I love Psalm 96 for so many reasons. In it, we are invited, along with all of creation, to engage our very beings in the act of worship and celebration of who God is.
Note: this may require getting out of the pew!
Having grown up Southern Baptist, these commands read to me like permission not only to feel what I feel in response to revelations of who God is, but to give that natural response bodily expression through the raising of hands, dancing, kneeling, or jumping.
The commands to His people include these (KJV):
- Declare his glory….[and] wonders (v3)
- Give….glory; bring an offering…(v8)
- Come into His courts (v8)
- Worship….fear before him (v9)
- Say among [the nations] (v10)
But there are also commands to God’s creation:
- Let the heavens rejoice (v11)
- let the earth be glad (v11)
- …the sea roar, and the fullness thereof [everything in them] (v11)
- Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein (v12)
- …trees of the wood rejoice (v12)
Digging past the English translation of these words yields such treasure.
In the original Hebrew, so many of these words have a beautiful physicality about them.*
- Bring (an offering) (v8), “minchah,” is to aportion, bestow a tribute or sacrificial offering, a gift, a present.
- Worship (v9), or “shachah,” is to prostrate [oneself] in homage to royalty or God, to bow, crouch, fall down flat, stoop.
- (Let the earth) be glad (v11), or “giyl,” is to spin around under the influence of any violent emotion.
- (Let the sea) roar (v11), or “ra’am,” is to be violently agitated, to crash, roar.
- (Let the field) be joyful (v12), or “‘alaz,” is to jump for joy, rejoice, triumph.
- (Trees of the wood) rejoice, or “ranan,” is to creak, shout for joy, sing aloud, triumph.
The Psalmist cites character qualities of God that inspire such worship—strength, beauty, glory, holiness—as well as His works, His wonders, and His reign.
Finally (v13), we are invited to rejoice because we have the sure confidence that the Lord is coming to establish justice and His rule on the earth and He will do it with “tsedeq*,” or moral and legal rightness, and truth. Everything that is wrong with the world and with us will be made right.
While it is only fitting that we, God’s creation, rejoice over God, our Creator, what is astounding is that He is rejoicing over us! Zephaniah 3:17 says, “…He will joy, [or “giyl,” spin around under the influence of any violent emotion] over [us] with singing! (KJV) This kind of love boggles the mind!
*Definitions from Strong’s Concordance.