Psalm 92: For the Sabbath Day

It is good to praise the Lord
    and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
    and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
    and the melody of the harp.

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Psalm 92

Psalm 92 is the only Psalm that mentions the Sabbath, and even then it is not actually in the main body of the lyrics but in the song title. However, there is perhaps more going on than meets the eye. If this is a song for the seventh day, then it should not surprise us that YHWH (the LORD) is mentioned seven times. That’s not a coincidence!

In Genesis the Sabbath is the day of rest when God ceases from his initial work of creation and gives a pattern to humanity just to kick back and enjoy the wonderful world that God has created and to dethrone the idol of constant work. It is not the first time the Psalms encourage us to slow down and reflect. Fullness of life is not to be found in endless anxious striving. In the fast paced world of the 21st Century some of us need to take time to slow down and enjoy nature and to make time for friends and family and to make time for God.

The opening of the Psalm is a call to praise YHWH because it is ‘good’ to do so. The God of the Bible is far removed from the Unmoved Mover of the philosophers and delights in our worship (Psalm 147:11), though unlike the pagan deities he does not need it. There are people who frequently need praise and reassurance because they have a low self-image and feel powerless and feel unloved. God, being almighty and existing as a triune communion of love doesn’t have that problem. God is no insecure mortal needing to be buttered up or to have his fragile ego flattered.

God as our loving heavenly Father delights when we respond to him in love and trust, but primarily worship is good for us. This is a point that C.S. Lewis makes very well in his short book Reflections on the Psalms. Lewis writes: ‘I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.’

The deliberate recollection of God’s deeds is the cause of great joy and gladness (v. 4) and if we’re missing some of that joy and gladness then the Psalmist invites us to spend a bit more time reflecting on God’s work and what his hands have done (v. 4). Worship is much more than stirring up the emotions or making us temporarily feel good. It’s not an escape from the difficulties of the world, but is reorienting our lives and reflecting upon all that God has done.  

The Psalm concludes with two striking and beautiful metaphors. The first image is that of the horn – a symbol of strength and vitality like a wild animal (v. 10) but when empty and upturned the horn is a vessel containing precious oil that would be used to anoint someone in God’s service. The other image is that of trees flourishing in YHWH’s courts (vv. 12, 13). The faithless may have their day in the sun but they flourish like grass – here today, gone tomorrow (v. 7). By contrast the Psalm ends with a great promise that those whose hope and trust is in YHWH will continue to flourish and live lives which are fruitful and for which others are grateful.