Scripture Reading: Psalm 99 & selected passages from Daniel
Introduction: Tonight we’re finishing our study of Psalms 90 through 99, a portion of Scripture I’ve called “The Rocky Mountains of the Psalms.” These are high and lofty passages, and they give us a perspective of praise. I’m going to call Psalm 99 my “Election Night Psalm.” I’ll have to tell you that I’ve been nervous about this election. America has become very polarized, and elections put us all on edge. But I do believe we should sit down on Tuesday night and watch the returns with a deep sense of inner peace, knowing God Almighty is on His throne and He is in control of the tides of history. And on Tuesday night I’m going to leave Psalm 99 open on my desk and trust God with the outcome, whatever it is.
This Psalm of nine verses falls into two parts. Verses 1-5 tell us that God is powerful; verses 5-9 tell us that He is personal. Lets look at these verses one at a time.
1. God is Powerful
- Verse 1a: The Lord reigns. We’ve seen this phrase before in the nineties. In all, this powerful little phrase occurs seven times in the Bible, and over half of them are here in Psalm 90-99. It tells us that God is in control whatever happens, not only in our lives, but also in the whole world. Now only in the world, but in the whole universe; not only in the universe, but in heaven and earth, in the totality of reality.
- Verse 1b: Let the nations tremble. This fact—the fact that the Lord reigns—should stop this world in its tracks and inspire great awe and reverence and fear. America should tremble. Canada should tremble. Mexico should tremble. Russia should tremble. China should tremble. Even tiny Luxembourg should tremble.
- Verse 1c: He sits enthroned between the cherubim. Almost anytime we have a picture of the throne of God, the cherubim are there. Read Ezekiel 2. Read Revelation 4 and 5. Read Isaiah 6, where they are referred to as seraphim but are very similarly described. The cherubim are members of an angelic order that surround the throne. And that’s why when Moses built the Tabernacle in the wilderness, he placed the ark with the cherubim in the innermost room, the square cubed space called the Holy of Holies, which represented presence of God in heaven.
- Verse 1d: Let the earth shake. If this world could glimpse the Lordship of Jesus Christ, so many knees would knock together it’d feel be like a global earthquake.
- Verse 2: Great is the Lord is Zion; He is exalted over the nations. Who is over the nations? Who is King of kings and Lord of lords? The Lord of Zion. How should they respond? Read on:
- Verse 3: Let them praise Your great and awesome name—He is holy. Three times, at the ending of three stanzas, the writer here says: He is holy.
- Verses 4-5: The King is mighty, He loves justice—You have established equity; in Jacob You have done what is just and right. Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His footstool; He is holy. Notice how the writer multiplied attributes as he described the qualities the Lord brings to bear on our world and on our lives. But now the writer tells us that God is not only powerful; He is personal. And He described three leaders who had a personal relationship with God and who trusted Him to help them as they ruled over their nation.
2. God is Personal
- Verses 6-7: Moses and Aaron were among His priests, Samuel was among those who called on His name. They called on the Lord and He answered them. He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud; they kept His statutes and the decrees He gave them. Here were three leaders who had a two-way relationship with God. They prayed. They called on Him. And He spoke to them. His presence was with them in the pillar of cloud, and He gave them His statutes and decrees. And though they were not perfect men, God was faithful to them and merciful. Look at the way the Psalm ends.
- Verses 8-9: Lord our God, you answered them; You were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds. Exalt the Lord and worship at His holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy. So the message is – God is powerful; God is personal; and all the earth should exalt Him.
Conclusion: Now with that in mind, I want to offer a conclusion that is just a little longer than usual. I’d like to take a concluding detour into the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel has a unique role in the Bible. It’s the story of a Jewish boy who was taken to Babylon as his own nation – the nation of Judah – was being destroyed. God’s people were defeated, Jerusalem was ravaged and burned and depopulated, and the state of Israel ceased to exist. But in Babylon, this Jewish boy became a leader blessed by God, and the purpose of Daniel is to show us that even when everything goes wrong politically or economically or even militarily, God is still on His throne and heaven rules. Here’s the thing to remember. There are twelve chapters in the book on Daniel. Chapter 1 is the introduction to the book. Chapters 2 through 6 are a series of five stories. And then the last half of the book is prophetic. The five stories in chapters 2-6 all have the same point; they end in almost the same way. It is as though Lord is telling us: I am going to tell you something over and over and over until you understand it.
- Chapter 2 is the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Notice verse 21: He changes times and seasons; He deposes kings and raises up others. And in verse 28: There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. Then Daniel interpreted the dream and at the end of the chapter Nebuchadnezzar—one of the most powerful despots in antiquity—acknowledged the King of heaven. Verse 47 says: The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries….”
- Chapter 3 is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. This chapter also ends with Nebuchadnezzar acknowledging the supremacy of the God of Israel. Verse 28 says: Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued His servants! They trusted in Him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.
- Chapter 4 is the story Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity. Notice the phrase in verse 26: “Heaven rules.” The end of the story is the same as in the prior chapters: Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified Him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
- Chapter 5 is the story of King Belshazzar and the writing on the wall. The lesson is the same: The most High God is sovereign over all the kingdoms of earth and sets over them anyone He pleases (v. 21).
- Chapter 6 is the story of Daniel in the Lions’ Den. At the end, King Darius said about Jehovah: He is the living God… His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end.
Five stories, each of which ends with a Gentile ruler acknowledging that even when it seems God’s purposes have failed, the Most High still guides the course of history. Then we come to Daniel 7 – 12, in which a series of prophetic outlines is given that revels the future coming history of the world, culminating in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In the book of Daniel, the Lord gave to people a message that even in the worst moments of history, God is not deterred or detoured. He is determined. He is still in control. The most High Rules in the affairs of men, and He gives them to whomsoever He will. The outline of Daniel, coupled with the theme of Psalm 99, should be all we need to sleep well on Tuesday night, whatever the outcome.