The Incomparable Coming of the Lord – Psalm 97

It is one thing to write about the Scriptures as Chris and I do in these regular devotionals to accompany our preaching series. But it would be quite another thing to have to write the original material … although being under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit would certainly help one write even better stuff than we do here!! Imagine that!

Some of you may have, or may have had some years ago, a Ryrie Study Bible. There are many study Bibles out there, but in the late 70s Charles Ryrie sort of established the first of these modern guides to the Scriptures with annotated footnotes throughout – with charts, indices, and maps in the back. Another Dallas Seminary couple along with Diana and I invited he and his wife to dinner one evening in that era when I was a student there (78-82). His first full version of the Bible had just been published and he was telling us about some of the odd mail he was receiving with varied criticisms of his notes. He told us that when he did choose to write back to some of them that he reminded these critics that he “only wrote the stuff below the line, and the Holy Spirit wrote what was above” … which is what the folks were really having a problem accepting.

This enthronement Psalm portraying the greatness of God in his coming to the earth as a judge presents the writer (and the interpreter) with the challenge of picturing and describing something that is beyond comprehension. Nothing like the return of Christ has ever happened before, and even picturing the grandest scene that is imaginable – something like an epic storm or all the mountains melting like a chain of volcanos – still falls well short of this future reality.

I remember as an elementary child going on a local field trip to our area newspaper, where they showed us around the place and how a newspaper was produced (I would later work for this newspaper as a sportswriter – the first place I ever used a computer keyboard when they were first invented). This was in the era of metal type setting, and it was fascinating to see it put into place letter by letter.

It is my understanding that newspapers at that time had a font type and size that was sometimes called something like “the second coming text.”  This was a largest possible metal print font that was essentially held in reserve for the biggest possible news. I also recall that in 1963, when JFK was assassinated, newspapers were said to be tempted to break out this font size.

Again, this is the challenge of the writer – to talk about the magnificence of the coming of God in judgment. What would be the effects upon the natural world? How would the peoples of the world at that time react? Of this latter question, the Psalmist pictures all of them bowing before God, including the evil and wicked folks who did not honor the Lord – even to the extent that their dead and meaningless idols would acknowledge the true God.

The people of God, on the other hand, would rejoice. This would bring about justice and righteousness and the ending of all things that are wrong and futile.

Do you find that you live with a longing … a hope or anticipatory expectation of such a day? If we lived in a more difficult context than modern America, we might have an enhanced longing. I know that aging brings it more to the front of our minds, as the accumulation of years of seeing pain in this world, and feeling more and more the effects of physical decline, cause us to have a greater sense of longing for ultimate things. And that is good.

Psalm 97

1 The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.
2 Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side.
4 His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory.

7 All who worship images are put to shame, those who boast in idols—worship him, all you gods!

8 Zion hears and rejoices and the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments, Lord.
9 For you, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.
10 Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.