Formations 01.23.2022: Let the Earth Rejoice!

Psalm 96

Psalm 96 invites us to praise God for God’s glory, salvation, and majesty. We likely hear such an invitation to praise every time we gather for worship. Traditionally, we begin our worship gatherings with an exalted hymn of praise: “O Worship the King,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” or similar hymns set the proper mood for worship by reminding us of the greatness of our God.

Have you ever noticed, though, that this invitation to praise doesn’t usually stop with the human worshipers who have gathered? A line in “Holy, Holy, Holy” says, “All thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea.”

Today’s passage is no different. Isaiah 52, which we looked at last week, explores the glories of God’s salvation from the point of view of those who proclaim it. Psalm 96 expands the focus to include all the earth in a chorus of praise. As the psalm rises to a crescendo in verses 11-12, we hear:

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the fields exult, and everything in it.

Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD, for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.

All creation is included in this triumphant song of praise. To proclaim this is to confess that God isn’t merely interested in us human beings—though to be sure, God is deeply invested in us! It is to confess that all that exists is somehow the recipient of God’s glory, salvation, and majesty.

We see this more clearly in certain New Testament passages. For example, in the early Christian hymn preserved in Colossians 1:20, we read that through Jesus, “God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven.” And in Romans 8:21, Paul anticipates a time when “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

As astounding as it may seem, all creation is included in the salvation that God brings. Unlike the dead idols that the nations worship, the God of Israel is the Creator of all. All creation bears witness to this truth, and Scripture invites us to look forward to a time when not just people but all creation is redeemed.


• When has the beauty of nature inspired you to worship?
• How do you imagine God reconciling all things in heaven and earth through Jesus Christ (Col 1:20)? What might this look like?
• The ancient Gnostics believed the material world was irrelevant to spiritual pursuits. How might Psalm 96 and similar passages challenge that idea?
• How can we be more mindful of the biblical connection between God’s creation and God’s salvation?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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