Once when I was jogging I had to wait at an intersection for the light to change. Also waiting at the intersection was a man in his car, anxious to make a right hand turn. He was impatient because the car ahead of him would not turn on a red light. He did not see the pedestrian in the crosswalk for whom the man in front was waiting. Furiously he honked his horn and raced his motor. When the car ahead of him finally cleared the intersection the angry motorist behind him took off with his tires squealing. He quickly passed the motorist who had caused his delay, glaring and shaking his fist at him.
His satisfaction at having vented his frustration was momentary, however. Not only had this hostile fellow failed to observe the pedestrian in the crosswalk, he had also overlooked the patrol car at the other side of the intersection. To the smell of smoking tires was added the sound of a siren and the sight of flashing lights. As I watched this little scene I felt a tremendous sense of elation as the policeman proceeded to give him a citation. Generally speaking whenever we feel good at such times we also feel guilty. We wonder if it’s really right to rejoice when the wicked are punished. Should the saint be happy when the sinner gets his due?
Psalm 92 forces us to consider this matter because it is a psalm of worship. In this passage God is being praised by the psalmist for destroying the wicked and exalting the righteous above his enemies. How is it possible that a godly person can rejoice at the destruction of the wicked? What makes us feel guilty about the punishment of evildoers when the psalmist feels glad? This is the problem which our passage poses, and the purpose of our study will be to attempt to find a satisfactory solution. The lesson which this psalm teaches should have profound implications in our lives. Let us consider this text prayerfully, asking God to give us insight and understanding.
1 A Psalm, a Song for the Sabbath day. It is good to give thanks to the LORD, And to sing praises to Thy name, O Most High; 2 To declare Thy lovingkindness in the morning, And Thy faithfulness by night, 3 With the ten-stringed lute, and with the harp; With resounding music upon the lyre. (NASB)
The superscription of Psalm 92 does not identify the author, but it does provide a very interesting comment about the use of the psalm. We are told that it is “a psalm for the Sabbath day.” As such, it is the only psalm in the Hebrew text of the psalter that is designated as a Sabbath psalm. This suggests that our psalm focuses on the area of worship. The first three verses confirm this by emphasizing the worthiness of worship.
Let us consider, first of all, the blessedness of worship. When the writer says “It is good to give thanks to the Lord,” we probably fail to fully grasp the fact that worship is a delight, a pleasure. We have been conditioned to view the word “good” as meaning something beneficial. For example, all of us can remember our mother saying to us, “Take this, it’s good for you.” Now castor oil, spinach and rectal thermometers may be “good” for us in the utilitarian sense, but they are no pleasure. The psalmist means for us to understand that worship is good in that it is pure pleasure to those who truly love God.
Then again, it is also true that worship is “good for us” because it does benefit us. This aspect of worship is more fully developed in Psalm 95, another lesson in this series. Worship brings about positive results in our lives.
There is yet another sense in which “good” refers to worship as appropriate. It is appropriate, it is morally good, it is proper to respond to God with praise. God’s activity in the world is intended to bring praise to Himself (cf. Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). Jesus told the woman at the well that God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). Worship is perhaps the most worthy of all activities for it brings pleasure to God as well as pleasure to us. The appropriateness of worship is one of the principal themes of our psalm. Worship is a many splendored thing. It is a delight and a duty. This is summed up in another psalm: “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and praise is becoming” (Ps. 147:1).
We also learn from verses 1-3 some of the manifestations of worship. Not only does worship have numerous benefits, it also takes a variety of forms. There are several expressions that are used in these verses to describe the various acts of worship which are encouraged. The first is “to give thanks” (v. 1, NASB). We have already discussed the concept of thanks in a previous lesson. Actually there is no one expression in the Hebrew language which is equivalent to our expression, “thanks.” When we speak of giving thanks to the Lord we are talking more about praise, than simply thanksgiving. We are acknowledging God for who He is, for His actions.
The second expression of our worship is “singing praises” (v. 1b). This is actually the verb form of the word “psalm” in the superscription. To “sing praises” is “to psalm.” So the worship of God is expressed by praising Him “… with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16).
Verse three further pursues the subject of musical praise. Singing praises is surely one form of worship, but in the third verse we are taught that singing with musical accompaniment may be more inspiring. The “ten-stringed lute,” the “harp” and the “lyre” are singled out. The psalmist (who was surely a musician) reminds us that our singing is often enhanced when it is accompanied by musical instruments. Frankly I puzzle at those who conclude that worship in the New Testament involves unaccompanied singing. Whenever accompaniment enhances our singing, it enriches our worship. Music is a significant part of our worship experience because it is one means by which we may express our gratitude and adoration toward God.
The word used to describe a third manifestation of worship is “declare” (v. 2). It is impossible for any definition to encompass the broad sense of this word. It often means “to make known.” Frequently “declare” is used in the sense of revealing something that is not known, bringing it to the surface, making public what is unknown. For example, when Abraham had lied to Pharaoh, the Egyptian potentate asked him, “Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?” (Gen. 12:18). What he meant was, “Why didn’t you expose the truth? Why did you conceal the truth from me?”
“Declare” means “to make known” in an even broader sense. We can make something public that has been private. There is an unpleasant example of this use of “declare” in Genesis 9:22. When Noah became drunk and was lying naked in his tent, Ham “told” his brothers. He published what should have remained secret. Shem and Japheth’s response was exactly the opposite. They went in to cover up the sin that he had made public.
While Ham was wrong to publicize his father’s sin, his evil deed does serve to illustrate one manifestation of worship. Worship involves proclaiming God’s goodness to others. God is exalted by our public praise. Let me attempt to illustrate this. It is fitting for a husband to tell his wife privately that he loves her. I know many wives would like to hear this more often. Yet it is more noteworthy when a husband praises his wife before others, as the husband of the ideal wife is said to do: “Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: ‘Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all’” (Prov. 13:28-29).
Worship provides us with the opportunity to say publicly of God what we should be saying privately to Him. Worship is declaring God’s goodness and greatness.
There are various manifestations of worship. I do not understand the psalmist to imply that praising, psalming and proclaiming are the only forms of worship. Here he is dealing specifically with a “Song for the Sabbath.” This is how the Psalm was used. In the context of the Sabbath day worship, praising, psalming and proclaiming are all a duty and a delight to the one who trusts in God.
4 For Thou, O LORD, hast made me glad by what Thou hast done, I will sing for joy at the works of Thy hands. 5 How great are Thy works, O LORD! Thy thoughts are very deep. 6 A senseless man has no knowledge; Nor does a stupid man understand this: 7 That when the wicked sprouted up like grass, And all who did iniquity flourished, It was only that they might be destroyed forevermore. 8 But Thou, O LORD, art on high forever. 9 For, behold, Thine enemies, O LORD, For, behold, Thine enemies will perish; All who do iniquity will be scattered.
10 But Thou hast exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil. 11 And my eye has looked exultantly upon my foes, My ears hear of the evildoers who rise up against me. 12 The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green, 15 To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. (NASB)
In the first line of verse 4 the psalmist tells us his motivation: “For Thou, O Lord, has made me glad …” The worship of the psalmist is an overflow of the joy and gladness God has given him. Worship is not a drudgery, it is a delight. It is something that we should look forward to doing. When I was younger I used to look at worship differently. I went to our church services thinking in terms of the minutes (then it seemed like hours) that I had to endure. I now see that I lacked the joy which the psalmist displays here. I question however, if most of what we traditionally call “worship” is really the worship which the psalmist describes.
Verse four also introduces the subject of the basis for worship: “For Thou, O Lord, has made me glad by what Thou hast done, I will sing for joy at the works of Thy hands.”
Pardon me for this play on words, but worship is not hysterical, it is historical. Many people, when they come to worship, do it in some kind of ecstasy that is not rooted in history. It is merely existential and emotional activity in which one works up a kind of giddiness that hardly relates to reality. Often this kind of ecstasy denies reality. The worship of which the psalmist speaks is historical worship. He is worshipping God for who He is and for what He does: “For Thou O Lord hast made me glad by what Thou hast done.” He sings for joy at the works of God’s hands.
Verses 5-15 now expand on verse 4, describing God’s work which motivates the psalmist to worship Him joyfully. Specifically, the work of God has to do with the punishment of the wicked and the exaltation and reward of the righteous. Verse 5 introduces the major section of the psalm: “How great are Thy works, O Lord! Thy thoughts are very deep.” As in other passages, “God’s thoughts” mean His purposes (cf. Ps. 40:5; Prov. 16:3; Isa. 55:8; 66:18; Jer. 29:11; 49:20; 51:29). This is also true in Romans 11:33. After the apostle Paul finished his explanation of God’s purposes of saving the Gentiles through Jewish unbelief and then saving the Jews through the belief of the Gentiles, he finishes with these words of praise: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable are His ways!” (Rom. 11:33).
In a like manner, the psalmist is meditating on the works of God and the purposes of God. He continues in verses 6 and 7: “A senseless man has no knowledge; nor does a stupid man understand this; that when the wicked sprouted up like grass, and all who did iniquity flourished, it was only that they might be destroyed forevermore” (Ps 92:6-7). In the NASB you will see a colon at the end of verse 6. This indicates that what the “stupid man” doesn’t understand is given in verses 7ff. The “stupid man” doesn’t understand that the wicked thrive for a short time, only to be destroyed. Kidner differs with this interpretation.155 He suggests that the word “this” in verse 6b can just as easily look backward as it can forward. Therefore verses 5 and 6 may very well be saying: “How great are Thy works O Lord! Thy thoughts are very deep. A senseless man has no knowledge; nor does a stupid man understand this.” Understood in such a way we hear the psalmist saying that the senseless man does not comprehend, he does not grasp the greatness of God as demonstrated by His works. He does not fathom the working of God in His purposes.
The word “senseless” (v. 6) is a descriptive term used of animals. Animals differ from men in that men have the ability to reason and to revere God. The man who cannot understand God’s works is beastly or brutish. The man who will not praise God for His works and His worth is really no better than the cow out in the field. Interestingly enough, those who are senseless and brutish are inclined to accuse Christians of being irrational. What is the intellectual sophistication of our age saying, if not that Christians are those who have taken off their heads? The psalmist says these fools are guilty of their own charges.
Not only does “this” refer back to verse 5, I believe it also refers to verse 7 as well. The failure of the brutish to understand God and to worship Him for His works leads them to err in regard to their own destiny. They are totally unaware of the judgment which awaits them: “That when the wicked sprouted up like grass, and all who did iniquity flourished, it was only that they might be destroyed forevermore” (Ps. 92:7). This verse contains a contrast between the apparent prosperity of the wicked and the certainty of their demise. The sudden prosperity and growth of the wicked is like that of the weeds which appear every spring. They sprout rapidly—long before the grass and the flowers, but they are gone just as quickly. Viewed from the short-term perspective the wicked seem to have it made, but from an eternal viewpoint, they have had it.
A second contrast should be observed between man’s finite and fallible perception of things and God’s eternal and unchanging purposes. The wicked man perceives that his prosperity is the consequence of his sin. After all, why sin if it isn’t pleasant and profitable? God’s purpose for the wicked is not that they should prosper, but that they should perish. Just as the purpose for the grass, which momentarily flourishes, is for it to die, so God’s purpose for the wicked is to perish. God’s purposes indeed are deep!
The pinnacle of the psalm is found in verse 8: “But Thou, O Lord, art on high forever.” This statement is not only central to the message of the psalm, it is positionally at the center. While the other verses each have two lines, this verse has only one. It falls exactly in the middle of the psalm. Some see this as a clue to the structure of the psalm.156 Not only is this verse at the center of the psalm formally, it is at the center theologically. In verse 1 God is called “O Most High.” In verse 8 He is said to be “on high.” In verse 15 the Lord is “upright,” exalted on the praises of the psalmist. That God is “on high forever” is the basis of our praise, of God’s punishment of the wicked and His prospering of the righteous.
The “senseless man” of verse 6 tends to elevate himself in his own eyes. He, like grass, sprouts up, but not to any lofty height. From this very puny and perilous height the wicked man will plunge into destruction. In contrast to the wicked, God is truly lifted up. He is “on high forever.” Because wicked men do not know or understand God, they only compare themselves to other men. Thus, they think too highly of themselves and they fail to fear God and to dread their ultimate destiny apart from Him. For the psalmist the truth that God is “Most High” is the basis for worship and praise. For the “senseless man” it is the occasion for his destruction.
Because God is exalted, He will bring about the downfall and the destruction of the wicked, who not only fail to praise Him, but who persist in their sin: “For, behold, Thine enemies, O Lord, for, behold, Thine enemies will perish; all who do iniquity will be scattered” (Ps. 92:9).
Because God is exalted, He will also exalt those who trust in Him. Not only is it God’s purpose to destroy the wicked (v. 7), it is God’s promise to exalt the righteous. In verses 10-11 the psalmist describes what seems to be a recent experience in which God exalted him above his foes: “But Thou has exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil. And my eye has looked exultantly upon my foes, my ears hear of the evildoers who rise up against me.”
In verse 10 the psalmist employs two images or figures of speech to describe the way God exalted him. The first is the horn of a wild ox, and the second is the anointing of the head with oil. Elsewhere in Scripture the horn is employed as a symbol of strength and power. In Deuteronomy 33:17 Joseph’s victory over his enemies is likened to the power of the ox’s horn as it pushes and prevails over its prey. In 1 Samuel 2:1 Hannah’s “horn” is exalted when God gave her a child, thereby giving her victory over her adversary, Peninnah (1 Sam. 1:6). Frequently this figure is used to symbolize strength, power, and honor (cf. Job 16:15; Ps. 22:21; 75:4-5, 10; 89:17, 24; 112:9; 148:14). Thus, as the ox triumphs over its prey with its horns, so the psalmist has prevailed over his enemies.
In the Old Testament, the anointing of the head with oil sometimes signifies the induction of a man into a high office, such as that of the high priest or the king (cf. Ex. 29:21; 2 Sam. 1:21; 1 Ki. 1:39). Even more to the point is the use of the term “oil” in 2 Samuel 14:2. Here the absence of the anointing of the head with oil serves to indicate that one is in a state of mourning or distress. Anointing the head with oil therefore signifies joy, contentment, and satisfaction (cf. Ps. 23:5; 45:7; 104:15; Prov. 27:9; Eccl. 9:8; Ezek. 16:9).
While verse 10 stresses the exaltation of the psalmist, verse 11 emphasizes the enemies over whom God had made him triumphant: “And my eye has looked exultantly upon my foes, my ears hear of the evildoers who rise up against me.” Just as God triumphs over His enemies, those who trust in God are made to triumph over their adversaries. In order for us to be exalted above our foes they must be God’s enemies. By choosing to worship God for His works we align ourselves with Him against His enemies. Now, His enemies are our enemies. Since He will always triumph over His adversaries, we will be exalted above our foes.
From his personal experience of victory over his enemies (vv. 10-11) the psalmist moves on to a general principle which should now be evident: God not only destroys His enemies, He also delivers His servants and causes them to prosper: “The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green” (Ps. 92:12-14).
We can only appreciate the imagery of the tree in verses 12-14 as we recall the imagery of the grass in verses 6-7. The word “flourish” occurs in verse 7 and again in verse 13 to highlight the contrast which is intended here. The wicked quickly flourish for a time, but they also quickly perish, like grass. The righteous flourish like trees, not like grass. They may not prosper as rapidly, but their prosperity is permanent.
Like the stately palm or the sturdy cedar, the righteous will prosper (v. 12). Verse 13 describes the righteous “trees” as growing in the “courts of our God.” Eastern homes often have courtyards in which trees might grow. Here it is the courts of God where the trees are planted and prosper. In light of the fact that this is a Sabbath psalm, I believe the writer is reminding the faithful Israelite that the basis for the growth and prosperity of the righteous is their relationship to God. His work is to cause the wicked to perish and the righteous to flourish. What better place is there to grow than in God’s courts? Is it not when we are at worship that we are most secure and our future prosperity is most certain? It is at worship, not at work, that we prosper most. I think this is what God meant for men to learn when he gave them the Sabbath day in which to cease from work and to worship.
While the prosperity of the wicked is short-lived, the blessings of the righteous are eternal. The grass quickly sprouts and then soon perishes, but the tree is a more permanent plant. In old age it is still fruitful (cf. Isa. 65:22-23). Like Joshua and Caleb (Josh. 14:10-11), youthfulness and virility will not be lost with age. In tree terminology they “will be full of sap and very green” (v. 14).
Verse 15 proclaims God’s purpose for prospering the righteous: “To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” While the righteous are able to see the mighty hand of God in their lives, the wicked have no comprehension of things which are spiritual (cf. vv. 5-6). In previous verses we have seen the psalmist praise God because he has exalted him above his enemies. Verse 15 explains that one of God’s purposes for exalting the righteous is so that they might praise Him. From the psalmist’s point of view he praises God for His gracious acts. From God’s point of view He acts graciously in order to be praised.
The Hebrew text clearly indicates two purpose statements in this psalm. The first is found in verse 7c. The wicked were allowed to prosper momentarily (v. 7a,b) in order that God might destroy them forever. The second purpose statement is found in verse 15. We are told that God causes the righteous to flourish (vv. 12-14) in order that they may praise Him. God prospers us and protects us from our foes. God gives us length of days and strength in our old age so that we may be able to proclaim that He is upright (v. 15).
This is a very important point for those of us who tend to focus on ourselves, rather than on God. God does not promise to bless us only for our own benefit. He blesses us so that we will have the motivation and the means to praise Him. Blessing, then, is not so much an end, as a means to an end. Its ultimate purpose is to promote our praise.
The message of this psalm can be largely summed up in two categories: (1) the goodness of praise; and, (2) the grounds for praise. Let us quickly review these two important truths.
(1) Praise is good in that it is appropriate. Nothing is so becoming to the saint as praise. Praise is also good in that it is a delight. It is the cause of great joy and fulfillment in the life of the devoted believer. There is fulfillment and satisfaction in doing what we were created to do.
(2) Psalm 92 provides us with two of the principle grounds of praise. In general, these can both be seen as the work of God (v. 4). In greater detail, the work of God entails the punishment of the wicked (vv. 6-9) and the prosperity of the righteous (vv. 10-14). In both the destruction of the wicked and the exaltation of the righteous the purpose of God is to bring praise to His name.
I doubt very much that any would challenge the fact that God prospers the righteous to prompt us to praise. However, when it comes to the destruction of the wicked, perhaps this raises some eyebrows. Stop and think for a moment of some particular occasions at which God is praised for the destruction of the wicked. After God destroyed men, crops and cattle in the exodus, the people of God praised Him with these words: “I will sing to the Lord for He is highly exalted; the horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.”
In the Book of Judges we find the song of Deborah the prophetess: “Thus let all Thine enemies perish O Lord; but let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might” (Judg. 5:31).
Hannah was provoked by her bitter rival (Peninnah) because she was unable to bear children (1 Sam. 1:2, 6). When God graciously opened her womb she praised God with this prayer: “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord, my mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in Thy salvation.”
Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered; against them He will thunder in the heavens, the Lord will judge the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to His king, and He will exalt the horn of His anointed (1 Sam. 2:1, 9-10).
In the Book of Revelation, the same kind of worship occurs. God is praised for the destruction of the wicked as well as for His blessing of the righteous:
And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshipped God, saying, “We give Thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who art and who wast, because Thou has taken Thy great power and hast begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Thy wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to Thy bond-servants the prophets and to the saints and to those who fear Thy name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:18).
And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous art Thou, who art and who wast, O Holy One, because Thou didst judge these things; for they poured out the blood of the saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it” (Rev. 16:5-6).
Distressing as it may be, the author of Psalm 92 and many devout worshippers praised God for the defeat of their enemies. How could they possibly do so and yet remain righteous? We must be certain that our enemies are God’s enemies. God prospers us because we worship Him, and He punishes the wicked because they refuse to bow down before Him. Those who reject God are the enemies of God’s people (cf. John 15:18-20).
The righteous may also praise God because He is their avenger. God punishes the wicked and exalts the righteous above their enemies. Nowhere does this psalm teach us to seek revenge.
Our difficulty in praising God for the destruction of our enemies arises from our failure to distinguish who our adversaries are. In fact, most of us don’t want any enemies. The psalmist is so allied with God that he recognizes God’s enemies are his enemies. If we refuse to take sides, then the wicked will be our friends and God will be our adversary (James 4:4; Matt. 6:24). We not only can rejoice, we ought to rejoice when God’s enemies are destroyed.
Our problem today, as it has been throughout all time, is a misguided sense of mercy. God commanded the Israelites at their entrance into the promised land to absolutely abolish the Canaanites, men, women, children and cattle. This was an incredibly difficult assignment. I think it would be just as difficult for us as it was for the Israelites of ancient times. However, we fail to grasp that the wicked are God’s foes. Thus the Canaanites, a wicked people, were to be destroyed because they were the enemies of God.
In Matthew 5:29, when the Lord Jesus talked about the sin of adultery, He said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble pluck it out. If your right hand offends you cut it off. It is better to lose your eye or your hand than to be cast into hell.” Our real problem is that we are not merciless against the wicked because we are not merciless with sin. The reason why we are reticent to deal with God’s enemies is because we don’t fully appreciate God’s righteousness nor do we share His hatred of sin. If we foster sin in our own lives, then surely we will be the first to take up a stone to cast at others. That was the point Jesus was making when He said to the religious leaders who were eager to condemn the woman taken in adultery, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). The reason why we are not eager to condemn the wicked is that we are too closely associated with wickedness. We cannot condemn the sins of others which we condone in ourselves.
Our problem is friendship with the world. We are like Lot of old in our attitude toward sin. Lot lived in Sodom and Gomorrah, and while Peter said that his righteous soul was vexed (2 Pet. 2:8), we observe that God had to virtually drag Lot out of that wicked place. Even though the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah vexed him, he did not want to leave. He had an attraction to sin as well as a repulsion for it. When Abram appealed to God concerning these cities, he interceded for the sake of the righteous who would have been destroyed. Here, then, is the difference between Abraham and Lot. Lot had mercy on the wicked, while Abraham was concerned for the righteous.
Worship is good. It is appropriate. It is a delight. Worship is the basis for God’s blessings. Those who refuse to worship God fall justly under His wrath and face eternal destruction. Both the punishment of the wicked and the prosperity of the righteous are grounds for further worship. If the failure to worship God has such serious repercussions, what implications does this have concerning the matter of worship? Not only is worship a good thing, the failure to worship God is an exceedingly great evil.
Let us not forget the message of Psalm 92 in the light of the two psalms which precede it. I have already suggested that Psalms 90-92 are placed together because they are complimentary. Psalm 90 stresses the futility of life in the light of man’s sinfulness. There is hope for all who recognize this futility fear God, trust in Him for grace to live in the world as it is and petition Him to come to restore the universe to what it should be. Psalm 91 is addressed to those who, as a result of trusting in God, face great danger and opposition. Its message to us is that, in God’s hand, we are absolutely safe and secure. Security doesn’t mean evil will never befall us, but that calamity will not befall us which is contrary to God’s promises and our ultimate prosperity. Psalm 92 compliments and completes the other two psalms by impressing upon us the purpose of God’s work, both in saving us and in keeping us safe and secure, to bring praise to Himself.
Yet another lesson can be learned from Psalm 92. Often we try to motivate people to godly living by stressing that it is their duty, rather than showing them it is their delight. In verse 2 I understand the psalmist to be saying that evangelism is an outgrowth of worship. We have seen that worship involves the declaration of God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness morning and night. The worship of God must be public. Evangelism is seen by the psalmist as an act of worship. While there is a sense in which this is a duty, the psalmist stresses its delight.
I believe that this note of “delight” is many times missing not only in our worship, but in our witnessing and in all of the works we do as a “duty”. The core of everything we do should be worship. We should do it because we delight in God, because He has made us glad by the works of His hands. Notice how the apostle Paul introduces the section dealing with our responsibilities as Christians. He turns our attention to the mercies of God. He talks of our service as an act of worship motivated by a gladness of heart:
I urge you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:1-2).
I would like to suggest that most of us are trying to motivate Christians to do what they ought to do purely on the basis of their duty. God speaks of our service in terms of a duty which is delightful. His will is not only perfect, but also good and acceptable.
The purpose of evangelism is praise, to glorify God. The salvation of souls is God’s business. The primary purpose of evangelism is the proclamation of the goodness of God. Many times the reason why people are not attracted by our witness is because it is only a duty and not a delight. It is not a witness which is an overflow of gladness in response to God’s work in our life. It is a duty that we begrudgingly perform. This is much the way our worship is. It is not an overflow of the working of God in our life, it is a simple duty that we grind out. Worship ought to be the core, the foundation, of all our works. Ultimately all of God’s works are for one purpose—to bring praise to His name through our worship: “He predestined us to adoption as sons … to the praise of the glory of His grace … to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:6, 12, cf. also v. 14).
Worship should be at the heart of everything we do. If we rightly respond to the works of God we will respond in worship. If we are rightly obedient to God we will do it as an act of worship. Let us all seek to be better worshippers of God, not only as our duty, but as our delight.
155 Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150 (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975), p. 335-336.
156 Psalm 92 may exhibit an arch-form structure with verse 8 appearing at the apex of the arch. Clues to this structure include: (1) each verse in the psalm has two lines, but verse 8 only has one line; (2) verse 8 is positionally at the center of the psalm—the 108 Hebrew words are equally distributed on either side of the two central words of verse 8 (“exalted forever”); and (3) the name Yahweh occurs in verses 1, 8, and 15 with the remaining four uses equally divided in the lines preceding and following verse 8. If Psalm 92 exhibites an arch-form structure, then verse 8 is given special emphasis since it is at the apex. Thus the psalmist accentuates the sovereign position of God in destroying the wicked and exalting the righteous above their adversaries (cf. Jonathan Magonet, “Some Concentric Structures in Psalms,” The Heythrop Journal 23 (1982):365-76).