30 May 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Easter:
30 May 2022 (Psalm 96)

‘O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth’ (Psalm 96: 1) … Arnaldo Pomodoro’s sculpture ‘Sphere Within Sphere’ at the Berkeley Library in Trinity College Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections in this season of Easter, including my morning reflections drawing on the Psalms.

In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 96:

Psalm 96 is sometimes known by its Latin name Laetentur caeli. In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate, this psalm is counted as Psalm 95. The Septuagint’s title for this psalm is ‘When the house was being built after the Captivity.’

Psalm 96 is the fourth in a series of psalms (Psalms 93-99) that are called royal psalms as they praise God as King. Biblical scholars note numerous thematic and structural similarities between Psalm 96 and Psalm 97, which are both psalms about the kingship of God.

According to the medieval rabbinical scholar David Kimhi (1160-1235), also known by his Hebrew acronym as Radak, this psalm was composed by David when he brought the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem. On this day, it is said, David composed two songs – the Song of Thanksgiving (Hodu) and Psalm 96 (see I Chronicles 16: 8-36).

According to I Chronicles 16:7, David instructed Asaph and his brothers to sing these songs daily. Hodu was sung before the Ark every morning, and Psalm 96 was sung before the Ark every afternoon, until the time the Temple was built and the Ark was moved into it.

However, the apparent newness of the song leads some commentators to identify Psalm 96 with the deliverance of Israel from Babylonian captivity, inaugurating a new stage in the nation’s history. The opening words, Verse 1: ‘O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth’ (verse 1), correspond to the words of the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 42: 10.

In Jewish tradition, Psalm 96 is the second of six psalms recited during the Kabbalat Shabbat (‘Welcoming the Shabbat’) service. These six psalms represent the six days of the week, with Psalm 96 corresponding to the second day of the week, Monday.

In Hebrew, this psalm is known as Shiru Lashem (‘Sing to the Lord’), and repeats the word ‘sing’ three times.

According to the Midrash Tehillim, these three instances refer to the three daily prayer services ‘when Israel sings praises to God’:

1, Shacharit, the morning prayer, corresponding to ‘O sing to the Lord a new song’ (verse 1);

2, Mincha, the afternoon prayer, corresponding to ‘Sing to the Lord, all the earth’ (verse 1);

3, Maariv, the evening prayer, corresponding to ‘Sing to the Lord, bless his name’ (verse 2).

In his commentary on Psalm 96, the former Chief Rabbi, the late Lord (Jonathan) Sacks observes that ‘one of the most difficult ideas for modern minds to grasp is that the universe might sing for joy at the coming of judgement and justice.’

‘Yet,’ he continues, ‘we believe not only in one God, Creator of heaven and earth, but also in the inseparable connections between cosmos and ethos, the world-that-is and the world-that-ought-to-be.’

He goes on to say: ‘God not only created the universe but also saw that it was good. From the outset, the universe had an objective moral structure. As the natural world is governed by scientific law, so is the human world governed by moral law. Hence creation rejoices that He is coming to judge the earth, that the world is governed by the rule of right rather than the rule of force.’

‘Worship the Lord in holy splendour; tremble before him, all the earth’ (Psalm 96: 9) … above the Alps in Switzerland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 96 (NRSVA):

1 O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvellous works among all the peoples.
4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Honour and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in holy splendour;
tremble before him, all the earth.

10 Say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king!
The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity.’
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the Lord; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Global Day of Parents.’

The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (30 May 2022) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for all who work in childcare. May they be supported and valued in all they do.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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