Psalm 97: God’s Authority
May 3, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
In today’s culture, authority is often seen as something to resist. We assume that the word “authority” carries with it connotations of dictatorship, naked power, illegitimate control, even abuse. But the Bible looks at authority quite differently. Certainly there can be abuses of power and authority. But authority itself is not always bad. In fact, the nature of authority is set up by God, and God’s authority is always good. The original lie in the Garden of Eden was that obeying God was bad for you. And the gospel of Christ sets us free from sin by setting up Christ on the throne of our hearts, that his gospel might gradually permeate every corner of our existence and transform us more and more into his likeness. This psalm celebrates the “reign” of God. “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice” (97:1). Our joy comes out of the rule, or authority, of God; the joy that we long for is connected to the increase of his kingdom in our lives, and all around the world.
Having set this proposition about the goodness of the authority of God, the psalmist then, from verses 2 to 6 shows this rule is discernible in the natural world all around us. “Clouds and thick darkness are all around him” (97:2); “Fire goes before him” (97:3); “his lightnings light up the world” (97:4); “the mountains melt like wax before the Lord” (97:5—perhaps this verse is referring to a volcano). The drama and power of nature is a wonder to behold; next time you watch a thunderstorm, think this is just a pale image of the power of God who creates and sustains the universe.
And so as the psalmist says in verse 6: “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.” The world around us witnesses to the reality of God. Or as Paul puts it, “his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20). This means that those who worship idols are “put to shame” (97:7).
Once you realize that the visible world witnesses to the invisible power of God, then it is obvious that it is foolish to worship idols. They are objects that are made by the Creator! Why worship money or possessions or sex or power or the sun or having that corner office—when all this is made by the Creator! But then those who trust in God hear this voice of God and rejoice. “Zion hears and is glad” (97:8).
The psalmist then concludes with an exhortation. Because of these truths—that God’s rule is good, that his rule is proclaimed in the natural created world all around us, that it is therefore foolish to worship idols—you who love the Lord, “hate evil!” (97:10). God, this great God, “preserves” and “delivers” his people. Plus, insight or “light” comes to those who follow God, as well as “joy” (97:11). So finally, verse 12:
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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