Psalm 96:1-91NIV New International Version Translations
1 Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. 4 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. 6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary. 7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. 9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.
King David used this psalm when he brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. This ceremony gave the Jews help in remembering their past. After David died, his son Solomon built a temple for the Ark. This became the house of God in Jerusalem. Then the Jews kept the Ark in the temple. But 400 years later enemies destroyed the temple. After 70 years, the Jews built it again. They changed the psalm a bit, to the psalm as we know it. This psalm was used it in their new temple. David’s original psalm is in 1 Chronicles 16:23-33.
Verses 1 – 3, the *LORD’s people must tell everybody about him. God’s people agree (or made a covenant) to love him, work for him and obey him. So, LORD is the Covenant Name of God. But, in verses 1 and 3, “all the world” and “every nation” must sing to the LORD. A nation is a country with a government. This means that some people from every country have agreed to love, work for and obey him. “He has made us safe”, in verse 2, tell us about the date of the psalm. Bible students suggest three dates:
- after David made his country safe, about 1000 B.C.
- in the time of Isaiah, after Assyria failed to destroy Jerusalem, about 700 B.C.
- after the exile, when the *Jews came home from Babylon, about 500 B.C.
The exile was when the Babylonians took the Jews away from Judah. They took them to Babylon. They were there from 606-536 B.C. B.C. means “years Before Christ came to the earth”. Most Bible students think that David wrote the psalm, but that someone re-wrote it (changed it) after the exile. In verse 3, “wonderful things” are things that surprise us. They make us think, “How did God do that?”
Verses 4 – 6, the *LORD is greater than all the gods of the earth. There are many gods in the world, but they are all false gods. Isaiah tells us that men “make a god”, (Isaiah 44:15). There is only one God who really is alive, “the LORD (that) made everything”, verse 5. Men did not make him; he made men! Verses 4-6 tell more about God. They tell us that:
- he is great, so we should praise him. “Praise him” means “tell him that he is great”.
- we need not be afraid of other gods, but we should be afraid of God.
- he is a great king. This is why the psalm is “a royal psalm”
- he is strong and powerful.
- he is also beautiful. God’s house, the temple, was beautiful. This made people think that God was beautiful also. The same is true in many of our churches. Because they are beautiful, they make us remember that God is beautiful.
But God will still be beautiful when there are no more church buildings!
Verses 7 – 9, everyone on earth must say that the LORD is great. The “families of *nations” in verse 7 makes us think that all people are as one big family. This is true because God made everybody. But the psalmist does not mean this. He means that all the people that love, work for and obey God are as one big family.
Items for Discussion
- Why do you think that mankind always tries to create a god as an idol, a physical thing?
- Do you think that mankind has a “built in sense” that there is a God?
- When given a choice, some people choose to believe in something dead, others something alive – why?
- What do you think is the big draw toward idolatry?
- Where do you see the “family of God” alive and well in our world?
- How does idolatry impact that “family of God”?
- What proof do you see that we have a “living God?”
1 When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 6 So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
The Roman infantry, centurions initially commanded a centuria or “century”, which means company or tribe. Centuries, or Centuriae, developed from the Roman Tribal system could contain anywhere from 80 to 100 men. Later, generals further manipulated these numbers with double and half-strength units.
Centurions would gradually rise in seniority, commanding centuries with higher precedence, until commanding the senior century and therefore the entire military unit called a cohort. The very best centurions were then promoted to become centurions in the First Cohort, called Primi Ordines, commanding one of the ten centuries and also taking on a staff role. The most senior centurion of the legion was the Primus Pilus who commanded the first century. All centurions, however senior, had their own allocated century or group of men.
Centurions had to be literate, have connections (letters of recommendation), be at least 30 years of age, and had already served a few years in the military. The centurion in the infantry was chosen for his size, strength and dexterity in throwing his missile weapons and for his skill in the use of his sword and shield; in short for his expertness in all the exercises. He was to be vigilant, temperate, active and read to execute the orders he receives rather than to talk or question those orders; Strict in exercising and keeping up proper discipline among his soldiers, in obliging them to appear clean and well-dressed and to have their arms constantly rubbed and bright. The centurion was the best of the best.
In Jesus’ time the Jews hated the Romans because they represented everything they stood against — including foreign domination and pagan beliefs and practices. The question we study is why did Jesus not only warmly receive a Roman centurion but praise him as a model of faith and confidence in God? In the Roman world the position of centurion was very important. He was an officer in charge of a hundred soldiers. In a certain sense, he was the backbone of the Roman army, the cement which held the army together.
The centurion who approached Jesus was not only courageous, but faith-filled as well. He risked the ridicule of his peers by seeking help from an itinerant preacher from Galilee, and well as mockery from the Jews. Nonetheless, he approached Jesus with confidence and humility. He was an extraordinary man because he loved his slave. In the Roman world slaves were treated more like animals rather than people. The centurion was also an extraordinary man of faith. He wanted Jesus to heal his beloved slave. Jesus commends him for his faith and immediately grants him his request.
Items for Discussion
- What is faith?
- How do you see the centurion’s skills as a soldier helping him in his faith walk?
- Why are peoples so unwilling to suffer ridiculing in the practice of their faith?
- What do you think the impact was on others who observed this? The slave, the centurion’s troops, bystanders?
- Based on this story, how would you describe bravery?
- If we have faith and believe in a “living God” then why are so many people reluctant to seek help from Him?
- How do we help our congregation and families approach Jesus as the centurion did?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations