“The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! 2 The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. 3 Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he! 4 The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. 5 Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!” (Psalm 99:1-4)
Psalm 99:1-5 speaks of the transcendent holiness of God. The adjective “transcendent” means superior, excellent, supreme and divine. Transcendent is a term teaching that God is separated from man and above man. God is transcendent in that He is holy and man is sinful. The LORD is transcendent because He is infinite and man is finite. God is “wholly other” than man. Psalm 99:1-4 reveals the truth of the LORD’s transcendent holiness, while vs. 5 is the believer’s response to this truth.
“The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!” The LORD, Yahweh, as we have often noted is the most personal name for God. He is “I am that I am” (Exodus 3). He is the Self-existent One. It is He who perfectly, both now and forever, rules for He is King. What is to be the peoples’ response to such truth? The common man, as opposed to the uncommon LORD, continually and physically quakes with fear.
In an atypical synonymous parallel statement, the psalmist states that Yahweh remains in authority not only over those on earth, but even over the cherubim angels in heaven (Ezekiel 1; 10). Since this is so, the earth is to shake in reverence like a bag hanging upside down.
“The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.” Yahweh is not only important among the Jews, but He is presently and actively high above and to be worshiped by the non-Jews. That is, the gentiles. All creation is to praise Him.
“Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he!” Why is everyone to make a public confession of the acts and attributes of power belonging to Yahweh? Why is creation to praise Him intensely? To begin with, it is because His name, representing who Yahweh is, is important, awesome and worthy of renown. Additionally, it is also because Yahweh is unique and pure and separate from sin. He continually exists is holiness.
“The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.” The psalmist moves from speaking about Yahweh, the King, to speaking directly to Him. The psalmist says that Yahweh is the absolute ruler. He possesses the ability, or mightiness, to do what is required, necessary and intended.
Yahweh also has a close relationship with and a fond affection for what is right for He alone distinguishes between what is right and wrong. Yahweh, the King form and fashions, secures and sustains uprightness or a level path of life. Once again, it is He alone who has created justice and righteousness.
“Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!” What is to be the believer’s response to such magnificence and majesty? Two exclamations are given by the psalmist.
First, we are to obediently worship in humility, in honor and homage to Yahweh, our Elohim or mighty God. Second, the believer is to do so because Yahweh is holy. It is he who is transcendently holy, pure and sacred.
Regarding the commandment to exalt the LORD our God, John Calvin writes, “This exhortation is properly addressed to the church alone, because having been made a partaker of the grace of God, she ought the more zealously to devote herself to his service and to the love of godliness. He is holy. For the prophet, in hallowing the name of the one God, declares all the idols of the heathen to be unholy; as if he should say that although the heathen claim for their idols an imaginary sanctity, they are nevertheless very vanity, and offense, and abomination.”
Take the time to evaluate what, or who, in your life aspires to be worshiped by you as holy in place of, or equal to, Yahweh. No one, or nothing, is to be honored and praised but He alone. He alone is holy.
Soli deo Gloria!