“The Lord reigns.”
It is a phrase that appears five times in Scripture, four of which are in the psalms (1 Chron. 16:31; Ps. 93:1, 96:10, 97:1, 99:1). Despite the simplicity of the statement, it is not simplistic. When we gaze on this fundamental truth, we do well to pull over, park, and take a slow walk around this site so that we do not miss the grandeur of the truth contained therein. There is much to learn about God in nature and creation; his care, power, design, and creative ability. But we learn far more from his word.
The declaration, “the Lord reigns,” contains at least 10 sites to see pertaining to the supremacy of God. Like any season between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20, these are appropriate times to take a longer than shorter gaze upon at least 10 sites contained in the phrase, “The Lord reigns.”
First, there is the site of a certain identity.
Often in Hebrew grammar, the verb comes before the subject in a sentence. But in these verses, there is an interesting and less common reversal. “The LORD” begins the sentence. Thus, no confusion exists as to who we are talking about. In Hebrew, it is the covenant name by which God distinguishes himself. So, first things first: the writers declare in no uncertain terms who we are looking at. The emphasis is on the identity of the psalm; the God of the Bible.
Second, the phrase, “The Lord reigns,” contains a site of exclusivity.
“The LORD reigns.” No other individual is said to reign. Certainly there are human rulers, judges, kings, who rise up for moment in time. However, like a flower on a hot summer day, they rise and fall back into dirt. And, the reign of all beings who are not the God of the Bible is merely a delegated authority. God’s is a self-assumed, self-given authority.
Further, we do well to notice what Scripture does not say. Nowhere does it say, for example, “God and popular human opinion reign,” “God and the senate reign,” “God and a human king reign,” “God and Satan sort of fight it out over who reigns,” “God and human decisions kind of reign,” or, “God and human sin and failures reign.”
The Lord reigns exclusively. To emphasize the point, places like Psalm 93:2 mention, “Your throne is established from of old.” The subject is singular. The chief place of rule in the universe is not a shared throne because it is not a shared rule.
Third, there is a glorious site to see as it pertains to the aseity of God.
The aseity of God means that God depends on nothing other than himself for his existence. Aseity reminds us that “God” is the answer to the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
The word “LORD” in some English translations is capitalized because the Hebrew word is not “Lord,” but his sacred covenant name, “Yahweh.” Yahweh is the personal name which the true God gives to himself and reveals to Moses prior to the Exodus (Exod. 3:14). The word is translated “LORD” because many Old Testament believers had such a high, reverent view of the true God, that they wanted to be very careful about saying his self-given name. So, they used the term, “LORD” instead or sometimes simply referred to it as “The Name.”
Why did God give himself that name? It is related to the phrase, “I am.” It communicates the essential idea of the God-ness of the true God; that he simply is. He always has existed. He always has been being. Human rulers are a mere blink in time, while the God of the Bible has no beginning nor ending.
Further, this name is attributed to Jesus Christ. He is the very I AM from of old:
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58).
And he possesses an exclusive supremacy:
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9–11).
Jesus is the eternally existing Lord and I AM from everlasting.
That fact has big implications. Since God always has existed, then he depends on nothing for his own existence. This cannot be said of any other thing; whether planets, rocks, a universe, and especially not humans. Human beings are entirely opposite of self-existent. We are incredibly dependent for existence. Unlike God, human beings have to be created. Unlike God, human beings require constant intake of other things created for existence; constant food, air, and water. God made all of those things which we require for our existence.
Unlike God, human beings depend on a very fine-tuned environment for existence. For example, astronomers teach us that our planet is located at a perfect location to sustain human existence. They call it things like the “Goldilocks Zone.” Everything around us is highly fine-tuned to sustain our puny, fragile existence. We are the perfect distance from the sun. We have the perfect sized sun. We have just the right orbit around the sun and planetary tilt which creates gentle seasons for our frail frames. Our planet has the perfect amount of oxygen and nitrogen. Our earth’s crust is just the right thickness. Many of these things contribute to make water possible, which also makes the gentle weather possible, which makes our not-being-crushed-killed-or-suffocated possible every second.
If we lived on a place like Jupiter, for example, we would be instantly destroyed by things like frequent 300 mph storms blowing around. Humanity can barely muster itself up to get to the next rock in the solar system, much less the other seven. And our sun is merely one of about 300 billion in our galaxy. And our galaxy is one of about 200 billion in the known universe. But every single variable outside of us, not to mention those inside, is fine-tuned by the self-existent God for our existence since we are radically not self-existent.
Harsh external environmental conditions are no factor for God. He existed prior to their even being any kind of environment. He was the environment. We could go on and on, but “the Lord reigns” is a glorious sight of aseity.
Fourth, “The Lord reigns” contains a site of sovereignty.
The Hebrew word translated, “reigns,” is packed with significance. It communicates the idea to both be and exercise functions of an absolute supreme and sovereign one. The carries the idea of one who possesses or exercises sovereign power and authority.
The sovereignty of God does not mean that God can do anything that human decision or popularity will permit. Rather, it means that God does whatever he ordains. All things which happen are God carrying out all things decreed. If even a piece of rock floating around in another galaxy is not under God’s control, then we have a god who is not God. But the true God is a God of sovereignty.
Fifth, “The Lord reigns” is a site of activity.
The word “reigns” is the verb form of the word “king” in Hebrew. So, the phrase could be thought of as, “The LORD is “king-ing,” or, “The Lord is “sovereign-ing.” There is a constant sovereign activity to God’s doings.
The verb “reigns” indicates constant activity. He was reigning when the psalms were written several centuries B.C. He was reigning when he existed alone prior to creation. He was actively king-ing yesterday, is today, and will be for all eternity.
This reminds us that the deist view of God is fictitious. God did not set creation in place, then let it proceed randomly like my kids’ wind-up toy mouse, clanging around chaotically on the floor. That is not the true God. And this fact does not depend upon finite man’s ability to reconcile how this is. God is actively, constantly reigns in righteousness and justice.
Sixth, in our siteseeing of “The Lord reigns,” is universality.
No specific realm of rule is given. For example, it does not say, “The Lord reigns in about 60% of the world” or “The Lord reigns ¼ of the time in ½ of the earth and most of heaven.” No geographic or episodic reference is made because his reign is comprehensive and universal.
At the end of Psalm 93:1, it says, “Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.” The “world” refers not only to the physical planet, but all things; societies rising and falling; the moral, social, and spiritual laws; his plan of redemption. He reigns universally. This is colossal, but flawless, multi-tasking: his universal reign includes presidents, peoples, polls, planets, pineapples, peacocks, Pompeii, and the Pacific. God is universally sovereign over it all.
Seventh, in our siteseeing of, “The Lord reigns,” is a spectacle of majesty.
Psalm 93:1 declares, “The LORD reigns, he is clothed with majesty.” In ancient times, a powerful king would put on imperial garments reserved only for him after accomplishing a decisive victory. In God’s case, “to be clothed with majesty” refers, not to clothing, but his own royal nature of glory and honor. In Hebrew, the word for “majesty” describes something that is lifted high above you such that you would you would need to look up to see it its loftiness.
There is no ruler and king who is royal and majestic like the God of the Bible. And his is a majesty that is not derived, but inherent. Regardless if acknowledged, his majesty is infinite and stunning.
This same Hebrew word, “majesty,” is used elsewhere of God in the OT, spoken of as something that people will see in the end times:
In that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats, to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth (Isa. 2:20-21).
Those who hate God and refuse his forgiveness, will be terrified in the face of his majesty. However, those who have bowed the knee to him will rejoice at his majesty:
“They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the Lord they shout from the west” (Isa. 24:14).
Eighth, in the phrase, “The Lord reigns,” is a site of potency.
Reigning in the way God does requires incalculable force. How much power is needed, for example, to keep our 13,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000-lb earth spinning, tilting back and forth, rotating around the sun, and not flying off in the wrong direction? How much power is required to keep the Milky Way Galaxy scooting through the universe at 370 miles/second? And how much power was needed to bring all of that into being from nothing? And most of all, there is no number to quantify the power in converting a soul from dead to God to alive in Christ.
That God reigns is a declaration of stunning potency. His is not a derived power, but eternally possessed.
Ninth, “The Lord reigns” contains a site of comforting certainty.
Nothing can alter or derail his reign. His reign was present tense at the inspiration of these psalms and so it is today. There is zero uncertainty in the statement. No qualifiers exist between the words “Lord” and “reigns,” such as “probably,” “mostly,” “likely,” or, “hopefully.” His reign is a certain reign. “Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved” (Ps. 93:1). The world—all its events and things—are firmly fixed and securely determined. The Hebrew word translated, “moved,” means to be shaken or overthrown. Whatever history unfolds—from creation to the fall to Christ’s birth, crucifixion, resurrection, and return—it’s all his plan and will not be shaken. There is a certainty to the Lord’s reign which gives us a comfort for present events leading to the future.
Tenth, “The Lord reigns” is a phrase which contains a site of eternality. No termination is mentioned to God’s reign. There are no term limits to his rule because there is never the risk that he will fail nor is there a possibility of a superior ruler coming along. Before man existed, he reigned. He reigns now. And long after the ink has dried on the history of human governing, Christ will reign.
Finally, we should note the importance of God’s reign salvifically. In some sense, it is more important that God reigns than that he is a savior. If he is a savior, that is good, but there is no guarantee of his power to save. However, if he is, first, Lord, then we know something of his autonomous abilities. We might say, then, since he is Lord, he can be humanity’s effectual savior.
The God of the Bible reigns in absolute supremacy. Thus, as Jonathan Edwards remarks, “The absolute, universal, and unlimited sovereignty of God requires that we should adore him with all possible humility and reverence.”