No Need to Panic
From Psalm 96
“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord” (Psalm 96:11-13 ESV).
Maybe this praise language from Psalm 96 is familiar, but what might surprise you—or, at least, what surprised me—is why the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the fields rejoice. Here is the second half of verse 13:
“Sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth.”
How is this good news?
In my experience, the idea of a Judge is more terrifying than exciting. I think of passages like Matthew 25, where whole groups of people are cast “away into eternal punishment” (v. 46). This doesn’t sound like an event at which you and I and all creation will be apt to exult and sing. Yet the author of Psalm 96 built up to this. Highlighted this. He sang about and celebrated this particular aspect of God’s rule and reign.
Maybe it helps to imagine …
You’re on an airplane, midway through a flight, 10,000-plus feet in the air. Things have gone smoothly up to this point, but suddenly, you hit turbulence. The plane jolts—once, then twice. You check your seatbelt, scan outside the window, gray clouds as far as you see.
Okay, it’s okay. No need to panic.
Then, your face mask deploys. You’ve never seen this before. You anxiously look about the cabin, everyone else looks about too. You reach for your face mask, begin to secure it, but your heart is racing. Why is no one coming on the intercom? Why is no one explaining what’s wrong, what’s happening, or what to do?
Minutes go by. Many passengers are crying, some are getting angry. Finally, someone takes action. Walking toward the cockpit, everyone watches—curious, scared—as he pries open the door. No captain has come on the intercom with words of assurance or explanation because, turns out, there is no captain at all.
Do you see? It’s good news to have a Judge because it means we have someone in charge. Someone behind the wheel. Someone steering the plane—even holding the plane—when things start to spin out of control.
That same One has provided all the instructions and assurance we need so that, when judgment does come, it need only end in our being whisked into His compassionate presence. What could be terrifying about that?
Next week’s reading: Psalm 99–105.