A God Who Reigns (Psalm 97)

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by
scribbling ‘darkness’ on the wall of his cell.” ~ C. S. Lewis

I. Overview

While many of the psalms refer to Yahweh as king, there are a particular group of
psalms that focus on royal imagery and language. These psalms depict Yahweh as 1
enthroned, ruling over the created order, as a divine warrior who fights for His people,
and as the monarch over the nation of Israel. Consequently, Yahweh’s reign possesses
both national and cosmic dimensions. It is a kingship that s righteousness, universal,
and eternal.

Psalm 97 serves as a prime example of one of these enthronement psalms. In these
twelve verses, King David reminds the people of God the hope, peace, comfort, and joy
we find in our King of Kings, the Lord of the universe. It is a powerful psalm in light of
the political instability, social unrest, economic uncertainty, and moral decay we have
witnessed these past couple of weeks.

II. The Content

A. The Announcement of the Lord’s Reign (v. 1).

v. 1 – The psalmist notes the universal stop of Yahweh’s reign. This reign warrants all
calls those who live near (“those on the earth”) and those who live far away (those on
the coastlands) to praise the King of Kings.

B. The Appearance of the Lord (vv. 2-9).

Verses 2 through 6 refer to creation’s testimony of her Creator.

v. 2 – The reference to “dark clouds” often depict awesome judgment (cf. Deut 4:11;
Jer 13:16; Ezek 30:3; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph 1:15).

As noted by one commentator, “Righteous judgment is equated with the foundation
of a throne, meaning that the basis of his rule is righteous judgment. His
administration will be just in all its decisions . . .” (Psalms, 3:153).

v. 3 – “Fire” frequently refers to God’s wrath (cf. Ps 21:9; Heb 12:29; Rev 20:9).

vv. 4-5 – The psalmist cites elements of nature that humans fear and to the parts of
Creation thought to be the most stable.

v. 6 – Similar to Psalm 19, David notes that the visible manifestation of the excellence
of God’s character, His glory, has been revealed in creation.

Note the contrast between the idolaters and the righteous living in Zion in verses 7
through 9.

v. 7 – “. . . bow down . . .” Some scholars translates this verb as an imperative.
Consequently, the text would read: “Bow down to him, all you gods.” But
grammatically, it would make more sense to render this verb as an indicative. Thus,
the translation should read: “even all the gods bowed down to him.” (cf. Phil
2:10-11).

v. 8 – The judgments are not specified, but speak of overcoming hostile powers,
deliverance, and security for God’s people (cf. Ps 48:12-15). “In the same spirit
our Lord, when speaking of the signs of fear which shall be the precursors of His
second coming, says, ‘When ye shall see these things begin to come to pass, then
lift up your heads: for your redemption draweth nigh.’” (Perowne, Psalms, 2:202).

C. The Assurance to the Righteous (vv. 10-12).

These final verses are the raison d’etre. Their summons to praise is aimed to
strengthen the worshiping community.

v. 10 – The lovers of Yahweh are the people of pure devotion and genuine
obedience. These lovers of God despise evil (cf. Prov 8:13; 1 John 3:5) and seek to
obey Him (cf. John 14:15 – “If you love me, keep my commandments.”).

v. 11 – The “light” symbolizes the joy that accompanies deliverance and the
blessings of divine favor.

v. 12b –These final words conclude the entire psalm: “give thanks to his holy name”.
The reference to “holy” speaks to the Lord’s uniqueness and greatness

III. Intersect

A. His awesomeness is “matched” by His incredible love for us.

Ephesians 1:3-6 –

B. His sovereignty eliminates fears of today and concerns for the future.

Romans 8:31-39 –

Puritan Thomas Brooks writes: “God hath in Himself all power to defend you, all
wisdom to direct you, all mercy to pardon you, all grace to enrich you, all
righteousness to clothe you, all goodness to supply you, and all happiness to crown
you.”

How Great Thou Art
Text by Carl Boberg, trans. by Stuart K. Hine

Verse 1:
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Chorus:
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!