Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.” (Psalm 96:9–10)
The Lord reigns. That’s what the entire section of Psalms 93–100 is about, and Psalm 96:9–10 fits right in.
The psalmist calls us to worship the Lord (verse 9), and then he commands us to declare the Lord (verse 10). To be exact, “all the earth” is called to worship the Lord and we, his people, are called to declare to the nations that he reigns.
The reign of the Lord is central here. But what does it mean?
These verses tell us more. Specifically, they point out three glorious truths about the reign of the Lord. First, his reign is universal; second, his reign is the ground of our most basic security; and three, his reign is cause for us to fear.
The Lord’s reign is universal.
Verse 10 begins with the audience of God’s reign. “Say among the nations,” the text says. This is the audience to whom we are commanded to declare the news that the Lord is king. The implications here are huge. We declare this news to all the nations because the Lord is king over all the nations. Everyone on the face of the earth needs to hear this news because it applies to them. It is about them. It is for them.
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1). But could you imagine living your whole life on this earth and not knowing to whom it belongs? Not knowing to whom you belong? This is the state of the nations. This used to be our state… before we heard the news that Jesus is Lord and believed. Someone told us. Someone declared it.
And we are called to keep saying it.
God’s reign is universal. Therefore, we are commanded to tell the news of him to all peoples. It’s in our proclaiming — in the gospel’s advance — that God gathers his people to himself and extends the triumph of his goodness and power.
The Lord’s reign grounds our most basic security.
The declaration “The Lord reigns!” is followed by two supporting ideas in verse 10. First, elaborating the meaning of his reign, we are told that “the world is established; it shall never be moved.” Essentially, because the Lord reigns the earth is not going to spin out of orbit. It’s not carelessly vulnerable to apocalyptic meteors crashing into it and wiping everything out. This has never happened. The earth is still here. We are proof of that.
But have we ever wondered why that’s the case? Psalm 96:10 tells us it is because God is in control. God’s reign means the most basic needs of life — like falling rain and a rising sun and a stable planet that doesn’t evaporate — occur for the just and unjust (Matthew 5:45). These are facts about God’s reign that mean good for every single person on earth.
This most basic security, which is often taken for granted, is grounded in the wondrous reality that the Lord reigns.
The Lord’s reign is cause for us to fear — and find peace.
The second supporting idea of the Lord’s reign in verse 10 is that the Lord will judge all peoples with righteousness. The Lord reigns, which means he is the judge, which means every soul has a good reason to be terrified.
He judges fairly, you see. A slip up in the system reflects a lack of purity on his part. And there’s no such lack of purity. He is perfectly holy, utterly righteous. Every wrong will be punished. This is terrifying for us, for all peoples, because we have done a lot of wrong. We are sinners, every last one of us (Romans 3:23). And that means that we are under the severe judgment of God. We deserve his wrath.
But there is a place where this terror becomes a blessing. It’s in the cross of Jesus.
The Bible is clear that Jesus died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3), that he was put forward by the Father as a propitiation by his blood (Romans 3:25). Jesus, completely blameless and faithful, went to the cross to take upon himself all of our wrong. God was judging people according to what they deserve (meaning our coming damnation), and by his grace, Jesus stepped up as our substitute. He took all of that righteous judgment upon himself for our sake, and in exchange we are united into him and his righteousness forever. He became our good when there’s nothing good in us. He became our light when the darkness closes in. He became our joy and the reason that we sing.
By our faith in him, we are united to Jesus in such a way that we are no longer seen as peoples to be judged, but sons and daughters who are welcomed home.
And so we run into the riches of his love. We rejoice in his incomparable grace. And, among all nations, we tell of his forever reign.