Psalm 96

Praise to God

Do you set aside daily time to praise God? How does such praise affect your daily life?

This liturgical hymn drew heavily from other psalm passages and Isaiah 40-55 to create a song of praise. Since Second Isaiah did not exist until the return from the Babylonian exile, this psalm was part of the worship in the Second Temple (fifth-fourth century B.C.E.). According to a note in Greek, this psalm was to be used in the Feast of Tabernacles.

1 Sing to YHWH a new song!
Sing to YHWH, all the earth.
2 Sing to YHWH!
Bless his name!
Proclaim his salvation from day to day!
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.

World English Bible

The psalm is divided into four parts; parts one and three were imperatives, parts two and four explained the reasons for the imperatives. In part one (96:1-3), the liturgical herald commanded the congregation to "Sing!" as a means to praise God and witness to his activity.

4 For great is YHWH, and greatly to be praised!
He is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but YHWH made the heavens.
6 Honor and majesty are before him.
Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

In part two (96:4-6), the herald proclaimed the reason for the song, the overwhelming glory of God. The sense of holiness that the Temple and its cult evoked exalted YHWH beyond that of any other god. His power created the heavens, while the other gods did nothing. Notice that the glory of YHWH (i.e., his reputation) preceded him (like the song of the pilgrim in procession to Jerusalem?) and dwelled in the Temple itself (in its worship).

7 Ascribe to YHWH, you families of nations,
ascribe to YHWH glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to YHWH the glory due to his name.
Bring an offering, and come into his courts.
9 Worship YHWH in holy array.
Tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, "YHWH reigns."
The world is also established.
It can't be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity.

Part three (96:7-10) commanded the nations to worship God along with the congregation, but their worship comprised of tribute. "Give!" was the refrain; the Gentiles were to recognize YHWH as the Lord, give gifts, then bow in worship. (It was customary for foreigners and Jews outside of the Jerusalem to pay for Temple upkeep; locals were exempt from the "Temple tax" but did contribute to local charities.) At the end of part three, YHWH was exalted as the King, the just Judge who would make the entire world secure.

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice.
Let the sea roar, and its fullness!
12 Let the field and all that is in it exult!
Then all the trees of the woods shall sing for joy
13 before YHWH; for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
the peoples with his truth.

While part four (96:11-13) appeared to be another imperative, it actually explained part three. Why should the Gentiles worship the Jewish Deity? The answer could be found in the praise of nature itself. Let the heavens ...the earth...the seas and all that fills it...the plains rejoice. The nations were to join in the praise of creation for its God. YHWH approached his people; creation itself responded with worship and praise.

Praise is the logical response to our dependence. Faith also sees the place of enemies and strangers and even creation itself at the altar of worship. Faith drives us on to give God praise individually and in community.

How can you "sing a new song to the Lord" this day?