“Sing a new song to the Lord, for he has done marvelous deeds, His right hand and holy arm have won the victory” (Psalm 98:1). This is a joyful psalm of praise. It is a celebratory prayer extolling God for Israel’s victory over outside forces. It is so joy filled that it calls on not only the Israelites, but all of nature as well, to praise and welcome God’s coming rule over all the world. For the Hebrews this had political and social elements to it. They knew themselves to be a nation, a people who alone enjoyed a covenant with the One God, Creator of all that is. As Christians, we understand this in both a larger context and a more intimate context than the Israelites could in the time of David.
The psalm is a beautiful evocation of faith in the Lord who has blessed and protected the Israelites with triumph over their foes. It is a national prayer of thanksgiving. In their victory against a dangerous foe, they have recognized God’s faithfulness to them. It is full of the flush of victory saying, “All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of “our” God” (verse 3). But with the fulfillment of the “marvelous deeds” of salvation in Jesus Christ, we read and rejoice in this prayer in a way that the Israelites of David’s time, only knew as a promise.
Our Christian faith experience tells us that God’s love extends to all peoples, that his salvation is not for a particular nation, or race, but for each and every human being in the world. We know that when Jesus died on the cross he did so to take on and to forgive the sins of all mankind. It is our belief that in his death and resurrection the terrifying and universal enemies of sin and death were conquered, once and for all, and forever. Hence, when we pray this joyful prayer we do so in thanksgiving and praise to the God who has come among us, showing his conquering love to us in the flesh. It is for the victory of the cross that we raise our voices in this joyful song that is Psalm 98.
Because we believe in Jesus Christ we can rejoice in a way that encompasses the earthly joy of the Israelites depicted in this psalm, but also with the eternal joy of the final victory over our greatest enemies, sin and death. We are the ones who “sing a new song to the Lord” for we have seen the most “marvelous deeds” of all, the summit of the promised salvation, the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lord. Because of this, we know that we are called by God to live in the manner of Jesus in our own lives and as the Body of Christ until the end of time. Yes, like the Israelites we, too, “Shout with joy,” and break into song, singing praise to the Lord with all our hearts.
Lord, You have won the victory. Let us sing our praise to you with our lives lived in joyful love for all your people, and all of your wondrous creation. You alone are worthy of our praise. Give us the wisdom to see this and the courage to live it in our daily lives. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!SKM: below-content placeholder