A Song for the Sabbath (Psalm 92)

A Song for the Sabbath (Psalm 92)


Our series, “Evenings in the Psalms,” was meant to point out the pattern of worship in Scripture which speak to the importance of opening and closing our day in worship.

• In Psalm 1 we noted how Christians are to be characterized in a way that is distinct from the world. They should be characterized by a refusal to compromise with the world. A love for God’s Word so that they meditate upon it day and night.

• In Psalm 77 we saw how the Christian deals with despair. He earnestly cried out to God all through the night, but never felt relief. The genuine inward despair that the psalmist felt was only overcome when he took his eyes off himself and began simply describing the attributes and actions of God.

• We will conclude our series by taking a look at Psalm 134 which has served as our Call to Worship each month.

• But, tonight we will focus on Psalm 92:1-4. It is an important Psalm to look at because it is specifically designated as “A Song for the Sabbath.”

Read Psalm 92:1-4

Do you have a plan for preparing for worship? I’m not even asking if your plan is successful, we don’t really have the time to go into all the distractions and interruptions that an average Sunday morning involves. But what do you do as a family? Do you sing together? Do you know that the bulletin is available online no later than Thursday evening? You might review the music and pick a song to sing together during family worship that week.

The opening verses to this psalm speak to the readiness of the psalmist to worship God.

But before we focus on this opening passage it would be helpful to get an idea of the rest of the chapter, because the rest of the chapter defends the psalmist’s statements in verses 1-4.

Psalm 92 is about the works God has done, especially for his people. It speaks to the Lord’s wisdom that is too deep for anyone to reach the depths of (4-5). The Lord is described as a just judge who conquers his and our enemies and punishes the wicked (6-9). In light of the recent presidential election, Psalm 92 is a good reminder that our ultimate government is divine (vv.9, 14). And the psalm closes with an illustration of the grace and goodness that he has shown toward believers (10-15).

The pivot point is v.8, “but you, O Lord, are on high forever.” An alternative translation could be “You are exaltedness itself!”

› This evening I want us to focus on three things: Our Sabbath Duty, Our Sabbath Day, and Our Sabbath Delight

Our Sabbath Duty (1)

From the inscription alone we learn a great deal:

1. There is a day for congregational worship. One person would be incapable of playing all of the instruments mentioned in (v.3).

2. Rest is not the primary duty of the Sabbath, but worship is.

3. This duty is to be performed in the assembly. The context is within the “house of the Lord” and the “court of our God”. Notice the first person plural, “our God” (v.13).

It is inexcusable for us to refuse to offer thanksgiving to God.

The duty of the Sabbath is worship, thanksgiving and praise, specifically in the setting of the congregation. This duty is “good” in the sense that it is pleasing to our God and edifying for us.

We must stir one another up in this song because we too often fail to give thanks and praise. Paul encourages us to address one another with these lyrics.

Ephesians 5:19 ESV
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

Our singing should be directed towards God, but it is also done with an acknowledgment that others are present and being encouraged by the same heartfelt praise that is coming from our own lips.

› In addition to it being a duty to worship, this psalm also makes it clear that it is a day of worship, in the sense that it involves morning and night.

Our Sabbath Day (2-3)

A compelling case can be made from this passage for opening and closing the Sabbath day in corporate worship.

The psalmist does not intend for us to limit our morning praise to his steadfast love and our evening praise to his faithfulness. Rather, the psalmist is suggesting that we could sing of his mercy and faithfulness forever! His works are an inexhaustible subject of worship.

A Commentary on the Book of Psalms Psalm 92

But more especially should this be done on the “sabbath day;” which, when so employed, affords a lively resemblance of that eternal sabbath, to be hereafter kept by the redeemed, in the kingdom of God.

Israel had a morning and evening sacrifice. It would seem this psalm was associated with the service that accompanied that sacrifice on the Sabbath. As the priests brought the offering the people sung this psalm.

This morning and evening pattern should characterize each day of our lives.

Are you waking up with praise in your heart? Are you gathering the family together in prayer? Does your evening look the same? How often does entertainment replace worship in your home?

The word “to declare” means that we are providing evidence of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

Are you paying attention to the ways in which the Lord is showing kindness to you so that you might recount those ways when you gather with family and friends?

The instruments mentioned here are not what is important. As if our worship could only be valid if we had these three instruments, nothing more, nothing less. Of course, the psalmist simply has what were common instruments of their day. Maybe some of the Israelites had a preference for the lute and others had a preference for the harp (your translation may list the names of these instruments differently…we are not confident what the psalmist has in mind precisely).

Is it praise if the harpist was unavailable? Where’s the keyboard? Where’s the cajon?

Psalm 150:3–4 ESV
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!

Some consider instruments to be forbidden in corporate worship. None other than John Calvin believed instruments were a shadow of the Old Covenant.

Commentary on the Book of Psalms Psalm 92

We are not to conceive that God enjoined the harp as feeling a delight like ourselves in mere melody of sounds; but the Jews, who were yet under age, were astricted to the use of such childish elements.

Commentary on the Book of Psalms Psalm 92

A difference is to be observed in this respect between his people under the Old and under the New Testament; for now that Christ has appeared, and the Church has reached full age, it were only to bury the light of the Gospel, should we introduce the shadows of a departed dispensation.

Now, all of you know that I’m a big fan of John Calvin, but just as I did in Sunday School this morning, I’m going to have to disagree with him.

God never forbids the use of instruments in worship. But isn’t that the Normative Principle? The RP argues that whatever is commanded in Scripture is the only thing permissible in worship. The NP argues that whatever is not forbidden is acceptable. This would be a strong challenge if instruments weren’t commanded in the OT. Since their use has been commanded, we would need a clear teaching that forbids their use moving forward.

Clearly, worship under the old covenant involved instruments. Are we to believe that the instruction to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to the Lord (Eph. 5:19) is to be done a cappella? I see nothing in Scripture that suggests such a radical departure.

Instruments have a way of increasing and deepening our emotional response. Yes, this can be used to manipulate, but it can also be used to engage our minds, hearts, and spirits in God-centered holistic worship.

What is worship? Worship that is not heartfelt is not worship! Passionate worship devoid of truth is not worship!

The point isn’t to cater to the preferences of the people, but to holistically offer beautifully crafted praise with theologically accurate lyrics.

› Praising God is not mere duty, although it is that (v.1), but it is a real delight (v.4)!

Our Sabbath Delight (4)

Psalms 73–150: An Introduction and Commentary Psalm 92. They that Wait on the Lord …

The hymn, ‘Sweet is the work, my God, my King’, by Isaac Watts, is a felicitous and illuminating paraphrase of this psalm.

Sweet is the work, my God, my King,

To praise Thy Name, give thanks and sing,

To show Thy love by morning light

And talk of all Thy truth at night.

Sweet is the day of sacred rest,

No mortal cares shall seize my breast.

O may my heart in tune be found,

Like David’s harp of solemn sound!

My heart shall triumph in my Lord

And bless His works and bless His Word.

Thy works of grace, how bright they shine!

How deep Thy counsels, how divine!

George Horne writes:

A Commentary on the Book of Psalms Psalm 92

If we can be pleased with such a world as this, where sin and death have fixed their habitation, shall we not much rather admire those other heavens, and that other earth, wherein dwell righteousness and life? What are we to think of the palace, since even the prison is not without its charms?