We are continuing our series of reflections on the Psalms. Each day we will upload a new reflection to the website. We hope and pray that you will find them helpful and that they bring hope during this season. Click on these buttons to read the text of the psalm or listen to a recording of it. You can also listen to the reflection using the audio player below.
To call God “holy” is to acknowledge that God is radically different from anything in the universe that exists or that we could imagine. Psalm 99 uses this profoundly powerful concept as a lens through which the awesomeness of God may be contemplated and praised. It may be divided into three sections, each of which ends in a refrain of praise and declaring God’s holiness and provides a different way of perceiving the holiness of God.
The first section (verses 1-3) opens with the declaration “The Lord is King.” The reference to God being enthroned upon cherubim (verse 1) reminds us of the Ark of the Covenant and the cherubim on the lid, upon which God was invisibly enthroned. “Let the peoples tremble” also states the sheer power of God as king over all that exists which might make the world tremble.
Verses 4-5 show God’s holiness through his attributes of justice and righteousness. The same all-powerful king of verse 1 is also a “lover of justice” (verse 4). God has the power and willingness to ensure that justice and equity are actively implemented (“you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob”). The section ends with an exaltation to worship for he is holy (verse 5).
In verses 6-9, even though God is all powerful and king and lover of justice he chooses to work through human beings – Moses, Aaron, Samuel and maybe even us? He was a forgiving God to Israel though he punished them for their sins. His forgiving love is at the same time tempered by divine judgment – His holiness compels him to punish them for their misdeeds. There is no conflict here in God’s attributes but it shows that the God of Israel is profoundly different from all others “for the Lord our God is Holy” (verse 9).
When Jesus died, the curtain covering the ‘Holy of Holies’ was torn from top to bottom giving all believers access into God’s presence. It also symbolised God coming down to mankind to save us, not mankind having to somehow climb upwards to attain him. Because we know that we have this personal relationship, do we sometimes forget his holiness and come to him in a more casual manner rather than in a truly worshipful attitude? Something that, maybe, CNC in its relaxed way of church services might think about when we start to meet again together?
Lord, we are so grateful that we can have access to you at any time. But in this wonderful relationship may we never take you for granted and always give you the reverence that your holiness and love for us deserves and demands.