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Psalm 96: A call to prayer for the nations

Lynne Baab • Wednesday October 21 2020

Psalm 96: A call to prayer for the nations

Back in the 1990s, I used to teach for a program called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. I was assigned one of the 15 lessons, and I travelled to different churches around the Northwest to teach my lesson. When I would tell friends the title of my lesson – “the biblical basis of mission in the Old Testament” – they would often say, “What? There’s mission in the Old Testament?”

To help my students get beyond that perspective, I would begin the class session by reading them Psalm 96, asking them to count the references to the whole world. They came up with different numbers, but this psalm of 13 verses has at least 13 references to the peoples and nations of the world. A biblical basis for mission in the Old Testament begins with God’s creation of the world, his concern for the work of his hands, and God’s invitation to all peoples to worship and honor God.

I want to encourage you to use this psalm as a call to prayer for one or two places on earth beyond the the country where you live, maybe somewhere you seldom pray for. Pray for whatever needs come to mind: Covid-19 still spreading in many countries, medical facilities that are stretched, natural disasters, incomes lost because of the pandemic, friends or missionaries you know in various countries. I’m going to give you the whole of Psalm 96 to read as a call to prayer.

O sing to the Lord a new song;
   sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
   tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
   his marvelous works among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
   he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
   but the Lord made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before him;
   strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
   ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
   bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in holy splendor;
   tremble before him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king!
   The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
   He will judge the peoples with equity.’
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; for he is coming,
   for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
   and the peoples with his truth.

God's creation plays such a strong role in this psalm, and I've written a lot about the significance of the beautiful world God made for those who want to draw near to God in honesty, gratitude and joy. So many people have told me of the significance of creation in helping them pray and trust God in the pandemic. A few years ago I wrote a series of blog posts on worshipping God the creator, where I laid out many of the ways God's creation calls us to deeper prayer. Here's the last post (which features two hymns about creation), and at the bottom of the post you can see a list of all the posts in the series.  

(Next week: Mercy in Ephesians 2. Illustration by Dave Baab. I am always thrilled when I get new subscribers. Sign up below if you'd like to receive an email when I post on this blog.)

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