1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Once when I was out riding my bike, I had to wait at an intersection for the light to change. Also waiting at the intersection was a man in his car, anxious to make a right-hand turn. He was impatient because the car ahead of him refused to turn on the red light. He did not see the pedestrian in the crosswalk for whom the man in front was waiting. Furiously, he honked his horn and revved his motor. When the car ahead of him finally cleared the intersection, the angry motorist behind him took off with tires squealing. He quickly passed the motorist who had caused his delay, glaring and shaking his fist at him.
His satisfaction at having vented his frustration was momentary, however. Not only had this hostile fellow failed to observe the pedestrian in the crosswalk, he had also overlooked the patrol car at the other side of the intersection. To the smell of smoking tires was added the sound of a siren and the sight of flashing lights. As I observed this little scene, I felt a tremendous sense of elation as the policeman proceeded to give him a citation. Whenever we feel good at such times, we also feel guilty. We wonder if it’s right to rejoice when the wicked are punished. Should the saint be happy when the sinner gets his due?
Psalm 92 forces us to consider this matter because it is a psalm of worship. In this passage, God is being praised by the psalmist for destroying the wicked and exalting the righteous above his enemies. How is it possible that a godly person can rejoice at the destruction of the wicked? What makes us feel guilty about the punishment of evildoers when the psalmist feels glad? This is the problem which our passage poses, and the purpose of our study will be to attempt to find a satisfactory solution.
The superscription of Psalm 92 does not identify the author, but it does provide a very interesting comment about the use of the psalm. We are told that it is a psalm for the Sabbath day. As such, it is the only psalm in the Hebrew text of the psalter that is designated as a Sabbath psalm. This suggests that the psalm focuses on the area of worship.
The message of this psalm can be largely summed up in two categories: (1) the goodness of praise; and (2) the grounds for praise. Let us quickly review these two important truths.
(1) Praise is good in that it is appropriate. Nothing is so becoming to the saint as praise. Praise is also good in that it is a delight. It is the cause of great joy and fulfillment in the life of the devoted believer. There is fulfillment and satisfaction in doing what we were created to do.
(2) Psalm 92 provides us with two of the principle grounds of praise. In general, these can both be seen as the work of God (v. 4). In greater detail, the work of God entails the punishment of the wicked (vv. 6-9) and the prosperity of the righteous (vv. 10-14). In both the destruction of the wicked and the exaltation of the righteous, the purpose of God is to bring praise to His name.
The psalmist is so allied with God that he recognizes God’s enemies are his enemies. Not only can we rejoice, but we ought to rejoice when God’s enemies are destroyed.
Our problem today, as it has been throughout all time, is a misguided sense of mercy. God commanded the Israelites at their entrance into the promised land to absolutely abolish the Canaanites—men, women, children, and cattle. When we read this passage, and others, we fail to grasp that the wicked are God’s foes. Thus, the Canaanites, a wicked people, were to be destroyed because they were the enemies of God.
Worship is good. It is appropriate. It is a delight. Worship is the basis for God’s blessings. Those who refuse to worship God fall justly under His wrath and face eternal destruction. Both the punishment of the wicked and the prosperity of the righteous are grounds for further worship.
Worship ought to be the core, the foundation, of all our works in the world. Ultimately, all of God’s works are for one purpose—to bring praise to His name through our worship. Worship should be at the heart of everything we do. If we rightly respond to the works of God, we will respond in worship. If we are rightly obedient to God, we will be so as an act of worship. Let us all seek to be better worshippers of God—not only as our duty, but as our delight.
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