It was a very special day. A day like the people of God had not experienced before. It was a day of worship like the city of Jerusalem had never seen before. After the tragic, ill advised, abortive attempt to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem in which Uzzah lost his life, at long last the ark has been brought to Jerusalem and placed in the tent which David had pitched for it. The following quotation is from the hymn that was composed for the occasion.
“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 before him!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth;
yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chronicles 16:28-34).
In this passage the people are called to ascribe or attribute to God the glory that is due his name and to worship him in the splendor of holiness. They were, in recognition of God’s holiness and glory, to separate themselves from the worldly and the profane, setting themselves apart to God’s service.
In this reading it is seen that the people of God have, in harmony with all of his creation, the joyful responsibility of declaring among the nations of the earth that “The Lord reigns!” This truth is sorely needed among the nations of he world today. Vain men imagine themselves to be in control of all that goes on on the earth. They scoff at the idea that God could have anything to do with the affairs of men. “The future is in our hands!” they exclaim in spite of the repeated declarations of the scriptures that God is the one who is really in control. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, learned this lesson the hard way.
“But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.” (Daniel 5:20-21).
When Peter spoke on the day of Pentecost he declared that God “has made him (Jesus) both Lord and Christ,” (Acts 2:36). He had been preaching during his personal ministry that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Now he is declared to be the king who was reigning over that kingdom. This meant that if he was king, Caesar was not! It means today that he still has all authority in heaven and earth. One who holds that kind of power is worthy of man’s homage – his worship and praise – simply because of who he is.
In the hymn of 1 Chronicles 16, all creation is called upon to joyfully express their worship of God. In that great, universal attribution of worship to God, even “the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord.” This would be so because God “comes to judge the earth.”
Rejoice because of the coming judgment of the earth? Yes! But why? Look at a fuller version of this same thought in Psalm 96:12-13
“Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.”
We generally think of judgment as the punitive action of the righteous, judicial wrath of God. Judgment does include that, but there is much more to it than just retribution against evil. It is that “more” that is the cause of rejoicing because of judgment. According to the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 8:19-21…
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Undoubtedly this will take place at the last day – the day of judgment. This says that all that is wrong with the creation will be made right in connection with the sons of God realizing the full attainment of God’s eternal purpose for themselves. This will be nothing less than the full restoration of man and all creation to the original state of purity, harmony and holiness in which we were created. We are striving toward that end at the present, but in that day God will accomplish for us what we are now trying by his gracious help to achieve.
No wonder there is rejoicing and worship of God at the prospect of judgment! For the faithful child of God it means the realization of their hope. It means the end of suffering from the effects of sin. It means the end of a world under the influence of the usurper – Satan. It means the end of sickness, sorrow and death. It means the end of conflict, enmity and war and the beginning of perfect, eternal peace in a world made new just for the faithful ones. That day of judgment means that the children of God will receive their inheritance which is now laid up for us in heaven.
What a glorious day that will be! No wonder all creation rejoices! Should we not worship him with joy now while praying for him to hasten that day that is to come? Should we not exclaim with the beloved John, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).