Excitement and Judgment (Psalm 96:11-13)

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy
Before the LORD, for He is coming,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
And the peoples in His faithfulness.

Psalm 96:11-13

There is something in speaking about the return of God to judge the world that makes believers uncomfortable. It could be the notion of judgment that accompanies God’s return. No one is ever really comfortable speaking about judgment unless the ruling goes in their favor and does not adversely impact the person to whom we’re speaking. So it might be as simple as that.

The psalmist does not seem to have this difficulty. The psalmist writes that all of creation — the heavens, the earth, the seas, the fields, the trees — are ecstatic about the return of God to judge mankind. If I juxtapose these verses with some of the events described in Revelation, I begin to wonder if the massive earthquake that completely changes the face of the Earth is the exultation of the fields the psalmist is describing. It is an interesting thought, but nothing more than that. What this description of the ecstasy of the natural world communicates to me is something else entirely: The natural world eagerly waits for God to return and judge mankind. Paul writes that creation groans in its waiting for Christ’s return to judge (Romans 8:18-22).

Bound up in Christ’s return to judge mankind is something that I, as a believer, am prone to miss. Glory. Paul’s passage in Romans 8 includes this: For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Christ’s return heralds freedom. We are all born into a debt of sin that we cannot pay. We are all born subject to the power of sin to assert its control over us. We all endure the abiding presence of sin while we are in this world. Christ’s death and resurrection paid the price for our sin, so we need not remain debtors. Christ set us free (whom the Son sets free is free indeed), so we need not remain subject to the power of sin. But the presence of sin is inescapable this side of death and/or the return of Christ. Sin taints everything it touches and it has touched the creation — whether that be directly through some means I do not quite understand or indirectly through mankind’s various abuses. Creation aches for sin to be removed and to be able to be what it was created to be once more.

All this is fascinating, but begs the question of how I can apply it to my life. As creation aches for the removal of even the presence of sin, so, too, should I. When temptations are severe, I want the presence of sin gone. When others do horrible things and I know that it is sin working destruction in human beings, then I want the presence of sin taken away. To do that; to reach that glorious moment when sin is no more, there must first be judgment. There is comfort even in the judgment if I view it rightly. The psalmist writes that God will judge the world in righteousness [and] the peoples in His faithfulness. Righteousness and faithfulness will be the defining characteristics of God’s judgments. Every judgment will be right and true and beyond dispute. I need to rest sure in the knowledge that God will judge righteously and in truth. And I need to eagerly anticipate the glory to be revealed on the other side of that — a glory that cannot be accurately described.

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