All the psalms are extraordinary and certainly inspired by the Holy Spirit, each with its own contribution to the abundant life Jesus offers His own (John 10:10). When reading through them they don’t all strike us meaningfully every time. Our need and the Spirit’s leading help us—even thrill us—uniquely with one or another. Psalm 97 wonderfully struck me this week. Go ahead, read it out loud right now to appreciate my racing heart.
An “orphan psalm” because it has no author, Psalm 97 is, all at once, a song of praise and of promise and of daily practical value.
Yesterday I walked outside at sunrise. The best parts of sunrises are, for me, just before the sun actually pops up over the horizon. Before the brilliance of the sun burns away distinctions, there is an endless variety of quickly changing colors. No two mornings are the same. Yesterday’s dominate brush stroke was a long and broad pink, surrounded by blues. Stunning.
Even without caffeine, my heart jumped for joy and I started praying. More than eye candy, at its core isn’t creation meant to declare God’s invisible attributes and draw us to our Creator in worship (Romans 1:19-20)? I immediately remembered Psalm 97’s start. If the first line of a novel sets the tone for the entire book, how startling and simple is Psalm 97, verse one: “The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!” Poetical and metaphorical, the psalmist races our hearts to a core reality we live and die by: God, in Christ, is King and everyone and everything gets to rejoice in Him.
We need this opening, don’t we? If nothing else happens in our prayers, let there be praise for who God is and for His works.
And what a King He is! We wonder who is in charge, or if the world has gone mad and is out of control. In our weak moments we imagine a small, limited, disinterested God. But the psalmist jars us back to the truth. We are immediately reminded God is far more magnificent than we can ever imagine or surprisingly forget. Catch your breath, He is: surrounded in clouds and thick darkness (not just darkness-“thick darkness”), righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne, fire goes before Him and burns up His adversaries. He is most high over all the earth. Whew! His holiness leaves us breathless.
When we pray we also remember His promises. The promise of the King’s judgments over evil permeates Psalm 97 (vss. 2-5, 8-9, 10). The promise of present and future rejoicing (vss. 8-9, 12). The promise of deliverance is ours, too (vss. 10-11).
How practical is Psalm 97? Fear is replaced by joy (vss. 1, 8, 12). Fretting turns to worship (v. 1, 12). Light vanishes darkness (v. 11). An upright heart is rewarded with joy (v. 11).
The coffee can wait. Are you brave enough to set the clock for about 6:15 AM to go outside tomorrow morning and hear the King say, “Good morning!”