“The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!”
Psalm 97:1 (English Standard Version)
Earlier this week I received an email from a longtime family friend (and a man I deeply respect for his study of God’s Word and willingness to share that study with others), Mr. H, with a question regarding the aforementioned verse. The question was basically this:
In Old Testament Hebrew, would there be an equivalent “the” article before the word “earth”, and therefore, does this verse seem to indicate that nature itself praises God?
While I am currently in seminary and intend to begin studying the Hebrew language within the next year, I have not had much experience with the language thus far, and I’m not exactly sure why Mr. H chose to email this specific question to me. But OH, how GRATEFUL I am that he did! What a joy it has been to spend the last few days diving into Scripture and my [albeit limited] resources in search of an answer!
My very basic [and limited] search uncovered that, yes, there is a definite article in Hebrew grammar. (Hebrew/Bible scholars, feel free to add insight or correct me here if I’m wrong.) But in turning my search to Scripture for the context of this passage and other similar passages, I’m not sure that (at least in this case) it changes the meaning at all.
At its core, Psalm 97:1 very much seems to indicate that nature itself praises God.
Consider the preceding passage:
“Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity.”
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; Let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord,
For He comes, for He comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in His faithfulness.”
Psalm 96:10-13 (ESV – emphasis added)
This seems to be a very clear picture of nature/creation itself praising God. But why is it so important that creation praises?
Consider the explanation found in the following passage:
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
Which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
And, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them,
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.”
Psalm 19:1-6 (ESV)
There are sooo many passages (both in the Old Testament and New Testament) that illustrate creation praising God as well as people praising God. But in my review of many such passages over the past few days, I was made (somewhat painfully) aware of one major difference:
Creation faithfully and effortlessly praises God. Just. By. Being. Because creation is unashamedly aware of God’s worthiness and unhesitatingly dependent on God’s sovereignty.
And so I ask you the same question I have been asking myself over and over: Are you willing to faithfully and boldly praise God along with creation? Regardless of circumstances? Because of the knowledge that God is worthy and sovereign? Just. By. Being?
PS: Check back next week for my answer in Creation’s Praise Part 2.