Theme: A Model Psalm of Praise
In this week’s lessons, we learn how to worship God, who is the one true God who rules over all, both now and forever.
Scripture: Psalm 96:1-13
There must have been many joyful moments in the lifetime of King David, but to judge from the narratives the brightest of all must have been when the ark of God was brought to Jerusalem from its temporary resting place in the house of Obed-Edom. Thousands of people were assembled, led by hundreds of priests. There were choirs and an orchestra. And when the priests set out with the ark their steps were heralded by the sounding of rams’ horns and trumpets, the clash of cymbals, and the plucking of lyres and harps. David was so delighted that he threw decorum aside and danced among the people before the Lord.
He also composed a psalm for the occasion, the words of which may be found in 1 Chronicles 16. It was a fairly long psalm, but what is important here is that the middle verses of the psalm (vv. 23-33) also appear as Psalm 96. Other portions are Psalm 105:1-15 and 106:1, 47 and 48.
Not all commentators agree that David wrote Psalm 96. Since Psalm 96 has echoes of other psalms as well as similarities to portions of Isaiah,1 it is possible that the Chronicler used psalms written later to express the type of praise David must have offered to God on this occasion. But this is an unnatural supposition, and in any case it is beside the point. The important thing about Psalm 96 is that it is a joyful hymn to the God of Israel as king and an invitation to the nations of the world to join Israel in praising him. It is also a prophecy of a future day when God will judge the entire world in righteousness.
What this means is that the coming of the ark of God to Jerusalem was viewed by David as a pledge of the future coming of God to rule as king over all the earth. Against this background, H. C. Leupold says that the psalm literally “throbs with the hope of the Lord’s coming.”
In the last third of the Psalter, there are numerous psalms that begin with a call to worship God. Psalm 95 began this way, starting with the words: “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation” (v. 1). Psalm 96, the psalm we are studying here, does the same. It begins: “Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples” (vv. 1-3).
There are six imperatives in these verses, three calls to “sing to the LORD” (twice in verse 1 and a third time in verse 2) and one call each to “praise his name,” “proclaim his salvation day after day” and “declare his glory among the nations.” We are being told to do this. But, of course, it is what the psalm itself is doing. So the psalm is a model of how we can praise God properly.
1Leupold lists a number of these. See H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), p. 682.
On what occasion did David dance?
Explain the prophecy of this psalm.
List the six imperatives in these verses. How do the imperatives provide a model for us?
Reflection: How do you express joy? Does your demonstration include thanks to God?