Psalm 96: Christ’s Kingship Then and Now
Introduction and verses 1-3

This is first in the series Psalm 96: Christ’s Kingship Then and Now. This psalm was relevant at the time of the exile and it is just as or perhaps more relevant now. As a way of introduction, it is important to remember that the psalms as a group and individually are personal, purposeful, and powerful. They have been a source of blessings throughout the ages. They are personal for both the author and the reader; they are purposeful, in part, because they seem to “meet people where they are” – in the midst of life, both good and bad times and the joyful and sorrowful; and they are powerful because the Holy Spirit uses them to move people toward the Triune God or away from Him.

Moreover, the Psalter has an organization to it. This organization may take the form of pillars or foundational psalms such Psalms (Torah – Word teaching ) 1 and messianic and kingly Psalm 2 and Psalms 118 (messianic and king) and Psalm 119 (Torah – the Word) that help set the stage for the Psalter as a whole.

There is a grouping of psalms in book IV (90-106) that relies on and is grouped under the refrain: the Lord is King (Yahweh Malak): Psalms 92-100.  They are royal psalms. The phrase does at least two things:

  • One, it along with two other groupings of certain psalms (Psalms 20-24 and 45-48) unite the rule of God and the Messiah such that they are one and the same. This fact is Intratrinitarian in character and has redemptive historical significance.
  • Two, Psalm 92-100 groupings highlights the permanence of the Triune God’s universal rule then but also throughout the ages. As such, it is given its place in book IV as a source of surety, hope, and comfort for a rebellious people who are in exile and wonder if God is trustworthy.

The phrase, The Lord reigns or the Lord is King (Yahweh Malak) occurs only once in Scripture outside of book IV of the Psalter: Psalm 96 and1 Chronicles 16:31 (Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”). David is celebrating the bringing of the ark of God which symbolizes the presence of God on earth and His throne to Jerusalem. The ark was moved from its temporary resting place to Jerusalem, where the people were to understand was the place where God dwells (2 Samuel 5-6; 1 Chronicles 16:1-14).

Because God was with David, the king captured Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:6-12). Jerusalem is re-captured in 2 Samuel 5, sanctified by God’s presence on 2 Samuel 6, and is designated as God’s eternal dwelling in 2 Samuel 7. David takes up his residence in Jerusalem. God’s rule and ultimately Jesus’ rule and David’s rule meet in Jerusalem, the city of David.  It signifies the enthronement of God as king in his city. Moreover, it merges David’s throne with God’s throne and the coming greater Messiah’s rule.

The ark has a permanent home portrayed physically. The scene pictures the heavenly Jerusalem and Jesus, the greater David and Messiah (Revelation 21:3-9). Enshrining the ark in Jerusalem was a statement that God was pleased to make Himself known on earth and previewed Jesus’ coming as the new Israel and the new Temple (John 1:14-18).

It was as if God was reestablishing the Garden of Eden on earth connecting earth and heaven where man entered into God’s holy presence. Eventually the only true and faithful High Priest, Jesus Christ, came and announced new and wonderful realities. He lived and died, and entered into the Holy of Holiness and He is calling His people to come (Hebrews 6:13-20; 10:19-22; 12:1-3).

The coming of the ark of God into the city is to be understood as God’s covenant fulfillment. God is with His people then and in the future. The future perspective is Christ’s kingly rule which is to be universal, Jew and Gentile.

Therefore and specifically Psalm 96: Christ’s Kingship Then and Now has an immediate context: hope and encouragement for exiled Israel; and a future perspective: Christ is coming again! It is a Psalm to all the nations to praise God. He adds: the only God, the Creator, the Controller, and the Judge. This seems strange in a sense. If the group of Psalms (Psalms 92-100) – termed the Lord reigns (Yahweh Malak) were written at or during the exile, they were written to give hope to a sinful, rebellious but bewildered and floundering Israel. How could this be: Israel, God’s chosen, is in exile!

The author, some theologians presuppose David because of the connection between 1 Chronicles 16 especially verses 23-33, opens with a call to worship God and the call is not limited to Israel.

v.1: Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the earth, all the earth;
v.2: Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day;
v.3: Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all the peoples.

One wonders how this particular psalm would give hope since it is directed to the nations. It is a call to all the nations to praise the Lord. It is a call to proclaim His glory and King of kings and Lord of lords throughout the world – His world. It reminds the reader of Jesus’ commission to the apostles in Matthew 28:18-20. There, Jesus, the risen Lord, was speaking as King! Such is the emphasis of Psalm 96: Christ’s Kingship Now and Then.

The opening verses carry six imperatives/directives: sing (three times), praise and proclaim (one each) and declare (once). The psalm is doing this and people are told to do this! The subject of their singing is a new song (Psalm 33:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Revelation 5:9-10; 14:3). I will take up the new song in Part II. At this juncture, the psalmist is conveying to Israel an activity that may be hard given their exile. It may be hard for nations under bondage as well. And it may seem unnecessary for those rulers who hold people in bondage.


  1. What is your view of the Psalter?
  2. What is the significance of the statement: God is King?
  3. How might the exiles have responded to Psalm 96: Kingship Then and Now and all the Yahweh Malak psalms?

Verses 1-3, 4-6: Part I

This is the second in the series Psalm 96: Christ’s Kingship Then and Now. The author begins with a trifold command to sing followed by the call to praise, to proclaim, and to declare. The audience was the people – Jew and Gentile, exiled and non-exiled.

v.1: Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the earth, all the earth;
v.2: Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day;
v.3: Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all the peoples.

What is the new song that the nations are to sing (see Psalms 33:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Revelation 5:9-10; 14:3)? Numbers 23:21 is both interesting and helpful. The passage contains the first explicit declaration of the Lord’s kingship in the Pentateuch: No misfortune is seen in Jacob; no misery observed in Israel. The Lord their God is with them; the shout of the King is with them. Balaam was used by God, the Sovereign and King, to declare His glory and protect His people! So it is in every age with people, kings and commoners, Jews and Gentiles alike.

The new song concerns the newness of God and His activity and revelation. It is a call to sing about something that God has done or made clear or both. The new song celebrates a new act or its progressive fulfillment of deliverance and blessing. In 1 Chronicles 16, the new thing was God’s coming to Jerusalem – the ark was brought to Jerusalem. This was to be a place of devotion, honor, and worship. God is here (Ezekiel 48:35). God would rule over all the nations – Jew and Gentile – from this place.

Revelation 5:9-10 captures this thought: And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve God our God, and they will reign on the earth. The Levitical sacrificial system pointed to Christ’s redemptive but it was done outside of Jerusalem!  The old system must go and it did!

God’s purpose was Israel to be His person to sing, praise, proclaim, and declare His glory as He draws His people to Himself. The Triune God did that in Christ and in the Father (John 6:44; 12:32).

This trifold command of worship: to sing, to praise, to proclaim, and to declare is a universal command. No person or nation is excluded. Everyone will bow the knee to King Christ (Philippians 2:9-11). The King reigns and will consummate His reign. He starts reigning because He is reigning – He never stopped reigning!

In the next verses that follow the psalmist highlights God’s glory. We have discussed glory in numerous other places in the study of the Psalter. Suffice to say, glory relates to worth-ship. It is giving a person his due. It is acknowledging the truth about Him, giving an opinion that is in sync with that opinion based on facts, and acknowledging the person’s reputation. God is a heavyweight. There is no Being like Him. To glorify Him means to acknowledge in thought, desire, and action that He is very God very God AND you are NOT!

v.4: For great is the Lord and most worthy to be praised; he is to be feared above all the gods;
v.5: For all the nations of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
v.6: Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Verses 4 speaks of God’s greatness: He is the eternal One, the alone God, Creator and Controller of His world (Psalm 115 and 135). These are facts and are rejected at one’s own risk. Such is what Israel discovered denying all the while that they deserved to be treated by and with an exile. Therefore, fear of the Lord, the beginning of wisdom, is the only logical response to God’s existence and control.

Verse 5 speaks directly to idolaters. Man is a religious and worshipping being by creative design. After the fall mankind worships himself and god as he knows him. He seeks anything except the true God (Romans 1:18-23). Paul comments elsewhere: …. Knowledge puffs up but love builds up. So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols. We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and there is no God but one (1 Corinthians 8:1, 4). The Hebrew for idol is a no-thing – Paul knew his Hebrew! But the worshipper of no-thing becomes like it (Psalm 115:3-6; 135:15-18; Isaiah 44:9-20; Jeremiah 10:1-10, 11-16).

Verse 6 closes the threefold explanation for call to praise and worship. Strength and glory are His alone. The psalmist is declaring Christianity an exclusive religion – the only true religion. The statement and call that is there is only God and the Triune God is His is not demeaning or hate speech. It is truth to hear and live by. It is saving and rejoicing truth. In this day and age, it is proper to add that it is true truth. It is sad that people since the fall but now seemingly rapidly increasing call their presuppositions truth. Self is the standard and truth-giver.

The nation of Israel had followed its own ways convincing themselves that God owed them. Psalm 96: Christ’s kingship then and now addresses the way out of their providential situation (1 Corinthians 10:13). The groups of Psalms – God Reigns and Yahweh Malak – called all believers to reorient themselves. They are to sing of God and His glory. They are to focus on who God is: what He has done, is doing, and will do. He deserves exclusive worship. That means the individual must get off his throne and bow before the King and get busy enjoying His relationship with you and you with Him. The message was Israel in their time of trouble.


  1. What is the six-fold imperative that psalmist spelled out?
  2. What are the reasons given?
  3. What hinder the people from doing so?
  4. How do you relate to Christianity as an exclusive religion? See Acts 4:12

Psalm 96: Christ’s Kingship Then and Now: Part II
Verses 7-9, 10-13

This is last in the short series: Psalm 96: Christ’s Kingship Then and Now. You may wonder: what is God’s worth, what is His due, and why?

v.7: Ascribe to the Lord O families of the nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
v.8: Ascribe to the Lord the glory that is due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.
v.9: Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him all the earth.

If the context of Psalm 96 (and the others in the grouping of God Reigns: Psalm 92-100) is the exile, then we must ask the Holy Spirit’s purpose in the use of these psalms. It is a reminder of the time Christ spent with His apostles the night before He died.

At that time, which was covered in all the gospels, Jesus gave the same message:  I am King, I am coming back, you will preach the gospel, and people will come into the kingdom.  The apostles were dumfounded. Yet they believed and preserved! This group of psalms serves the same purpose. The Holy Spirit wants you to make the same connection!

The psalmist gives another threefold command (ascribe) in the context of eight imperatives: ascribe (three times similar to sing in verses 1-2), bring an offering (once), com e into His presence – courts: once), worship (once) and tremble (once). The psalmist has one thing on his agenda: glorifying God.

The word ascribe is also found in Psalm 29, a psalm written by David; it is a psalm of praise to the King of creation. It is directed all beings in the divine realm. Again, the reasons given for praise are His glory, strength, and name meaning Person – who He is! Psalm 96 as noted previously is to all the nations. Glory is to be considered as a manifestation of God’s presence as noted in the works and control of creation (Psalm 19:1; 29:9) and the works of history (Exodus 14:4, 17-18). Such was the refrain that they will know that I am the Lord; it rings throughout the Old Testament (especially see the books of Exodus and Ezekiel such as 28:22; 32:15). In the book of Exodus, the knowing was for Israel and Egypt – Jew and Gentile.

In one sense, God is to be glorified – given His full due – simply because He is God. There is absolutely no other reason needed to compel and motivate His creatures to glorify Him. We need to think of glorify and worship together. We tend to think of worship as a corporate activity.

No matter where you start or how you define terms, every person and congregation who has lived, is living, and will live is a debtor. They are debtors to God and as such are to glorify God simply because God is the Creator and man is the creature.  In that sense life is worship. The issue is who will you worship and how. Such is the beauty of Psalm 96: Christ’s Kingship then and now.

Sadly that is not the opinion and mindset of fallen man. He lives the lie saying God owes him (see Psalm 107:33-42: it describes the Lord’s pattern of discipline and restoration and scatters and gathers as He brings His remnant to Him). The Lord is zealous and jealous for Himself and His people and does not share His glory (Exodus 20:4-6; Isaiah 42:6-8; 48:8-11). Adam and Eve discovered this fact after the fact and plunged mankind into deadness, darkness, and debasement (Romans 5:12-14; 6:23).

The psalmist repeats the threefold refrain giving the proper direction of worship: it is to be from the creature to the Creator. It is from a stance of giving and not getting. The Lord is King Psalms (92-100) drive this point home. The phrase as a reason for praise and worship is applied to angels (Psalm 29) and to Jews and Gentiles, exiled and non-exiled (Psalm 92-100). It requires knowledge and it is relational. Every being is in relationship to God and a worshipper as His enemy or His child. Either way, glory will come to God from every creature in due time.

v.10: Say among the nations – “the Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.
v.11: Let the heavens rejoice; let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
v.12: let the fields be jubilant and everything in them; Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;
v.13: they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.

Verse 10, as do verses 3 and 7, speaks directly to all the nations. Christ’s Kingship reaches to all nations – it is universal. As such He has decreed since eternity past and what He has decreed will to pass. It is as sure as God Himself. Therefore the world is firmly established. Often this concept is expressed as God’s providence. A simple definition is God’s powerful, purposeful, wise, and lovingly preserving, protecting, and governing all His creatures and their actions (Romans 8:28-29; Ephesians 1:4, 11; Hebrews 1:1-3). As such there is not one random, maverick molecule or event in God’s world.  If there was, He would not be the sovereign God!

These verses (verses 10-13) remind us of Revelation 19:6-7 (….Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory…) and 22:20-21 as John closes the book (He who testifies to these things say: Yes I am coming soon. Amen, Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.).

John closes with the heartwarming and encouraging reality of Christ’s Kingship and His coming. With it love and justice will be manifest to all people – every tongue, tribe, kingdom, and nation (Matthew 25:31-46; Philippians 2:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Those facts were and are to be an encouragement for God’s people and a warning to God’s enemies in every age: John closes his book with true hope and anticipation based on the simple but profound truth that the Lord Reigns!  


  1. What is your view of Christ’s kingship? Is it a hope or a burden? Give reasons.
  2. Is God’s world really out of control? Or is it firmly established? Give reasons.
  3. God’s Kingship rests on His control. Both call for trusting Him. How are you a God-truster vs. a self-truster? Be specific as you give reasons for both.