Summary: Year C. twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 98, November 18, 2001 Title: “God is constantly delivering us from the various “imprisonments” of life.”
Year C. twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 98, November 18, 2001
Title: “God is constantly delivering us from the various “imprisonments” of life.”
“1 O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. 2 The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. 3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. 4 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
5 Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD. 7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.
8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy
9 at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.”
This is a song of praise, enthusiastically celebrating God’s characteristic ways of dealing with his people. It virtually echoes Psalm 96. The key elements of the ancient covenant- salvation, righteousness, steadfast love and faithfulness- are praised at a ceremony of renewal, whatever renewal that may be. There are no historical references to date this psalm, but, given its symbiotic relationship with the thinking and expressions of Deutero-Isaiah, it was put together after the return from exile, perhaps for the dedication of the rebuilt Temple in 516BC.
This is as much a “call to worship” psalm as it is a song of praise.
In verses one to three, there is the call to God’s people to praise him. In verses four to six, the call is to all humanity; verses seven to nine, to all creation.
In verse one, “O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.” As the psalm progresses it becomes clear that this is really the same old song sung in a new environment. The same old tunes of God’s fidelity, love, victory over evil and Israel’s enemies, righteousness and salvation, all terms for the Covenant, are ever-new when remembered, sung about, and especially witnessed to by reciprocal behavior. Some would see this new setting in the dedication of the rebuilt Temple after the return from exile, but it would fit any setting whereby a people or person moves from a situation of distress and disorientation into a new one of delight and deliverance. There is nothing in the psalm that would locate its expressed sentiments in a specific historical situation. It does appear, however, to have been composed and sung for liturgical use, perhaps the dedication of the Temple or even the annual New Year Festival celebrating God as King.
marvelous deeds: Typically, after a call to praise, the reason for it is given. “Marvelous things” would certainly include those surrounding the Exodus and the Exile, but could refer to just about anything God does or has done.
Victory: The verb used here is also used by Deutero-Isaiah for “salvation,” God’s ultimate victory at the end. It does not have to refer only to military victories. Any small victory over injustice and, hence, vindication, tsadekah in Hebrew, or evil would be a sign of or a harbinger of this final victory or salvation.
In verse two, “The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.” Like Deutero-Isaiah the psalmist believes that all the nations of the world will be witnesses to God’s final victory and vindication over injustice and evil.
In verse three, “He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.” “Remember” is synonymous with “kept faith with” or “been faithful to.” Remembering is not quite action but it leads to it since it is the bringing to mind the attitude necessary to initiate action. The implication is that just as God remembers, keeps his memory, of a long ago covenant word he gave, so also the Israelites are to remember their part of the covenant and act accordingly.
In verses four to six, lyre…trumpets…horn; Israelite liturgies were known for being noisy affairs example 2Chr 29: 25-30; Ezra 3: 10-13. Perhaps, this is a hint for the musicians to play in harmony. The trumpet was a straight metal tube of silver. The horn, the best-known instrument in the Old Testament, was usually made of ram’s horn or, later, that of the ibex or antelope. These verses indicate that the psalm was sung at liturgies, but not which ones. Music, though, is a vital part of worship.