Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 28 2019 - Psalm 96 – Sing to the Lord a new song

How do you feel about the prospect of Judgment Day? What kind of pictures does that conjure up in your mind? I suspect we think of judgment day in very negative terms – perhaps influenced by mediaeval depictions of the tortures of hell, or the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch.

But the biblical hope of God's coming in judgment is very different and not at all negative:

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
    let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes,
    he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples in his faithfulness.  (Psalm 96:11-13)

Judgment Day will be a day of rejoicing that will embrace all of creation. It is a day linked with the salvation of God (v.2 ); it will be a day that marks the completion of his great work of salvation. Many psalms, like this one, are filled with excitement about the coming day of judgment.

Why is this? Such psalms emphasise that when God comes in judgment on that final day, he is coming to put the world to rights. We are so very conscious that we live in a world that has gone terribly wrong. It is a world filled with all sorts of injustice and pain. It is a world in which the very fabric of creation is groaning under the burden of no longer being the good world God created: flood, drought, famine, earthquake, volcanic activity and many other "natural disasters" cut short the lives of many and rob even more of homes and loved ones. Nor are we mere observers of all this; we also have gone wrong with lives marred by a myriad of moral failures and heading towards dissolution in death. We long for the day when God will come and put all things to rights.

In that day, all those things that were said and done to us, that have left their marks and hurts and left us damaged personalities, will be put right. In that day, all those things we have said and done to others and left them damaged will be put right, healed, washed away. In that day, all social relationships will be healed; there will be no more conflict and no more war. In that day the poor will inherit the kingdom and mourners be filled with joy. In that day, all of creation shall be put right and made new. In that day we will be made new, with resurrection bodies like the glorious body of the risen Lord Jesus. Judgment Day is a day to which we can look forward with joyful longing.

And all of this is because of Jesus. He left glory to come into our gone-wrong world and to live as one of us. He knew the burden of a fallen world in hunger, thirst and tiredness and in suffering the hatred, rejection and violence of those he came to save. When he hung in our place upon the cross Judgment Day was visited upon him. By his resurrection he has robbed that day of its terrors for us and filled it with the promise of being with him in a world made new.

No wonder this psalm calls upon us to, "Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth… praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations" (vv.1-3). God is worthy of our praise because of his great works of salvation centred in the Lord Jesus Christ, works which will be completed at the day of his coming.

Living God, you are most worthy of praise for the wonder of your creation and for the majesty of your work of salvation. Thank you for the Lord Jesus who bore our judgment and triumphed over sin and death and all of the destructive powers that spoil your creation. We rejoice today in your salvation and worship you in the splendour of your holiness as we look with joyful anticipation to the day of Christ's return when all creation will be put to rights. Help us to declare the glories of your salvation to a groaning world.

Peter Misselbrook