by William M. Banks, Scotland.
The reign of the Lord Jesus is linked to the coming kingdom. The subject of the kingdom is vast. Indeed in a sense it is "the grand theme of all Scripture." It can be looked at in history, in mystery and in manifestation; that is in the past, the present and the future. A. J. McClain has pointed out that "a kingdom" envisages a total situation containing at least three essential elements: first, a ruler with adequate authority and power; second, a realm of subjects to be ruled; and third, the actual exercise of the function of rulership." In the past the kingdom has been administered indirectly, for example through judges and kings. In the present the kingdom has a spiritual aspect, not seen by the eye of man (and hence in mystery), but realised where the King is acknowledged in the heart of the individual believer, Rom.14.17, and in the churches of God. In the future the kingdom will be literal with the Lord Jesus on the throne – the kingdom will then be in manifestation. He will be the ruler, His realm will be universal and His rulership the most beneficent ever known.
There is a sense in which the kingdom is eternal; "Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth throughout all generations" Ps.145.13. God is in control of all movements in the world leading to the victorious accomplishment of every Divine purpose. The kingdom considered here however is particularly that aspect of God’s government to be established on earth at the coming of Christ in manifested glory when He will reign with His risen and glorified people for "a thousand years." This period of time is mentioned no less than six times in Revelation chapter 20 and unequivocally refers to the coming millennial reign. There is a sense in which the Lord Jesus will reign "for ever and ever", Rev.11.15; cf Lk.1.33, but that introduces further details not considered here.
The subject of the millennial reign of Christ is vast in itself. It will be necessary to focus attention and this is done in what follows.
It has been helpfully pointed out by J.G. Bellett that Psalms 92-101 constitute a "little book" within the Psalter dealing with the "world to come". These Psalms have elsewhere been referred to as "The enthronement Psalms" and deal unequivocally with the coming reign of the Lord Jesus.
That this is the case is indicated by the fact that the term "The LORD reigneth" occurs in Pss.93.1; 96.10; 97.1 and 99.1. Thus, four times over in these ten Psalms, there is an indication of the fact that the Lord reigns. The only other occurrence of this particular phrase is in 1 Chron.16.31 and interestingly this is evidently a quotation from Psalm 96. There are some other recurring features of these Psalms that indicate they are one whole.
For example the word "righteousness" occurs seven times and the word "judgment" five times. These are ideas associated with the coming kingdom. There can be no established righteousness on the throne unless iniquity has been judged! The two ideas are brought together in Ps.94.15 where it is recorded, "judgment shall return unto righteousness." Not surprisingly "the upright in heart shall follow." Also in Ps.97.2 "righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne."
In what follows, each Psalm is considered in turn and a different emphasis on the supremacy of the reign is indicated. Consideration is given to the circumstances in which the main feature is marked. The corresponding effect on the people of His realm is also noted. The equally important effect on creation cannot be missed – it too is waiting for the "manifestation of the sons of God" Rom.8.19.
It would be helpful when reading what follows to have the Scriptures opened at this section of the Psalms. In that way maximum benefit will be derived.
The idea of rest is immediately evident in this Psalm from the title it is given. It will be observed that the title is "A Psalm or song for the Sabbath day." Undoubtedly the Psalmist is looking forward to the coming millennial kingdom of Christ which will usher in that day of rest. It is the day for which the earth has been longing and for which it is presently "groaning", to use the language of Romans chapter 8. The coming King in this Psalm is anticipating His kingdom. One of the outstanding features that will mark it is not only the "works" of the Lord but His "thoughts" as indicated in v.5. His thoughts are indicated to be "very deep" but these will then be expressed in the works that He undertakes during this reign. The result will be a time not only of rest but also with the rest a time of joy and praising as indicated in vv.1-5.
This same idea of rest is seen in many other millennial references throughout the prophetic books. For example, in Isaiah chapter 11 (a millennial scene) there is reference to the fact that "His rest shall be glorious" v.5.
Of course if this kind of rest is to be introduced then all opposition to the kingdom has to be overcome. This is indicated from v.6 where the "brutish man" is going to be dealt with and together with the wicked and workers of iniquity they shall be destroyed for ever. So long as that kind of activity flourishes there can be no possibility of rest. The King however, according to v.10, is going to be anointed with "fresh oil" which is to be the ministry of grace indicated in Luke chapter 4 and this will issue in the ministry of the Sabbath as also indicated above in Isaiah chapter 11.
It is not surprising that the Psalm concludes with an outline of the flourishing of the righteous, with three references to this in the last four verses. They are going to be like the palm tree and to grow like the cedar in Lebanon. The cedar is throughout the Scriptures a figure of stability and strength. Those thus appropriately planted are going to flourish in the courts of God and bring forth fruit even in old age. No deterioration is indicated – fruitful to the last!
This is surely a fitting conclusion to a Psalm for the Sabbath day, indicating the lovely features that are to mark a reign that has the supremacy of rest as one of its fundamental features – so different from the features of disquiet and unrest that mark today’s kingdoms. With the departure from Scriptural principles being so evident in the current laws, instead of the righteous flourishing they are constantly under pressure. In the coming kingdom that feature will be totally reversed and righteousness will once more hold sway under a benign Sovereign who Himself will be the very epitome of rest Himself.
The Psalm opens very significantly with one of the expressions referred to earlier, namely the fact that "The LORD reigneth." The language of v.1 is very interesting where it is emphasised that the reigning monarch is "clothed with majesty." The clothing is indicative of His character and indicates the kind of features that are seen in His person. This was the case when the three disciples were with Him on the Holy Mount. Peter states, "we were eye witnesses of His Majesty." Majesty is not the only feature in this case – with it goes might because the Lord is not only clothed with majesty but He is clothed with strength. It is unusual for majesty and might to be linked inextricably together but this is the case when the Lord reigns. It is not surprising that this elicits a response from the people as they appreciate the fact that having established His rest He is now reigning in majesty. The response is very clear, "Thy throne is established; Thou art from everlasting." How different from the thrones with which we are familiar, which at best are but tottering kingdoms lasting only for a few brief years at the most and then passing away for ever. This kingdom is so different, its establishment is of old (literally "from then") and the One seated on the throne is Himself from everlasting.
It is also not surprising however that when such majesty and might are indicated there is opposition encountered as well. In vv.3-4 of the Psalm there is an indication that the floods have lifted up their voice "the floods lift up their waves". There can be no doubt that the floods are a picture of the opposition. The turbulent scene is introduced in order to indicate the severity of that opposition to the majesty of the One Who sits on the throne. There might even be an indication of the underworld activity that is sometimes associated with floods. Thus forces of evil will still be to the fore although perhaps not transparent and obvious. The enemy however will be overcome since the "LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters … than the mighty waves of the sea."
The Psalm has an interesting close indicating that where majesty is enthroned and the enemy overthrown, the features that mark the house of the Lord are those of holiness and assurance. These latter are not temporary but, in fact, will be the lasting features of the throne and of the house with which it is associated.
The establishment of the rest and majesty previously spoken of requires that opposition in the form of wickedness and iniquity has to be totally suppressed. However, there is only one capable of undertaking such activity and that is the One to Whom alone "vengeance belongeth" (referred to twice in v.1). The cry of the psalmist has been the cry of the godly throughout all ages namely, "How long?" No less than three times over in vv.3,4 is this cry raised. There is a desire among the godly that the proud opposition to the throne of the Eternal will for ever be overcome and the wicked no longer triumph.
Throughout the ages there has been an apparent triumphing of the wicked and sometimes it has had an adverse effect on the godly. Indeed the psalmist in Psalm 73 was envious at the foolish when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. He was unable to understand why they were so successful in life, but the time came when he went into the sanctuary and then understood their latter end. This made all the difference to his assessment, and even today many fail to appreciate that in the end the Lord is the Judge.
In a coming beneficent kingdom there can be no place for those who slay the widow and the stranger and murder the fatherless, v.6. Indeed it is done with total disregard to the fact that there is One on the throne Who is aware of the conditions that prevail. They say in their arrogance that "the Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it" v.7. They are unaware that the Lord not only knows the activities being undertaken but also appreciates the motives behind them knowing "the thoughts of man, that they are vanity" v.11. However, judgment will be implemented and the net result will be the exaltation of righteousness. Those who are upright in heart shall then follow in the righteous way thus established. When, therefore, the godly see the intervention of the One Who is reigning on the throne, judging the unrighteous; overturning the prosperity of the wicked and setting up the righteous they will understand that God’s mercy has indeed "held [them] up" v.18.
There is a very interesting indication in this Psalm that legislation for sin is not something new. It is thought today that the legalising of sin is something that has only happened in recent decades. In fact according to v.20 of this Psalm there is an indication that the very fact of framing "mischief by a law" is something that was current even in the psalmist’s day. In other words they were legalising sin then, just as sin is legalised today. However, as in that day so in this, "He" shall bring upon them "their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea the LORD our God shall cut them off" v.23.
This whole Psalm is an interesting development in this series of Psalms in the Psalter. It is a perennial principle in the Word of God, that if righteousness is to be established then the unrighteous must first of all be overthrown. If the millennial kingdom of Christ is going to introduce righteousness, as we know it must; then judgment on the wicked is absolutely essential. David in his last words in 2 Samuel ch.23 indicates the same idea when having established the fact that there is going to be "a morning without clouds" v.4, states that if this is to be the case the sons of Belial will have to be thrust away. If it were possible for them to survive in the circumstances then certainly the day would not be without clouds! They are going to be utterly burned with fire in order that the millennial kingdom anticipated by David can be introduced to give "the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain."
Having thus established a kingdom, which is to be majestic and mighty with the opposition removed, it is not surprising that the next feature to mark it is one of supreme honour.
The psalmist cannot now refrain himself. He states in v.3 that "the LORD is a great God and a great King above all gods." His position is one of supreme honour! If this is the case then surely one of the features that ought to result from that honour is worship. It is not surprising then to find that there is a call to worship and v.6 says "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our Maker." The call to praise is unequivocal. There is a two-fold call in v.1; "let us sing" and "make a joyful noise". There is going to be an appeal to others to sing at the beginning of Psalm 96 but it would surely be inappropriate for that appeal to be made to others without first embracing the idea themselves.
Many have sought to establish their authority but without the necessary qualifications. The King indicated here is One Who is above all. There is no possibility of His honour being superseded. His Kingdom is to be one of supreme honour.
When His greatness is recognised then the smallness of his people is surely experienced. There is recognition that "we are [simply] the people of His pasture, the sheep of His hand" v.7.
There is a warning however. In a parenthetical passage from vv.7b–11, the Psalmist appeals in passing to the history of the nation and indicates to them the awful possibility of failing to appreciate the full significance and honour due to the One Who is on the throne. This would result in ceasing to bring appropriate worship to Him and of failing to enter into rest. There had been provocation and temptation in the wilderness; Meribah and Massah had been experienced in the past by the nation. The Lord had been grieved with that generation. The appeal is surely apposite. There ought to be care that the same features do not mark that coming generation and indeed do not mark us today. The writer to the Hebrews uses this passage in a very practical and powerful way to appeal to the readers of his day lest they should fail to enter into rest (cessation from work) and enjoy the full blessings of Christianity.
The fact that righteousness is before us in this Psalm is indicated in the concluding words where it is written, "He shall judge the world with righteousness and the people with His truth." This is the climax to which the Psalm has been leading, with the verses before it indicating the features which are going to mark the kingdom because of the righteousness that is reigning.
It is not surprising therefore that the Psalm opens with a threefold call to sing. In each case the exhortation is to "sing unto the LORD." In this occasion however it is not a common appeal among the people as it was in Ps.95.1, but an appeal to others to join with the remnant and to sing a "new song." The new song is undoubtedly associated with a new day and a new kingdom and a new King, and with righteousness being the order of the day the people become a praising people.
Detailed reasons are however given from v.4 onwards indicating that "The LORD is great and greatly to be praised." The lovely features linked with righteousness are indicated in v.6 where "honour and majesty are before Him: strength and beauty are in His sanctuary."
It is fitting that the threefold appeal to sing unto the Lord in vv.1,2 is followed by a threefold appeal to "Give unto the LORD" in vv.7,8. The highest aspect of giving is that of worship and hence the appeal is climaxed in v.9, "O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before Him all the earth." The circumstances of righteousness being supreme lead to singing, giving and worshipping – the atmosphere almost seems to be electric with an unrestricted response to the greatness of the Ruler.
But there is more. Worshipping the Lord in the beauty of holiness can be looked at in two ways. It is either indicating the manner in which the worship is presented or the place where it is given. The reason for the latter is that an alternative reading of the verse is to worship the Lord "in the glorious sanctuary." Whether the one or the other the effect is the same: reverential fear follows and it is experienced universally. All of this mirrors beautifully Ps.29.1,2, which introduces for us the circumstances in which "The LORD sitteth King for ever" Ps.29.10.
The whole of creation (at the end of the Psalm) is brought into view and encouraged to enjoy the magnificent reign of the righteous King. The heavens rejoice, the earth is glad, the sea roars, the field is joyful and the trees of the wood rejoice. Never before has there been such an atmosphere where the whole of creation is in sympathy with its Creator, appreciating the wonder of His righteous rule.
These ideas are reflected elsewhere in the Scriptures. Righteousness is going to be the girdle of His loins, the words of His mouth, the basis of His rule and indeed the very atmosphere that is breathed. It is all anticipative of the further day that Peter outlines (the day of God) when in the new heavens and the new earth righteousness will be permanently "at home" 2 Pet.3.13.
That joy is indicated in the Psalm is again seen in the closing verse where the exhortation is given to "rejoice in the LORD." There is as well a very interesting link with what has just gone before because the appeal is to "rejoice in the LORD ye righteous" v.12. The righteousness of the previous Psalm has undoubtedly given the basis for the joy of the present one. Joy is the automatic outcome of peace and of course where there is righteousness there is peace. "Righteousness and peace have kissed each other" is the language of Ps.85.10. These are inextricably linked with the writer to the Hebrews indicating that the features that marked Melchisedec were that he was "first … King of righteousness and after that also … King of peace" Heb.7.2. It is simply impossible to have one without the other; righteousness always results in peace and peace is always the issue of righteousness. The Psalm before us indicates that where this is the case then joy inevitably follows. The corollary is also true – where there is no righteousness, there is no peace, and joy cannot be known.
Rejoicing is seen both at the beginning and the end of the Psalm. It begins in v.1, "The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice." It concludes in v.12, "Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness."
It might be wondered why in vv.2-5 there is an atmosphere of darkness and fire and burning and lightning. The answer is not hard to find. If rejoicing is going to be known as a result of righteousness then retribution must be enacted on the enemies "round about", and all that opposes righteousness has to be forever taken away. Even the idols in v.7 are called upon to "worship Him." The implication being that all associated with idolatry must turn from their ways and acknowledge the true King Who is reigning in righteousness upon the throne. Certainly His own people are going to appreciate His reign, since the "daughters of Judah" rejoice in v.8 because of the judgments executed by the righteous Ruler.
In the light of all that has gone before, an appeal is made in v.10, to "ye that love the LORD" and these are those who are to "hate evil". It is interesting how often in the Scriptures that love and hate are brought together. The familiar portion is that of Psalm 45 where the King who is seated supreme in that case loves righteousness and hates wickedness.
There is a corresponding lovely thought in v.11 where it is said that "light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." It is clear that the righteous Ruler is going to bring joy and gladness where previously persecution and opposition were known because of adherence to the King.
It is surely unsurprising that the One Who is supreme in righteousness and Who brings supreme joy should be the object of His people’s praise. Hence the Psalmist says in v.4, "Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise." Again it is a new song that is envisaged according to v.1 for He has "done marvellous things." The new song again is undoubtedly linked to the new Kingdom and the millennial reign and all has been accomplished by "His right hand, and His holy arm." The victory over the enemy has been obtained by the right hand and the holy arm; in relation to His own people, "He hath remembered His mercy and His truth towards the house of Israel" v.3.
It is little wonder therefore that the call to praise is raised and the appeal is made for "the voice of a universal psalm." V.4 says "Make a joyful noise unto the LORD all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise." The One Who is the object of that praise is no less than the Lord – the reigning Monarch.
The psalmist however is not content to be alone in his praising. He wants creation as well to be at one with him and in particular all that creation contains. The creation of God is thus appealed to so that not alone is the psalmist praising but the sea, the world and the very floods are clapping their hands and the hills are joyful together.
As has been seen already it is interesting how often in the Psalms creation is called upon to be in sympathy with its Creator. The psalmist is anticipating that those who inhabit creation will be associated with the call and bring their praise unto the King Who is on the throne.
It is not the first time that creation and its Creator have been in sympathy. At the time of the birth of the Lord Jesus a night scene was transformed by the blaze of "the glory of the Lord" shining round about the shepherds, Lk.2.9. The shepherds were astounded to see a vision and to hear a voice the like of which had never been heard before. The Creator had entered His creation and it could not remain unmoved. The circumstances were reversed at Calvary. Now it was midday but it became midnight! The sun could no longer shine in spite of being at its zenith; there was darkness over all the earth for three long hours. Creation again was in sympathy with its Creator. The impenetrable darkness was the time when the mystery of the "atonement" was being accomplished; the Lord Jesus being "made sin for us". No human eye could penetrate the scene: no human mind could understand it in its fullness. Creation enshrouded the circumstances in darkness in total sympathy with the Creator’s activities.
Twice over in this Psalm the idea of worship is emphasised. In v.5 the exhortation is to exalt "The LORD our God, and worship at His footstool; for He is holy." In v.9 a similar expression is given; "Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy." Worship is thus seen to be the prime objective of the Psalm and it is of course fitting that it is linked with the reigning of the King. The opening words of the Psalm are again those that have been noticed earlier, namely "The LORD reigneth". The position of the Lord indicated in v.1 is indicative of worship itself. "He sitteth between the cherubim." These unique beings were associated with the Garden of Eden, with the flanking and administration of God’s throne and certainly deeply associated with the Ark of the Covenant. Whatever their particular significance, there is a clear indication that Jehovah is now in the midst of His people, desiring that His presence be known and that the reverence associated with His presence be seen upon the millennial earth. There can surely be only one response to such a presence among His people and that response must be worship. After all He is "great", v.2; "He is high above", v.2; and "He is holy", vv.5, 9. The response of His people ought to be automatic to such an exalted King. Unsurprisingly, equity and righteousness are the corresponding features that mark His activity and therefore demand an appropriate response.
This had been done in the past with people like Moses and Aaron and Samuel v.6. They had called upon Him and He had answered them. They had been appropriately guided and helped in the wilderness. Would not the reigning Monarch deal appropriately with His people and bring them into the blessings of His reign producing as a result devoted worship at his footstool?
Surely it will be at that time that the truth of Mal.1.11 will be implemented: "From the rising of the sun even until the going down of the same My name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto My name, and a peace offering; for My name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of Hosts." Three times over in that verse there is reference to "My name" indicating the self-disclosure of His person! This is going to produce worship universally in that coming millennial kingdom.
The last verse of the Psalm gives the idea for the title. It says "The LORD is good." The word good can be variously translated. It sometimes means beauty, fairness, favour, gladness, wealth or preciousness. It is clear from all that has gone before that all of these features are going to be the marks of the coming kingdom and all seen in their fullness! However the fact that the Lord is good and that simple goodness is to be the atmosphere of His reign is something so different to what is known today. It is interesting too that His goodness is linked with mercy and truth, both of which are indicated to be everlasting or enduring to all generations.
On the basis of His goodness there is an appeal made not now only to the land of Israel but to all lands, v.1, to serve the Lord with gladness and to come before His presence with singing. The appeal is now much wider; it is becoming universal in its scope.
The picture is very interesting. Clearly from v.3 the One Who is seated thus in goodness on His throne is a Shepherd as well. We are His people, v.3, and the sheep of His pasture. Having experienced something of the goodness of the Shepherd the sheep become wondering worshippers and enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. His name becomes the subject of blessing and His people the recipients of His mercy.
It is a fitting conclusion to the Psalm that there is a call to serve, to come, to sing, to thank, to bless. Surely all these are appropriate in the context of the goodness of His reign.
This is surely a fitting climax to the series of Psalms ("the little book") that have been considered. The Kingdom is now ordered in sympathy with the character of the King. Indeed as Bellett helpfully comments, this Psalm is a fitting climax to "the perfect little volume that has appeared from Psalms 92–101." Says Bellett "Messiah Himself opens and closes it. At the beginning He anticipates His being anointed for the kingdom or the exaltation of His horn. At the close He declares how He will order His kingdom. And His Israel in the meantime has rehearsed their anticipations of the kingdom in its judicial righteousness and final blessedness. Oh for more concord with all this in our hearts! Oh that we were "tuning our instruments at the door" – getting our hearts more in harmony with the joys of this coming kingdom! May we watch and pray for such a mind and be skilled in the songs of the Lord!"
Thus the coming King is heard. He is to sing of mercy and judgment; He is going to behave wisely; He will walk within His house with a perfect heart. Wickedness will be removed, the proud will no longer be present, the slanderer will be cut off and on the contrary the faithful of the land and they that walk in a perfect way will be serving with the Lord. An ordered Kingdom with perfect balance, will be the features which mark that final day.
It has been a pleasant journey considering the supremacy of His reign. It is going to be a reign supreme in rest, in majesty, in judgment, in honour, in righteousness, in joy, in praise, in worship, in goodness and in order. Nothing like it has been seen before. The beauty of the scene will be unsurpassed. The paradise of God will be re-enacted. Eden’s joys will once again be known. The rightful Ruler will be on the throne; the people will be subject to Him; the government will be upon His shoulder; creation will once more be in harmony with its Creator! The language of Isa.9.7 will become true, "Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will perform this." The kingdom is thus going to be prosperous, peaceful, powerful, perfect and permanent. Unlike the passing kingdoms of men, His dominion shall not pass away. The stone of Daniel 2 that is going to smite the image and break it to pieces, is going to become a great mountain and fill the whole earth. The kingdom that the God of Heaven will set up is one that shall never be destroyed. It shall break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms and it shall stand forever, Dan.2.44.
The glory of the Son will be evidenced in the supremacy of His kingdom. Every knee will bow to Him and every tongue "confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father" Phil.2.10,11.