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Psalm 96

The King is coming

Earth’s powerbrokers and the gods they worship seem always in control. But God’s triumph over evil is so decisive he’s clearly now on his way to make things right on earth, which is cause for joyful celebration.

Sing a brand-new song to Yahveh!
Sing to Yahveh
all the earth!
2 Sing to Yahveh—
praise his name.
Day after day announce it:
“The Lord has won the victory!”
3 Proclaim his glory to the nations.
Tell everyone everywhere
what amazing things he’s done.
4 For Yahveh is so great
he’s worthy of the highest praise
we can give him.
He’s to be revered above all gods
5 for the gods of all the nations are nothing-gods!
But Yahveh created the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty surround him
strength and beauty fill his sanctuary.

7 Acknowledge Yahveh
all you peoples
acknowledge Yahveh’s strength and glory!
8 Give Yahveh the glory he deserves!
Bring an offering and enter his courts.
9 Bow low before Yahveh
in the splendor of his holiness!
Tremble before him
all the earth!
10 Proclaim to the nations:
“Yahveh reigns!
The one who holds everything together
so nothing can shake the earth out of his hands
he’ll ensure that justice prevails on earth.”

11 So, celebrate, you heavens
and rejoice, earth!
Join the rousing chorus
ocean and everything in it!
12 Throw a party, fields
and everything in you
and shout for joy
all you trees of the forest
13 at Yahveh’s approach!
For he’s coming—
coming to put everything to rights.
He’ll judge the world with justice
and its peoples with perfect fairness.

This call to sing a new song isn’t driven by a mere desire for novelty. No, God’s decisive victory demands a song of its own. No existing song will do. Which victory? Likely, God’s bringing his exiled people back home from captivity and enabling them to rebuild the temple, against all odds.[1] Thus, little Israel’s Yahveh bests all the gods of the superpowers, proving that they don’t even deserve to be called gods.

We’re to proclaim the good news to everyone because it’s clear proof Yahveh is no provincial god. Abraham’s God had always said he’d bless the whole world, and this victory shows his plan is still on track, Israel’s exile notwithstanding. Justice is on the way for all of earth’s peoples, not just the rich and powerful. So everyone everywhere must acknowledge God’s supremacy and worship, giving him the honor he deserves for he’s truly a God like no other.

But it’s not enough for humankind to worship and sing. The rest of creation must join the party too. For the seas and skies, farmlands and forests, all have a stake in this victory too: the chaos ungodly societies unleash affects everything around them, as our current climate crisis makes abundantly clear. And God’s putting everything to rights includes all of creation.

I celebrate your victory over evil, Lord! I’m thrilled that you’re coming not just to judge those who threaten your creation, but also to restore everything to its original purpose and unleash all the unqualified goodness you’ve planned for us. Even so, Lord, come quickly! Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Yahveh is coming—
coming to put everything to rights.
He’ll judge the world with justice
and its peoples with perfect fairness.


[1] This psalm’s heading in the Septuagint says it was written for the rebuilding of the temple, which seems fitting as most of the psalm reworks praise from the time when David brought the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem  (1 Chron. 16:23-33).

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.