The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
and burns up his adversaries all around.
His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth. PS 97:1-5
A few years ago, a sudden thunderstorm caught some friends and me while fishing in aluminum canoes in the center of a wide stream. Lightning flashed and thunder crashed all around us. We were the tallest things around: human lightning rods. I was terrified. It did wonders for my prayer life, at least that day. Fortunately we were able to paddle to safety without being struck.
Psalm 97 paints the reign of God over the earth as a terrifying storm. Huge thunderheads roll over the land as thick, swirling, dark clouds. Flames of fire and bolts of lightning flash forth and light up the entire world. The very ground quakes at his coming. The mighty Himalayas, Rockies and Andes melt like wax before his powerful presence. God is the omnipotent, mysterious, awesome ruler of the earth. He is too glorious for human eyes to look upon so he clothes himself in clouds. He is too deep and mysterious to probe so he surrounds himself with darkness.
I am so glad for the second part of verse 2:
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
God’s “throne” is his reign or rule. This verse means that his rule flows out of his character, which is righteous and just. His reign is founded upon righteousness and justice. He will never do anything unrighteous or unjust. Whatever our God does is only loving and kind and good, even when he brings fearful judgments on the earth or visits trials on our lives.
What a comfort this is to believers. Sometimes God’s ways seem mysterious and fearful. Sometimes it feels like clouds and thick darkness swirl all around us. Lightning bolts flash and the very ground we stand on shakes.
Yet even when we can’t understand the Lord’s workings we can know and declare, “Father, praise you that you reign in righteousness and justice. Thank you that all you do in my life flows out of your holy and righteous character. Blessed be your Name.”
Because our God is infinite in his righteousness, almighty in power, infinite in his wisdom and love, we can absolutely trust him that every single thing he does in our lives or takes us through is completely under his control, the most righteous, wise, and loving thing he could do for us. Let us trust him with all our hearts.