God ... He Is *Holy!

(The sixth and last *royal psalm)

Psalm 99

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 99


Gordon Churchyard

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

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Jesus prayed (to God), "*Holy Father". (John 17:11)

Psalm 99

v1   The *LORD is king!
  People on earth will be afraid!
  (The *LORD) is sitting between the *cherubim!
  The earth (itself) will *shake!

v2   The *LORD is great in *Zion.
  And he is king over all the (other) people (in the world).

v3   They must (all) *praise your great name.
  (It is a name) that makes people afraid.
  Because he is *holy.

v4   (He is) a strong king and he loves what is right.
  You have made everything fair.
  You have done what is right and fair in *Jacob.

v5   *Praise the *LORD our God!
  *Kneel *before him. He is *holy.

v6   Moses and Aaron were among his *priests
  and Samuel was among those that prayed to him.
  They prayed to the *LORD and he answered them.

v7   He spoke to them from the *column of cloud.
  They obeyed his rules and they did what he told them to do.

v8   *LORD our God, you answered them.
  You were a God that *forgave Israel.
  Even if you *punished them when they did not obey you.

v9   *Praise the *LORD our God and *kneel before him.
  Because the *LORD our God, he is *holy!

The Story of Psalm 99

This is the last of the 6 *royal psalms. The word "royal" means "as a king". We call the psalms royal because they call God king. The *royal psalms (93 and 95-99) tell us that he is ruling over all the world. Psalms 94 and 100 are sometimes included with the *royal psalms, but they are not really *royal psalms.

Jews are people who were born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children. The Jews spoke Hebrew, and they wrote the psalms in Hebrew. But 200 years before Jesus was born, they translated them into the Greek language. This was because many of the *Jews that lived in Egypt spoke Greek. Now the Hebrew Bible does not say who wrote the *royal psalms. But the Greek Bible does! It says that David wrote all the *royal psalms. But Bible students think that what really happened was this. The exile was when the Babylonians beat the *Jews and took them to Babylon. When the *Jews came home from the exile, they found that the Babylonians had destroyed their *temple. So, they built it again. Then they made the book of psalms to sing in it. The temple was the house of God in Jerusalem. They took some old psalms of David, and changed them a bit. This was because they wanted psalms that said this: God is greater than any other king is! He is greater than the king of Babylon, who had made them live away from their own land. God used another king, Cyrus of Persia, to destroy Babylon. Then the Persian king sent the *Jews home.

For Christians, the *royal psalms tell us that God is still king. He is still ruling over the whole world. When things seem bad, we must still love and obey him. He is king and, in the end, everyone will have to obey him. Even those that do not love him. But many Bible students think that the psalms tell us more than this. They tell us that God himself will come back to the earth and rule as king. Then everyone will see that God is the King!

What Psalm 99 means

Study the psalm in 2 parts:

    verses 1 - 5, the *LORD is king over everyone, but over Israel in a special way.

    verses 6 - 9, why the *LORD is special to Israel.

Some Bible students translate verse 1 as: "The *LORD, the One Sitting on the Cherubim, is king! People will be afraid and the earth itself will *shake!" This makes "One Sitting on the Cherubim" another name for the *LORD. The LORD is a special name for God. His servants that love and obey him use it. Once this was only the *Jews but now it is anyone that loves and obeys him. Cherubim are not people. They are special servants of God that live with him. They are very powerful. When people see that God really is king, they will be afraid. Even the earth itself will *shake. (Something shakes when it cannot keep still.) Zion, in verse 2, is another name for Jerusalem. Really, Zion was the hill in Jerusalem where they built the *temple.

Verses 3, 5 and 9 tell us that he is *holy. Who is *holy? The *LORD our God. Really, we can translate verse 3 better as "they must *praise your name ... because it is *holy". But the name of God means everything about God: his love, his power, his anger (when he is angry) and that he does what he has promised. He does not forget his people. But most important, God is *holy and *righteous. These are difficult words to understand. We say that holy means "never does anything wrong" and righteous means "always does what is right". But both words mean much more than this. Because God is *holy, he makes us feel afraid. This is because we are only people. But he is so much greater; he is God! That is part of what being *holy means. Even when we love and obey him, we feel a bit afraid. There is a special word for this. It is "awe". We feel awe when we remember that God is *holy. And so, we want to praise him (tell him that he is a great God). Also, we want to worship him. To worship him means to *kneel in front of him. And tell him that we love him. "Kneel" means "get down on our knees".

"Kneel before him" in verse 5 means "get down on our knees in front of him". But where is he? In the psalm, "him" is really "at his footstool". A footstool is something that you rest your feet on. To the *Jews it was a special place in the *temple in Jerusalem. Sometimes the *Jews said that the whole earth was God's footstool! Isaiah 66:1 says "Heaven (the sky) is my seat and the earth is my footstool". So where is God? Everywhere, because the whole earth is his footstool. Also, the *temple in Jerusalem has gone. In verses 1-5, the *Jews (called "Jacob" in verse 4) are special to the *LORD, but we can all learn from these verses.

We can also learn from the last part of the psalm. It says that Moses was a priest. This is the only place in the Bible where it says this. So some Bible students translate verse 6 as: Moses (a great leader), Aaron among his priests, and Samuel, were among those that prayed to him. Priests were Godís special servants in the *temple at Jerusalem. They all came from the family of Aaron, who was Moses' brother. The column of cloud, verse 7, led Moses and Aaron from Egypt to Israel. A column of cloud is tall and thin. Perhaps there was a small column of cloud in the *temple at Shiloh when Samuel lived there. The important thing about these great men was this. "They prayed to the *LORD and he answered them", (verse 6).

Verse 8 is perhaps the most important verse in Psalm 99. Even when God *forgave his people, he still punished them! "Punished" means "hurt them because they did not obey him". This is still true today. We may take something that is not ours. God will forgive us, but we may still have to go to prison. When God forgives us, it means this. We may have done bad things. But that will not stop us going to heaven (Godís home) when we die. When God forgives us, he gives the bad things that we do to Jesus. Jesus took them away when he died. But we must ask God to forgive us, and promise to try to obey him in the future.

When God has forgiven us, then verse 9 becomes the most important verse in the psalm! "*Praise the *LORD our God and *kneel before him, because the *LORD our God, he is *holy."

Something to do

Read Psalms 93 to 100. Try to understand why 93 and 100 are not really *royal psalms.


© 2001-2002, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

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

June 2002

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