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"The Lord Reigns" (Psalms 92-94) September 21-25

No author is given for Psalm 92, though some suggest that verses 10-11 may imply that one of the Davidic kings composed it. The psalm is described in the superscription as "A Song for the Sabbath day," the only psalm designated this way in the Psalter. The Zondervan NIV Study Bible notes on this title: "In the postexilic liturgy [worship service] of the temple, this psalm came to be sung at the time of the morning sacrifice on the Sabbath. (The rest of the weekly schedule was: first day, Ps 24; second day, Ps 48; third day, Ps 82; fourth day, Ps 94; fifth day, Ps 81; sixth day, Ps 93.)" This schedule is reflected in both the Talmud and the psalm headings in the Greek Septuagint (see Expositor's Bible Commentary, footnote on 92:1 and introductory note on Psalm 24). While the weekly Sabbath is a memorial to God's creation, culminating in mankind, it also looks forward to His completion of man's creation in the age to come. As shown in Hebrews 3-4, the Sabbath represents the time of God's Kingdom.

Psalm 90 began the present cluster of psalms with the troubles of life in this age, seeking God's compassion on those who abide in Him and looking forward to future reward. Psalm 91 followed with God's deliverance of those who dwell with Him, to be fully realized in an ultimate sense at the end of the present age. Now, Psalm 92 further progresses into God's ultimate deliverance of His people (those planted in His house), along with judgment on the wicked. This ties in well with the Sabbath as representative of the time when God's Kingdom will be established on earth. And it all serves to introduce Books IV and V of the Psalter, which in general look forward to that wonderful time.

Zondervan's introductory note on Psalm 92 calls it "a joyful celebration of the righteous rule of God. Its testimony to the prosperity of the righteous, 'planted in the house of the Lord' (v. 13), links it thematically with Ps 91...while its joy over God's righteous reign relates it to the cluster of psalms that follow (Ps 93-100; see especially Ps 94). There are, in fact, reasons to believe that the editors of the Psalter brought together Ps 92-94 as a trilogy that serves as a bridge between Ps 90-91 and 95-99."

The psalmist sums up the reasons for praising God as His great works and His deep thoughts (verses 4-5). Senseless, foolish men don't grasp the enormity of God's work or the scope of His thinking. The psalmist draws on the metaphor of grass, used in Psalm 90:5-6 for the brevity of human life, to particularly describe the fate of evildoers: they will flourish briefly, be scattered and then perish (92:7-9).

God has lifted up the psalmist's "horn," symbolic of his strength (verse 10; compare 75:4-5; 89:18, 24; 132:17). This imagery transitions to that of anointing oil, which was poured from a horn (see 1 Samuel 16:13). As noted above, the mention in Psalm 92 of anointing (verse 10) and evil enemies brought down (verse 11; compare 54:7; 59:10) has led some to see a king as the psalm's author-though priests were also anointed, as were some prophets, and these had enemies too. In any case, many view the reference here as prefiguring the future Anointed One or Messiah.

In its note on the conclusion of Psalm 92 (verses 12-15), Expositor's states: "How different is the tone of these verses from the lament of 90:5-6! The wicked are easily swept away whereas the 'righteous' ( 1:6) are likened to a 'palm tree' and to 'a cedar of Lebanon' ([Psalm 92] v. 12). Both trees are symbolic of strength, longevity, and desirability (cf. v. 14; Isa 2:13; 65:22; Hos 14:5-6; Zech 11:2). The metaphorical representation of trees growing and bearing fruit 'in the courts' of the Lord ([Psalm 92] v. 13; cf. 84:2, 10) suggests the closeness of the righteous to their God (cf. Isa 61:3; Jer 32:41). For a similar expression, see [Psalm] 52:8, where the psalmist [i.e., David] compares himself to 'an olive tree flourishing in the house of God.' For the imagery of fruitfulness and vigor, see 1:3. Whereas the wicked perish prematurely, the godly rejoice in the promise that the Lord's favor rests on them even in old age"-indeed, especially in old age, meaning even beyond this physical life in perpetual spirit existence. As previously mentioned, the ultimate Anointed One died young in physical terms, at age 33, but, now resurrected, He will live on forever and ever-as will all those firmly planted in God's house (today signifying His spiritual temple, His Church, and ultimately meaning His eternal Kingdom and family).

Like Psalms 91 and 92, Psalms 93-100 are without attribution in the Hebrew Masoretic Text. However, the Greek Septuagint translation titles Psalms 93-99 as being "of David." Indeed, two of these clearly are. The New Testament attributes Davidic authorship to Psalm 95 (see Hebrews 4:7). And Psalm 96 is taken from David's song to celebrate the ark's placement in the tabernacle in Jerusalem (compare 1 Chronicles 16:23-33).

One of the royal psalms (those which celebrate God as King), Psalm 93, as the Zondervan NIV Study Bible notes, is "a hymn to the eternal, universal and invincible reign of the Lord, a theme it shares with Ps 47; 95-99. Together these hymns offer a majestic confession of faith in and hope for the kingdom of God on earth. They were probably composed for the liturgy of a high religious festival [likely the Feast of Trumpets or Tabernacles] in which the kingship of the Lord-over the cosmic order, over the nations and in a special sense over Israel-was annually celebrated.... And implicitly, where not explicitly, the Lord's kingship is hailed in contrast to the claims of all other gods; he is 'the great King above all gods' (95:3).... Ps 93 appears to have been separated from Ps 95-99 to serve as a thematic pivot between Ps 92 and 94 (as Ps 47 was used as a pivot between Ps 46 and 48). It celebrates Yahweh's secure cosmic rule that grounds his righteous and effective rule over human affairs-which is the joy (Ps 92) and the hope (Ps 94) of those who rely on him for protection against the assaults of the godless fools who live by violence."

Psalm 93 opens with the key of the royal psalms: "The Lord reigns" (verse 1; compare 96:10; 97:1; 99:1). The Nelson Study Bible comments: "In general, the royal psalms speak of the Lord as King in three different ways. He is King over creation, for He is the Creator (74:12-17). He is King over the Israelites (44:4), for He is their Savior. And He is the coming King, for He will eventually judge everyone (47:7, 8). Sometimes in people's minds God's kingdom is narrowly identified with the coming glorious rule of Jesus: God's present reign is ignored. But sometimes [in fact, more typically] the opposite is true. God's present rule can be emphasized so much that Jesus' coming is disregarded. The royal psalms consistently balance these two ideas: 'The Lord reigns' (93:1), but the Lord is also coming to establish His permanent rule (24:9 [compare 96:13; 98:9])" ("INDepth: The Royal Psalms," sidebar on Psalm 93). Indeed, these go hand in hand. It is God's perpetual sovereignty on His throne "from everlasting" (verse 2; compare 90:2)-His eternal omnipotence-that enables, and gives surety to the promises of, His unending reign to come.

Psalm 93:1-2 describes God robed in military victory regalia, His establishment of the world as unmovable (unable to be wrested from His control) and the persistence of His throne from past eternity. It is in this context that verses 3-4 speak of the rising "floods" and the "mighty waves of the sea." The threefold repetition of "floods" creates a poetic sense of waves pounding on the shore. Yet God is higher and mightier-and, given the context of verses 1-2, victorious over them. This recalls Psalm 89:9: "You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, You still them." And Psalm 29:10: "The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood, and the Lord sits as King forever." This all may reflect on one level God's power of creation that brought the world out of primordial chaos, when "darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2). It likely also applies to when man later witnessed the vast destructive powers of the waters in the global Flood of Noah's day. Stories of that episode left people with the concept of the flooding waves as irresistible cosmic forces of destruction. Yet God is high above these forces-and is able to control them. And He rules the waves of the sea even now, having set the boundaries of how far they may come over the land (Job 38:8, 11). In other passages, floods, waters and seas also represent peoples and nations-including invading armies. God stands above all peoples and forces, ever the victor.

Some have noted a similarity in the descriptions here to the Canaanite god Baal, who "was supposed to have been victorious over the waters" (Nelson Study Bible, note on Psalm 93:3-4). Yet we should recognize that Baal was merely a counterfeit of the true God in some respects. Scripture sets the record straight in relating who is truly victorious over the waters-Almighty God. Moreover, consider God's testimonies and holiness in verse 5. The Nelson Study Bible notes on this verse: "While this psalm uses language resembling [to some degree] the worship of Baal to emphasize the greatness of God (Ps. 29), it also glorifies God with praises never attributed to Baal. None of the accolades of Baal speak of his testimonies. But God is superior to Baal, for he is faithful to His word. He is the gracious God who speaks to his people; He is the holy God of Scripture who is approached by His people; and he is the eternal God whom we worship, as did the people of ancient Israel."

The transition to verse 5 in Psalm 93 is interesting. Whereas verses 1-4 present God's revelation of His power and might through creation (compare Revelation 1:20), verse 5 of Psalm 93 says that God is also revealed through Scripture and His house. Such a transition from God's revelation of Himself through creation to revelation through His law and testimony is also found in Psalm 19:1-8. Psalm 93:5 declares that God's scriptural testimonies are trustworthy. They are as rock-solid and as firmly established as the world (compare verse 1). As for God's house, in the time of the psalm's composition it would have referred to either the tabernacle or temple of God-showing that God was revealed to His people through the worship system practiced there. God's house today, through which His holiness is revealed, is His Church. And, of course, His house in an ultimate sense signifies His eternal Kingdom and family.

"Psalm 94 is a royal psalm, since the phrase 'Judge of the earth' (v. 2) is equivalent to 'King' (50:4-6). The righteous call for the divine Judge to punish evil in the world (82:8; 96:13; 98:9)" (Nelson Study Bible, note on Psalm 94). It is also a lament over present conditions, wherein the psalmist-David if the Septuagint's attribution is correct-pleads for the time of divine intervention in world affairs described in the surrounding psalms. The double repetition of statements and thoughts throughout magnifies the urgency and impact of the psalm.

The song begins by doubly stressing that vengeance belongs to God and asking that He would take action and punish the proud (verses 1-2; compare 79:10; Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19). Of course, we must understand that God's "vengeance" is not a hateful tit-for-tat lashing out but the exercise of perfect justice tempered, as circumstances warrant, with patience and mercy. The psalmist twice cries out with the common lament phrase "how long," aching to know how long the world must endure wicked people perpetrating their evil ways. Verses 5-6 mention the harm they do to the weak of society. God commanded that special care be shown to those in need, but the wicked afflict and murder them! And all the while they are blasphemous in their arrogant attitude, thinking they are getting away with something despite God-as if He has no understanding of what's going on (verses 4, 7).

But they are the ones who need to understand-that He knows exactly what is going on. He is the One who invented seeing and hearing and the means to experiencing them! And He sees and hears everything (verses 8-9). He will teach the nations a powerful lesson about who He is and His acute awareness through the correction He administers (verse 10). The thoughts of man are nothing next to what He knows and what He can bring to pass (compare verse 11).

Far better than instruction from severe correction is to be instructed from God's law (verse 12)-as those who submit to Him are. Learning the teachings of Scripture gives us "rest"-i.e., comfort and peace-until the time that God chooses to bring His judgment on the wicked (verse 13). For through God's Word we come to understand that He will not abandon His people (verse 14) and that just judgment will at some point return (verse 15)-in an ultimate sense when God's Kingdom is at last established on the earth.

In verse 16, the psalmist rhetorically asks twice who will act for him against evildoers. The answer, of course, as the next few verses make clear, is God. Indeed, in verse 17 the psalmist declares that God has already helped him-otherwise he would be dead. This is true for all of us even now. Consider that if God did not restrain Satan and his demons, they would surely have already exterminated mankind, and God's people in particular. The psalmist knows that God is there to help him even when he thinks he's falling (verse 18). In the midst of the worry and fear that all experience, the psalmist knows that God provides him with comfort and true happiness to make it through life (verse 19).

In verse 20 the psalmist asks, "Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You?" The question is obviously rhetorical, as the answer is surely no. But whom is the psalmist talking about here? Most take the reference here to evil people in positions of power generally. That could be. Yet if the psalmist is David or one of his royal successors, he could instead be referring to himself. That is, he would be rhetorically asking, "If my rule as king were evil, could I have fellowship with You?" Again, the answer would be no. And the fellowship he has with God would testify to the righteousness of his reign-classing him among the innocent whom the wicked oppose (see verse 21).

In verse 22, the psalmist reaffirms his confidence in God's ongoing protection (compare verse 17). And he closes in verse 23 with the assurance that God has brought on the wicked their own iniquity and will yet bring this to fullness in final judgment. Here we see that God's laws exact their own penalty on those who live in defiance of them. The present life of the wicked is not so rosy as it might appear at a glance. And in the end, those who persist in evil will-as is twice stated in keeping with the repetition through the psalm-be destroyed.

This then sets the stage for the Kingdom of God, wherein only the righteous may rule and flourish.

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