Heartbeat (Psalm 96)


You may not know this about me, but I love to sing. Songs I grew up singing:

  • Kool & The Gang: “Celebration”
  • Bon Jovi: “You Give Love A Bad Name” “Wanted Dead Or Alive” “Livin On A Prayer”
  • Tom Petty: “Free Fallin” “I Won’t Back Down”
  • Journey: “Don’t Stop Believin”
  • Prince: “Purple Rain”
  • Whitney Houston, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” “Saving All My Love For You” “How Will I Know”
  • Jackson 5: “ABC, 123” “I’ll Be There” “Never Can Say Goodbye” “La-La Means I Love You”
  • Michael Jackson: “The Way You Make Me Feel” “Thriller” “Beat It”  
  • Boyz II Men: “Motown Philly” “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye” “End Of The Road”
  • Run DMC: “You Be Illin” and “Walk This Way”
  • Beastie Boys: “You Gotta Fight, For Your Right… To Party”

By now you are probably wondering where this message is going, or when exactly did your pastor get saved and start following Jesus. My simple point is that songs and music are a powerful component of our life. And while I love to sing, I do not claim to have the skills to sing.

Music can strengthen our mind, stabilize our heart, and help us to feel part of a community. Science has verified this.[1] And practically, I’m sure you have noticed that our minds are hardwired to remember childhood songs, and other music you’ve heard with repetition. There are certain tv jingles or church hymns that stick with us for our whole life.

Today’s psalm will refresh us with the reminder how music and mission are connected to our life’s purpose.

EXAMINE           Psalm 96

Psalm 96 is without inscription but appears in 1 Chronicles 16:23-33 as a song of David. Also, the Septuagint (Greek OT) adds the inscription: “When the house was built after the exile. A song of David.”[2] Overall, this psalm is filled with repetition of words and themes to crescendo with passionate and personal worship unto the Lord. Ultimately, we see three ways we are to worship God.

Sing of God’s work (Ps 96:1-2).

The psalm opens with a series of three commands: sing, sing, sing. Therefore, singing is not a mere suggestion but a magnificent command from God. While there is more to worship than singing, we must obey the dozens of OT & NT exhortations to sing and praise God. Essentially, we sing not just because we have been commanded but because we have a gracious God who delights to sing His love over us (Zephaniah 3:17).

Psalm 96 directs our singing as

  • “to the Lord” While there are many songs about God, ultimately we are to sing to the Lord.
    • When singing, personally we should be thinking of the audience of one – who is listening and receiving our worship.
    • When people say, “I didn’t like that song,” our response should be “It wasn’t for you, but the Lord.”

  • “a new song” The Bible exhorts singing a new song seven times.[3] The idea of a new song is not necessarily newly composed music, though it naturally includes such, but is a response to the fresh morning mercies of the Lord (Lamentations 3:24-25) and ongoing grace of God that sustains our life.[4]
    • Psalm 147:1 “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praise to our God; for it is beautiful, and a song of praise is fitting.”

      > Churches and Christians should appreciate both old and new songs, but regardless, our worship should never be lethargic or stale. It’s amazingly sad to see people’s passion and fervency for other things but not for Mighty Creator and Merciful Savior. A practical reminder is that Sunday worship is a Saturday decision – preparing your body and spirit for corporate worship of the Lord.

      > Familiarize with songs before the week. SPBC emails these and we also have a Spotify playlist.[5]

      > Allow words to come out of your mouth. Some people spectate worship and maybe mouth the words. There are likely different reasons: lacking confidence in singing voice, introvert personality, or other. Yet, a starting point is just saying the words as others sing, since singing is a form of prayer/praise to God.

      > People see your singing. Your worship is a witness to God and others (cf Mt 15:8-9;  Acts 16:25-30; 1 Cor 14:24-25).

      > Worship is warfare against sin and satan.[6]
    • Psalm 5:11: “Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.”
    • Psalm 51:14: “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.”
    • Psalms 59:16: “I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.”
    • Psalms 63:7: “For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”
    • James 5:13: “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”
    • 2 Chron 20 Jehoshaphat was surrounded by enemy armies and he sought the Lord’s help. God told them to let their faith inform their fears. So, they let the praise choir lead the army and when they began to sing, the Lord set an ambush against them, and the armies were routed.
    • Martin Luther, “Music drives away the Devil and makes people [happy]… Next after theology I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor. I would not change what little I know of music for something great. Experience proves that next to the Word of God only music deserves to be extolled as the mistress and governess of the feelings of the human heart. We know that to the devils music is distasteful and insufferable. My heart bubbles up and overflows in response to music, which has so often refreshed me and delivered me from dire plagues.” (Here I Stand, 266)
    • Mary Slesser, Scottish missionary in Nigeria for many years: “In the midst of all the demonic activity and all the pressures on my life, I had one little way to function: I sing the doxology and dismiss the devil.” 
    • William Law “[Of singing psalms]… There is nothing that so clears a way for your prayers, nothing that so disperses dullness of heart, nothing that so purifies the soul from poor and little passions, nothing that so opens heaven, or carries your heart so near it, as these songs of praise. They create a sense and delight in God, they awaken holy desires, they teach you how to ask, and they prevail with God to give. They kindle a holy flame, they turn your heart into an altar, your prayers into incense, and carry them as a sweet-smelling savor to the throne of grace. (A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 168, 164)
    • John Piper, “It is no wonder that Satan hates the songs of God’s people. He does his best to keep a church from being a singing church. And he does his best to keep you from being a singing person.”

Spread God’s glory (Ps 96:3-9).

Another way we worship God is “declaring God’s glory and marvelous work among all the nations”. Undoubtedly, the people of God are to announce the good news of God to all the world; this is what it means to be a herald or evangelist of the gospel. Further, the psalmist says we tell of his salvation from “day to day”, not just once a week or infrequently. And the emphasis on “nations” and “all peoples” reminds us to leave no one out.

The Psalmist provides us a natural sequence of upward worship results in outward witness. When we encounter the “splendor and majesty… strength and beauty” of the Lord, then we cannot help but be transformed and compelled to share with others.

– – – On personal note, Ps 96:6 is my daughter’s namesake verse: Audry (strength) Leelah (beauty). This week is her 11th bday & also my wife & I 20th anniversary.
As I am enamored to speak of my treasured children and my cherished wife, so shall Christians about their Heavenly Father and Savior Friend.  – – –

The Psalmist contrasts the legitimacy of the LORD with false gods and worthless idols (v.5). Unfortunately, these are the things we are prone to fill up our stock supply and focus our attention. It’s easy to judge others for having unhealthy obsessions, unsafe addictions, and unholy idols. But when we look in the mirror for what we spend the bulk of our time; what we seek to satisfy our happiness; where we seek identity and acceptance; and what we seek to invest and influence with others… we are (or will be) convicted before God.

The Psalmist gives another three-fold repetition to summons us to give what belongs to God – “the glory due His name.” Added to our worship from singing and spreading/declaring good news is “bringing an offering.” It does not imply that we can give God something that He is lacking, but rather that we willingly recognize His infinite worth and that He is our all-encompassing fulfillment.

  • It’s the difference between viewing God as useful than beautiful.
  • Ps 16:4, 10 “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply… [but in the LORD’s] presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.”
  • Ps 73:25-26 “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

    > We spread God’s glory with our life. What is one area of your life that is not befitting the beauty of God and commensurate to the character of Christ?
    • Is it your thought life or internet viewing?
    • Is it your speech with foul language or perpetual pessimism?
    • Is it your negative attitude and lack of faith?
    • Is it a habit of greed of finances rather than unselfish giving and compassionate generosity?  
    • Is it a lifestyle and involvement that is selling yourself for less, cheapening your worth, and diminishing the high value God has placed on your life?

      > We spread God’s glory with our lips. We repeatedly challenge our congregation with #whosyour1. We gather for magnification, but we scatter for mission; if not, we cease to be a gospel church. We cannot be content to sit and sing in God’s sanctuary and not live sent for the mission of spreading the gospel to those who are unreached and have little to zero gospel access. God will hold you/us accountable for not spreading His glory and grace unto the nations.  

Anticipate God’s arrival (Ps 96:10-13).

The last section of the psalm shifts attention from present praise and proclamation to future anticipation. There is coming a day when every galaxy, every constellation, every ocean, every mountain, every forest and field, every nation and tribe, and every person will bow before the LORD (cf Ps 148; Isa 55:12.  

The NT describes creation groaning under sin’s curse and waiting for its restoration by the Creator (cf. Romans 8:19-22). Jesus told a religious group that if they withhold worship to God then the rocks would cry out praise (Lk 19:40).

Specifically, Psalm 96 describes God’s future judgment with three terms:

  1. Equity (v.10). The word implies level evenness or upright morality.[7] Every earthly person has measures of preference and prejudice, but God is perfect impartiality. He will judge with perfect justice (Ps 9:8; 75:2; Isa 11:2). As Christians, we are grateful God does not judge only with equality (treating all the same) and equity (treating all the same with consideration of their circumstances). If God were to judge us equally, then no one would be deserving of heaven and all would be destined to hell. However, when God judges with equity, He considers our relationship to Christ, and provides mercy and grace. Equity is God making right through Christ what the world has made wrong from sin. In Christ, God treats everyone with equity, but He does not promise equality of outcome – including for those who are in Christ. This emphasis of equitable treatment but not equitable outcomes is an important distinction missing in modern discussion on this topic.[8]
  • Righteousness (v.13a). God also judges righteously. God is never incomplete or incorrect in how He acts. His standard is absolute perfection, which we all fall short and are in need of mercy and grace.

  • Faithfulness (v.13:b). This word implies fidelity or truth.[9] Scripture reminds us: “Know the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9)

God’s equitable, righteous, and faithful judgment will either be a source of great praise or great panic. Don’t delay who God has placed before you in Jesus Christ. Trust in Him.
For those who know the LORD and have received His salvation, we will rejoice and be glad, singing, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality and has avenged on her the blood of his servants” (Rev 19:1-2). But for those who have not received Christ, you will plead for escape and to hide from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev 6:16), but it will be too late. We have the choice to praise Jesus now or panic before Him later.

God’s equitable, righteous, and faithful judgment will either be a source of great praise or great panic. Don’t delay who God has placed before you in Jesus Christ. Trust in Him.

> Salvation begins today with a relationship, not religious hoops and tricks. Trust Jesus and connect to His church.


  • People have a namesake Scripture, others have a wedding song… What is your life song/scripture?
  • Pursue rejoicing in heaven – bringing sinners to salvation makes the angels in heaven sing (cf Lk 15:10; 1 Peter 1:12).
  • Sing like you’re saved.

[1] https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/articles/item/how_music_bonds_us_together

[2] Tate, M. E. (1998). Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51–100 (Vol. 20, p. 512).

[3] Psalm 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10; also Revelation 5:9; 14:3.

[4] Kidner, D. (1975). Psalms 73–150: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 16, p. 379).

[5] For SPBC: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/53J4KSM5Cc0uJdPSIaAx6l?si=be24486900d64dd2

[6] This mindset has been inspired in me from John Piper’s teaching ministry. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yrw5roZDWqY

[7] https://biblehub.com/hebrew/4339.htm

[8] Some helpful discussion starters: https://www.nealhardin.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-equity-vs-equality/, https://www.9marks.org/article/week-10-what-christians-should-ask-of-government-to-treat-people-equally-justice-and-identity-politics/#_ftnref2, https://quarterly.gospelinlife.com/a-biblical-critique-of-secular-justice-and-critical-theory/.  

[9] https://biblehub.com/hebrew/530.htm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s