Theme: God’s Righteous Judgment
From this psalm, we are reminded that because God is sovereign and righteous, we are to hate sin and rejoice in him.
Scripture: Psalm 97:1-12
The fourth of these five stanzas returns to the theme introduced at the end of the preceding psalm, namely, the righteous judgment of God. Zion and the surrounding villages are rejoicing, and the reason they are rejoicing is that God has intervened in history to establish his righteous kingly rule over the entire earth. This probably refers to some special act of God for the salvation of his people, though we are not told enough in the psalm to figure out what it might be. Some scholars suggest the return of the Jews from Babylon and the rebuilding of their country.
We do know that whatever the immediate historical reference might be, the only complete fulfillment of this vision must be the eventual return of Jesus Christ and the reign of Jesus in his millennial kingdom at the end of this age. Only then will perfect justice come to this earth. There is no such thing as perfect justice now. Now those who are strong oppress the weak. The unscrupulous still cheat the innocent. Murderers still go free, and the perpetrators of other horrible crimes go unpunished. But when Jesus returns there will be perfect righteousness. The helpless will be defended, liars confounded and the guilty judged. This will be grounds for great rejoicing by the righteous, as is the case in this psalm: “Zion hears and rejoices and the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments, O LORD.”
In the book of Revelation, joy is expressed over the fall of “Mystery Babylon,” a symbol of the earth’s great godlessness and wickedness, and praise is given to God who judged the city righteously: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants…Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever” (Rev. 19:1-3).
The final stanza of this psalm is an encouragement to those who are still living in bad times to hold fast to their profession, knowing that God will remain faithful to them and protect them as they do. They are told to do two things. First, “hate evil” (v. 10), and second, “rejoice in the LORD” (v. 12), which is exactly what we see at the end of Revelation. And the first leads to the second. Note the sequence of Psalm 97:10-12. If we hate evil, God will provide us with: 1) protection; 2) deliverance; 3) light on our path through life; and 4) joy. So hatred of evil leads to rejoicing, which we are also told to do. We will do both if we truly know and love God. Do you know God? Or to put it another way, is this righteous, awesome God of the psalm your God?
Why do the people of Zion rejoice? Explain the parallel for us—when will we rejoice?
What are the faithful told to do?
What will God provide to those who hate evil?
Application: In what specific areas of your life do you need to hate evil and rejoice in the Lord?