Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.
✙ Ps 96:11-13 ✙
Yesterday I meditated on the phrase in the adornment of holiness (Ps. 96:9), and how that probably isn't referring to all the trappings of liturgical worship, but rather adorning oneself with holiness as with finery. And now I see further evidence of it as Psalm 96 comes to a close. Jesus told me in the Sermon on the Mount to
Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.
✙ Ps 96:9 ✙
Much has been made of what this psalm means regarding liturgical worship. Holy splendor might be beautiful prayers, vestments, incense, or vessels made of precious metals encrusted with jewels (aka "smells and bells"). I might also look to the incident in which a woman "wasted" expensive ointment by anointing Jesus with it. When she was criticized for it (by Judas, according to John), Jesus replied,
O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
✙ Ps 96:1 ✙
When the psalmist calls on all the earth to sing to the Lord, I have to remind myself that that's not what the Hebrew really says. The Lord isn't some vague god that might or might not exist and have power over all people. The Hebrew specifies that The Lord is none other than יהוה—Israel's God, whose Name can be spelled but not pronounced—who is named twice in Psalm 96:1.
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!
✙ Ps 95:7 ✙
Israel was God's particular people. Other gods had other nations, but the Lord had chosen Israel alone to be God's own. That this would not forever be the case is predicted in many places in the Bible, but nowhere is it more beautifully stated than by Jesus in John 10 (vv 14-16):
In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
✙ Ps 95:4-6 ✙
There is movement here. The psalm opens with the initial joy of praising God, and that praise leads to a realization of God's greatness. And so in Psalm 95:6 we move from worship, to bowing, to kneeling—for if God is the One who holds the seas and owns the mountains, then who are we that we might be invited into his presence?
Bowing and kneeling do not of necessity mean confession of sin. But as we'll see in subsequent verses of this psalm, that is probably what's called for here.
Who am I, Lord, that you would call me into your presence? Thank you for the joy in my heart, but help me cleanse my heart as well, that it may be a fit sanctuary for your praise; in Jesus' Name, who taught me to pray...