He Will Judge!
Psalm 96 is a psalm of praise to God our King! Verse 10 tells us that He reigns…and that we should proclaim that, but this verse also issues a warning.
…he will judge the peoples with equity.
In fact, the truth that “he will judge the peoples with equity” is one of the things that we are to be proclaiming among the nations. This is no easy feat, is it?
Do you know that feeling when you start to tell someone about the Lord and you realize they do not already know Him? Do you get a pit in your stomach sometimes—a warning not to go there? Our natural response to difficulty is sometimes “flight.” Telling your neighbor that God will not only judge him or her but that God is right to do so can be frightening! It is no wonder we fail so many times in our evangelism—it is truly counter to our flesh’s desires for comfort!
But the job of a messenger of a King is to deliver the message, and it is the message that God will judge—and that He will do so with equity—which is intended to drive sinners to the Savior. “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” (2 Corinthians 5:11) Think about it—it is precisely because He will judge the peoples without partiality that we must warn our fellow-man. God is worthy of praise. To proclaim that “He reigns” is to declare His righteous judgments. There is no stain of sin or variance with our Great God.
This is Actually Really Good News (to some)
Now I want you to notice the last few verses of this psalm and how they speak to the creation’s longing for the return of Christ and redemption of all creation.
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 Yahweh, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness. (Psalms 96:11-13)
The creation itself cries out to God in praise and with a longing to be delivered from the curse. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:19) You can see in verse 13 that it is because the Lord comes to judge the earth in righteousness and faithfulness that the heavens are glad, the earth rejoices, the sea roars, the field exults, and even the trees of the forest sing for joy! How much more should we who look forward to the redemption of our bodies look forward to that great day?
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? Romans 8:22-24
Dear Christian, do not ever apologize for God’s judgment, its severity, nor the unchanging standard by which it will be meted out. With fear, you should warn people of the imminent threat to their souls and—at the same time—look forward to rejoicing in that day when you will be freed from sinning. How much more should we rejoice that trees and fields and the sea for all that the Lord has done for us (Psalm 126:3)?
This is a Warning for Us, Too.
I want to add a couple of points of application for the 21st century Christian.
First, note that God is going to judge the world in righteousness. This is reminiscent of the language used by Paul as he preached the Christ:
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31
Paul is taking the truth of Psalm 96 and showing the standard of righteousness by which God will judge—the perfect person and life of Jesus Christ. We ought to remember that we ourselves are not the standard by which God will judge others. We must remember that whatever we have has been given to us, so we should never be proud. And we should be compassionate messengers. Although we should hate sin and grow in our natural affections for holiness and righteousness (Ephesians 4:24), we should always remember that we needed the grace of God that we often see withheld from our neighbor, loved one, or even an enemy. And that should humble us and drive us to our knees in prayer…rather than spur us on to judgment.
Secondly, notice in verse 13 that God will judge the peoples in faithfulness. His judgments, although postponed, are imminent. There is a certainty to the fact that Jesus is returning to judge the world (1 Peter 4:5). Scoffers will mock, but we should not be swayed by their mocking, nor by the delay of Christ’s return as if it may not happen soon. Continue to faithfully proclaim the return of Christ and that great judgment that awaits, dear saint, because God is faithful.
Finally, as you travel this world as a pilgrim and a sojourner, remember the command to be separate. Because God will certainly judge in righteousness and faithfulness, we should be all the more glad as the day draws near to find less comfort in this world and more comfort in promised heavenly blessings. But because God is going to judge the peoples with equity, we need to remember that even sinners that seem to be most closely on our side in some of this world’s cultural battles are men and women who are living in rebellion against our Almighty God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Your temptation will be to join forces with people who are not God’s people in order to accomplish some earthly good. And there may be times and places where that is appropriate.
But you must be careful never to treat “well-behaved heathens” as if they are of the family of God simply because they agree with you about homeschooling, “homosexual marriage,” social justice issues, abortion, the economy, or whatever social ill they are inclined to be on the right side about. If you cannot engage in the culture war, (which is important), and maintain your holy separation from the unregenerate, then you ought to disengage until you have grown to the point where you can do so. Even if someone calls their god by the same name as we do…we don’t stamp them as brothers because of a few good works if their confession or their life contradicts the gospel of grace.
If you remember these things you will do well and find good standing in the church of God! Meditate on God’s psalms often. If you’ve memorized Psalm 96, congratulations!
In part 1 of this series, I challenged anyone reading this to commit to memorizing Psalm 96. I hope if you have not started that endeavor you will start now. If you want my recommended smartphone app for Bible memory: here is a 20% discount code for it.
If you want to hear the sermon I preached on this great Psalm, you can hear it here on my Be A Berean podcast.
See all posts in the Psalm 96 (Yahweh Reigns) series:
Psalm 96: Introduction
Psalm 96:1-2 Sing of His Salvation
Psalm 96:3-5 Worthless Idols
The Shame of Idols
Psalm 96:6-9 The Beauty of Christ
Psalm 96:10 Jesus Reigns!
Psalm 96:10-13 God Will Judge!