PSALM 98 TALK: OUR GOD THE KING WHO CALLS US TO SING

PSALM 98 TALK: OUR GOD THE KING WHO CALLS US TO SING

 (A Psalm that explores God’s call to all people to sing with joy the praises of our great God and king.)

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

When I was in my early twenties a good friend of that time invited me to go with her to a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” in the old Sydney Town hall. I was warned before I went that during the singing of the famous Hallelujah Chorus we had to stand up. This famous chorus was written by Handel to close the second part of his oratorio, which celebrates Jesus resurrection and ascension into heaven. The third and last part or the oratorio deals with Jesus second coming when those who do not know the forgiveness of Christ will be judged and those who know Christ and his love for them will ascend into heaven for all eternity.

When the Hallelujah chorus started I stood up with everyone else and for a few minutes I felt like I was now standing in heaven listening to the heavenly hosts singing a great praise to God the king of everything and everyone.

It is said that George Frederic Handel wrote “Messiah” at the age of 52 not long after he had recovered miraculously from a debilitating stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body. He had returned to England from Germany to continue to write opera’s that had recently fallen out of fashion. This left Handel in 1741 financially broke and despondent in spirit and creative energy.

Then one August afternoon of 1741 after returning to his house in London he found on his door- step a manuscript from a long- term collaborator, Charles Jennens that contained the libretto from the scriptures, particularly the words of Isaiah, foretelling the birth of Jesus Christ and describing His ministry, Crucifixion, resurrection and his promise to come again.

When Handel read the opening words of the libretto, “Comfort Ye” he was immediately inspired to start writing the music for it which only took him around three to four weeks. Messaih has become according to Ben Witherington, “The most performed piece of classical music in all history, all to the glory of Christ”.

 It is said that after Handel had finished the writing of The Hallelujah Chorus his assistant found him in tears saying, “I did think I saw heaven open, and I saw the very face of God”. The standing up for the chorus is attributed, it is said to King George of England attending a concert of “Messiah” and he stood up during the singing of the Hallelujah chorsus as way of indicating he recognized that Christ was the king of kings. When the king stands all the people must stand and the tradition was born so that on every occasion of the singing of the Hallelujah chorus everyone stands. It is a fitting tribute to an amazing piece of music and for what it stands for, the resurrection and ascension of Christ into heaven.

Singing then has a long history of being a major part of worship of the God of the bible. This is no accident for the bible over and over again calls us to sing in praise and worship of our God, the king of everything and everyone.

Psalm 98 is a Psalm that features as its main theme the praise of God the king of the bible in song. In fact four times we read the command to sing, twice we read the words “Shout to the Lord” and twice we are told to make music to the Lord. Particularly from the time of David and onwards the ancient Hebrews did a lot of singing to the Lord in worship.

Both Jews and Christians have a long history of singing and in case you think the command to sing to God is an Old Testament command I would like to say that the apostle Paul in two different letters to two different churches commands Christians to sing, he does this in Colossians 3: 16 – 17 and Ephesians 5: 19 – 20,

 “Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Psalm 98 also features the same opening and closing words as Psalm 96, which we know was originally written by King David. Psalm 96 is definitely written by David as it is almost identical to a song or Psalm he wrote after the ark of the covenant ascended into Jerusalem and the words of Psalm 96 can be found in 1 Chronicles 16: 23 – 33.

Psalm 98, however might start and end like David’s original Psalm but the other seven verses seem to be a new composition that draw heavily on verses from the great prophet Isaiah, which I will allude to during this Psalm talk. This means the Psalm was written either by the prophet Isaiah or more likely a man who knew the entire book of Isaiah and who used words and ideas from this great book to write the seven middle verses of his Psalm.

Psalm 98 was placed in the fourth book of Psalms which we know came together after the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile so it is more than likely that this Psalm was written by someone who lived around the time of the Jews return from exile. It seems that it was Ezra and Nehemiah who reintroduced Temple worship and of course Psalm singing and lively joyful music once the Temple was rebuilt after the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile so this Psalm would have been a great “New Song”, verse 1, for the Jews to sing in their renewed Temple worship of the God of the bible.

I have picked up the main theme of Singing to Our God the King right through this Psalm talk and this is reflected in my outline of the Psalm:

  1. (1 – 3)   SING ISRAEL TO THE KING
  1. (vs. 1)     Sing a new song to the King
  2. (2 – 3)     Sing of our kings love and salvation for his people
  1. (4 – 6)   SING ALL THE NATIONS TO THE KING
  1. (4 – 5)     Sing all the nations with all you’ve got
  2. (vs. 6)     Sing and make music with great joy
  1. (7 – 9)   SING ALL THE WORLD TO THE KING
  1. (7 – 8)   Sing all the world with great joy
  2. (vs. 9)   Sing of the coming of the king
  1. (1 – 3)   SING ISRAEL TO THE KING

As I have just said in my introduction that Psalm 98 has the same opening and closing words as Psalm 96 and I have made it the first part of my two parts of this first section of this Psalm.

Lets then have a close look at the first part of the first section of this Psalm.

  1. (vs. 1)     Sing a new song to the King

The repeated opening words of Psalm 98 of Psalm 96 are:

“Sing to the Lord a new song”

David used this expression not only in Psalm 96 but also in Psalm 33: 3 and Psalm 40: 3. Isaiah also uses this expression in Isaiah 42: 10. It does not mean we are to compose new songs all the time and not sing old songs. The Hebrew meaning for “New Song” is apparently, “made or become fresh.” This means that old songs we know and love can be “New Songs”, when we sing them from a fresh or renewed understanding of God and his word.

I know sometimes I sing in church old songs and I fail to really connect in my heart to the wonderful truths of there words. However more than often I sing something in church or at a special Christian meeting that I have sang many times before but God’s spirit moves in my heart with a fresh appreciation of what it is saying to me about God and his word, then it is truly a “New Song”.

Psalm 98 says we should seek to always sing songs to God our King in a made fresh way every time we sing them,

Why?

Because the second half of verse 1 says,

“For he has done marvelous things”

 We will see by the end of the Psalm that marvelous things include God judging his enemies because for the people of God and particularly Israel when he judged his enemies he was at the same time delivering or saving his people. If this Psalm was written or at least placed in the fourth book of Psalms after the Jews returned from exile then the marvelous deeds it is referring to are God’s judgment of the Babylonians through the Persians which brought about the return of God’s people from captivity in Babylon to be able to resettle in the Promised Land and be able to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

God has intervened in history to do “Marvelous things” and this is especially true of the sending of his son into the world by him becoming a man like us to die on the cross for our sins so that we can know his marvelous salvation and through that become one of his special people. The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way in Hebrews 2: 9,

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.

The writer to the Hebrews goes on to say in the next verse,

“In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered”.

This is such a wonderful marvelous deed of God which some find so incredible that many refuse to believe it and reject it as a silly or impossible idea but if its true, and we have good reasons to believe it is true and it is the most “Marvelous thing” of all time.

This then should be the basis of all our songs, the marvelous things God has both said and done for us through Christ. John Newton, the writer of “Amazing Grace” wrote another hymn that uses the word, “Glorious” rather than “Marvelous” and the first verse of that hymn says it all,

“Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God.
God, whose word cannot be broken,
formed thee for his own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
thou may’st smile at all thy foes”.

Psalm 98 verse 1 goes on to say that God’s marvelous things come from,

“His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him”.

I have come across the expression “God’s right hand before” in the Psalms like Psalm 44: 3,

“It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory;

it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them”.

Also Isaiah, the writer of Psalm 98 seems to have been very familiar with, says this in Isaiah 59: 16,

“He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him”.

 God’s right arm always symbolized his strength and might, as the right arm for most of us is our stronger one. The phrase is also implying as the Isaiah verse says that these marvellous things or deeds of God are God’s deeds alone. God brought the Babylonians to their knees through the Persians to save his people out of captivity and our salvation Paul says is God’s work of grace and not our own doing, Ephesians 2: 8 – 9,

“ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

 The right arm is not only the strong and mighty arm of God but this verse says that it is also a “Holy Arm”.

Holy means set apart as righteous or sinless so God’s work of salvation his “marvelous things or deeds” is right and pure and unlike us not contaminated by sin.

Paul teaches that the holy God calls us to a live a holy life, as he says in 2 Timothy 1: 9,

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time”.

So we are to sing to God the new song of his salvation in Christ, which is a marvelous thing, or deed of God made possible because we have a mighty holy God who loves us so much he acted in human history through Christ to save us.

  1. (2 – 3)     Sing of our kings love and salvation for his people

We have already learnt in verse 1 one great reason why we should sing praises to our God the king and that is because he has done such marvellous things or deeds for us. If we know his Son Jesus Christ and what he accomplished for us on the cross then we have much to sing about.

For the writer of Psalm 98 God’s marvellous things or deeds would have included the salvation of his nation from captivity in Babylon similar to God’s salvation long before when he led his people out of the captivity in Egypt, something people like Moses who God used to lead the people out of Egypt sang great songs about God’s salvation like we see in Exodus 15.

Now the writer of Psalm 98 speaks of God’s salvation and love for his people in verses 2 and 3,

“The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. 3 He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God”.

 I will look at each of these two verses under the general headings of:

  1. God’s righteous salvation (vs. 2)
  2. God’s covenantal love (vs. 3)

Lets look a little closer at each of these two great themes of God’s marvellous deeds for his people that give us much to sing about.

  1. God’s righteous salvation (vs. 2)

In verse 2 God’s salvation of his people is linked with his righteousness,

“The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.”

 The verse says that God’s righteousness is made known to the nations or the rest of the known world of that time. The prophet Isaiah speaks of this same thing in Isaiah 52: 10,

“The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God”.

 This is Isaiah prophesying that the Jews will return form exile, a great act of God in the sight of the nations of the world of that time. God’s acts of salvation flows from his holy loving character as his people did not deserve to be saved but out of his righteous love he does it.

In the New Testament God’s righteous love is the motivation for the salvation of not only the Jews but people in the whole world as Paul makes clear in Romans 1: 16 – 17,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Note how Paul says, “in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed”, the message of the Gospel as Paul goes on to explain is that only God is righteous and we are all sinful fallen creatures. Jesus revealed true righteousness, he did not sin and that made him the perfect and only candidate for the sacrifice for our sins as Paul speaks plainly of in 2 Corinthians 5: 21,

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

Even in the time of the writer of Psalm 98, probably soon after the return of the Jews from Babylonian exile, God revealed his righteousness in his salvation of his people because they also did not deserve this salvation yet God’s character of love and righteousness made it possible.

This for them and even more so for us as Christians is something to sing about as the modern song by Darlene Zschech proclaims in song,

Jesus
God’s righteousness revealed
The Son of Man
The Son of God
His Kingdom comes
Jesus
Redemption’s sacrifice
Now glorified
Now justified
His Kingdom comes


And this Kingdom will know no end
And it’s glory shall know no bounds
For the majesty and power
Of this Kingdom’s King has come
And this Kingdom’s reign
And this Kingdom’s rule
And this Kingdom’s power and authority
Jesus
God’s righteousness revealed

  1. God’s covenantal love (vs. 3)

The next thought of the writer of Psalm 98 presents as worth singing about flows naturally from the thoughts of verse 2,

He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God”.

God’s salvation of his people flows from his righteousness and here in verse 3, his love as well, which most commentators speak of as God’s covenantal love. This is because when God set up the Nation of Israel right back in the time of Abraham and then made clearer in the time of Moses when he led his people out of slavery in Egypt he did so out of a covenant or agreement of love as we see in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

 The writer of Psalm 98 speaks of how this is seen or known by all the nations of the earth. The story of Israel as a nation, which in some sense still exists today is a miraculous story of how a tiny people in a small part of the world has survived and even thrived for thousands of years. Much bigger and mightier nations have come and gone but Israel has survived much to the hatred of many nations in the past and even today.

I could never understand the racial hatred of the Jews and when I was younger I was assaulted by a group of fellow workers because I befriended a young Jewish boy my age. The irony was before I left that place of work I lost the friendship of the Jewish boy because I was friendly also with a young Muslim boy who came to work their just before I left for a better job.

My guess is people from other cultures and nations hate Jews because of their claim to have a special relationship with the one true God. Today Christians face the same hatred because of our claim to know the God of heaven and earth. The irony is those who hate us also have the opportunity of knowing this wonderful God of love because of Jesus Christ but their sin causes them to reject God’s message of love and instead through that rejection turn on us with hate and contempt.

We should never ever think we are chosen by God because of any good in us but rather turn and sing and live out the truth Paul makes clear in Ephesians 2: 8 – 9,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.

The second verse of Darlene Zschech song sums it up well in song,

Jesus
The expression of God’s love
The grace of God
The Word of God
Revealed to us
Jesus
God’s Holiness displayed
Now glorified
Now justified
His Kingdom comes

And this Kingdom will know no end
And it’s glory shall know no bounds
For the majesty and power
Of this Kingdom’s King has come
And this Kingdom’s reign
And this Kingdom’s rule
And this Kingdom’s power and authority
Jesus
God’s righteousness revealed.

  1. (4 – 6)   SING ALL THE NATIONS TO THE KING

We come then to the second section of this great little Psalm, which widens the scope of singing to the King or God of the bible to the Nations of the world who are also called to sing, that the God of the bible is the king who reigns over everything.

I have broken this second section into two parts, which are:

  1. (4 – 5)     Sing all the nations with all you’ve got
  2. (vs. 6)     Sing and make music with great joy

Lets look then at the first part of this second section:

  1. (4 – 5)     Sing all the nations with all you’ve got

The second section starts with the word, “Shout”, Albert Barnes says that the Hebrew word for “Shout” is more like make a loud noise or to,

“Break forth, as a shout of triumph or joy, as if the joy could be no longer confined or repressed”.

 To me this is saying, don’t’ hold back; give it all you’ve got when you sing praises to the God of the bible. Verses 4 and 5 says then,

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing”.

 It seems then that because God’s salvation and love has been revealed to the nations of the world through what he did for his people, the Israelites then those same nations should also sing loud and joyful praise to the God of the bible.

The Jews it seems never really took hold of their God’s love for the entire world and how they were to be the carriers of that love to the world. Even when God sent Jesus to the nation of Israel, their self- pride and exclusiveness was part of their rejection of him. However the New Testament makes it clear that God sent Jesus for the salvation of the entire world, John 3: 16,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

John had spoken clearly of the generally rejection of Jesus by the Jews in chapter 1: 10 – 13 and how from the time of Jesus on it would not be a matter of where you are born that would determine your relationship with God as his special people but how you responded to God’s son, Jesus Christ,

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”.

However passages in the Old Testament like verses 4 and 5 of this Psalm make it clear God calls on people from every nation to sing his praises. The prophet Isaiah speaking of the coming of the Messiah says this in Isaiah 49: 6,

“He says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Later in that same chapter, verse 13, Isaiah says something similar to verses 4 and 5 of this Psalm when he says,

“Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones”.

Verses 4 and 5 of Psalm 98 speak of using different kinds of well known Old Testament musical instruments to make this joyful all you can give praise to God. They are to use harps and in verse 6 trumpets and ram’s horns along with their singing to make wonderful music to the praise of the God of the bible.

When I heard Handel’s Messiah all those years ago in The Sydney Town hall the full Sydney Symphony orchestra along with a mass choir of singers presented it and it really was a fitting sound of praise to the great God of love who calls us to sing and make music to his name.

There are some strange and unbiblical churches who ban the use of any musical instruments calling them the devices of the devil but I have no idea how they interpret or explain verses 4 and 5 of this Psalm.

To me God wants us, as his faithful followers to use our musical instruments and voices in praise to him and I’m afraid heaven will be a very big disappointment to Christians who don’t like musical instruments in their worship of God when we read passages like Revelations 5: 8 – 13,

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:

 “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”11 

 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power for ever and ever!”

  1. (vs. 6)     Sing and make music with great joy

Other passages in the book of revelations speak of not only harps and singing but Trumpets and horns and loud joyful singing like, Revelation 11: 15,

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”

And so we read in Psalm 98: 6,

“With trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn – shout for joy before the Lord, the king”.

The music in heaven it appears will be loud but it will also be joyful as the music of the Old Testament Hebrews was loud but also joyful. I am not anti – loud music but it must be joyful and I think able to hear or understand what is being sung. I have been in churches in both Australia and other countries where loud music has been used in worship but sometimes it has been so loud it has become nothing more than a din. My test for tunefulness and joyfulness is when I cannot use my voice to blend with others in harmony or when I cannot understand the words being sung then the music has got to loud.

Other translations speak of “Making a joyful noise to the Lord”. Paul said to the Ephesians to not carry on like a bunch of drunks or even don’t become drunk but to be filled with the spirit and make melody in your heart and together with the singing of Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in Ephesians 5: 18 – 20,

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Note finally verse 6 says,

“Shout for joy before the Lord, the king”.

Our worship in the church is to be done as though we are in the very presence of God our Lord and king and according to Jesus we are in God’s presence when we gather together in his name, Matthew 18: 20,

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

This thought or concept should make us more thoughtful and respectful in what we are doing in our singing and worship in the church. God wants us to shout his praise but it must be praise of him and not praise of our talents or ego’s. This means what we do for the Lord should be done in an attitude of prayer and humility as Paul speaks of in Philippians 2: 3 – 5,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus”.

Paul goes on in this passage to speak of the example of Christ Jesus who gave up glory to become a servant and suffered death on a cross. This is the example we must follow in our lives and when we meet as a church to sing the praises of God our king.

  1. (7 – 9)   SING ALL THE WORLD TO THE KING

We come then to the final section of this Psalm where its writer seeks to widen this singing the praises of God the king to the whole world and this includes nature itself something Psalm 96 spoke directly of in verses 11 and 12 and which the last Psalm, Psalm 97 spoke of in verse 6 which said,

“The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the people see his glory”

I have broken this third and final section into two parts:

  1. (7 – 8)   Sing all the world with great joy
  2. (vs. 9)   Sing of the coming of the king

Lets have a close look then at the first part:

  1. (7 – 8)   Sing all the world with great joy

The writer of Psalm 98 then personifies nature in verses 7 and 8 so that it too sings the praises of God the King who made it.

“Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy”.

My spell checker picked up what it sees as the wrong use of the word, “their” and says it should be “there” as that is the right spelling for a inanimate object as “their” spelling belongs to a person. This is because the writer of Psalm 98 has used a poetic device of giving rivers hands to clap and mountains voices to sing.

Maybe the sound of rushing water is like the sound of an enormous applause or whistling of the wind around the mountains is like voices singing but the point is nature screams out praise to its maker as we saw in the last Psalm, Psalm 97 verse 6 and as we see in David’s opening verse of Psalm 19,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”.

Isaiah employs the same poetic device in Isaiah 55: 12,

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands”.

I have mentioned in the past two Psalm talks that in my twenties and thirties I sought to write a series of poems in which nature praising God or says a prayer or at least inspires a prayer in me which I called “Prayers of the Created”. Here is another example of one of those poems which uses winds and storms to speak of God,

THE THUNDEROUS VOICE OF GOD IN WIND

 Over hill and mountain wonder

Through the trees and telegraph poles,

The voice of wind is howling, growling

God is great and has no foes.

 

Tossed about in stormy weather,

A tiny craft is smashed around.

Across a vast and turbulent ocean

The voice of God now shouts aloud.

 

Pushing down the tallest timbers

Breaking them like pencil sticks,

Wind is strong and knows no conqueror

So much like God which wind depicts.

 

In an open field in winter

Feel the force of a mighty gale.

Becomes me to seek our shelter

Man is weak and very frail.

 

Howling, storming, mighty blowing

Pushing all around like leaves,

Now declaring God is Glorious

For God is there behind the breeze.

By: Jim Wenman

Paul speaks of the natural worlds close connection with God and particularly the sin of man in Romans 8: 22 – 18 – 22,

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time”.

In this passage Paul links the problems in nature to the fall or sin of man and indicates that it looks forward to its salvation wrapped up in our salvation.

So not only does the natural world speak of the great and glorious God who created it but it speaks also of the struggle and pain of sin that all of us are directly responsible for because of our many sins.

I walk most mornings down a beautiful mountain track near where I currently live but on a couple of occasions my wife and I have come upon the remains of a person who has camped somewhere along this track and the area is littered with paper, food scraps and on one occasion used soiled baby nappies. The sin of someone has left their mark on God’s beautiful creation in their careless thoughtless litter.

However in verses 7 and 8 the message of nature is joy and it sings a song of joy for its creator. The famous hymn that the second half of this Psalm inspired is the hymn by Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World”, and its first verse is a fitting commentary of these two verses,

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n, and nature sing.

  1. (vs. 9)   Sing of the coming of the king

The interesting fact about the Christmas hymn, “Joy to the world” is that Isaac Watts did not write it as a Christmas song. He wrote the hymn inspired by the second half of Psalm 98 which does not deal with the first coming of the Lord when he came to save us from our sins but rather the second coming of the Lord when he will judge the world once and for all time.

As Watts speaks of in his hymn joy to the world, the earth or nature has joy when it receives its king and that is when Jesus comes again and that is what verse 9 says,

“Let them (all nature and mankind) sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity”.

Of course for Jesus to return he needed to come the first time and when he came the first time he came as the world’s savior as John tells us in John 3: 17,

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him”.

The Jews today and ever since the coming of Jesus to the world as the promised Messiah reject Jesus as the Messiah. They reject him as this because he did, in their eyes not fulfill all the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah but those prophecies concern the Messiah’s role as the great judge.

The promise of the Messiah coming involved him being our savior like Isaiah prophecies in Isaiah 53: 4 – 5,

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted

.But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed”.

What the Jews who reject Jesus as the Messiah fail to understand is that The Messiah had two roles as both Savior and Judge and it is impossible for him to do both at the same time so the Messiah had to come first to save and then offer time for his message of salvation to go out to the whole world and then come again as judge when the age of proclaiming the Gospel, our present age is over.

The Jews are looking for the coming of the Messiah, while Christians are looking for the return of the Messiah as judge. It has been calculated that Jesus fulfilled 353 Old Testament prophecies and those he did not fulfill in his first coming he will fulfill when he comes again.

So verse 9 of this Psalm, Psalm 98 deals with a prophecy concerning Jesus second coming when he will come as Judge of the whole world. So this verse makes a lot of sense with that in mind when we read it,

“Let them (all nature and mankind) sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity”.

Isaiah prophecies of the same event of the coming of the Lord as judge this way in Isaiah 11: 3 – 5,

“And he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist”.

 Note how both Psalm 98 verse 9 and what Isaiah is speaking about is a judgment of this coming Messiah which is a righteous judgment which means it is not tainted by sin but is totally just and fair.

I was watching a secular detective show on TV recently and the detectives assistant asked his boss “Do you believe in God”, he thought for a minute and answered, “not really but I sometimes wish there would come a one day when there would be a great recoining when total justice is achieved for all the wrong doing in this life”. I felt like jumping up and shouting. “There will be such a day coming”.

All mankind hankers after a day when total justice is brought about for all the so called injustices in this world but be careful what you wish for as this day of judgement without Jesus gift of the forgiveness of our many sins is not going to be such as great day as we to will be part of God’s righteous judgement.

So Jesus own prophesies of his second coming speak of the two possible results of his coming judgement as recorded in Matthew 24: 30 – 31,

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other”.

Also Matthew 25: 31 – 33,

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left”.

Isaac Watts had this great Day of Judgment in mind as he wrote his hymn “Joy to the World” and this is evident in his third verse,

“No more let sin and sorrow grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground,

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found

Far as the curse is found

Far as, far as, the curse is found”.

Watts is saying that nature will sing for joy because the curse of man’s sin will be gone when Jesus comes in judgment and for those who know the truth that Jesus became that curse for us (Galatians 3: 13) when he died for our sins on the cross will know his eternal blessings.

Now that is something to sing about!

I close as usual with a poem / song and a prayer.

SING TO THE KING (Based on Psalm 98)

 Sing to the Lord a new song

Remember what he has done

All his marvelous deeds

By the hands of his salvation.

Sing to the king

With great joy you must sing.

Sing to the king

And now praise him.

 

The Lord has made known his saving grace

To all people who turn to him.

His love and his faithfulness

Causing them to rise and sing.

Sing to the king

With great joy for you must sing.

Sing to the king

And now praise him.

 

Shout to the Lord great joy for him

You people of all the earth.

Make music and sing

And tell of his power and worth.

Sing to the king

With great joy you must sing.

Sing to the king

And now praise him.

May all nature resounds with great joy for God

Rivers clap your hands and mountains sing

Of the coming of God as the judge

And all people will stand before him.

Sing to the king

With great joy for you must sing

Sing to your king

And now praise him.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we thank you for being our King and Lord for you made this world and in your love you have saved us from our sins by the sending your only son to this world to die on the cross. Jesus we thank you in song and with the giving of our lives in service to you for what you have done for us. May we always rise and sing your praises not only with our lips but also with our very lives in loving service to you our Savior and our King. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

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