A circle of friends on pilgrimage for the love of God

Psalm 92

The Sower (After Millet) by Vincent van Gogh (1881)

Pentecost +4 2024
Rev. Doug Floyd
Psalm 92

Our Psalm today is the only Psalm designated as a Sabbath Psalm. The name of the Lord occurs seven times as a reminder of the seventh day. The Mishnah, a collection of oral traditions of Judaism, states that Psalm 92 is “A psalm, a song for the world that is to come, for the day which is wholly Sabbath rest for eternity.”[1] In that sense, the Psalm carries the promise of a world to come.

This joyful Psalm is filled with the praise of our God. But then in the middle of the Psalm, we read about the wicked:

The stupid man cannot know;
the fool cannot understand this:
that though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;
but you, O Lord, are on high forever.
For behold, your enemies, O Lord,
for behold, your enemies shall perish;
all evildoers shall be scattered. [2]

This language of stupid does not indicate a low IQ, but rather a person who has intentionally turned a blind eye to the ways of God. John Paul II speaks of this person as a cruel person who hurts others with no consideration if the consequences. He writes, “The adjectives used here belong to the language of wisdom and denote the brutality, blindness and foolishness of those who think they can rage over the face of the earth without moral consequences, deceiving themselves that God is absent and indifferent.”[3]

This sounds like many places on the earth. How do we praise the Lord in a world filled with such brutality. In fact, many people mock the phrase “thoughts and prayers,” suggesting we need to do something but what? Put a post on Facebook? Sign a petition? March in a protest? Will those actions elicit change?

Think of all the wars enveloping the earth right now. I looked number of wars on planet. There are over 50 conflicts, impacting multiple countries in the world right now. Last year, over 95k people were killed in the Ukraine and the year before over 100k. There are five key conflicts in the world, and these are impacting multiple regions. These include Myanmar, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Muslim Insurgency in the Maghreb, which has spread to at least 15 African nations, the Sudanese Civil War, and finally the Russia-Ukraine war. These are considered major conflicts that have cost the lives of 10,000 or more people in combat in this year or last year.

How can we rejoice in the Lord when evil seems so overwhelming on our planet? I think of the late German theologian Jürgen Moltmann who died at age 98 last week. He was drafted to fight in the German army as a young man. He was a musician and had assumed he would never have to fight.

The thought of war terrified him. He was captured right after he entered the conflict and held in a POW camp in Scotland. It was there that he found out about the German atrocities. Grief overwhelmed him and many soldiers died from grief. But Moltmann heard the gospel from a Scottish family and this gave him hope for the future.

In one of his books on a “Theology of Play,” Moltmann writes about a passage from Zecheriah 8:5, “And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.” [4] For Moltmann, it is the hope of the future found in the Gospel that allows the children to play and that allows us to rejoice even now.

Today’s Psalm us fills with that hope. Those who ravage the earth, one day will ravage no more. Like grass, they will fade and perish and be scattered. But the “Lord, [is] on high forever.” [5] The Psalmist can now sing and rejoice in the Sabbath while anticipating a Sabbath that one day will bring true shalom to all creation.

Let’s back up to the beginning of the Psalm.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
How great are your works, O Lord!
Your thoughts are very deep! [6]

The focus of this Psalm is not on human works or human efforts. It is the glorious works of King YHWH. The Psalmist can open the day with rejoicing and can seal the night with more rejoice. In fact, in Psalm 119, the Psalmist pledges to lift of holy praise seven times a day (Psalm 199:164).

I think this has inspired the pattern of prayers offices in the church. Lifting holy praise doesn’t have to be a service or even a long prayer. Think about this. We give thanks before every meal. My dad patterned a way of thanksgiving where he would offer praise and thanks before the meals for our food, our home, our freedom and more. If we offer thanks before meals that is three times a day. Many people offer thanks when they wake or when they shower. They thank God for the new day. Many people also offer thanks at the end of the day before they sleep. This makes five times a day. If we follow Paul’s admonition to give thanks in all things, it is easy to see how we might already be lifting holy praise seven times a day and possibly more. Of course seven marks completion or perfection. We offer perfect praise in and through Christ Jesus.

In his commentary on Ephesians, Markus Barth wrote that the Lord so overwhelms us with His goodness and grace that we eventually become praise. We are living, walking songs to our king. We live for the praise of his glory. Even as the wicked oppressors fall, the Psalmist rejoices in being raised up.

But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil.” [7]

This is actually a picture of a ruler being raised up. Think of David being anointed king. Or of Jesus being raised up as Lord of All. As disciples of Christ, we a priests and kings in this family. We are like a wild ox whose has been exalted and anointed with oil. As priests and kings, now do we rule in prayer and worship. Let us never denigrate this honor before God.

Now the Psalmist points us to the future. These next verses have always given me a special hope as I have faced health problems for most of my life. I would read and reread these promises.  I did not want to fade away or grow weary in well-doing but grow up as a fruit bearing tree before the Lord.

Let us rejoice in these final verses as we hear God’s purpose for us.

12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

First we see two different trees. A fruit bearing tree and a tall tree the very image of stability. Christ is raising us in Him. He is the vine, and we are the branches.

The Psalmist continues,

13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.

This word for flourish is a word that has to do with blooms. We are growing and blooming in God’s presence. Then this beautiful promise.

14 They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,

Age cannot silence our song of praise. We visited my mom yesterday at a memory care home. Though her body has grown frail and her memory is weak, the girls told us that my mom loves to talk about Jesus. She is still bearing fruit in old age. 

We all live to

15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. [8]

[1] Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah : A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 873.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 92:6–9.

[3] John Paul II, Audiences of Pope John Paul II (English) (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2014).

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Zec 8:5.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 92:8.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 92:1–5.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 92:10.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 92:12–15.


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