There are striking parallels between the first part of Psalm 98 and Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), which may mean that the mother of Jesus had the psalm in mind as she composed her hymn and that she rightly saw that the promises of the psalm were to be fulfilled in the spiritual victories to be achieved by Jesus Christ. (Boice)
Observe: Psalm 98 begins with praising (singing) to God a new song (vs. 1-3), followed by bringing praise with music (verses 4-6) and finally majestic praise from all creation (verses 7-9).
Interpretation and Application: We are to sing to God with a new song. What does that mean? There are many references in scripture where the author talks of singing a new song. (Psalm 33:3, Isaiah 42:10 and Rev. 5:9 are some examples.) A new song means something fresh, different and dynamic. When Miriam sang, she didn’t use an Egyptian song. When Deborah sang, she didn’t use Miriam’s song. Each had their own song of worship to the Lord. When we worship and sing in church are we using that particular song as part of our own worship from deep within, or are we just singing words? “There must be new songs on new occasions of triumph”. (Spurgeon) Each time we sing, is it new and fresh and do we consider that particular song, even when familiar, as an occasion of triumph?
Verses 4-6 speak of singing praise to the Lord with instruments – the harp, trumpets, the horn as well as voices of the people. It is clear that instruments should accompany the singing mentioned, but also the instruments themselves sing to the Lord a song of praise. I have never thought of it in terms like this before, but it totally makes sense. When I play the piano, the instrument itself can express so many feelings depending on how sensitive I am to the music that I am trying to portray. For example, if I were to thump or bang away when playing the hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross instead of being sensitive to the words in the verses, the piano would definitely not be singing praise or reverence to the Lord. Just as I, as a pianist, can invoke worship and praise from the piano, so can God use us to invoke the same to others.
The psalm ends with all of nature praising the Lord. The seas roar, the rivers clap their hands and the mountains sing together with joy. What a picture! I’m sure that many of you have taken vacations by the ocean. For 10 years David and I went to the Bahamas for a few weeks in the winter. Some of our favorite times were just walking the beaches along the Caribbean and listening to the ocean. We were fortunate enough to stay in a place where the beach was literally a 2 minute walk away and often we were the only people on that beach. It was glorious just to sit, be still and feel God’s presence in the song of the sea. All of nature praises the Lord and the reason? He is coming to judge the earth and all the nations with equity (verse 9). The praise described in this psalm is not only for the marvelous things God has done, but also for what He is about to do – “with righteousness He shall rule the world”. What a relief it will be for all creation that has suffered under the sin and rebellion of mankind!
Prayer: Help us Lord, to sing a new song to you each time we come before you. Help us to praise as creation does – with joy! Thank you for Your love and faithfulness. We praise You and adore You. Amen.
Song: Sing to the Lord a New Song (Mark Hayes)
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.