Three Things about God’s Reign (Psalm 96:9-10)
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! ¹⁰Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity." —Psalm 96:9-10
We continue in Psalm 96—a psalm about expanse of God’s glory, our call to declare it, and the splendor of his holiness.
These same themes continue here. We are called to worship the Lord (v. 9) and we are commanded to declare Him (v. 10). More specifically, all the earth is called to worship him and we are called to declare to all the nations that He reigns.
The reign of the Lord is central here. It has been the theme of Psalms 93–100. Even before this section, Psalm 22:28 tells us, “For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.” God is the one in charge. That’s what it means to be king.
Verses 10–11 say more. There are three implications for God’s reign. First, His reign is universal; second, His reign is the ground of our most basic security; and third, His reign is cause for us to fear.
1. The Lord’s reign is universal.
Verse 10 begins, “Say among the nations." This is the audience we are commanded to tell that the Lord is king. The implications are huge. We declare this news to all the nations because the Lord is king over all the nations. Everyone on the face of the earth needs to hear this news because it applies to them. It is about them and it is for them.
Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1). Could you imagine living your whole life on this earth and not knowing whose it is? Not knowing to whom you belong? This is the state of the nations. This was our condition before we heard and believed the news that Jesus is Lord. Someone told us. Someone declared it. And we are called to keep saying it so that others can believe, too.
God’s reign is universal. Therefore, we are commanded to tell the news of Him to all peoples. It’s in our proclaiming—in the gospel’s advance—that God gathers his people to Himself and extends the triumph of His goodness and power.
2. The Lord’s reign grounds our most basic security.
The declaration “The Lord reigns!” is followed by two supporting ideas in verse 10. First, elaborating the meaning of His reign, we are told that “the world is established; it shall never be moved.” Essentially, because the Lord reigns, the earth is not going to spin out of orbit. It’s not carelessly vulnerable to apocalyptic meteors crashing into it and wiping everything out. This has never happened. The earth is still here. We are proof of that.
Have you ever wondered why that’s the case? Psalm 96:10 tells us it is because God is in control. God’s reign means the most basic needs of life, like rain falling and the sun rising and a stable planet that doesn’t evaporate, happens for the just and unjust (Matthew 5:45). These are facts about God’s reign that mean good for every single person on earth.
This most basic security, which is often taken for granted, is grounded in the wondrous reality that the Lord reigns.
3. The Lord’s reign is cause for us to fear.
The second supporting idea of the Lord’s reign in verse 10 is that the Lord will judge all peoples with righteousness. The Lord reigns, which means He is the judge, which means every soul has a good reason to be terrified.
He judges fairly, you see. He is perfectly holy, utterly righteous. Every wrong will be punished. This is terrifying for us—for all peoples—because we have done a lot of wrong. We are sinners, every last one of us (Romans 3:23). And that means that we are under the severe judgment of God. We deserve His wrath.
But there is a place where this terror becomes a blessing—in the cross of Jesus.
The Bible is clear that Jesus died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3), that He was put forward by the Father as a propitiation by His blood (Romans 3:25). Jesus, completely blameless and faithful, went to the cross to take all of our wrong upon Himself. God judges people according to what they deserve, meaning damnation. Jesus stepped up as our substitute. He took all of God's righteous judgment upon Himself for our sake, and in exchange, we are united to Him and His righteousness forever.
In Jesus, we are no longer seen as people to be judged, but sons and daughters who are welcomed home. So let us go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere. Let us say it among the nations.
Why are we commanded to declare the news of God’s reign among the nations?
What does it mean that the world is established? What is the significance of that reality?
How does the terror of God’s judgment become a blessing of peace?