When He Returns
(1) Yahweh reigns. Let earth rejoice! Let the many coastlands be glad! (2) Clouds and thick darkness surround him. Righteousness and justice (are) the foundation of his throne. (3) Fire goes before him and burns up his enemies on every side. (4) His lightning lights up the world. The earth sees and trembles. (5) The mountains melt like wax before Yahweh, before the Lord of all the earth. (6) The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.
This first half of Pslam 97 contains three notable repetitions: “earth” (vss. 1, 4, & 5) along with its synonym, “world” (vs. 4), “righteousness” (vss. 2 & 6), and “see” (vss. 4 & 6). The psalmist presents us with two settings. First, he focuses on the place where Yahweh reigns (vs. 1) on his throne (vs. 2) in “clouds and thick darkness” called “the heavens” (vs. 6). Then the scene shifts to “the world” or “the earth” (vs. 4) where Yahweh’s glory is made visible by “fire” (vs. 3), “lightning” (vs. 4), and “mountains melting like wax” (vs. 5). All on earth will “see” (vss. 4 & 6) and stand in awe of his glory.
I. Introduction: let earth rejoice in Yahweh’s reign. (1)
II. Core of the message: Yahweh's glory will be manifested. (2-5)
III. Conclusion: heaven proclaims and the earth sees his glory. (6)
When Yahweh comes to reign with justice on the earth, everyone will be in awe of his glorious appearing.
This psalm embodies the phrase, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” which Jesus gave his disciples in the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:10). As often as we pray for the kingdom's coming, we rarely take time to visualize what Messiah’s return in power will be like. These verses enable us to picture that climactic moment when the creator and sustainer of the universe will actually show up.
What will the “fire (that) goes before him” look like? What will we see when that “lightning that lights up the world” flashes across the heavens and all the earth trembles? What will happen when “the mountains melt like wax?” Some might recall the images of nuclear detonations filmed during the 1950’s when the awesome power of the atom was first unleashed with a blinding flash, a mushroom cloud, and unimaginable devastation. Is that how Christ will return to the earth with overwhelming “shock and awe?”
We cannot be sure how that climactic event will play out or when it will take place. However, we do know that he will return according to his promise. Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, asking him to establish his kingdom, we are expressing confidence in his Second Coming. When he appears in power and great glory, will we be ready? We need to take to heart the warning Jesus gave his disciples: “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Who then is the faithful and wise servant whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns” (Mt. 24:44-46).