Sing to the Lord among the Nations
As a wrap up to our “Reach 2021” Missions Conference, pastor Matt explores our calling to
Sing to the Lord among the Nations:
1. Because of who He is
2. Because He prescribes it
3. Because of what He will do.
- ESV Study Bible
- Psalms (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary), by Willem A. VanGemeren
- Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Series) by Tremper Longman III
- A Commentary on the Psalms (Kregel Exegetical Library) by Allen P. Ross
A few weeks ago, I and the other full-time pastors of Citylight Church were in Nashville for the semi-annual gathering of the Christian & Missionary Alliance. The highlight of the trip for me was the final night when we commissioned 50 international workers to take the good news of Jesus to some of the hardest and least reached places on earth. On that final night, one couple being commissioned particularly stood out to me, probably, because of their age. These newly commissioned international workers were probably in their early 60’s. They lived in Pittsburgh and had obviously had very successful careers. They were on the cusp of being both empty nesters and retiring to enjoy what some call the American dream: early retirement, grandkids, leisurely travels, and some much-deserved rest. Instead, this silver-haired couple is leaving behind family, wealth, comfort, and familiarity, and they’re planning to spend their retirement, perhaps the rest of their lives, bringing the good news of Jesus to one of the hardest and most dangerous to reach places in Central Asia. Now, I wonder, what explains that? Why are they going? Why such a difficult place? Simply, they’re going because the God of the Bible has a global heart. We see God’s global heart from the earliest pages of Scripture. The Lord’s commission to his first image bearers was to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it (Genesis 1:28). Our God has a global heart. Later in Genesis when the Lord called Abram to be the father of a multitude of people that would come to be known as Israel, the Lord said, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Our God has a global heart. And after His resurrection from the dead, the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned his first followers to make disciples of all nations. That’s why these empty nesters are going; God has a global heart.
One of the most beautiful expressions of God’s global heart is found in our passage this morning, Psalm 96. Psalm 96:1-3 – Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! 2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! According to Psalm 96:1-3, singing is the fuel and goal of global missions. In his book Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper writes, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. . . . Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions.” Missions exist because worship does not. Singing is the fuel and the goal of missions. And that brings us to the big idea and the call on our lives from Psalm 96: Sing to the Lord among the nations. Two quick thoughts. First, when you read the term “nations” in the Bible, it’s best not to think countries. It’s better to think people-groups, ethno-linguistic groups. Our calling is to sing to the Lord among all the peoples in a place, not just in a place itself. Why?!?! 1. Because of who He is 2. Because He prescribes it 3. Because of what He will do.
BECAUSE OF WHO HE IS (4-6)
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. 6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Psalm 96:4-6 We sing to the Lord among the nations because of who He is, specifically, who He is in comparison to the gods of the nations are. The LORD is great, greatly to be praised, the maker of the heavens and in his presence is splendor, majesty, strength, beauty, and pleasures forevermore. The gods of the nations, on the other hand, according to verse 5, are nothing more than worthless, lifeless, idols. Idols are like scarecrows in a field. As one scholar puts it, “Idols are nothing to fear, but the Lord is worthy of fear, not the kind of fear that makes one run away, but one that acknowledges that God is all-powerful and sovereign over everything.”
What are the gods of the nations? Any god that is worshiped other than the Triune God of Scripture, Father Son and Holy Spirit, revis a ‘god of the nations.’ It doesn’t matter if it’s the one god worshipped by over a billion Muslims, the non-Trinitarian God worshiped by millions of Mormons, or the more than million gods worshiped by Hindus. They are all ‘gods of the nations.’ Worthless idols. It doesn’t matter if the idols are the more figurative American gods, like sex, security, significance, individualism, family, career, or country. It doesn’t matter if the idol is an object made by human hands, imagination, or ingenuity. It doesn’t matter if it’s just an incomplete joy of this world that you’re building your life around. They are all ‘gods of the nations.’ Worthless idols.
And we sing to the Lord among the nations because He is greater than the gods of the nations. Listen to the way that one of our very own international workers describes the greatness of the true God over the god if Islam, for example. He writes, “The true God is better than the god of Islam because of Jesus! The god of the Quran would never dream of taking on the form of a sinful human, but Jesus humbled himself and came as a helpless baby. The god of Islam spends his time weighing your good deeds vs your bad deeds, but Jesus came to earth to live a perfect life in our place. The god of Islam does not offer assurance of salvation, but we have assurance through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The god of Islam offers no words of compassion or encouragement for the downcast, but Jesus tells us to lay our burdens on Him. The god of Islam calls his people to advance Islam through conquest, but Jesus calls us to advance the gospel through love and suffering.” We sing to the Lord among the nations because He is worthy of our awe above all gods!
Several years ago, I traveled to the Middle East to visit a couple that Citylight sent out as international workers. They were working with a team of IW’s with diverse gifts and roles, but they all had one thing in common. They were so convinced of the greatness of Jesus and the horror of following the false-god worshiped by most of the people that they sought to reach, that they were glad to endure untold sacrifices to sing to the Lord among the nations.
Do you believe that too? Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is greater than all the gods of all the nations? Do you believe that it would be infinitely and eternally better for all peoples from all nations to worship Jesus than the worthless gods of the nations? This is where global missions begins. Missions is fueled by a belief that Jesus is infinitely and eternally greater than the horror of worshiping the gods of the nations. Do you believe that? If so, then you’ll sing among the nations. If so, you’re ready to either be a goer or a sender. If not, this is where I encourage you to begin. Bring your heart before Jesus. Ask him to give you a deep conviction of his greatness above all gods. If his greatness is the conviction of your heart, then you’re ready for the second reason why we sing among the nations…
BECAUSE HE PRESCRIBES IT (7-9)
Psalm 96:7-9: Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! 8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! 9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
King David composed Psalm 96 for a specific event in the Old Testament. We find this Psalm back in 1 Chronicles 16. In 1 Chronicles 15, the leaders of God’s people transported the ark of the covenant into the City of David, Jerusalem. David Platt describes the scene, “It was a huge moment of celebration because it represented God’s coming to Jerusalem to rule and to reign. This was not a somber occasion. Trumpets, harps, and lyres were cranked up full volume. People were singing and dancing. This is the moment King David danced so hard his wife was embarrassed.” David famously said to his wife, “I will become even more undignified than this.” They brought the ark into the city, assembled the people, and David had the musicians in Israel lead the people in a new song of worship that he wrote himself. And that song, recorded in 1 Chronicles 16, was Psalm 96!
The reason why this background matters is because it reveals how the Lord wanted his people to sing among the nations. They were to sing among the peoples as a people, not as individuals. Notice where the Lord prescribes that we sing in Psalm 96: in his courts! When God’s people sang Psalm 96 in 1 Chronicles 16, they were assembled together in God’s courts. Now that Jesus has lived, died, and been risen, we enter God’s courts by gathering for with the church for exuberant worship among the nations. We sing to the Lord among the nations as a church, not individuals, because that’s what the Lord has prescribed.
There are two important ways that we apply the Lord’s prescription that we sing among the nations in gathered churches. First, gather regularly with Citylight Church for exuberant singing, and invite your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and classmates to hear the song. Friends, from the perspective of Psalm 96, America is one of the nations. And we live in a unique time when many nations are among us. When we invite our neighbors to gather with our church to hear our exuberant songs, we are in a very real way singing among the nations. And this has significant implications for the way that we sing. Again David Platt cuts to the heart: “Listen, the nations aren’t drawn to praise God if his own people look like they’re doing chores. I wonder whether unbelievers who happen to come into the gathering of God’s people ever leave thinking, God seemed real! Those people sang as if God was giving them hope—as if God were holding them up, supplying them with strength.” Sing to the Lord among the nations by inviting them. Who is coming with you next week?
The second way that we apply the Lord’s prescription that we sing as a church among the nations is by planting gospel-preaching, gospel-singing churches in all nations, especially among the least reached peoples. Friends, sending workers to plant small, singing churches among unreached and unengaged peoples is the greatest and most urgent need in the world. The harvest is plentiful and urgent. Consider our current situation. Let’s divide the countries of the world into 3 groups, which are roughly equal in terms of population. World A is the least reached. No access to the gospel. (29% of population). World B has access to the gospel, but is not majority Christian. (38%). World C are the reached countries & the “Christian” countries. (33%). How is the church, globally, allocating its workers (apprx. 400k)? 72% go to world C. 25% go to world B. 3% go to world A.
How about finances? (globally as of 2016, ~$45billion dollars goes to missions). 87% goes to world C. 12% goes to world B. 1% goes to world A. Americans spend more $$ annually on Halloween costumes for their pets than the worldwide church spends on missions to World A.
Question: In light of the global need for the gospel, are you sure that the Lord is calling you to stay and sing here? If not, let us know. Connect card – goer or mobilizer
BECAUSE OF WHAT HE WILL DO (10-13)
What happens when the nations hear the true gospel, turn to the true God in faith, and join the exuberant singing? Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.” 11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12 let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 13 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. Psalm 96:10-13
We sing among the nations because one day this present world will pass away and there will be a new heaven and a new earth. And songs of joy will fill the earth forever. The earth will rejoice, the seas will sing, the field will exult, trees will dance, and the forest will be full of joyful songs. The judge will reign in perfect justice forever and every wrong will be made right. Our song will resound forever. And that’s why I invite you to sing among the nations. Sing to the glory of Jesus because of what he will do. He will come and judge the earth. Submit to him and sing now while there is still time. He died to rescue you from the eternal death you deserve for singing to the worthless idols of our age and rose to give you new life and a new song forever. Receive his grace, submit to his lordship, and join the singing of the saints. Sing even among those who wrong or oppress you because you know every wrong will be made right. Sing among the nations because you’re going to sing among them forever! Revelation 7:9-12 provides a picture of that stunning day: After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Missions exist because worship does not. In light of that, as David Platt says, “What kind of church do we want to be? We can live for passing pleasures, or we can spread eternal joy. Christian friend, salvation has retuned your voice. Here’s God’s call on your newfound voice. Sing. Sing a new song. Sing and bless his name. Sing and tell his salvation. Sing and declare his glory among the nations. Sing for he is great and greatly to be praised.” Sing to the Lord among the nations.
 Psalms: An Introduction & Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary Series) by Tremper Longman III