The Lord Reigns! Psalm 97

There is an old saying – familiarity breeds contempt. Sadly that can be as true of Christians as anybody else when it describes our attitude to God. The whole of church history has never seen a generation of Christians more familiar, more casual, more relaxed, more intimate with God.
This could be a very good thing. If we are able to be familiar with God because we have realised the tremendous privilege of coming to God as our Father instead of our judge, if it is because we have truly appreciated all the riches of blessing we enjoy as children of God through Jesus Christ our Saviour, then that closeness to God is a good thing.
But on the other hand the whole of society has become more casual. People have become much more familiar in their approach to traditional authority figures like police – or teachers – or bosses – or clergy. The days of giving respect where respect is due have almost gone, and the church is no different in that. So maybe many people are so relaxed in their approach to God because they have never learned how to show proper respect to anybody, and that’s NOT good.
But as well I fear that some Christians behave in such a familiar way towards God because they don’t recognize how great, how awesome, how majestic, how wonderful, how glorious, how ALLmighty God truly is. So for tonight my text is the very simple phrase which begins Psalm 97. We sing it so often it comes easily to our lips. The phrase has become familiar to us – but perhaps so familiar that we don’t truly know what it means and what it implies. I want to remind us all tonight,
The Lord reigns, our God reigns!
Psalm 97:1 ¶ The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.
We find the same glorious declaration elsewhere in the Psalms.
Psalm 93:1 The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.
Psalm 96:10 Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.
Psalm 99:1 The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
let the earth shake.
The Lord reigns! We can get confused because the title “Lord” has a number of different meanings in the Bible. Throughout the Bible the title “lord” spelled without any capital letters is sometimes used where in English we would use the word “sir” or perhaps “master”. That is quite a weak word – just a polite form of address.
But the name the LORD spelled with Capital letters throughout, is used 6551 times in the Old Testament. That is our translators’ way of writing the name of Yahweh, the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush, “I am who I am,” “tell them, `I AM’ has sent you.” The LORD Yahweh is definitely not a weak word!! The Jews in the time of Christ held God in such awe and respect that they wouldn’t dare to speak God’s name aloud. They would substitute it with a phrase like “the Name”. That’s how much respect they had for God’s name!
So to make sure there is no confusion, let me just repeat, it is THE LORD who reigns. It is Yahweh the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob who reigns. It is Yahweh, Israel’s God who reigns. Yahweh is the Lord of all.
Then there are many places in the Old Testament where “Lord” is used to translate names for God, with just a capital L, in phrases such as “the Lord Almighty” or “the Lord of hosts” or “supreme Lord”, or “Lord of all”. In those places, Lord is certainly not a weak word! And in the New Testament the title of Lord is sometimes applied to the Lord Jesus Christ with all of that meaning, “supreme Lord, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!”
When we call God “Lord” that should never be a weak word, or an overfamiliar word. Christians in the Early Church were martyred for denying the authority of the Roman Emperor and holding to their profession of faith, “Jesus Christ is Lord!” When we say “Jesus Christ is Lord” we are declaring that Jesus Christ is the supreme ruler of the whole universe.
Ephesians 1:20 (God raised Christ) from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,
Jesus is Lord. That means, “There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not declare, ‘This is mine! This belongs to me!’”
The Lord reigns – our God reigns – Jesus Christ is on the throne – He is Lord of all!
“The Lord reigns” is rallying cry to
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.
I am not sure that most Christians have grasped this high view of the God who is awe-inspiring, and even terrifying. Our God is too small! Let us make no mistake. As the children were told in the Narnia books, ASLAN IS NO TAME LION!
Psalm 18:11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him- the dark rain clouds of the sky. 12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
Micah 1:3 Look! The LORD is coming from his dwelling-place; he comes down and treads the high places of the earth. 4 The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope.
Bow down and worship – for this is our God! These verses remind us of the time the LORD descended on Mount Sinai to reveal the Book of the Law to Moses, and the earth shook!
Exodus19 16 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. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.
This is the God of the Bible. We must beware of becoming too familiar with this King of King and Lord of Lords, Creator of heaven and earth. The letter to the Hebrews gives us a solemn warning.
Hebrews 12 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.
Reverence and awe! Because our God reigns!
Then Psalm 97 goes on to tell us that the declaration “The Lord reigns” should bring
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!
Exodus 20 And God spoke all these words:
2 ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 ‘You shall have no other gods before me.
4 ‘You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

God is a jealous God. We live in a world full of idols. The false gods of money and shopping and entertainment and celebrity. But the God of the Bible is a jealous God and will not tolerate people worshipping idols and false gods.
There is a book of the Old Testament which people very rarely read because it is a warning of judgment which is frankly terrifying!
Nahum 1:1 A prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
2 The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.
3 The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.
4 He rebukes the sea and dries it up; he makes all the rivers run dry.
Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade.
5 The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away.
The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it.
6 Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him.
7 The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,
8 but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of Nineveh;
he will pursue his foes into the realm of darkness.

The Lord reigns! That declaration should strike terror into all of God’s enemies – whether they are his enemies because they do acts of unspeakable evil or whether it is because they simply reject and ignore God and act as if He doesn’t exist. A day of reckoning IS coming! The Lord reigns!
But then also “The Lord reigns” is a declaration of
Psalm 97:1 The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.
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.

God is on the throne. And that brings great comfort and peace to God’s children. We can put our trust in Him, and call on him, and rely on him for help. Whatever is happening in our lives we can put our confidence in the certainty that the Lord reigns.
C. H. Spurgeon said “There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought to more earnestly contend to than the doctrine of their Master over all creation—the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands—the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that throne…for it is God upon the Throne whom we trust.”
“The Lord reigns!!” This is not just a theoretical declaration, relevant to those of us who have put our trust in Jesus Christ but disconnected from everyday life. The truth that “the Lord reigns” changes absolutely everything – for everybody! This week of course our thoughts are with Afghanistan as the Taliban has taken control. We are saddened for all who are left in the country, not least for the women whose rights will once again be trampled, but especially for Christians who will lose any freedoms they might have had to worship or evangelise. As well as a humanitarian crisis we recognise the great risk of more acts of terrorism spreading out from that country across the globe. Elsewhere there are still conflicts in places like Syria and Yemen, and the aftermath of an earthquake in Haiti. Things seem to be getting worse again with Covid in this country, but across the world there are very many countries where only a few percent of the population have been vaccinated so far. And we should not forget the long-term dangers of global warming. In such a troubled world when we see so many natural disasters and instances of man’s inhumanity to man, it brings us great reassurance to be able to declare, “The LORD reigns! Our God reigns!” The fact that the Almighty and Eternal God, the Judge of all the earth is on the throne should bring us peace in the midst of the troubles of the world. The Lord reigns! God is in control.
Psalm 97:1 The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.
9 For you, O LORD, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.
11 Light is shed upon 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. That truth should put fear into the hearts of those who have rejected God. But for those who are his chosen people, his children, the fact that God reigns brings us great comfort and peace. Whatever problems we and our loved ones may be facing – God is with us. The King of Kings and Lords of Lords will defend and protect us. He will deliver us! Praise God – the LORD reigns. Our God reigns!

This entry was posted in Psalms.

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