Let the whole world go wild with joy – Psalm 98

The 4th book of Psalms

The third psalm in a row that says that God is coming to judge the earth in righteousness. Unlike the manic street preacher I would pass on Briggate when I worked in Leeds, these psalms do not say God’s judgement is something to be afraid of. God is coming to put things right.His judgement will be fair to everybody.

A road sign saying, "Welcome to Lancashire, a place where everyone matters."
As a Yorkshire man I would dispute this, but the Yorkshire signs simply say “Welcome.”

The 4th book of Psalms, those 17 religious songs between psalms 90 and 106, have a theme, God is above us.

The layout is like this:

Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.

Book 4 answers the questions of Books 1-3 with the message that God is king.

Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
    he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
    to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into 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!

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, for he comes
    to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 98 ESV UK

The Handbook of the Bible says:
A song to God the Victor. He comes to rule his kingdom. Let the whole world go wild with joy.

Yes the whole world. There is none of the God will save us his people and zap our enemies rhetoric here because this collection of psalms is from the restoration of the kingdom. God is no longer being spoken of as the god of Israel, God has been with them for 70 years in Babylon and in bringing them back their God has shown that he is King everywhere, even in Babylon, and the gods of the other nations are nothing. Everybody is invited to praise God.

According to a Jewish commentary, the phrase “a new song” is masculine in this psalm but feminine in all the other times it is used in the psalms. This, according to that rabbi, means this psalm is about the future. In the New Testament verse 3 of this psalm is quoted by Mary in what traditional Christians call the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). What was a future sing for the returning Jewish exiles has become a prophesy of the coming of Christ to Christians. Jesus did not come to zap his enemies but to redeem them, to win them back to God. The good news is for everyone, let everyone rejoice. Instead the victory of Jesus Christ was won by taking the evil of the world into himself and dying for the sin of the world.

What these psalms give us a glimpse of is that God is for everyone. This is made explicit in the New Testament with such statements as to all who did receive him, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12), whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16) and I will never, never reject anyone who follows me (John 6:37). Unfortunately we in the church are often not as welcoming as Jesus. There is pressure in churches to act like everyone else in the congregation,which can be a problem if you are not middle-class enough, not white enough or not straight enough.

Our relationship with God starts when we come to Jesus as we are,so why do we put up barriers that prevent people coming if they are LGBT+ or have mental problems?


< Psalm 97 | Psalm 98 | Psalm 99 >

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