How Singing Forms Us

There is a reason that we sing that I believe is often forgotten, overlooked, or ignored, and we see it in Psalm 96 as well.

I want you to notice a couple additional aspects of the development of thought through this psalm. The first is related to what we just explored. The psalm progresses from God’s people singing among the nations in the first stanza to all the families of the earth ascribing him glory in the second stanza. Is that a present reality? Are all the peoples of the earth currently praising God? Certainly not.

 

We have seen thus far that good hymns help us to express the affections of our hearts in response to God’s character and works, which brings him great glory he deserves, and that this kind of expression in public is a great witness to the unbelieving world.

But there is a second reason that we sing that I believe is often forgotten, overlooked, or ignored, and we see it in Psalm 96 as well.

I want you to notice a couple additional aspects of the development of thought through this psalm. The first is related to what we just explored. The psalm progresses from God’s people singing among the nations in the first stanza to all the families of the earth ascribing him glory in the second stanza. Is that a present reality? Are all the peoples of the earth currently praising God? Certainly not.

In fact, it is even more surprising considering the special focus on the people of Israel in the Old Testament, the original audience of this psalm. For David to address all the families of the people instead of just one family—children of Abraham—seems odd. Until we remember that although God chose Abraham and his descendants as his special, chosen people, he also promised to Abraham that through that one family, God would bless all the families of the earth. The Old Testament is filled with prophecies indicating that one day all the nations will come to worship God.

Yet even now that hasn’t happened. God’s focus in this ages has spread beyond just Israel to the Gentiles, but even now all the families of the peoples are not praising God, they are not all being blessed.

So when will that happen?

Before we answer that question, consider how David further develops the psalm in the third stanza. He has moved from Israel praising God among the nations in stanza one to all the nations praising God in stanza two; where does he move from there in stanza three?

Look at verse 11:

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12 let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord.

This is not just Israel praising the Lord, or even all the nations of the earth; this is the earth itself praising God! Is that happening now?

Well, there is a sense in which even now the heavens and earth are displaying the glory of God and magnifying his greatness in that way. But the heavens are not glad; the earth is not rejoicing; the fields are not exulting; the forests are not singing for joy before the Lord. Scripture tells us that Creation is groaning as a result of the curse.

Like the reality of all the families of the people praising God, all the heavens and the earth praising God is something that is yet to come. So when will these things take place?

Well, keep reading in verse 13: “for he comes.” In other words, the gladness of the heavens, the rejoicing of the earth, the roaring of the sea, the exulting of the field, and the singing of the trees are in response to the coming of the Lord. When does that happen?

Keep reading: “for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.” For David and the Hebrews signing Psalm 96, any sort of coming the Lord was entirely future, and yet here they are singing in a sense as if it had already happened. Remember, a good hymn, like this psalm, expresses affections to the Lord in response to who God is and what he has done, and yet here, they are responding to something that hasn’t happened yet.

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