There are quite a few different types of psalms found in the Book of Psalms. Interestingly, the largest number of psalms are laments. Other types include psalms of trust, psalms of thanksgiving, and hymns. Still yet another type is royal or enthronement psalms. This latter type exalts God as King and emphasizes His rule over both humans and Creation. The psalms that fall in this category are Psalms 47, 93, 96, 97, 98 and 99. Scholars believe that this collection was used periodically to remind Israel that Yahweh was the King of kings and the Ruler of the universe.
If you take a look at these six psalms you’ll discover that there are lots of references to the earth. In Psalm 47 the Psalmist twice refers to God as the “great king over all the earth.” It is clear that one of the primary reasons Israel viewed God as King was their recognition that He was the Creator of earth. They believed that it was Yahweh who “firmly established” the earth and because of this “it cannot be moved.” (Ps. 93:1; 96:10) The One who created the world also ruled or reigned over it.
God’s reign was seen as cause for the earth to “sing to the Lord a new song” and to “praise his name.” More than once in these psalms the earth is told to “be glad.” In four of the royal psalms the seas are mentioned and they are said to offer God praise. In Psalm 96 the fields and all found in them are exhorted to be “jubilant.” This, the Psalmist says, will lead “all the trees of the forest“ to sing for joy. In Psalm 98 the rivers are told to “clap their hands” and the mountains are urged to “sing before the Lord.”
All of this may sound strange or fanciful to modern ears but we would be wise not to dismiss such language too easily. By affirming that God was the Creator of the world the Israelites declared that He was greater than “all the gods of the nations.” They saw in His Creation, and in His mighty acts of deliverance, Yahweh’s supremacy. They could only conclude that He was the King of kings and deserved all of the praise both Creation and humankind could give Him. Knowing that God ruled over all they understood that there was cause for joy and gladness for both Creation and humankind.
If we affirm that God is “the Maker of heaven and earth” then we, too, must understand that this truly does make Him King. As such He deserves our worship, devotion and praise. It would appear that those who wrote the biblical psalms saw in Creation a perpetual reminder of God’s sovereignty. If we would condition ourselves to do the same, perhaps we would find ourselves singing and shouting and praising the eternal King of kings and Lord of lords with Creation more often. I suspect that would, in turn, bring great delight to the King.
(I took the top image at Mt. Rainier National Park and the bottom one at Acadia National Park.)