God, Sovereign and Judge of the Universe
1 Sing to the Lord a new song;[b]
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord and bless his name;
proclaim his salvation[c] day after day.
3 Declare his glory[d] among the nations,
his wondrous deeds to every people.
4 For great is the Lord and worthy of all praise;
he is more to be feared[e] than all other gods.
5 The gods of the nations are merely idols,
but it was the Lord who made the heavens.[f]
6 Majesty and splendor surround him;
power and beauty[g] are in his sanctuary.
7 Render to the Lord, you families of nations,
render to the Lord glory and power.[h]
8 Render to the Lord the glory due to his name;
bring an offering and enter his courts.[i]
9 Worship[j] the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord is King.[k]
The world is firmly established, never to be moved.
He will judge the peoples fairly.”
11 Let the heavens exult and the earth be glad;
let the sea resound and all that fills it.
12 Let the fields rejoice and all that is in them;
let all the trees[l] of the forest shout for joy
13 before the Lord, for he is coming,
coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with justice
and the nations with equity.[m]
- Psalm 96:1 Partially cited in 1 Chr 16:23-33, this hymn is comprised of Old Testament reminiscences, especially from the Psalter and Isaiah (e.g., Ps 42:10; Isa 55:12). The peoples and nations of which it speaks were originally the neighbors who attempted to prevent Israel from becoming established in Canaan; later, they were all the peoples of the world who failed to recognize the one true God. Israel, which had been saved at the time of the Judges and brought back from an exile through which she had suffered a kind of annihilation, had experienced the Lord’s deliverance more than once. She could well bear witness before the whole world of the power and superiority of the one sole God: the Lord had created the world and had given his people new life.
All peoples are invited to acknowledge him as the sovereign Master; all are summoned to the liturgy, to adoration. Deep emotion will grip the entire universe when God comes as Judge; he who has brought into being an unshakable world will establish all human beings in justice and righteousness.
This song of universal joy is always new with the newness of God himself; the New Testament (see Acts 17:31; Rev 19:11) refers to verse 13 in announcing the final coming of Christ on the day of judgment, when he will make all things new. Thus, by means of it, Christians call upon the whole universe to praise God the Father as well as the risen Jesus, whom the Father has made “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), “leader and Savior” (Acts 5:31), and “ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev 1:5).
According to the superscription in the Septuagint and Vulgate, this psalm was sung at the dedication of the post-Exilic temple. Its Messianic content made it suitable for that occasion.
- Psalm 96:1 New song: see note on Ps 33:3. All the earth: see note on Ps 9:2; see also Pss 97:1; 100:1.
- Psalm 96:2 Salvation: the psalmist does not specify the precise nature of the “salvation” he mentions (see note on Ps 67:3-4). Most likely, it included all God’s acts in redemptive history: creation and redemption (vv. 2, 11-12; see Ps 136:4-25). The People of God must assume the lead by praising the Lord (bless his name—see note on Ps 5:12) every day.
- Psalm 96:3 Glory: see note on Ps 85:10. Wondrous deeds: see note on Ps 9:2.
- Psalm 96:4 The Lord is great and worthy to receive praise and reverence (to be feared) because he alone is God and there is no other (see Ps 115).
- Psalm 96:5 Made the heavens: since the Lord made the heavens, which were supposedly the home of the gods, it follows that he is far greater than all the gods; but he is also greater because they are nothing more than idols.
- Psalm 96:6 The Lord is surrounded by personifications of divine attributes (majesty and splendor . . . power and beauty) that extol his universal kingship.
- Psalm 96:7 The psalmist makes use of Ps 29:1f, eliminating any allusion to the theme of “heavenly beings” (i.e., “sons of God”) and accentuating the universalist tone (see Ps 47:10; Zec 14:17). All peoples are specifically summoned to pledge their obedience to the Lord.
- Psalm 96:8 Courts: i.e., of the temple where the Lord dwells (see Ps 84:3, 11; 2 Ki 21:5; 23:11f). The psalmist may have been thinking of the outermost court of the temple, which was the court of the Gentiles.
- Psalm 96:9 The psalmist calls for the people to worship the Lord, i.e., give him their reverence, submission, and awe because of the splendor of his holiness (see Pss 29:2; 99; 110:3; 1 Chr 16:29).
- Psalm 96:10 The Lord is King: see note on Ps 93:1a-b. The Lord is not only the Creator of all (as well as the Redeemer of all) but also the Judge of all. Greek and Latin manuscripts have a Christian addition: “from the wood” [of the cross]—a splendid expression of the theology of the cross found in the Gospel of John.
- Psalm 96:12 Heavens . . . sea . . . fields . . . trees: i.e., the whole world. By being what it is, God’s creation gives him glory. However, it will rejoice even more when the fullness of redemption is attained, which it is presently awaiting together with all humanity (see Rom 8:21f).
- Psalm 96:13 The psalmist may have been thinking of the Lord’s coming as the one in which he led the exiles back to Jerusalem. But the Lord comes in many ways. In Christ, the Lord came to fulfill the words of this psalm, bringing all peoples back to God, and he will come again at the end of time to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 17:31). His judgment is righteousness and truth.