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
When we were little, my Mom used to ask if we’d eat or drink the way we were if the Queen of England had invited us to tea. This was her cue that my siblings and I were being ill-mannered, sloppy, and unladylike and ungentlemanly. Propriety was a culture-wide virtue and parents strove to teach their children how to have proper manners for the benefit of others. This is not so much the case any more in our casual culture. Sadly, that laid back attitude can affect everything, even our worship of God.
When was the last time you trembled before Him? Have you ever physically shaken at the thought of His splendor, majesty, and holiness? The psalmist says this is the proper response for creatures in the presence of their Creator. But he doesn’t stop there. We are to tell others about this splendorous God who made the world, holds it together by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3), and has promised to return as judge.
His holiness, our sin, and His promise to return to judge the peoples–all peoples–with equity, should leave us trembling.
This passage makes me think of recent headlines from Turkey. The earthquakes there saw everyone trembling, not in worship, but in terror. The literal shaking of ground, buildings, and people affected millions. What purpose might God have in such a horrific tragedy? Jesus answered those who asked Him about examples of extreme suffering in their day, saying,
“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-5)
Earthquakes, like other disasters, are meant to get our attention. They remind us of our vulnerability and frailty. God shows us glimpses of the suffering of end-time judgment in order to wake us up to our sinful condition. The knowledge of coming judgment, in light of the splendor of God’s holiness, should find everyone, everywhere trembling before the Lord in worship. Tragedies can lead people to repent for their sins. This is mercy.
John Piper says of this passage,
Every mountain, every ocean, every nation, every people, every person was created for Jesus Christ—to reflect and to magnify his glory. And he did not only create every person for this. When the human race, and every people and every person, fell in sin, the Son of God came into his creation as the God-man and died and rose and reigns to save condemned rebels, by bearing their punishment and providing their righteousness. ("Christ Magnified in His World Through Servants Satisfied in His Worth")
Jesus’ death and resurrection—the glorious realities we celebrate during Easter week—are the hope of the whole world. Every person stands in need of God’s saving grace. None is righteous—not one (Romans 3:10). Piper continues,
[God] lays claim, therefore, on the worship of every group, every person. And while there are people groups in the world where that worship does not exist, missions does—or should!
I praise God for the workers He sent to central Asia ahead of the earthquake. We have brothers and sisters there who are caring for many, even as they suffer along with them. They are saying among the Turkish people, “Even in this, the Lord reigns!” As they offer gospel hope, calling people to worship the Lord who is sovereign over earthquakes, they are also warning that He will return as judge. We’re all called to this work of telling, wherever we live.
The earth shook when Jesus died (Matthew 27:51-54), it shook when the angel of the Lord descended to roll the stone away from Jesus’ tomb (Matthew 28:2), and it will shake again. The author of Hebrews wrote,
…[H]e has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens….Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:26b, 28-29)
When all else is shaking, He is our hope. He is our refuge. May we indeed tremble before Him.
When fearful headlines run, do you turn to the Lord in prayer? What do you pray for?
Give thanks that what Satan intends for harm, God means for good (Genesis 50:20). Praise Him that He will work all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
Ask God to use tragedies and natural disasters to awaken people to the coming judgment. Ask Him to give you courage to speak to those who don’t know Him about His rule and reign, and His return as the judge of the whole earth.
Candice Watters is the FighterVerses editor. She is married to Steve Watters, Truth78's director of marketing and resource development. She is mom to Harrison, Zoe, Churchill, and Teddy and co-author with Steve of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies.