‘Shout for joy before the Lord the King’ (98:6)!
Have you ever been in a crowd of people where the cheers, the noise, the celebration has been overwhelming? If you close your eyes can you imagine that moment? For me it would be the old Wembley Stadium when my beloved Gillingham Football Club defeated Wigan 3-2. There were a few moments when the noise, the applause, the flags, the cheering, the smiles, the laughter and the raised arms were almost exhilarating.
I’ve experienced something similar in large crowds worshipping God together, thousands of voices lifted in high praise; moments of joy and celebration giving a glimpse of the exuberant, exultant, endless praise that awaits us before His throne at the end of time as we know it: ‘With trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn – shout for joy before the Lord the king’ (98:6)!
This Psalm is a wonderful song of joyful, noisy praise to the God and Heavenly King of the House of Israel. The people of God are encouraged to sing a new song to the Lord ‘for He has done marvellous things’ (98:1). Nothing specific is mentioned but God’s people are to declare that He ‘has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations’ (98:2). For us, we must remember that this song is pre-Christian. The salvation being remembered is twofold. First of all the historic way in which God rescued his people from Egypt, but secondly and more recently, God’s people were rejoicing because their captivity and exile in the country of Babylon was finished. The exile was over. The years of waiting to return to Jerusalem were over. God had ‘remembered his love and faithfulness to the house of Israel’ (98:3); and quite simply they could not remain silent. This was no quiet and serene 8 O’clock communion or a peaceful countryside walk. This was full-on, big band, loud, jubilant, high praise; and all without amplifiers!
People of God – as the Church we too are called to enter right into this state of high praise from time to time. Heaven will be filled with everything and everyone giving praise to God – and this Psalm pre-empts such a day. The whole of creation joins in. Rivers clap their hands and mountains sing for joy (98:8). The sea resounds and everything in it (98:7).
Imagine for a moment the sound of a torrent of water, a river in full flow, a waterfall sending white water crashing into a river; the sound of the sea pounding against a rocky coast. Add to this the most intricate wall of music imaginable, with voices, harps, trumpets and horns declaring the praises of God. Imagine all of this and direct it to the God of heaven.
This Psalm declares the praises of God who has saved us in the past, and God who ‘will judge the world in righteousness and the people with equity’ (98:9).
He is to be praised for all he has done in the past, and for all he is yet to do in the future. We praise him in the here and now for saving us and we praise him because he will judge fairly.
This Psalm is relevant to our daily lives. It is relevant to our worship – both as individuals on a daily basis, and as a church gathering for corporate worship. Even though we continue to experience difficulties, and wars, and in the case of our dear brothers and sisters in the Philippines terrible sadness, grief and bereavement – we remember the reasons why we praise him.
So far the British public has given £33 Million to the Disasters Emergency Committee which is a coalition of 14 major UK charities including World Vision, Tearfund, Christian Aid, Oxfam & Save the Children. Today, this week and next Sunday we’re encouraging ourselves to respond out of love, in generosity.
‘The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations’ (98:3). He did this in history, and through his people today the Lord continues to reveal his righteousness to the nations. The Lord did not send the Typhoon to the Philippines, but he does send his people to the Philippines, and he sends the love of his people to the Philippines, and he sends the money of his people to the Philippines.
Let’s stand together as we declare the praises of God using a version of Psalm 98, with voices raised:
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things;
His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the Lord, the King.
Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the Lord,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity. Amen!