A Faith that Remembers, Rejoices, and Remains - Radical

A Faith that Remembers, Rejoices, and Remains

Our society often teaches that evil never prospers. Yet, this isn’t often the reality that we see. In this message on Psalm 92, Matt Mason teaches from the Bible that the Christian can remember God’s faithfulness and have faith in his promises regardless. We can rejoice that Christ’s work of redemption is finished and he is seated on his throne.

  1. We look to the past and worship in the present.
  2. They live for the present but perish in the future.
  3. We age in the future but flourish there as well.

Opening Thoughts: Psalm 92

If you would turn in your Bible to Psalm 92, we will be closing out our Psalm series—our Psalms-immersion experience these past six weeks. I would encourage you once again to go back and listen to the two Psalms that were recently covered—Psalm 100 on gathered worship and living our lives for God’s glory, and then Psalm 99, a portrait of the holiness and majesty of God.

We’ll begin reading in Psalm 92:1, if you would follow along with me.

Psalm 92:1

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep! The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this: that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever; but you, O Lord, are on high forever. For behold, your enemies, O Lord, for behold, your enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered.

But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil. My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Let’s pray. 

Oh, God, would You open our eyes to see Your glory in Your Word? Holy Spirit, would You come and enable us to not just hear these words and then leave unchanged, but to be transformed by what we see here, by what we hear? Oh, Lord, may our hearts apprehend this truth by faith, and may we live this out for Your glory. Lord, change us. May this not just be data download or information exchange, but may it be transformation by the power of Your Word. We pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.

Psalm 92 Addresses Three Questions About the Christian Life

Well, there are all kinds of relevant questions that are brought to bear on the Christian life that are addressed here in this passage. Questions like, “How do we persevere in faith?” Questions like, “What truths does God give us in His Word which act as kind of preservative agents—preservation agents—that hold on to us and keep us in faithfulness before God?” “What truths are used by God to increase our joy in Him?” “What truths are used by God to sustain perseverance in the faith?”

Christian faith is keenly interested in all three tenses. It’s interested in the past. We’re interested in the present. We’re interested in the future. Obviously, we’re interested in the present. That’s where we live our lives right now. So Paul said in Galatians, “The life that I now live I live by faith…” So we obviously have to have an interest in the present—living for the glory of God here and now.

But we also are keenly interested and inevitably interested in history, because ours is a faith rooted in history. As a matter of fact, Paul said, “If the history’s wrong, our faith is worthless.” If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead bodily—if that’s not a matter of real history—hang it up; close the doors; let’s all go do something else besides what we’re doing here. It’s pointless. So we are interested—inevitably, we better be interested—in history, because our faith is a historical faith. It’s anchored in real acts of a real God in real history. 

But also, it’s oriented toward the future. We have an eye toward what is to come. What is God doing next? What’s next on the redemptive calendar of events? All three tenses exist here. You may have noticed them as we were reading through, but we’re going to study through them one-by-one. 

Psalm 92 Shows Us That Our Present Trust in God Comes From What He Has Already Done

All three tenses exist here in Psalm 92. As a matter of fact, according to Scripture and according to Psalm 92, your present trust in God right now gets fuel from remembering what God has done in the past. It is strengthened by what God has done—a view toward what God has done in the past. Not only that, but a view toward what God will do in the future when Christ returns. That has an impact on our lives, a very relevant impact on our lives right now.

The Apostle John wrote these words. First John 3:2–3: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. “And notice, now, the difference that looking at that future makes on our lives. The Apostle John goes on to say, “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

In other words, cultivating a hope in Christ’s return has a purifying impact now on the life of the believer. So we want to live in present faithfulness before God, but that’s not simply a matter of present faithfulness before God. If we want to live in present faithfulness, we need to look to the past and get fuel for present faithfulness. We need to look to the future, moving ahead, continuing in grace, and looking for the coming and return of Jesus.

Experiencing Increasing Joy

In a sense, I think the central idea of Psalm 92 might go something like this: As we remember God’s saving acts in the past, we experience increasing joy in God now, and this propels us into future faithfulness. Let me say that again. As we remember God’s saving acts in the past, we experience increasing joy in God now, and this propels us into future faithfulness. But our text begins with the past, so let’s begin there.

We Look to the Past and Worship in the Present

Understanding the Sabbath

Notice the words right at the beginning of this psalm, right next to the number 92: “A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath.” So we’d probably do well to go ahead and just review and sharpen up our understanding of what the Sabbath was all about. Right? God established the Sabbath pattern where? In creation. He made the world and everything in it, and He made it in six days. The text says, “He rested on the seventh.” Genesis 2:2: “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”

Now, there’s no more mention of seventh day rest for the rest of the book of Genesis. And then we’re into the book of Exodus. We come to Exodus 12, and God’s people had not been resting. They’d been working. They’d been working rather hard. Actually, they’re slaves. And God comes and acts on their behalf, and He tells Moses in Exodus 12, “All that’s about to change. All this labor stuff, all this work under Pharaoh, that’s all about to change. I’ve got one more act of judgment to bring down—one more plague—and then you’re going to be freed from under the tyranny of Pharaoh. I’m going to take you into the Promised Land, and you’re going to rest in my finished work of redemption.”

This is what God has done. So the pattern of Sabbath continues. It picks up in creation; it also picks up in God’s Old Testament great act of redemption, where God works on their behalf and then they come into God’s rest. Sabbath was instituted by God in order to keep them from forgetting the work that God had done, not they had done. The work that God had done on their behalf to bring them into rest. That’s what Sabbath was all about.

Deuteronomy 5:15 clarifies this. It says:

You shall remember that you were a slave (Do you see that past orientation?) in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day (so that you wouldn’t forget God, who rescued you with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm).

And then in Exodus 31, the Lord tells Moses exactly what he should be thinking in the living out of the Sabbath—in this event called the Sabbath. 

Exodus 31

And the Lord said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all (so that’s priority language, “above everything”) you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations (And now he’s going to tell you the reason. Why did I say “above all”? I’m about to tell you. Here’s the reason “you should keep my Sabbaths”) that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.”

That’s the purpose of the Sabbath: “So you remember who saved you, who sanctifies you. I, the Lord, sanctify. I set you apart. I delivered you from bondage.” In other words, the Exodus wasn’t a cooperative effort on our parts. I didn’t do 50, you did 50; we kind of met in the middle. That’s not what the Sabbath is all about. It’s reminding the people God wrought our salvation. God worked and brought us into eternal rest.

How the Sabbath was Meant to be Celebrated

This is symbolized in the way that they were actually supposed to celebrate the Sabbath. He said, as a concrete way—a palpable reminder—He just said, “Literally, put all your tools away. I’m not kidding; I’m not being symbolic. Stop working today, so that you remember, so that you feel, so that you remember what it looked like when I saved you from Egypt.”

You feel this, where He’s going with the song of the Sabbath. “You had no power. You remember the story,” He’s saying. “You had no power against Egypt. You had no weapons to hold up against your oppressors. You were––to borrow a phrase from Jesus in the Gospels––weary and heavy laden, and I gave you rest. I delivered you. I brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Your redemption wasn’t a joint venture worked out between us. I wrought that as a sovereign God and deliverer and savior of my people.”

The Sabbath reminds them. It reminds the people that their rescue was an act of sovereign grace. It was a day every week where the people lay down their work so that they could feel the truth that their freedom wasn’t owing to their labor, but to God’s labor on their behalf. That’s what Sabbath was all about. 

Jeremiah’s Reminder of the Sabbath

So some 700 years later, after Moses is off the page of history, the Prophet Jeremiah is still trying to keep this fresh in people’s minds. “Don’t forget what the Sabbath is all about!” He’s saying the same thing Moses said 700 years before. Jeremiah 17:21–22: 

Thus says the Lord, “Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem. And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath or do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your fathers.”

And this view of the Sabbath—if you just keep tracking through history—you can find out that this view of the Sabbath was lost time and time and time again throughout the Old Testament. And Jesus is even confronting this view of the Sabbath in the Gospels on multiple occasions.

Luke 13:10–17 on the Sabbath

Just keep your finger here in Psalm 92 and flip over for a moment just to Luke 13. Luke 13—I’ll begin reading in verse ten, and I’ll read through verse 17––says: 

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. (So that’s the day we’re on, okay? On the Sabbath.) And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. (And it even shows you her posture.) She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

Jesus Reminds Us About the True Intent of the Sabbath

So Jesus is basically saying, “Wait, so just to make sure I’m hearing you right, you think it’s bad that I healed this woman on the Sabbath? This is bad timing to heal her on the Sabbath?” And He’s basically saying, “How is that possible? Don’t you know what the Sabbath is all about? The purpose of the Sabbath? God’s people… Let me just tell you this story again, Pharisees. You should know this, but God’s people were bent under Pharaoh’s tyranny for 430 years and God delivered them from that slavery. God instituted Sabbath to remind them of that act of sovereign grace of delivering them from being bent under Pharaoh’s hand for 430 years. This woman has been bent over under Satan’s oppressive hand for 18 years!” He’s saying, “I couldn’t have picked a better day to rescue this woman from her oppression than to do it on the day that commemorates the labor of God which led to His people’s rest.”

He just said, “This was the perfect day to do this. It commemorates… It’s the same shape of the Sabbath from the very beginning. It looks just like what happened in the Exodus.” They turned the Sabbath on its head. They made it all about rigorous activity, not about refreshment. This Psalm is refreshing! “Sing praises to Your name; declare Your steadfast love; Your faithfulness; music, harps, lyres, strumming guitars, melody of the lyre; You’ve made me glad at Your work.” I mean, it’s a refreshing Psalm. It’s a joy-filled Psalm. It’s a Sabbath song.

How Christians Turn the Meaning of the Sabbath Upside Down

But we turn this upside down. The Pharisees turned it upside down, and, really, this is what Christianity becomes when we get our eyes off the gospel. When we frontload the Christian faith with commands and with law rather than with the grace of God, which is the first word out of God’s mouth when He addresses His people… That’s not to say that the law of God is irrelevant for the Christian life. Oh, it’s massively relevant! Absolutely relevant for our lives. But the Christian gospel—please get this—the Christian gospel is not fundamentally an exhortation. It’s not, “Hey, turn over a new leaf, and I’ll help you out with that.” That’s not the fundamental essence of the Christian gospel. The Christian gospels’ fundamentally a report of what someone else has done for you

P.T. Forsyth talked about this. He said, “Christianity is not the victory that we win. It’s the victory we inherit.” This is the essence of the Christian gospel. This is the good news. It’s a report of what God has done. And Paul summarizes it that way in 1 Corinthians 15:1–4. He said: 

1 Corinthians 15:1–4

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you… (He goes on and he says here’s what it is)… For I delivered to you as of first importance (central message of our faith) what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

That’s a report! You weren’t anywhere in there. You weren’t the subject of any of those verbs. Jesus was the subject of every verb in Paul’s gospel summary in 1 Corinthians 15. And the response of the believer is to gratefully receive that by faith, not by working to receive it—by simply receiving it. Thankfully, with gratitude in our hearts.

The Grace of God in Poetry

We sing a song that’s sung for years: 

Just as I am, without one plea, 

But that Thy blood was shed for me, 

And that Thou bidst me come to Thee, 

O, Lamb of God, I come. 

(Just As I Am by Charlotte Elliot & Williams B. Bradbury, 1835)

Nothing in my hands I bring, 

Simply to Thy cross I cling; 

Naked, come to Thee for dress; 

Helpless look to Thee for grace; 

Foul, I to the fountain fly; 

Wash me, Savior, o’er I die. 

Rock of ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee.

(Rock of Ages by Augustus M. Toplady, 1776)

We Are Forgiven by Grace Alone

No works commend us to the grace of God, faith alone, empty hands, receiving a gracious gift from our God. That’s the gospel. Luther said, “Here’s the only thing I contributed to my justification: sin.” The only thing that we contribute to our justification is the sin which God so graciously forgives. That is such good news! That is such refreshing news. Yes, I brought something to the table of my salvation. I sure did. I brought sin, and Christ atoned for it. This is good news! This is a Sabbath song.

How Psalm 92 Describes the Believer

Note the tone of Psalm 92. Look how it describes the believer. Clearly, this person has encountered some good news. Verse one, he’s happily giving thanks and singing. Verse two, he’s declaring God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. Verse three, he’s celebrating this with instrumental music. Verse four, he’s glad in singing for joy. Verse five, he’s saying, “Great are Your works!”

This text doesn’t feature a believer who’s somber and sullen, but one who is happy in God, rejoicing in God’s salvation. 

God’s Grace Comes First

The problem of making the commands the feature—the most prominent things where we have kind of law in all caps and grace is sort of small and off to the side—the problem with that is it’s getting the cart before the horse. It’s actually not the way that God speaks, even in the Old Testament. Even—this may come as a surprise; I hope it doesn’t––even in the very giving of the Law, the Mosaic Law. Exodus 20—you can picture it there, or you can just remember the movie. Right?

Moses is coming down from Mt. Sinai. He’s got the big tablets in his hand. He’s walking down, and what’s the first thing he’s going to say from God? Are the first words out of his mouth, “You shall not”? No. These are the first words. Exodus 20:1: “And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.’” Then He says, “You shall have no other gods before me.”

In other words, the message of salvation in both Old and New Testaments is the same. It’s not as though in the Old Testament it’s “Obey me and I’ll rescue you,” and then in the New Testament that’s flipped up, it’s “Hey, I’ll rescue you; now, obey me.” No, in the Old Testament, it’s “I’ve rescued you; now, obey.” In the Mosaic covenant, on the slab of stone is written: “I am the Lord your God. I have rescued you. Now, obey me.”

Grace Comes First Even in the Sinai Covenant

That’s the order of the very Sinai Covenant, the giving of the Law itself. “I brought you out of Egypt. I redeemed you. Now, don’t worship false gods.” We can’t flip this order. It’s indicatives first and imperatives are grounded in indicatives. “Oughts” are grounded in “is”—what God has done.

What happens when we get this in the right order—in the right order—is this: it enables us to respond with an obedience that flows from love—an obedience that flows from gratitude, not terror. There’s a major difference between an obedience that flows and stems from terror—cowering in a corner, thinking we’re about to be whipped—and an obedience that flows from love and gratitude at the grace that God has shown us.

Jesus said, “Here’s how obedience works: if you love me, you’ll obey me.” If we just aimed at getting better at obedience by aiming at getting better at obedience, Jesus is saying, “Actually, there’s a better way. Fall in love with the gospel, with what I’ve done for you. And guess what’s going to happen? If you love me, you’ll obey me.”

The obedience that pleases God is obedience that proceeds from love for God. And then the question becomes, “Well, then where does love for God come from?” “We love God because He first loved us.” Our love is a love that’s responsive. It’s reactive. It’s a love of reciprocity. We see love. It captures us. It awakens love, and we respond with love. 

Psalm 92 Meditates on God’s Love

And then Jesus says, “That love produces obedience.” That’s the shape. That’s the gospel logic of sanctification. We love God––we get greater and greater love for God––by looking at the gospel, looking at His love for us. He who has been forgiven much loves much. You want to obey more? Love more. You want to love more? Meditate on your forgiveness. “He who has been forgiven much loves much,” and “if you love me, you’ll obey me.”

You see how this works in the gospel? Indicatives drive a life of obedience before God. They drive perseverance forward. Seeing God’s love and God’s forgiveness leads us to respond with love toward Him. And if we love Him, that will lead to obedience.

When the prodigal son comes to his senses—remember this story in Luke 15?—what is the thought that enabled him to think, “I think I’m going to go home”? It was the generosity of his father. It was, “I think my father—contrary to what this culture would urge me to do—I think my father would be so generous that he would let me come back, and he would let me be a hired servant. He would actually pay me for working.”

He thought that his father was generous. Actually, he didn’t know half the story of how generous his father was, because he starts to head home and what does he see? As soon as he turns the corner and he makes eye contact with his father, what does his father do? He begins to make the dust fly. He’s just running, running, hightailing it for his son. And he embraces him; he kisses him; he puts a ring on his hand. He had no idea how generous. He knew he was generous. He didn’t know half the story about how gracious his father was.

Psalm 92 Thanks God for His Mercy

But it’s the thought of the father’s merciful disposition that sent him home. When we read Psalm 92––and so many other places in Scripture––we see that biblical faith is a faith that responds to the grace that God has shown time and time again. It doesn’t feature—now, please get this—it doesn’t feature my sacrifice. Christian faith doesn’t feature my sacrifice so much as it features God’s bounteous grace

Let me illustrate that. Pretend for just a minute that I’m an awesome husband. And my wife’s not hear to hold me accountable, so I can get away with this. So pretend that I’m an awesome husband. And just everywhere I’m serving. I’m preferring her interests above my own. I am pouring out words of love, acts of love, gifts of love. I’m speaking every love language in the book. I’m doing all this and just pouring everything I’ve got into this love relationship that I have with my wife. And I’m doing this so constantly and so faithfully that, when I meet with a small group of guys that I hang out with on Wednesday mornings, they’re just in awe. Like, “How do you have time to do all this stuff for her? How do you have time to be so thoughtful?”

And let’s say at that point in the conversation—maybe they’ve never met my wife—and at that point in the conversation, I come out with my wallet and show a picture of her. And, suddenly, they’re not so impressed with all the things that I’m doing for my wife. Now, they’ve seen how beautiful she is. Right? Now, Matt’s devotion isn’t the best explanation for all that he’s doing. She is beautiful. He’s driven not by discipline. He’s driven not by devotion. He’s driven not by chivalry. He’s driven by beauty. Look at her! That’s the shape of the Christian faith. It’s not discipline, rigor-driven. It’s, “Look at Him! Look at this glorious, merciful, faithful, forgiving God!” 

Psalm 92 Highlights the Importance of the Gospel

You see this man in the Gospels, and he goes and sells everything he’s got. And he buys a field that has treasure in it. Are we supposed to think, “Wow! He gave it all away! I mean, he sold everything. I mean, I wish I could be that unselfish”? Is that the way we’re supposed to read that text? Or are we supposed to say, “Of course he’s going to do that. Have you seen the treasure in the field? What else is he going to do—hold onto his stuff?” No, that’s not sacrifice! He’s a hedonist. He is a pleasure-monger. He’s found treasure that’s worth selling everything for. That’s what the Christian gospel is all about. He’s not losing treasure; he’s getting treasure. The Christian faith is not primarily devotion-driven or discipline-driven. It’s beauty-driven; it’s glory-driven; it’s gospel-driven. 

In the accent in these opening verses, the song this believer is singing is not a song about his sacrifices for God. It’s not a song about his work, his labor, his love. Look at it. Verse two: “[I] declare your steadfast love.” Just look at these phrases as they appear: “your steadfast love”; “your faithfulness”; “you have made me glad; “by your work”; “at the works of your hands, I sing for joy.” There’s not an ounce of works religion anywhere to be found in Psalm 92. His praise is filled with joy, and it’s focused on the work of another—on the work of God on his behalf. It’s a Sabbath song.

Worship in the present is fueled by God’s work in the past, or else, really, it may not be the worship of God at all. It may simply be a veiled form of self-worship. “Hey God, thanks for meeting me halfway. I couldn’t quite get all the way there. I got halfway, right? That’s pretty good, but I couldn’t quite get all the way there. I’m just happy You came and met me halfway.” That’s a song of self-salvation—partial self-salvation. That is not Psalm 92. It’s celebrating what happened. This psalm is celebrating what happened before you started to learn to use the tools of progressive sanctification. 

Psalm 92 Encourages Endless Worship

You may not have even known the name of any of the tools of Christian growth. And God is saying here, “Rejoice, because before you had a devotional regiment, before you installed Covenant Eyes, before you got accountability, before you shared the gospel with a single unbeliever, I redeemed you by grace. I did that. I, the Lord, sanctify you. Put down your tools on the Sabbath, and you think about that.” That’s what Sabbath is all about. Our worship is fueled by a vision of what God has done in the past, and that past work shapes the present.

They Live for the Present but Perish in the Future

The psalmist at this point now sounds a different tone. So this psalm moves from a vision of how the past shapes our present worship, to a portrait of how the present informs the future. The psalm, in particular, goes about… Sometimes, the Psalms go about this in a positive way. Right? So it will point out the blessings that await believers, as we walk faithfully with God. 

Or it may come at it from the warning angle from time to time. So Psalm 1—I mean, the very beginning of the book of Psalms—Psalm 1 has some features that sound a lot like Psalm 92. So there are two people. There are two ways of living. There are two destinations. It’s kind of like wisdom literature. It has two people: the righteous and the wicked. Two ways of living: there’s scoffing; and then the righteous are meditating on God’s law day and night. And two destinations: the wicked will not stand in judgment; and the righteous, on the other hand, yield fruit in season and his leaf does not wither.

Actually, some of that very same imagery may strike you as familiar, because we just read it here in Psalm 92. It’s almost the same, exact imagery. In verse seven:

“…though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever.” It’s using this language of flourishing. In verse seven, it appears that the wicked are flourishing. They’re sprouting like grass. Look at them growing up and excelling and succeeding in everything. But wisdom language—this device of wisdom literature in the Old Testament—very often distinguishes between the way things appear now, and the way they’ll finally end up.

Psalm 92 Gives Wisdom

So a classic statement of wisdom literature is, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but not everything is what it looks like.” “There’s a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” And you see this played out in the book of Proverbs when the seductress calls for the simple man. She says, “Come and follow me.” 

And he just looks at her, and he follows her. And it seems right. It seems like this is going to be a great experience for him. But Proverbs—wisdom literature—says, “Not everything is as it seems.” Here’s the real situation of what’s about to go down: “Her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life.”

Wisdom sayings are not just found in the book of Proverbs. They’re found throughout the Psalms. Here the psalmist, in this chapter, is saying, “Things aren’t always as they seem. It may look like the wicked sprout like grass. It may look like they’re flourishing.” But the Psalm urges us, “Don’t ever forget that sin destroys. Don’t ever forget where this story is heading.”

The Destruction of Sin

I just want to say and exhort Christian friends here, as we bring sin and we clutch it and we embrace it, whatever sin it might be—bitterness or greed or sexual immorality or pornography—please know that’s destroying your ability to take joy in God. That is destroying your discernment. That’s destroying the sense in which you will have delightful communion with God. It’s killing you from the inside out. 

I talked about the problem of kind of frontloading the Christian faith with commands where grace is sort of in small print and law is in all caps. But the other danger is to leave warning out completely. That’s not a route that the Bible allows us to take. This psalm rejoices in God’s grace. It is a Sabbath song, but it’s not without warning. The purpose of verses six through nine is to warn the believer. It’s not mainly to convert pagan readers. Pagans weren’t reading this. It’s not as if we can think that there’s kind of a Lifeway Bookstore on every corner back in ancient times, where they could just roam in and buy a Torah and start reading it. It’s just not happening. There were vast seasons where even the believers weren’t reading this. The pagans weren’t reading it. It was a warning primarily to believers. 

The primary purpose of these verses is to do for the reader of Psalm 96 something similar to what Asaph does for his readers in Psalm 73, when he says this: “But as for me, my feet almost stumbled. … For I was envious…” This is kind of a personal testimony. He’s laying it all out there, saying, “Let me just be honest with you. Here’s where I went in my mind. I was envious of the arrogant. When I saw the prosperity of the wicked…” And he speaks very honestly about his struggle. “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease (look at their lives, everything’s perfect), they increase in riches.” And then he kind of slightly… It sounds like he’s turning away from God in verse 13. “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.”

A Biblical Perspective of Sin

And if you stop there—if the psalm stops there—we’re left to wonder, “Did he ever come to see things clearly? Did he only size things up based on present, or did he get that biblical perspective of where sin heads—the destruction toward which it is heading?” 

And he goes on to say, “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then (this is the turning point for him) I discerned their end.” Where the wicked, who seemed to be flourishing will end up on the last day, and clarity came. He took the warning. He ran away from this outward, superficial sense of success that he saw in the wicked. 

Wisdom literature in the Bible is constantly saying, “Sometimes, things aren’t always as they seem.” Sometimes, God-haters look like they’re flourishing, but it doesn’t end well. 

Sometimes, those who are righteous and follow God look like they’re withering, but check them out later as they approach the end. 

Psalm 92 Assures Christians of God’s Love

And that’s actually where our psalm goes next and last. The endnote of this psalm is not gloomy. In fact, this psalm, taken as a whole, strikes me as a powerful song of assurance. Even with this implicit warning about the way of the fool, it speaks about the future of the believer with total confidence—with absolute confidence. There are no “ifs” in these last verses. It’s just, “This is what the believer does when he gets old—when she’s old. Check them out. Flourishing on the vine, bearing fruit.”

We Age in the Future but Flourish There as Well

So the third point is this… So first was we look to the past and worship in the present. Second is they live in the present but perish in the future. And third is we age in the future but flourish there as well. We age in the future but flourish there as well.

Look at verse ten: 

But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil. My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants. The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. (You hear the certainty of this? There’s assurance packed in every verse.) “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”

The Promise of a Flourishing Future

It’s a promise of future flourishing for the believer. But there are no imperatives in this passage. No imperatives. No commands. It’s possible to make too much of that, but it’s also possible to make too little of it. It’s also possible to think about this truth that’s advanced here in Psalm 92 and to never acknowledge that sometimes God’s Word accents the fact that God is both the Author and the Finisher of your faith. You’re not the author and the finisher of your faith. He’s not the author and you’re the finisher. You’re the closer. You kind of get it all the way to the end, right? No, He’s both the author and the closer—the author and the finisher of your faith. And Psalm 92 does a happy dance to that truth in verse after verse after verse.

This psalm, if you will, fast-forwards through the life of the believer. The one who was praising God in these opening verses is an old man, is an old woman in verses 12–15. And you look at the descriptions of this old man, this old woman. She’s flourishing like a palm tree. She is growing like a cedar in Lebanon. 

Psalm 92 Encourages Steadfast Faith

Apparently, if you wanted cedar in the ancient world, Lebanon was the place to get it. Because if you read Psalm 29––which is one of my favorite psalms––it talks about God’s power, and it says, “His voice breaks the cedars.” And then it puts a comma, and it says, “Even the cedars of Lebanon.” They were the strongest cedars in the world. And when it says, “You want to see this lady? She’s old, but she is a rock. She is solid like the cedars, like the ones in Lebanon. That’s what she’s like.”

She’s strong in faith (verse 12). Early on, she was planted in the house of the Lord. You see that language. And she hasn’t withered. In fact, she’s flourishing in the courts of God. It looked like the wicked were flourishing earlier in verse seven. They weren’t. It turns out they weren’t. And you can see that in the end. In various times in the life of the believer, it may have looked as though they were withering on the vine, but they were headed toward increased flourishing under the hand of a God who sanctifies His people by His own power. In verse 14, she’s bearing fruit in old age. I love this. Full of sap, she’s green; she’s vigorous. She’s declaring it. She’s opening her mouth in verse 15, “The Lor is upright (that’s her testimony); he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”

This Sabbath song, it points back to Genesis 2, when God finished His work of creation and then rested on the seventh day. It points back to Exodus 12, where God finished His work of redemption and then rested and brought His people into His rest by faith. And then it points forward from here to Matthew 27, where Jesus cries out what? “It is finished!” And He ascends to the Father, and what does He do when He gets there? He sits down in the eternal Sabbath of God. And He invites anybody who would trust in Him to join Him in the eternal Sabbath rest of a God who works on behalf of His people.

The Good News of the Gospel

This is gospel news. The Sabbath doesn’t come to those who work for it. It comes by faith and faith alone. In one sense, I think of this as an Old Testament version of Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

This psalm, it talks about the perseverance of the believer, but even more than that, it accents the preservation of God in our faith. And there’s a complement, actually, to this Sabbath song. A few pages over––if you just want to flip to Psalm 71:17, I love this––rather than describe this very same story from the outside, this psalm describes it from the inside. It’s a personal testimony. Psalm 71:17:

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.

Friends, our God has worked salvation for us. He delights in our worship. When our worship is a response of grateful praise and thanks for the work He has done, when our lives of obedience and progressive growth in sanctification are a grateful response to His work, when they proceed out of love that’s springing out of our hearts because we’ve been loved by God, this brings great glory to our God. 


You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material provided that you do not alter it in any way, use the material in its entirety, and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to the media on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by 

We look to the past and worship in the present (V1-5)

  • The Sabbath reminds the people that redemption was an act of sovereign grace and power by which God with his own hand called the people out from darkness and slavery into freedom and joy.
  • God doesn’t say, “Obey, and I’ll rescue you.” He says, “I’ve rescued you, now obey.”
  • Biblical faith doesn’t feature my sacrifice so much as it features God’s bounteous grace! It’s not devotion/discipline-driven. It’s beauty-driven. Glory-driven. Gospel-driven.
  • Worship in the present is fueled by God’s work in the past or else it may not be the worship of God at all. It may simply be a veiled form of self-worship.

They live for the present but perish in the future (V6-9)

  • Wisdom language in the Old Testament often distinguishes between the way things appear now and the way they will finally end up.
  • There are major problems that come when we frontload Christian faith with all the commands—where grace is in small print and LAW in all caps. The other danger is to leave warning out completely.
  • Wisdom literature in the Bible is constantly saying, “Things aren’t always what they seem.”

Sometimes God-haters look like they’re flourishing. But it doesn’t end well.

Sometimes the righteous look like they’re withering. But they flourish in the end.

We age in the future but flourish there as well. (10-15)

  • There are no imperatives in this passage. It’s possible to read too much into that. But it’s also possible to neglect to acknowledge that sometimes God’s Word accents the fact that He is both the Author and the Finisher of our faith.

This song for the Sabbath points back to Genesis 2 when God finished his work of creation and rested, and to Exodus 12 when God worked and finished his work of redemption and brought the faithful into his rest. But it points forward to Matthew 27 where Jesus finished his greater work of redemption and then “sat down.” (Hebrews 1:3; 10:12)

Matt Mason is the Senior Pastor at The Church at Brook Hills.


That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs are receiving the least support. You can help change that!