inaugural address. I was just blown away a few months ago when I stood in that place and read these words regarding slavery and the civil war and God’s sovereignty – “The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh [Matt.18:7].’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether [Psalm 19:9].” Abraham Lincoln understood that there was a greater reality out there than just what can be perceived with our eyes. And as believers in the living God we must always ascribe to Him the divine attribute that Lincoln called providence and what I have referred to as sovereignty.

It is at this point that the Psalmist says rejoice and be glad. And what is our ground for rejoicing? What reason if any do we have to be glad right now? Let me ask you – how would you comfort a young person who was abused by a family member for years? How would you give hope to someone who is diagnosed with terminal cancer? What would you say to counsel a couple whose marriage is falling apart? Would you tell them that God is helpless? What scripture would you point them to which says God had no control over what happened to them or that he is frustrated and disappointed by what IS happening to them. I’m telling you there is no comfort in a God who does not reign. There is no hope in a frustrated deity. There is no help for anyone in a theology that makes the LORD the subject of mankind. Let us rejoice that the universe does not revolve around us and our lives and our decisions. Let us be glad that the time and space continuum does not abide in our feeble hands. Rejoice that the LORD sits on his throne and he does whatever he pleases. Be glad that the Judge of all the earth will do what is right.

What brings hope to the hopeless and comfort to the broken and help to the hurting? The response of the church, the message of God’s people ought to echo the words of the psalmist. Take hope, find comfort, be helped, rejoice and be glad – for the LORD reigns.

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