In preparing for this week’s lesson, I tried to think of one of the most exciting experiences in my life. Several events jumped into my mind, but one early experience was unique.
Starting in junior high school, I devoted myself to the study of music. I played trumpet, and I looked for every opportunity I could find to play. I was in jazz bands, concert bands, marching bands, orchestras, small ensembles, and any other grouping you could think of that allowed me to play trumpet.
Starting in high school, I played in the marching band. Even back in the 1980s, Ankeny High School had a top-notch marching band. Our weekends during the fall were filled with football games on Friday nights and band contests on Saturday. Our high school band was good, but I will never forget the first time I took the field in college.
I went to Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ, and they had a great band program. The Sun Devil Marching Band (known as “The Pride of the Southwest”) was over 300 strong, and the quality of musicians I met at ASU blew me away. Sun Devil Stadium held 71,000 fans, and due to the desert heat, all of our football games were played at night.
In marching band, tradition is everything, and ASU was steeped in tradition. Every pre-game, the marching band would assemble under the stadium seating out of sight of the fans. At the designated time, the percussion section would walk in formation out onto the field. With everyone in place, the drum major would give a long and four short blasts on his whistle, and the percussion section would begin a strong cadence. In a rush, the members of the marching band would storm the field out of the tunnel. The crowd would erupt in cheers as the band created the famed Sun Devil pitchfork. In a short time, the entire marching band was on the field, and four more whistles launched the Sun Devil fight song. The crowd would cheer and clap as the band marched down the field.
Looking back on that experience now, as a middle-aged adult, I find it almost impossible to believe that I found this experience to be one of the most exhilarating experiences in my life, but it was.
That is the expression of Psalm 96. Listen to verses 2-3: “Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” As John Piper observes, “This is the way you feel when your team has won the Super Bowl or the World Cup or the cross-town rivalry—only a thousand times greater. You were made for this!”
When was the last time you literally shouted for joy at the thought of your own salvation and at the realization of the glory of the Lord? Has it been a while? My guess is, if you are like me, it has been a while.
This is the heart of global missions. Too often we try to motivate ourselves to share the gospel out of obligation. That’s not the heart of the psalmist. He is literally singing for joy at the realization of God’s glory and majesty. He declares in verse 10, “Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!’” This is good news too good to keep quiet.
Have You Ever Experienced This Kind of Joy?
Imagine for a moment receiving an unexpected call from your doctor: “we need you to come in, something didn’t look right during your last exam. There’s a growth and we need to make sure it’s not cancerous.”
Those words cause your world to collapse into a very small field of focus. All of a sudden, your hopes and dreams go from thinking about children or grandchildren or next year’s big vacation to the fear and dread that you may not be around next year to go on vacation.
You contact your friends and family and ask them to begin praying for you. You ask them to pray that what was discovered is not cancerous, and that if it is, God will give you the grace to walk through that fiery trial.
The day of your scheduled test comes, and you go in with a quiet peace. You are scared to death, but at the same time, your faith is strong, and you simply want an answer. The next thing you know you are in the recovery room and your mind is cloudy. It takes you a few minutes to slowly understand where you are and why you are there. For a very brief moment, you have a sense of complete peace until your memory begins to kick in and you remember the reason for your surgery. Cancer. Do I or don’t I?
You don’t have to wait long before the doctor approaches your bed in the recovery area. He has a smile on his face. “I’ve got some good news for you…it was simply some fatty tissue, and it was benign. You don’t have cancer.”
Those words create a flood of emotions that begin with relief and quickly pour over into incredible joy. You can’t wait to tell your friends and family. This is not the kind of news you sit on for a day or two. As soon as you can, you share the good news.
That’s the kind of joy the psalmist is expressing in Psalm 96. How do you capture that kind of joy in your own life? Let that question linger for a while. Ask the Lord to open your eyes that you might see His glory and may you echo the sentiment of the psalmist this week: “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised! Say among the nations, ‘The Lord Reigns!’” – Chris Eller
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