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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Psalms 98

 

 

Verses 1-9

EXPOSITION

ANOTHER psalm of joy on the coming of God to judge the earth (Psalms 98:9). It is entitled simply "a psalm," and has no very peculiar features. Metrically, it is best viewed as composed of three strophes of three verses each. The first strophe gives the grounds of praise (Psalms 98:1-3); the next describes the method of praise (Psalms 98:4-6); the third contains a call on all nature to join in the praise (Psalms 98:7-9).

Psalms 98:1

O sing unto the Lord a new song (comp. Psalms 96:1-13; which opens similarly). The faithful and wise steward is ever bringing out of his treasures things which are at once old and "new." For he hath done marvellous things. The "marvellous things" which God has done for man constitute the first ground for praising him. These marvels may be either those of his ordinary providence, or special interpositions and deliverances. His right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory; rather, hath wrought salvation for him (see the Revised Version; and comp. Isaiah 59:16; Isaiah 63:5).

Psalms 98:2

The Lord hath made known his salvation; i.e. "has manifested his power to save." The psalmist looks back upon the deliverance of Psalms 98:9, as though it were accomplished. His righteousness hath he openly showed in the sight of the heathen. God has vindicated in the eyes of all the nations upon earth the righteousness of his rule over mankind.

Psalms 98:3

He hath remembered his mercy and his truth towards the house of Israel. The judgment of the nations involves mercy and deliverance to Israel, which is oppressed by them; and thus manifests God's faithfulness towards them. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God (comp. Psalms 98:2 and Isaiah 52:10).

Psalms 98:4

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth. God is to be praised heartily—with a loud and ringing voice. The body is to unite with the soul in giving him thanks, and to perform its part vigorously and with zeal (comp. Psalms 5:3; Psalms 66:1; Psalms 81:1; Psalms 95:1, Psalms 95:2; Psalms 100:1, etc.). And in the praise of God the whole earth is to join. Make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise; rather, break forth, and sing for joy, and sing praise (see the Revised Version).

Psalms 98:5

Sing unto the Lord with the harp; i.e. "with a harp accompaniment." It is fitting that in the praises of God instrumental music should be joined with vocal melody (comp. Exodus 15:20; 2 Samuel 6:15; 1 Chronicles 15:16, 1 Chronicles 15:28; 1 Chronicles 16:6; 2 Chronicles 5:12, 2 Chronicles 5:13; Ezra 3:10; Nehemiah 12:27, etc.). With the harp, and the voice of a psalm; or, the voice of melody (Revised Version).

Psalms 98:6

With trumpet and sound of cornet; rather, with clarions and voice of trumpet. The chatsotseroth are "the straight trumpets, such as are seen on the Arch of Titus, used by the priests for giving signals" (Kay). The shophar is the ordinary curved or rounded trumpet or horn. Make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King; literally, before the King, Jehovah. (On the use of wind instruments in the temple service, see 1 Chronicles 15:24, 1 Chronicles 15:28; 2 Chronicles 5:12; Ezra 3:10.)

Psalms 98:7

Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof (see above, Psalms 96:11, where the same phrase occurs). The call on the inanimate things of nature to rejoice is grounded on man's sympathy with nature, which makes him desire, and half believe, that nature may sympathize with him. The world, and they that dwell therein (comp. Psalms 24:1).

Psalms 98:8

Let the floods clap their hands. This bold metaphor occurs only here and in Isaiah 55:12, where the "trees" are asked to "clap their hands." Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; or, sing for joy together; i.e. join with the rest of nature in expressing gladness.

Psalms 98:9

For he cometh to judge the earth. Nature, inanimate and animate, may well be asked to rejoice when God comes to judge the earth—since he is sure to judge it aright. With righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity. "God by his righteous judgment will bring the whole earth from a state of sorrow into a state of salvation and joy" (Hengstenberg).

HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY

Psalms 98:1

Jehovah's victories.

This psalm is almost an echo of Psalms 96:1-13; and, like that, tells of the triumphant issue of the Lord's great battle. No doubt the psalmist had some special event in the history of God's people in his mind—some glorious victory given to them; but his words here bring to our thoughts God's spiritual victories, far larger and wider triumphs than any that Israel ever knew. Consider, therefore—

I. THE VICTORIES OF THE LORD WHICH THIS PSALM REMINDS US OF.

1. There is that of the past—for humanity generally, for the whole world. Mankind was in sore distress; and he had no help in himself, he had become the devil's prey. But how was this to be remedied? The Incarnation, the Atonement, the gift of the Holy Ghost, were the answer. And so now forevery child of man who will avail himself of it, there is full salvation provided. The guilt of our sin, our corrupt nature, and the holy Law of God, were all against us; but in this great victory of the Lord, guilt was put away, man's evil nature subdued, and the Law honoured as it had never been or could be before. Well may we say with St. Paul, "Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).

2. There is that of the present—that which the individual believer rejoices in for himself. The sense of condemnation is gone, the power of sin is broken, the tyranny of the devil trampled on, the might of sorrow and care gone, the fear of death vanished, and eternal life won—that is the victory which is given now to many a believing soul, to every soul who will have it.

3. That of the future—that of the Church triumphant, when every foe is vanquished, when all that have tried and troubled us is no more, and when we are presented "faultless before the presence of the Lord's glory with exceeding joy."

II. WHAT IS HERE SAID OF THEM.

1. They are marvellous. Are they not so? Think of what stood in the way of each.

2. They are all of God. "His right hand, and his holy arm, hath," etc. How evident this is! Did ever any hear of a really saved soul saying aught else than this? And:

3. They are victories of believers. Not of mere compassion, still less of mere power, but it was "his holy arm "that triumphed. The law of righteousness and truth was maintained.

4. They demand a new song. And they have it, and will forevermore. Let us be in that choir.—S.C.

Psalms 98:7-9

Man's relation to the natural world.

In a beautiful sermon on these verses by the late Revelation T.C. Finlayson, M.A to which this homily is greatly indebted, he remarks, that when piety and poetry are married to each other, such a song as this is the offspring of their marriage; he notes also the unhappy rarity of this union. Where piety is, there, all too often, imagination is conspicuous by its absence, and such absence is regarded with much complacency, and as a thing desirable rather than otherwise. On the other hand, where the gift of a rich imagination has been bestowed, how sadly often it is divorced from all piety! But in this psalm, as in so many others, the two have been united, and the outcome is such an inspired burst of poetry as we have in these verses. In this exalted spiritual condition the soul sees its true relation to the natural world. The soul regards the world of nature—

I. AS ITS SERVANT. There is a tone of lordship and mastery in these verses. The sea, the earth, the floods, and the hills are bidden to take their parts in the great anthem of praise. The psalmist seems to be issuing his orders to them, and they are as servants ready to obey. It is here as in Psalms 8:1-9. All things are put beneath him, he is lord of all. Man has been placed on the earth, not merely to occupy, but to subdue and to rule over it. As generation after generation passes away, this rulership becomes ever more complete. By patient study of the laws of the great Overlord of all, man, the underlord, has learnt to bind the forces of nature, and to make them execute his will. They are his servants under him, and he says to this one, "Come," and it cometh, and to another, "Go," and it goeth. And so here he utters his command, "Let the sea roar," etc.

II. AS FELLOW WORSHIPPER. The scenes, the sounds, the movements of nature are to the soul of the psalmist not merely scenes and sounds and movements, but show that, like himself, nature is a worshipper "before the Lord" Not that nature, the dead material world, can of itself render worship; only the soul can do that. And only a soul itself filled with the spirit of worship, can see and hear in the natural world what appears to be worship, joy, and praise. We speak of sacred music, but no sound of choir, or organ, or instrument of any kind can utter sacred music unless it express sacred thought in some soul. But let the soul be filled with such high, holy thought and emotion, and, lo! all nature becomes one vast choir, and its varied sounds one glorious anthem of praise.

III. AS SHARER TOGETHER WITH HIMSELF IN THE VICTORIES OF GOD'S GRACE. The soul sees along with its own redemption, the redemption of nature (Romans 8:19-21; Psalms 67:6). The soul of the psalmist is looking on to the full victory of the Lord over all his foes, and the consequent redemption of man, and the earth likewise, under the Lord's righteous rule; and so he calls on all the powers of nature to join with him in praise.

IV. AS, LIKE HIMSELF, GLAD IN GOD. The undevout soul fails to see this, but the eye purged with the love of God in Christ beholds continually in all that is fair, beautiful, and good in the natural world—and how much there is of this!—the heart of nature praising God.—S.C.

HOMILIES BY R. TUCK

Psalms 98:1

The Lord's victory.

"His right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory." This is to be treated as a joy song of the returned Exiles, who regarded themselves as delivered and restored, because their God had fought for them, overcome all their foes, and mastered all their hindrances and difficulties. It was not their right hand that had gotten them the victory. It was God's right hand that had gotten him the victory, of which they were permitted to reap the full benefit. This victory quickened thought, and brought to mind the assurances of the Prophet Isaiah, e.g. "The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God" (Isaiah 52:10). And the victory brought to view the older Israelite history, from the great Red Sea victory and onward. It was plain enough that God had been always getting the victory, always redeeming, always recovering, rescuing, and restoring, always the Saviour. The type of the Divine relations with the people is given in the redemption from Egypt, and then Israel lifted a joy song, acknowledging concerning Jehovah, "Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power; thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces thine enemy." For a chorus to their song the women sang, "Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea."

I. THE VICTORIES WHICH THE LORD HAS WON. Illustrate:

1. Those won in the older ages, and kept on record in the Old Testament.

2. Those won in the times of Christ, and kept on record in the New Testament.

3. Those won in the ages of the Christian Church, especially in the missionary ages.

4. Those of which we have personal experience, as bearing relation to our past distresses.

II. THE FIGHT IN WHICH THE LORD IS NOW ENGAGED. It is not enough to say that it is with evil in all its forms; it is also with the consequences of evil in all their varieties: as these affect the race, the nation, the society, the family, or the individual. We recognize the fight, we do not always see that it is the Lord fighting—the Lord with us in the fight.

III. THE VICTORIES WHICH THE LORD WILL WIN. "His bow ever abides in strength;" "He goeth forth conquering and to conquer." He will conquer in the one. He will conquer in the many. One day the final Victor over all evil will "deliver up the kingdom to the Father, and God shall be all in all."—R.T.

Psalms 98:3

The Lord's memory.

This is regarding God as if he were a man, and acted as men act. Men find the memory of kindnesses they have done become a plea for showing further kindness. To have ever helped any one gives them a sort of natural claim on us to help them again. So the psalmist, full of joy in the blessings God was giving his people in his day, felt quite sure that God must have been recalling, remembering, what great things he had done, in olden days, for his people. We think our great pleas to urge before God are our needs and our deserts. But these are altogether surpassed by the pleas we may use. God's honour, God's promise, and what God has already done for us. But herein lies an important distinction between God's feelings and man's. Only the very noblest among men fail to be annoyed when past favours are made into a plea for new gifts. We are annoyed at the beggar who comes again and again so hopefully, because he has so often come successfully. God loves to bless those whom he has blessed. We may never think of him as tiring of blessing.

I. WHAT MAY WE THINK THE LORD REMEMBERS? See two things.

1. The exercise of the passive graces purifies and ennobles character, and makes us more able to exercise them, and more anxious to find objects on which to exercise them. Do some act merely for a person, and you may find it tiresome to have to do it again. But show a kindness, be merciful, pitiful, tender, gracious, and you will want to be all these over and over again.

2. Every claim upon a man of truth is an establishing and confirming of his truth, and makes him more determined that men shall have absolute trust in his word. If it be thus with men, how much more so with God!

II. HOW MAY WE VENTURE TO QUICKEN THE LORD'S MEMORY? By telling him freely what is in our memories concerning his dealings. This is the way of love. The lover tells his loved one his memories, and that is the best quickening of hers.—R.T.

Psalms 98:5-7

Showing our joy in God.

It must strike every reader of the Psalms that the call to give expression to the joy felt in God is very frequent. We are constantly made to feel that the people did not readily come up to the psalmist's standpoint. Emotionally he could not raise them to his level, and their flagging and dragging seems sometimes to worry him. But the intensely earnest man, the man of cultured spiritual feeling, the pious poet soul, always has this trouble, and is always in danger of misapprehending his fellows because they seem unable adequately to respond to him. He does not realize that he may be no better standard, since he is above average, than they are who are below average. The man in advance does us all good by lifting us all higher, if he fails to lift us to his own level. If we cannot sing and praise as the psalmist does, we can all sing and praise better because the psalmist chants so nobly. Illustrate this point by referring to David, the royal psalmist, actually beginning in the tabernacle a service of song. No doubt some were heartily with him from the first, but many must have given him trouble. Some were tiresomely indifferent. They would not come, but they would give no reasons for not coming. Some opposed, and we can well imagine some of the grounds of their opposition. So it always is and always will be. We may qualify the trouble this may cause us by remembering that the signs and expressions of religious feeling greatly differ, and we cannot reasonably expect all persons to express themselves as we do. What we may look for, and work for, is some expression of what is in men's hearts toward the Lord. Let them break out into songs and music, if that will best utter their hearts. Let them abound in good works, if they like that voice for their souls better. The main thing is this—if a man has any joy in God in his soul, let him find out how to give it voice, so that God and men may know of it.—R.T.

HOMILIES BY C. SHORT

Psalms 98:1-9

Universal salvation.

"The last great revelation, the final victory of God, when his salvation and his righteousness, the revelation of which he has promised to the house of Israel, shall be manifested both to his own people and to all the nations of the earth."

I. GOD HAS REVEALED A GREAT SALVATION FOR THE WORLD. (Psalms 98:1-3.) Distinguished by three great things.

1. Righteousness. (Psalms 98:2.) Reveals his righteousness in and by means of Christ in order to secure our righteousness. Righteousness the most comprehensive description of the Divine character and work.

2. Mercy, or loving kindness. (Psalms 98:3.) Loving kindness towards the sinful and unworthy. Mercy and righteousness compatible—mercy a part of righteousness.

3. Truth, or faithfulness. (Psalms 98:3.) "Loving kindness and faithfulness, the two attributes expressive of God's covenant relationship to his people." He fulfils all the promises, and more than all the promises, which his mercy has made.

II. THE JOY WHICH THIS SALVATION SHOULD CREATE. (Psalms 98:4-9.)

1. The intensity of this joy. (Psalms 98:4-6.) To be uttered by all possible means and instruments. "A joyful noise." The human voice is to be aided and supplemented by instrumental music to give more intense expression to it.

2. The extent of the joy. (Psalms 98:7-9.) The sea is to take up the song; and the floods all to clap their bands; and the mountains are to rejoice together. The whole earth is to rejoice, because God comes to bring it from sin and sorrow into a state of salvation and joy. The poet projects himself into the grandest material objects, and they become sympathetic with his joys and sorrows.—S.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 98:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/psalms-98.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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