From My Soul Waits
The Lord reigns; let the Earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! (v. 1)
Psalm 97 is one of a group sometimes referred to as enthronement psalms, named for their use in celebrating not the coronation of a king but the sovereignty of Almighty God. These psalms serve as liturgical reminders that the supreme ruler of the universe – of all that is seen and all that is unseen – has never been nor ever can be dethroned by any other power, no matter how strong it might appear. Other enthronement psalms are 47, 93, 96, and 99. The psalmist perceives God’s matchless strength in some of the most dramatic displays of nature – thunder and lightning, stormy seas, earthquakes, fire, floods, and winds. To the psalmist, these appearances (theophanies, or God showings) are not mere displays of raw power, like some kind of divine saber-rattling, devoid of meaning and purpose. They capture human attention and point their witnesses to the justice and righteousness of the Hand that is behind them. As well as awe, they call forth praise.
The psalmist sets forth three reasons to rejoice and be glad: God is matchless in his awe-inspiring power; God is just in governing all the Earth; God is known by Heaven and Earth (and all the related powers) to be the only true God. Nothing has changed or ever will change about these truths, so the praises of God are always fitting, always timely. In other words, the praise of God is to be firmly founded upon only the changeless character of God, not the variable conditions of human circumstances.
According to this and other psalms, you don’t need to be enjoying prosperity to praise the Lord. Good health, favorable circumstances, comfortable surroundings are not the criteria for rejoicing. The poet declares one unshakable and undeniable truth – the Lord is King. This is enough reason to be glad.
Of course, like many prophetic and poetic images in the Bible, Psalm 97 portrays a vision that, while true, is not yet fully evident. In a sense, the scene can only be viewed properly from Heaven’s eternal perspective, and that is precisely the psalmist’s purpose. From our point of view, it appears that God’s ways are frustrated by the world’s injustices, his holiness is perverted by terrible things that are done in his name, and God’s very existence is unrecognized, even denied by countless numbers of his own created sons and daughters.
Ultimately, however, none of these shadows, including the darkness in our own hearts and minds, can stand up to the radiant brilliance of the Lord. The day will come when the light of Heaven will burst forth and bathe the world – and our hearts – in its splendor, when all the peoples will behold the glory of the Lord and give thanks for God’s splendor. Until then, as we wait, we rejoice. Like the psalmist, we are glad for the things that, even now, we know to be true.
From The Fathers
Let us love, let us love freely and without any strings attached. It is God, after all, whom we love. We can find nothing better than God. Let us love him for his own sake, and ourselves and each other in him, but still for his sake. “You that love the Lord, hate evil.” How can you love God, when you still love what God hates? (Augustine)
Lighten my heart, today, Lord—
Lighten it with a glimpse of your glory;
Lighten it with a memory of your mercy;
Lighten it with a hope for your blessing.
Lighten my heart, today, Lord—and for each of these things, I will give you thanks.