Psalm 99:1-5, “The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he! The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he! Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the Lord, and he answered them. In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them; they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them. O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!”

Imagine the opportunity to visit the highest court in the land – the United States Supreme Court. You have the privilege of meeting some of the most influential men and women in our country. These judges have positions of power and authority that most can scarcely understand.

But in an ironic twist, you approach the bench wearing cut-off shorts, a tank top, and flip-flops. As you move closer, you can see Chief Justice Roberts, and you utter these words: “Dude, what’s goin’ down?” And you proceed to give high-fives to the remaining justices. “Unfathomable, you think.” These men and women deserve our respect. How much more unfathomable when we enter the presence of God with a casual attitude which is marked by irreverence and indifference.

Have you ever found yourself entering God’s presence with the wrong attitude in your heart? When Moses approached the burning bush, God reinforced his authority and holiness: “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. And he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Exod. 3:5-6, ESV).

Uzzah approached God casually as he reached out to steady the ark of God. He knew what the law of God required. He knew that the ark was to be equipped with rings and poles (Exod. 25:12-14) and carried on the should of the priests. He knew that he was prohibited from touching the ark, lest he die (Num. 4:15). In 2 Samuel 6:7, the oxen stumbles, and Uzzah reaches his hand to steady the ark: “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.”

We approach God in a casual way when we refer to him in flippant language like “the man upstairs.” We approach God in a casual way when we are inattentive in worship. We approach God casually, when our minds wander in worship and when we fail to honor him as we ought. And we approach God in a casual way when we discount any of his attributes or fail to embrace the biblical portrait of God.

Have you cherished notions of God that are not true? Had you subtlety stripped him of any of his attributes? Do you recoil when you hear about his sovereignty over all things? His wrath? His omnipotence?

“To devise any image of God is itself impious; because by this corruption His majesty is adulterated, and He is figured to be other than He is.”[1] Calvin adds, “Therefore, to devise any image of God is itself impious; because by this corruption His majesty is adulterated, and He is figured to be other than He is.”[2]

What is the proper approach to the Supreme Judge, the majestic God of the universe? Psalm 99:1-5 provides the proper perspective:

“The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he! The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he! Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the Lord, and he answered them. In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them; they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them. O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!”

WE MUST REALIZE THE CHARACTER OF THE KING

His Kingly Authority

The first aspect of God’s kingly authority is that he reigns (Ps. 99:1). Yahweh is the covenant name of God (Exod. 3:14-15). Scripture declares Yahweh’s lordship over all things (Deut. 6:4-5). As such, he deserves our undivided love, devotion, and worship.

God acts to advance his glory so that people might know that he is the LORD. He hardens Pharaoh’s heart (Exod. 14:40. He rescues Israel (Exod. 6:7). He judges Egypt (Exod. 7:5). In each of these specific instances, we learn about God’s kingly authority. We learn that he is the LORD. Pay close attention to three important aspects of God’s reign.

Yahweh reigns sovereignly. God is completely sovereign. His sovereignty is implicit to his name. James Boice adds, “God has the right and power and wisdom to do whatever makes him happy. None of his purposes can be frustrated.”[3] The psalmist proclaims, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”[4]

Yahweh reigns over a kingdom. ”For his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation” (Dan. 4:24, ESV). George Eldon Ladd explains, “The Kingdom of God is basically the rule of God. It is God’s reign, the divine sovereignty in action … The Kingdom of God … is the realization of God’s will and the enjoyment of the accompanying blessings.”[5]

Yahweh’s reign is eternal. His reign is from all eternity. “The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt … Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting” (Ps. 93:1a-2). Psalm 47:8 says “God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.”

He reigns presently. “The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad” (Ps. 97:1, ESV).

His reign extends into the future. “The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion to all generations. Praise the LORD” (Ps. 146:10). John Piper observes, “Thus the declaration that God does all that he pleases is a declaration of power. This is what we mean by sovereignty – God’s power always makes way for his perfections to be expressed according to his pleasure.”[6]

Second, the LORD is great (Ps. 99:2).  Over and over, the Scriptures testify to the greatness of God:

“You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.” (Deuteronomy 7:21, ESV)

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.” (Deuteronomy 10:17, ESV)

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.” (Deuteronomy 10:17, ESV)

“God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend.” (Job 37:5, ESV)

Third, the LORD is exalted over all peoples (Ps. 99:2). Jonathan Edwards observes, “The truth is, men have low thoughts of God, or else they would willingly ascribe sovereignty to him in this matter … Be still and know that he is God … You shall either know it for your good here, by submission, or to your cost hereafter.”[7]

Fourth, the LORD is awesome(Ps. 99:3). Edwards says, “God’s CHIEF affection consists in regard to HIMSELF, infinitely above his regard to all other things …”[8] The Word of God affirms this stunning reality:

“Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.” (Psalm 106:8, ESV)

““I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25, ESV)

“For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:11, ESV)

Fifth, the LORD is holy (Ps. 99:3, 5). God is utterly set apart and holy. He is the majestic God who is pure. Spurgeon says, “In him is no flaw or fault, excess or deficiency, error or iniquity. He is wholly excellent, and is therefore called holy. In his words, thoughts, acts, and revelations as well as in himself, he is perfections itself.”[9]

The sixth aspect of God’s kingly authority is this: The LORD is just (Ps. 99:4). The sovereign God who reigns always does so in a righteous manner. It is impossible for God to be unjust (Rom. 9:14-16). R.C. Sproul clarifies this crucial reality: “Let’s assume that all men are guilty in the sight of God. From that mass of guilty humanity, God sovereignly decides to give mercy to some of them. What do the rest get? They get justice. The saved get mercy and the unsaved get justice. Nobody gets injustice.”[10]

The proper approach to God is to realize the character of the King; the LORD who reigns; the LORD who is great and exalted over all peoples; the LORD who is awesome; the LORD who is holy; the LORD who is just! But we must not only realize the character of the King; we must respond correctly to him.

WE MUST RESPOND CORRECTLY TO THE KING

Three Important Responses to God’s Authority

First, we tremble before the LORD (Ps. 99:1).

We tremble because we are in the presence of royalty. We stand before the Sovereign King who reigns. Note the correlation between the character of the King and our correct response:

“The awe or ‘dread’ may indeed be so overwhelmingly great that it seems to penetrate to the very marrow, making the man’s hair bristle and his limbs quake … The ‘shudder’ reappears in a form ennobled beyond measure where the soul is held speechless, trembles inwardly to the farthest fibre of its being. It invades the mind mightily in Christian worship with the words, ‘Holy, holy, holy.’”[11]

Second, we praise the LORD (Ps. 99:3).

The essence of praise is giving thanks and bowing before his lordship. Praise is the appropriate response to God’s great and awesome name. Since God has a passion to spread his glory to all the earth, we too are to make his glory our end.

Third, we bow before the LORD (Ps. 99:5).

Worship involves bowing down and revering the LORD: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”[12]

What Does This Approach to God Look Like in our Daily Lives?

The correct response to God involves daily contrition. When we are contrite before God, we admit our propensity to drink from dirty fountains and run to God’s inexhaustible fountain. Nothing can replace humility, brokenness, and a soft heart before the living God (Isa. 66:2).

The correct response to God involves a vigorous pursuit of joy in God. This pursuit is a daily battle; a veritable fight for joy.

Finally, the correct response to God involves glorifying God no matter what the cost. The great Scottish runner, Eric Liddel said, “When I run I feel his pleasure.” How can we do any less?

Conclusion

The proper approach to God, then, is to realize the character of the King and respond correctly to the King. Jonathan Edwards reveals the importance of this Godward approach: “The truth is, men have low thoughts of God, or else they would willingly ascribe sovereignty to him in this matter … Be still and know that he is God … You shall either know it for your good here, by submission or to your cost hereafter.” As we realize that we stand in the presence of royalty, we respond correctly with a heart of reverence. Pascal says, “The infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God himself.”[13] As we draw near to the majesty of God, we will never be the same. So — worship the King!

[1]        J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1973), 39.

[2]        John Calvin, Cited in Ibid.

[3]        James Boice, The Sovereign God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1978), 149-150.

[4]        Psalm 115:3, ESV.

[5]        George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959), 24.

[6]        John Piper, The Pleasures of God (Portland: Multnomah Books, 1991), 52.

[7]        Jonathan Edwards, The Sole Consideration, That God is God, Sufficient to Still All Objections to His Sovereignty (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1834), 110.

[8]        Jonathan Edwards, A Dissertation Concerning the End For Which God Created the World in The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1834), 108-109.

[9]        Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 223.

[10]      R.C. Sproul, Chosen By God (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1986), 37-38.

[11]      Rudolph Otto, The Idea of the Holy (London: Oxford University Press, 1950), 16.

[12]      William Temple, Cited in Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (New York: Harper and Row, 1978), 158.

[13]      Blaise Pascal, Pascal’s Pensees, trans. by W.F. Trotter (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1958), 113.