Psalm 99 is an evocation of the character of God. It begins, "The LORD reigns."
This a something we seldom remember. Or we think of reigning as something the Queen of England does - a constitutional monarch who holds the ring, chairs the meetings, symbolizes the nation, but who has no power - or even as an American President who has power but must govern with consent. Our God is an absolute monarch. "Let the nations tremble; let the earth shake." He is a God to be held in awe. Remember CS Lewis description of Aslan. "Is he safe? No, He is not safe; but He is good." Our God is a Sovereign God. Not some trumped up despot who imagines he is a sovereign. Remember when Britain introduced the pound coin and it was nicknamed a thatcher. Because it was small and brassy and thought it was a sovereign. Our God really does control the Universe. He is eternal (Ps 90v2), omnipresent (Jer 23:24), unchanging (James 1:17), omniscient (1 John 33:20) and all powerful (Rev 19:1).
And He is not just a local god. (v2) "Great is the Lord in Zion" but "He is exalted above the nations." Last week at the BAFTAs the film editor Anne V Coates who edited Lawrence of Arabia and Becket, but also the new James Bond, Casino Royale, finished her thank you speech with the words, "May whatever god you worship bless you." As if there were gods to choose from. He is supreme. There is only one God. He is God of all the earth.
And He is holy (v3). Holiness is one of those words that has no context for the non-believer. Just as 'hepcidin' has no context except for hematologists. We have 'Holy Joes', guys into more religion than is good for them, but few could say what the difference between 'holy' and 'religious'. Holy first means separate; utterly other; not like us. But that could apply to any old alien that Captain Kirk would meet. It also means superior; above us. It means perfect; without flaw; spotless; unblemished. This is our God - perfect, unblemished, beyond our reach, superior, above us, unreachable, holy.
He loves justice (v4). Not only loves it but is empowered to put it into practice. "You have established equity". Inbuilt in us is a sense of fairness. How we complain when a referee misses an obvious penalty. Around a soccer pitch are 24 TV cameras viewing the match from every angle to spot the merest infringement; how can the referee compete? But our God sees everything, understands everything, knows every motive. As Abraham says when bargaining with God over Sodom, "Shall not the God of all the earth do right?" Yet we challenge his justice. We are unwilling to accept His decisions. As if the God of all the world was there for our comfort. Do we not realise who He is?
He is a wise God. His were the statutes and decrees that Moses kept (v7). From the microscopic to the telescopic he has created the universe (Ps 40:5; 104:25; Jer 51:15). His understanding is better than ours. The foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of man. It is not a passive wisdom, but wisdom with a purpose (Eph 3:10-11). His purpose is that we should come and love Him and to this end he has made a way back to Him from the dark paths of sin.
He ia a loving God (v8). It was not because of any quality that we have that he loves us. He loves us because that is his character. While we were yet sinners He loved us, and sent his son to die for us (Rom 5:8). God is love, not a warm wishy-washy feeling that pervades the universe, but tough love, costly love, sacrificing love, saving love. Only when we perceive God's holiness and his justice can we recognize his love for what it is.
He is a Fatherly God. (v8) He certainly loves His children, but he 'punishes their misdeeds'. His purpose is that they should be holy as he is holy and like a father he applies loving corrective discipline. He will not spoil his child. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful,. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace." (Heb 12:11) Yet this awesome holy God invites us to call Him 'abba': 'daddy'.
Our response to this awesome God? 'Let us praise you gtreat and awesome name' (v3). 'Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstall' (v5). 'Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain' (v9).