*Lord of Far-Away People

(The fourth *royal psalm)

Psalm 97

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 97


Gordon Churchyard

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

Words in brackets, ( ), are not in the Hebrew Bible.

The notes explain words with a *star by them.

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Jesus said, "I have other sheep. They do not live here. I must fetch them also. And they will hear my voice. And there will be one home for sheep and one shepherd". (John 10:16) (A shepherd is a sheep farmer.)

Psalm 97

v1   The *LORD is king! (Everyone) on earth will be very happy!
  (Even) all the (people) on far-away islands will be very happy!

v2   Clouds and black (skies) are all round (the *LORD).
  He is a good and fair ruler.

v3   Fire goes in front of him.
  It burns up his enemies on every side.

v4   His *lightning is a light over the (whole) world.
  The earth sees it and is afraid.

v5   The mountains *melt as butter in front of the *LORD,
  in front of the master of the whole world.

v6   The skies tell (us) that he is *righteous
  and people (from every country) will see his *glory.

v7   All the servants of *images (of gods) will be ashamed.
  Also, all those that say that *idols are great (will be ashamed)!
  Because (even) the gods will fall down in front of (the *LORD).

v8   *Zion will hear about it and be happy.
  The people of Judah will be very happy!
  (This will be) because of what you decide to do, *LORD.

v9   Because you, *LORD, are the *Most High (God) over all the earth.
  You are much more important than any other god!

v10   If you love the *LORD, then *hate what bad people do!
  (The *LORD) makes safe the lives of his people.
  He will make them free from the hands of bad people.

v11   Light will shine on *righteous people
  and honest people will be very happy.

v12   Everyone that is *righteous, you be happy with the *LORD!
  And say "thanks" to his *holy name.

The Story of Psalm 97

Bible students think that whoever wrote Psalm 96 also wrote Psalm 97. But Psalm 96 remembers what God has done. Psalm 97 looks to the future. It says (or prophesies) what God will do. Psalm 96 remembers that God brought his people home from a foreign country. He did this because he was a powerful king. Psalm 96:2 says "God has made us safe". Psalm 97 is another royal psalm. "Royal" means "as a king". Psalm 97 tells us what will happen when everybody sees that God is king. That is why some Bible students say that this is a psalm about the end of the world.

What Psalm 97 means

The psalm starts with "the *LORD is king", (verse 1). This is always true, but many people do not believe it! But the psalm goes on to say this: Everybody will know that it is true. It says what will happen then. The word LORD is a special name for God. His people use this name. His people love and obey him. These people will be very happy when everyone knows that the *LORD is king. It does not matter where they live. Even if they live in far-away places.

We cannot see God and we do not know what he looks like. "Like" is another word for "as". In the Bible, we often read that God is like a storm. You will find this in Joshua chapters 4 and 5, Psalm 18, Psalm 29, and many other places. You will find it here, in verses 2-6. There are black skies, (verse 2). There is fire, (verse 3). There is lightning, or a bright light in the sky that appears just for a second, (verse 4). Many people are afraid of lightning, and the thunder (or loud noise) that follows it. When God appears at the end of time, people will be afraid. It will frighten them, like a bad storm frightens them. But the *LORD's people will not be afraid. They will be happy that God has appeared to judge the world. "To judge" means "to decide who is good and who is bad". The good people are those who love and obey God. The bad people do not do this.

But when God appears, it will frighten even the earth itself! The mountains will melt, (verse 5)! This means that the rocks and stones will become as water, or as butter when it becomes hot. This is only a picture; we do not know what will really happen. But God is not only master of the people on the earth. He is master ("*Lord" in *Hebrew, not the same word as "*LORD") of the earth itself.

In verse 6, there are two important Bible words, *righteous and *glory. They are not easy to explain.

    "righteous" means "very, very good". It means "never done anything bad". Only God is really righteous. But in verses 11 and 12, the psalm calls Godís people "righteous". This is not because they are very, very good. It is not because they have never done anything bad. It is because God has forgiven their sin. We sin when we do not obey Godís rules. But if we are sorry, God takes that sin away. We say that God forgives us. God then calls us righteous. He decides not to remember that we have not obeyed his rules! So, righteous people are not always good people. They are people that God has forgiven. They are people that sometimes still do bad things. But when they do, they always ask God to forgive them again.

    "glory" means "shining very much, shining like the sun". Psalm 84:11 says that "God is like the sun". It does not mean that God is the sun. Some people believe that, but they are wrong. We cannot look at the sun, because it shines so bright. But that is a picture for us of Godís glory.

Verse 6 tells us that the skies say that God is *righteous and glorious. ("Glorious" means "has a lot of *glory".) We can also translate the word "skies" as "*heavens". Heaven is the home of God. We do not know where it is. But when we see it, we will see that God is *righteous and glorious. In some strange way, even seeing a storm tells us that God is *righteous and glorious.

Verses 7 - 9 are about other "gods". Countries all round Judah had their own gods. Often they made gods out of wood or stone. We call these "images" or "idols". The *Hebrew word "idols" really means "nothings". Hebrew was the language that they spoke in Judah. Their word for idols tells us that the idols were false gods. They were not gods at all, because there is only one God! They were (and still are) "nothings"! When God appears, everyone will know that there are no other gods. These gods will all fall down in front of the God that really lives. Everyone will see that the false gods are dead nothings. The *LORD God is more important than any other god because he is alive and they are dead. The *LORD God is the Most High God. The "Most High" is another name for God. It means that he is more important than anyone else. Zion, in verse 8, was the capital city of Judah. It was another name for Jerusalem.

The psalm ends with promises to God's people. God's people must hate (or not like) what bad people do. But the *LORD will make his people safe and free, (verse 10). This will happen when the *LORD God appears on earth. But it often happens now for his people. It is certain that it is true when they die. They will be safe and free with God in *heaven. "The hands of bad people" means "what bad people do to them with their hands". Bible students are not certain what "light will shine" in verse 11 means. The *Hebrew word translated "shine" really means "become planted"! Perhaps God sows (or plants) seeds of light in us, so that we will shine also! We will have a part of God's *glory if we love and serve (work for) him. Paul tells us that in Romans 8:30. So, we must say "thanks" to his *holy name, (verse 12). "Holy" means all good with no bad in it, separate from *sin.

In verses 1, 8, 11 and 12 we read the word "happy". A better word is "joyful" or "full of joy". It is a good feeling deep down inside us. Nobody can take it away, because God put it there.

Something to do

1.  Read some of the other psalms that are about storms. Psalms 18 and 29 are good examples.

2.  Think about *idols and false gods. Must they be made of wood or stone? Can they be things in our lives that we love more than God?


© 2001-2002, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words).

June 2002

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