Psalm 97 is written by an unknown author. The book looks to the future and talks of what God will do. It tells us about God’s place as King and Lord of all. That is the tone from the very start. “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad”! There is no contest as to who is reigning over the earth. God sits on the throne and “righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne”. His reign is based on the righteousness and justice that are His very character. And they are the basis for the judgment that He will pass on each of us when we stand before Him someday.
He is all powerful – fire, lightning, earthquakes and mountains melting like wax. Nothing is outside His control. Nothing and no one can ignore His greatness. “The heavens proclaim His righteousness, and all the peoples see His glory”. Even heaven itself proclaims His glory. God’s glory shines like the sun – every person is covered by it whether they believe or not. You can’t miss God’s glory. His righteousness defines who God is. In the basic sense it means He has never done anything wrong. He is perfect and complete. It is His standard for us.
The psalmist reminds us that those who worship other gods are missing the mark. “All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols” need to stop their idolatry and worship the one true God. There are lots of things that creep into our lives as idols. Some of those things are made of wood or stone, but others are activities or actions that interfere with keeping God where He belongs – on the throne of the universe. Anything that gets in the way of that is an idol and must be put aside. “For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods”.
We’re given our marching orders here by the writer. “O you who love the Lord, hate evil”! That’s pretty up front and clear. As someone who loves God we are to hate evil. They are exact opposites – God and evil – and our response needs to be exactly the opposite as well. We love God. We hate evil. We’re told the benefit of making those choice. “He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart”. What a blessed outcome. Preservation, delivery, light and joy come to those who walk uprightly with our God!