By Elizabeth Prata
In Psalm 96:11-12 we read of the creation rejoicing,
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
Creation is glad, rejoices, roars, exults, and sings!
One Psalm later in Psalm 97:2-5 we read,
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
and burns up his adversaries all around.
His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth.
Here, we see the creation is trembling, there’s fire, mountains melting, darkness, burning.
Such a contrast from one Psalm to another!
In the former, Psalm 96, David is writing of when he brought the ark of God into the tabernacle which he’d had prepared for it in Zion. It is the scene described in 1 Chronicles 16 where David danced in joy. The notion of worshiping the one true God in holiness, a place dedicated as holy, was thrilling to David and should be to us. Spurgeon says,
We do not wonder that the large hearted David rejoiced and danced before the ark, while he saw in vision all the earth turning from idols to the one living and true God.
The joy of worship in holiness of the Holy One of Israel, the joy in knowing that someday the prophecies will be fulfilled and all the earth filled with His glory is cause for praises and songs.
Yet in Psalm 97 we have a different scene. Here, the creation trembles. Why? The knowledge of other prophecies to be fulfilled- judgments. The Lord will come in judgment some day. In Psalm 97, the Lord’s coming is described, and that coming’s effect upon the earth is vividly declared.
Think of Isaiah, who in Isaiah 6:5 he saw God in His glory and immediately crumbled, melted, trembled, crying “Woe is me!” This is the “trauma of holiness” as John MacArthur terms it.
What makes the difference between exultation at the holiness of the Lord, and melting at the holiness of the Lord?
The Bible is full of this same polarity throughout. We see distinctions of light and dark, wide and narrow, sheep and goat, good and evil, sinner and saint. The Bible is stark to consistently show the clear distinctions between saved vs. unsaved.
When we’re in Christ, we don’t fear Jesus, as in afraid. We are struck with awe at His holiness, majesty, perfection. But how many times do we read “Fear not!” (Answer: over 300 times!).
People who are outside of Christ fear as in real fear. Revelation 6:15-17 shows this when Christ actually does return,
Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
They are experiencing the trauma of holiness. God said to Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no man cannot see me and live“. (Exodus 33:20).
Even the dumb and mute creation “knows” the trauma of God’s holiness. It is sad that the people He created don’t. If you repent of your sin and fall upon the resurrected Jesus as Lord and Savior, appealing to Him for forgiveness, He will forgive, and then God will see you through His Son. He will see you not as someone upon whom judgment will be rendered, but as a co-heir, adopted as a child of God, justified and righteous.
The dualities shown in the Bible will be all too real for every person someday, who will either be lined up on His right hand as a sheep, welcomed into the kingdom forever, or a goat on His left, cast into the Lake of Fire forever to endure punishment. It is better to be able to look forward to the day of His return with rejoicing. The difference between all of these dual contrasts, light/dark, goat/sheep, good/evil, etc., is repentance. It is THE linchpin. Long ago John the Baptist prepared the way, saying,
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
Then you will sing as David did,
Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.