Psalm 99

Psalms: Sing Unto the Lord  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:20
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Psalm 99

Psalm 99 ESV
1 The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! 2 The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. 3 Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he! 4 The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. 5 Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he! 6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the Lord, and he answered them. 7 In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them; they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them. 8 O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. 9 Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!

The Lord Reigns!

Psalm 99 is a song that is part of a group of psalms that proclaim the reign of God as King. The structure of the psalm contains three sections of lines divided by the phrase, “Holy is he!” As we study this psalm, we will see how God’s holiness is connected to His reign over all things. The psalm gives us three reasons why we should worship God:
1. Worship the Holy God because he reigns.
2. Worship the Holy God because he loves justice.
3. Worship the Holy God because He responds to his people.
Psalm 99 is part of a set of a group of songs that focus on the adoration of God as king. The structure of the psalm contains three sections of lines divided by a marker phrase declaring, “Holy is he!” Like three other psalms (Psalm 93, 96, 97), it contains the key phrase, “the LORD reigns”. The psalm invokes the sacred name of God seven times. Because we are reading an English translation, we may overlook the word “LORD” written in all caps. Translators do this to indicate the divine name of God.
When asked by Moses what name he should tell the people, God indicated that He is the God of their forefathers, the God of the promised covenant, but most importantly, the God whose name is I AM. Exodus 3:14
The sacred name was written as YHWH (also known later as the Tetragrammaton “four” letters”) The name was considered so sacred as to never be pronounced except by the high priest on the Great Day of Atonement. Today, it is customary when the Bible is read in Hebrew to not pronounce the word but substitute the Hebrew term “Adonai” (Lord) instead. Some have attempted to add vowel sounds to the 4 consonants to make it pronounceable in English, thus ending up with the word YaHWeH and JeHoVaH.

Worship because He reigns as King

The psalm directs our attention to God’s enthronement upon the cherubim. It is a reference to the Ark of the Covenant. God commanded Moses to build this wooden box covered in gold to hold sacred items. The outside of the Ark was covered in gold and the top cover adorned with cherubim figures (angelic creatures). Their faces were turned down, and their wings spread toward the other. The space between them is called the Mercy Seat. It was the sacred place where God dealt with the sins of the nations. Leviticus 16. Once a year, the High priest would enter the Holy of Holies and offer the atoning sacrifice for the nation's sins between the cherubim. And the Mercy Seat was the place where Moses met to hear God. Exodus 25:21-22
To speak of God enthroned upon the cherubim is to bring to mind the removal of sin that keeps a holy God separated from people. God reigns because he deals with sin so that it no longer estranges us from God. God draws us close to his holiness through the Mercy Seat. God reigns in his mercy and salvation from sin. But God reigns beyond the Holy of Holies. He reigns in Zion (a name often used to refer to the city of Jerusalem, the city of the King). And further still, God reigns over all things. He commands all peoples of the earth to recognize His authority. Therefore, all people should approach God with caution, reverence, sincerity, and great awe. The Psalm writer recognizes God’s power to save people from their sins and to speak commands that they are to obey. We have the privilege through Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross to receive mercy for the forgiveness of our sins. Hebrews 9:12 God reigns because He is a Holy God who saves unholy people.
Hebrews 9:12 ESV
12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Worship because He loves justice

God forewarned Israel about wanting a king like the other nations. 1 Samuel 8:10-18. The human king would eventually become unbearable. Israel had a history of kings who lived justly and some evil. Ultimately every human king would prove to be inconsistent. History proves that power corrupts humans, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is not until we see Jesus as King (Christ and Messiah) do we get a sense of true justice. Jesus, a Son of David, a descendant of the King of Israel, fulfilled what the human kings should have been. He was sinless, and all his actions pure and holy. Of course, only God could fulfill that role. Jesus took on human flesh to save us from our sins, but after he went to the cross, to the grave, he resurrected and ascended into heaven and sits enthroned as the True King. 1 Peter 3:22
1 Peter 3:22 ESV
22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
If God reigns and is holy, and Christ has come and conquered sin, why do we still have this problem today? We all long for justice, but we seem to only catch it in bits and pieces.
1. If God is (all-good, holy, just), He would destroy evil.
2. If God is all powerful, He could destroy evil.
3. Evil is still around (not destroyed).
4. Therefore, there is no such God.
How do we answer those who reject the notion of God as the King who reigns when evil is prevalent? Norman Geisler offers this explanation. First, evil cannot be destroyed without destroying freedom. Freedom is how we can come to choose to love OR do evil. Fallen people who have freedom are the source of evil choices. So, if we remove freedom in order to destroy evil, we end up creating more evil and removing the ability to choose love. He argues that the destruction of evil is not the goal but its defeat.
If God is (all-good, holy, just) He will defeat evil.
If God is all-powerful, He can defeat evil.
Evil is not yet defeated
Therefore, God can and will one day defeat evil.
“Just because evil is not destroyed now, does not imply that that God has not done anything today, nor make it complete in the future....God isn’t finished yet. The final chapter has not been written. Apparently, God would rather wrestle with our rebellious wills...”
We worship God as King because we know that evil is defeated through Jesus Christ. Sin and death are no longer our only destiny. And we have a deposit of security that God will make all things just and righteous in His time. He is holy because He is just and will deal with sin and evil according to His plan. God loves justice and has made sinners into children through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And we will see the end of injustice as we look toward the second coming of King Jesus.

Worship because He responds to us

The psalm mentions three individuals who served as mediators and priests. Moses was God’s leader in the Exodus who heard from God and spoke it to the people. Aaron was the first priest for Israel that offered atoning sacrifices to God for the people. And Samuel was the prophet who guided Israel and served in the transition to the first King. All these men prayed to God. They “called upon his name”. They did not pray to an unknown deity. They knew His name and identity as the One True God. They called God, and He answered. God answered them through the pillar of the cloud, a reference to the Exodus story where God guided Israel through a visible pillar-shaped cloud by day and a pillar-shaped fire by night. It was a spectacular reminder of God’s leading presence. Exodus 13:21-22 The cloud also represented God’s presence when speaking with Moses. Exodus 33:9
Exodus 13:21–22 ESV
21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.
Exodus 33:9 ESV
9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses.
God told Aaron as well that He would meet him in the Holy of Holies over the mercy seat (the top of the ark of the covenant between the cherubim). Exodus 16:2 God would hear the prayer of the priest. This reminds us that prayer is a sacred activity. When we pray, we have the opportunity to address a Holy God. And because of Christ, we have the same intimate access to God as occurred in the Holy of Holies and the Mercy Seat. The name by which we have access is the name of Jesus, whose name means “God Saves”. He is the reason that we approach God in prayer. (in the name of Jesus)
There is one more thing that the writer wants us to know about the God who speaks with His creation. He answers with forgiveness as they repent. This phrase reminds us that we are talking to a Holy God and that we ought to recognize our sin and confess it before Him. If we attempt to deny or hide it, we may fool others or ourselves, but never can we fool God. If we confess our sins, He is faithful to answer the repentant heart through forgiveness. In the Old Testament, repentance required a sacrifice of a spotless lamb. But through Christ, our repentance is through faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.
Some people have reasoned that this privilege of forgiveness through faith in God’s grace is some kind of odd arrangement. They may reason that it seems an unfair exchange. How can someone just sin and then “get away with it” by saying they believe in Jesus. They may even conclude that they could sin without any consequence, as long as they say they are sorry. (Party on Saturday night and repent on Sunday Morning). Before we come to that conclusion, we need to see the biblical understanding of grace and consequences. Paul emphasizes that receiving God’s grace through faith results in a heart and mind that is conscious of sin and never content with sinful habits. Romans 6:1-2
Romans 6:1–2 ESV
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
The psalm writer mentions God’s judgment on sinful actions. God is just to condemn us to our sin, but in His grace, He frees us from the separation that our sin causes. But, in his mercy and wisdom, He also will let us feel the pain of our sinful choices within this world. Discipline may be painful, but it works toward our good. Hebrews 12:11 Moses and Aaron sinned; God forgave them but their actions could not be undone. Numbers 20:12
Numbers 20:12 ESV
12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”
This is a sober reminder that we are to live in obedience. And God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from unrighteousness. We must not think of forgiveness and grace as a “go back in a time machine.” It is, however, a blessed assurance to know that God is merciful to those who call upon His name.

Does God reign?

Modern England has a queen and a royal family. But they do not have any “real” authority or power like the monarchy of the past. Americans may mock the idea of having a king/queen that doesn’t have any power. Why even have it? Is it not just some sentimental idea? But what about your walk with God. You may call yourself a believer in Christ, but you may not let Him be the King of your life. You may make God to be a king like the modern English monarchy. The Bible declares that God reigns over all. The question we must ask is not whether He reigns over all but whether He reigns in me?

Pray with Confidence

The psalm writer confidently reminds us that God is faithful to hear and respond to our prayer. God may not grant our requests in our time or in the manner we wish, but when it comes to our request for forgiveness in repentance, He is faithful and just to always answer that prayer with forgiveness and the cleansing power of Jesus Christ. We can be assured that God answers all our prayers according to His goodness and holy character.
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