Seeing Christ in Psalm 96

There are many passages in the Old Testament that are incomprehensible without the New Testament gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. What I mean to say is that, without the atoning work of Christ on the cross and the forgiveness that the atonement provides, there are many passages in the Old Testament that remain mysteries and suggest that God is not serious about the commandments of the Law that He has laid down. He declares that the soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4, 20), but David sins by adultery and murder and his sins are taken away and he does not die (2 Samuel 12:13). How is this possible, if the LORD is serious about His Law? The answer to that question is that, although Christ and His sacrifice for sin are not yet revealed in the Old Testament, they are an accomplished fact in God’s mind and so they are effective even before they are revealed.

This concept is difficult to describe even with many words, so let me give an example of Christ being present in the Old Testament from a psalm. In Psalm 96:8-9 we read:

8)         Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name;

Bring an offering and come into His courts.

9)         Worship the LORD in holiness;

Tremble before Him, all the earth.

I believe Christ is in these verses. Let me explain how He is revealed. First, the reader is commanded to “ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name.” Although not at all required by the context in this psalm, it must be acknowledged that God is glorified by the death of Jesus. (Isaiah 53:7-10) In fact, as His time for crucifixion approached, Jesus Himself said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified (John 12:23).” These words, ”the hour,” implied His death. In this same context of His imminent death, Jesus said, “Father, glorify Your name,” with the obvious reference being His own death and resurrection (12:28). And while God’s glory is unlimited and His glory is certainly not only expressed in Christ’s glorious death and resurrection, it is also possible that this psalm speaks of the glory of God in the death of Christ. This is made more likely by the next line of verse 8.

“Bring an offering and come into His courts.” Now the Hebrew worshiper would be expected to bring a goat or a bull or a lamb for an offering, but these offerings were mere shadows pointing to the real and final sacrifice that would forever provide access to the heavenly courts. And so the psalmist is here speaking of the offering of Christ and of the joyful welcoming into the heavenly courts that will be given to all those who bring this offering before the Lord. Receive Christ and then freely come into the courts of the LORD.

Those who bring this most holy of all offerings into the courts of the Lord will “worship the LORD in holiness.” This holiness has two aspects to it. First, the believer is viewed as perfectly holy in this life because of the imputed holiness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21), but second, the believer will “worship the LORD in holiness” in the life to come because they will actually be holy. Having shed the sinful flesh of this life, the believer will know the unhindered joy of worshiping the LORD in true and pure holiness.

But as the believer is worshiping the LORD in holiness, the rest of fallen mankind is “trembling before Him, all the earth.” In other words, the psalmist is telling us of the stark contrast that will exist between the believer and the unbeliever. Believers worship the LORD in holiness, joyfully giving praise to their God, while those who have rejected Christ experience fear and a terrifying anticipation of judgment. The believer sees the LORD as His heavenly Father, while the unrighteous ones tremble before their holy, heavenly Judge. The contrast is the result of how each person sees the Lord Jesus Christ.

So the Bible urges us to bring an offering, the offering of Christ, and then to come into the heavenly courts. If we do not do that, we will tremble before Him and we will be forever condemned.

SDG                      rmb                     3/5/2017

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