Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Psalm 97 The Reign, Rule and Realm of God

KEY TEXT: Ps 97:1-2, 10-11 The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne… Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.

KEY THOT: The psalmist declares: “The Lord reigns!” And He is reigning by right because He is the Creator-God. He is all-powerful for the “heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory” (v.6). Yet, at the same time, His reign is not always acknowledged by all for there are many who refuse to bow down before him: “All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods!” (v.7). So, God’s reign does not automatically result in people submitting to Him as the rightful Sovereign for He has given humankind the freedom to choose—and that means to accept or reject His rule over them.

But for those who acknowledge His reign and submit themselves to His rule by obeying his commandments, they experience His realm of joy and righteousness: “Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments (divine law), O Lord” (v.9). While the Lord reigns, not everyone (believers included) subject themselves to his rule (kingship) by obeying his commands. So despite their “belief” in God, they do not experience his joy and righteousness and continue to stumble and fumble in darkness of their self-directed rather than Spirit-led lifestyle. 

So, we have this spiritual truth: GOD’S REALM = GOD’S REIGN + GOD’S RULE. So, if a believer wants to experience God’s realm marked by joy and righteousness, He needs to move beyond just acknowledging the Lord's reign (the demons do too!)—he has to submit to the Lord’s rule (kingship). Only then will that believer experience the Lord's realm of His presence and power in his or her personal life, which results in the preservation and deliverance from troubles: "He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked" (v.10).

Some manifestations of God's realm are spelt out in verses 10-11:
  • "O you who love the Lord, hate evil!" (v.10): When we live in God's realm of righteousness and justice, we react negatively to (hate) that which is unrighteous (evil). Just as light expels darkness, so those who live in God’s realm of righteousness has zero tolerance for evil. However, this does not translate to hating evil-doers—it just means hating evil. Full stop. 
  • "Light is sown for the righteous" (v.11): Such believers can see clearly because the light of God’s justice and righteousness has become foundational in their lives: “righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne” (v.2). Once we stop practicing righteousness and justice, we will end up walking in darkness of sin. Those who submit to God’s rule will know the ways of the Lord and will walk in righteousness.
  • "Joy for the upright in heart" (v.11): Such believers will experience the joy of the Lord that flows out of an upright heart. Joy is the mark of God’s realm. In fact, Paul refers to this realm as the “kingdom of God”: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). This realm of the kingdom includes peace too. And these three fruits (righteousness, peace and joy) come from the Holy Spirit. In other words, the realm of God’s rule is people filled with the Holy Spirit. 
It’s only when God’s reign and rule are both accepted that we can experience the realm of His kingdom, which is a life of submission to the Spirit. So, when righteousness, peace and joy have gone out of our lives, we can be quite sure that somewhere along the way, we have forsaken the rule of God, despite the fact that we may still acknowledge the reign of God as a fact. But to experience the realm of Kingdom, we have to accept the rule of God as King and Sovereign.

Father God, we acknowledge that You are the Creator-God who reigns. Help us accept Your rule in our lives through Your indwelling Spirit so that we may experience the realm of Your kingdom marked by righteousness and joy. Amen.

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