Psalm 98 is another kingship psalm. What is significant in Psalm 98 is that it takes the form of a hymn of praise. The psalmist proclaims God as the King, but he does so through a praise.
And the whole psalm (9 verses) is divided into 3 sections:
- Vv. 1-3 – First call to praise the LORD, and why
- Vv. 4-6 – Second call to praise the LORD, and how
- Vv. 7-9 – Third call to praise the LORD, and why.
Let’s read from verse 1.
I. We are called to praise God for his great salvation
- V. 1 — “Oh sing to the LORD a new song…”
“New song” — We already encountered this in Psalm 96. The “new song” is the song of believers to God. And it implies that only believers can truly worship God, because it is God Spirit who enables us to worship him.
“Oh sing” — It is imperative. It is a command. Sing praises to God!… Why?
- V. 1 — “… for he has done marvelous things!”
What marvelous things? Anong kamangha-mangha sa Diyos? His salvation. Ang kanyang kaligtasan
- V. 1 — “His right hand (his powerful hand) and his holy arm have worked salvation for him”
Not salvation for God, meaning God receives the salvation. Other translation puts it, “his mighty arm worked or accomplished his salvation or his plan of salvation”
- V. 2 — “The LORD has made known his salvation (again, it’s all about his salvation); he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.”
What is “salvation” here? In the context of the Psalmist, it is both spiritual and physical salvation. In the life of Israel, God’s redemptive work is also physical in nature, though it ultimately points to the spiritual reality of God’s salvation.
The psalmist most probably refers to the time when God freed Israel from slavery in Egypt, saved them from Pharaoh’s army when they crossed the Red Sea, when God gave them victory over enemies in the wilderness, etc.
And all of these speak of God’s faithfulness to them, hence they were called to put their trust and commitment to God.
What is “righteousness” here? Simply put, to be righteous also means to do the “right” or correct thing according to God’s standard or according to his word. God is righteous (or showed his righteousness) because he does the right thing by keeping his word. And because he always keeps his word, he is perfectly righteous. God promised to his people that he will keep them and save them, but he also kept it.
- V. 3 — “He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel (the OT church, the people of God)”
In Hebrew, kapag ginagamit po yung “remembered” in reference to God, it means God finally acts and carries out what he has promised in the past. And from the perspective of man, we say, “God has remembered his promise, his covenant.”
- V. 3 — “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”
Similar with verse 2, “in the sight of all nations.” “All the ends of the earth.”
God did not only fulfill his promise. He made it manifest. God’s great salvation isn’t hidden; it is revealed.
God did a marvelous thing but it’s not secret that people will just be surprised that there’s salvation. He made it known before the very eyes of the world and in the lives of God’s people that there is the God who saves.
How was it revealed in Israel’s context: When nations were afraid of Israel because of what God did to the Egyptians and other nations who fought Israel. And not only were they afraid, some of these foreigners even believed and joined the Israelites (e.g., Rahab, Ruth).
And this is indeed the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:3c).
“… in you (you and his offspring) all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
But more than that, God revealed his salvation in Jesus Christ. After Mary received the news that she will bear a son, Jesus Christ, and visited Elizabeth, she gave praises to God like Psalm 98 in Luke 1:46-55 (Go there):
- v. 49 — “he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
- v. 51 — “he has shown strength with his arm”
- v. 54 — “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy.”
Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s marvelous work of salvation. Yet not only for Mary or Israel, but for all of God’s people throughout the world. We see this in the expansion of the gospel of Christ “in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, even outside Israel in Rome, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).
And friends, this Psalm is fulfilled even in our midst today.
Hindi po tayo mga Jews. Tayo po’y mga Gentiles. But according to the righteousness and faithfulness of God, he delivered the gospel to us here so we can know the great saving work of God in Jesus Christ who lived and died and rose again more than 2000 years ago for our sins and our eternal life.
And through the Holy Spirit, God continues to call and regenerate his people, so we will understand and receive the gospel and his promises. That’s a reason for us to praise God!
At the same time, this shows that God has revealed himself to everyone. Hence, kung ikaw po ay hindi pa sumasampalataya kay Cristo, ito po ang sinasabi ng Salita ng Diyos—you are without excuse.
Hindi mo pwedeng sabihin sa harapan ng Diyos, “Hindi ako informed!” Ayon sa grasya ng Diyos, narito ka sa araw na ‘to at sa lugar na ‘to at nakakarinig ng kapahayagan ng Salita ng Diyos.
At ito po ang mensahe ng Salita ng Diyos: “There is the God who saves!”
Na tayo po’y lubos na makasalanan at luma-lapastangan sa Diyos, na hindi po natin kayang iligtas ang ating sarili, ngunit gaano man kalaki ang ating kasalanan, gaano man tayo kahina—ang Diyos mismo ang nagtupad ng kaligtasan kay Jesu-Cristo. At tayo’y mapapatawad, at magiging matuwid, at maliligtas kung tayo’y ay magsisisi at mananalig sa Kanya.
Ito ang kamangha-mangha na kaligtasan na ginawa ng Diyos para sa atin at patuloy na ipinapahayag ng Diyos sa atin ngayon.
So we are called to praise God because of his marvelous salvation.
Now, how then should we praise God? Let go back to our text and read verses 4-6.
2. We praise God with heartful joy and melody
- V. 4 — “Make a joyful noise to the LORD…”
Again, this section is also a call to praise. And we can observe here are the repetitions of words.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth
break forth in joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!
This section of the psalm provides a strong rhetorical or stylistic impact and uses the power of poetry to touch the heart in a better way than a simple and common line of poetry.
Basically, it emphasizes joy, melody, and unison as the way we are called to praise God.
The psalmist also mentions the “lyre, trumpets, and horn.” At yung mga ganitong passage po ay ginagamit ng modern churches para i-argue na, “O di ba dapat kumpleto tayo ng instruments. May piano, may gitara, may violin, may drums.”
Well, I will not be legalistic to say that having multiple musical instruments in church is sinful in itself. Period. There are many churches, even Reformed churches, who also has a choir and orchestra to aid during worship service. Ako po mismo pangarap ko na may orchestra ang church, para lalo na kapag yung psalter or hymn nakalagay dun “to be sung joyfully and victoriously,” eh yung melody na sasabayan natin sa pagkanta eh ganun nga.
But anyway, is having a band or orchestra in church the point of the psalmist here?
Well, in the first place, the trumpets and horns mentioned here are not the same trumpets that we see in orchestra today. These are not musical instruments. The lyre is a musical instrument, but the trumpets and horns in ancient times are used for sounding an alarm for danger (i.e., incoming war) or sounding a victory (i.e., the people in unison will welcome the king and his army arriving home from a successful war).
That’s why the end of the section says, “make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!” In the presence of the victorious and sovereign God, believers are called to sing praises to him in unison.
How about the lyre? Yes, it is used as a musical instrument in temple worship during the time of David. But fast-forward, we learn that the temple was eventually destroyed, and all the physical features and aspects of temple worship ceased. The early church in the New Testament were gathering no longer in the temple but in the synagogues, in their homes. And some studies show that they were singing psalms and hymns in acapella.
Go to Ephesians 5:18-19:
“And do not get drunk with wine… but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord (with the lyre? with the piano? no)—with your heart.”
In the Old Testament, people worshiped in the physical temple, but now believers are the spiritual temple of the Spirit of God and we worship from within. And the instruments of the OT temple are mere types of the real and ultimate instrument by which we worship God—our hearts. By faith in our hearts, through the work of the Spirit, we are able to praise and worship God.
As the Hymn goes:
Come, Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy praise.
That’s how we praise God: In our hearts. The real music and melody is when our hearts are in tune with God. It is our inward devotion to the Lord.
Kaya nga, kahit gaano man kaganda ng music at lightings ng isang church… kahit gaano kaganda ng boses ng worship leader at gaano kalakas ng pagkanta ng mga tao—hindi ‘yun ang papuri’t pagsamba na hinahanap ng Diyos.
It is possible for any of us to sing outwardly, to sing with our lips, and yet our hearts and our lives are far from the Lord. And it calls us for self-examination, and to pray, “Lord, tune my heart to Thee, to your gospel, to your truth.”
But on the other hand, kahit pa sintunado ka, kahit pa hindi ka makasabay lagi sa tyempo… if Christ is in our hearts, if we praise God with our hearts and coming out of our lips—God receives it and delights in it as true praise and worship.
So we are called to praise God with joy and melody in our hearts.
Now, the psalmist ends with another call to praise and another reason why. Let us read verses 7-9.
3. We are called to praise God because of his judgment
- V. 7-8 — “Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD…”
Now obviously, wala po tayong makikita na ilog na pumapalakpak at hindi rin po tayo makakarinig ng mga bundok na kumakanta. What the psalmist implies here is that God created everything; he is King over all creation. Hence, he is worthy of praise and all and every single one of his creation are called to praise God!
Why? Why praise God again?
- V. 9 — “… for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the people with equity.”
We already mentioned earlier about righteousness. And here God will judge righteously and in equity, and that means he will make the right and fair judgment over all his creatures. At ‘di tulad ng human judges, God’s justice is perfect. Those who must be punished, he will punish. Those who must be rewarded, he will reward.
And when we talk about God’s judgment, madalas ang nasa isip po natin ay yung huling paghuhukom ng Diyos sa muling pagdating ni Cristo, na kung saan lahat ng tao ay haharap sa Diyos at huhusgahan kung pupunta ba sa langit o sa impyerno.
Yes, that is the consummation of God’s justice. But what we need to understand, friends, that God’s judgment has already come when Christ came on earth.
Let us read John 3:17-18
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn (or judge) the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
God’s judgment is going on now. You believe in Jesus Christ, you are saved—now and in eternity. You don’t believe in Jesus Christ, you are condemned—now and eternity.
So we believers are called to praise God because of his perfect justice.
And this is where we see the whole message of the Psalm, friends…
Listen… if you have not yet repented and believed in Jesus Christ, or you’re living a life of hypocrisy—you have no reason to be happy and joyful. (Repeat in Tagalog). And I’m not talking about “happiness” as the world views it (laughing, parties, riches, etc.). Kung wala ka kay Cristo, wala kang dahilan na maging masaya at makagalak, maging panatag ang loob, maging kompyado sa buhay.
In fact, you have all the reason to mourn, to weep, to fear! Why? Because unless you are in Christ—the judgment and wrath of God is upon you. Habang ikaw ay patuloy na namumuhay sa kasalanan at habang tinatanggihan mo si Cristo—nag-iipon ka ng poot ng Diyos laban sa’yo sa huling araw ng paghuhukom.
But you hear the word of God today, that in Jesus Christ there is salvation! Christ lived the perfect righteousness and suffered the perfect sacrifice so that you will be saved and all your sins be cleansed in the sight of God. And when you put your faith in him, God in his grace will no longer judge you as a sinner—but as a righteous person because of the perfect righteousness of Christ.
Do not harden your heart. Repent and believe in the gospel.
Now for those who put their faith and hope in Jesus Christ, you have all the reason to be happy and to rejoice in the Lord. Of all the people of this world, we Christians ought to be happiest.
Why? What did Paul say in Romans 8:1? “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” There is now no condemnation! What a joy! What peace! What comfort!
There will be times that God will discipline us and correct us when we sin. Yet he does that lovingly and restores us to himself. In Christ, we are now righteous before God and we are now his beloved children.
That’s why as believers, we live every single day not in fear. We don’t think, “Baka patamaan ako ni Lord ng kidlat. Baka pag-sumakay ako sa bus na ‘to parusahan ako ni Lord.” (i.e., Movie Final Destination). As Christians, we are no “pessimists.” Even if we face trials and struggles in this life, we know the ultimate outcome. We know our ultimate future.
Every day, we can live in confidence and comfort that God looks upon us with care and protection by his providence. No longer to judge us, but to keep us in his loving hands.
And like the Psalmist, the justice of God even in the end when Christ return is no longer a reason for fear, but joy. That’s what marks the Christian life: Not fear, but joy in the Lord. Because in Christ, we are judged as righteous in the sight of God now and until we enter his presence in eternity.
So brothers and sisters in Christ, “Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say rejoice!” As God’s people, we can and must be joyful and sing wholehearted praise to our God, our King—with our hearts, our lips, and our lives.
For God has done marvelous things for us and great is his judgments and his salvation. He is indeed worthy to be praised. Amen.
Reuel Dawal is the Minister of the Word and Sacraments at ZCRC. He was an intern prior to being ordained and installed as the church's new pastor. He is currently finishing his Biblical and Theological Studies at the Miami International Seminary (MINTS) online. He and his wife Yeng are married since 2017 and lives in Imus, Cavite.