Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord (Psalm 98)
If we want to worship God in the way he intends us to worship him, we must come before him with reverence and joy. We rightly recognize God’s holiness as we gather for corporate worship. But how important is joy? How often do you stir up the joy of worship as you prepare your heart? That’s the primary emphasis in this psalm. It teaches us to sing with excitement.
This psalm is very similar to Psalm 96, which we looked at last week, as well as Psalm 97. They’re all part of the Royal Psalter (93-100), songs for our King. Notice the parallel themes of righteousness (96:13; 97:2, 6; 98:2, 9) and joy (96:11-12; 97:1, 8; 98:4, 6). God’s righteousness calls us to come before him with reverence, which creates a dilemma for sinful man. How can we respond with joy? Psalm 98 provides the answer.
Psalm 98 has three stanzas:
- God has revealed his salvation in the past (1-3).
- Man responds with praise and joy in the present (4-6).
- World pictured as praising God in the future (7-9).
Read Psalm 98.
Sing about the salvation that God has revealed with joyful anticipation of his return.
I. The Revelation of Salvation (1-3)
1 Sing a new song for the marvelous things the Lord has done, namely his work of salvation. “Marvelous things” is a phrase we saw at the beginning of our series in the Psalms. There it was translated “wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1). It speaks of God’s miraculous acts of redemption (i.e., Exodus). The salvation that we sing about can only be accomplished by the power of God (“his right hand and holy arm”). We do not sing about the depth of our great love for God, but his incomprehensible love for us, which stirs up our joy in him.
2 His salvation has been revealed to the nations. They have seen his righteousness. God is the one who must reveal himself, and he has already done so through creation (Psalm 19:1-6), but also through the redemption of Israel. The nations have seen the righteousness of the Lord through the salvation and preservation of his people.
3 When God remembers Israel he shows them favor. His love for Israel has been seen by the whole earth. Although the nations know of God’s righteousness, it is the distinct privilege of Israel to know his steadfast love and faithfulness. His covenant people know his covenant attributes. And because God has been faithful to Israel, salvation is available to the world.
We should also consider revelation as it relates to our personal experience. I grew up attending church, but can remember distinct moments when the mystery of the gospel was made plain to me. There were several important conversations with my dad, my pastors, and my peers. I oftentimes point to my conversion at Hume Lake Summer Camp in 1990, with Dewey Bertolini teaching. But many seeds were planted and watered as the Lord drew me to himself. It finally reached my mind and heart and everything changed.
End of the year reflections should begin here, with God’s revelation of salvation. When did you see the Lord’s salvation? Not your full knowledge of theology. That always takes maturity. I mean, when did you come to a basic understanding of God’s plan to save you from your sins? How did God reveal himself to you in such a way that you knew you were a sinner in need of saving?
The Lord has made known his salvation. This is a song for the people of God to rejoice in their salvation. Songs keep important truths before us. We want songs that fill our minds with reminders of all that God has done.
As we gather to sing of God’s salvation, we come with a variety of personal encounters with the living God. All of that informs our praise and influences the experience of everyone else.
It all serves to build up…
II. The Joy of Salvation (4-6)
We need songs like this. We are quick to move beyond our initial encounter with God. It’s so easy for us to fill our minds with fearful and discouraging experiences rather than joyful reminders of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.
What can we do?
4 The celebration of the good news of God’s salvation is cause for the whole earth to break into joyous songs of praise.
5 Their praise involved the lyre and melody.
6 It also involved the trumpet of triumph before the king.
Make a joyful noise! Shout with joy (Psalm 126)! These terms refer to the shouts of joy that citizens give when they hear of military victory. It’s the image of celebration erupting as soldiers return from war. Allow your mind and heart to exult in praise to the God who so marvelously saved you!
Have you outgrown the squeals?
Toddlers get so overwhelmed by joy they can only squeal. Their eyes enlarge as a puppy or stuffed animal comes into view. Their mouths open wide so they can taste the marvelous object of their delight. They can’t help but to eek with excitement. Toddlers instinctively know how to make a joyful noise.
Parents receive joy witnessing their delight, but unfortunately, we’re also quick to shush them. It must be very confusing. Instead of finding a proper place and time to make a joyful noise, most of us simply abandon the practice altogether.
I agree, it would be awkward if we all started squealing like toddlers in church, or out in public. And I’m not suggesting anyone needs to do this at home either. But, consider the sensation that caused you to react like that, and make it part of how you approach God in song, prayer, preaching and reading the bible.
Seek more joy in your spiritual life in 2019. Learn from the children here! Aren’t you glad to see and hear them each week? To such belongs the Kingdom of God! Parent’s, don’t be so quick to shush them. (I’m speaking to myself here…)
At the same time, we do see the value of skilled musicians playing the lyre and trumpet. We see instruction to sing with the “sound of melody.” This psalm doesn’t encourage dissonance, but consonance as we sing to the King who is worthy. However, our pursuit of excellence should never hinder our joy.
The psalm wraps up with…
III. The Call of Salvation (7-9)
7 The call to worship extends to every creature in the sea and on land. In fact, the sea and the land themselves are part of the choir.
8 The rivers and hills join in as well.
9 All worship before the Lord because he is coming to judge in righteousness and equity. The Creator-King comes to judge. His judgement is with righteousness and equity. Everything that was corrupted by the Fall will be restored (Psalm 96:11-13).
The hardest concept to accept is the conclusion of judgment. How is judgment a proper conclusion to this psalm of joyful salvation? The psalmist is even looking forward to this future judgment (Psalm 97:8). Yes, it will be done with righteousness and equity, but that doesn’t change the fact that some will be left condemned by God’s judgment (Psalm 97:3; cf. Exod. 19:18, 21; Deut. 5:24-26; Isa. 33:14).
Is the psalmist ignoring the negative aspects of judgment and only focusing on the positive aspects? I don’t think so. The righteousness of God demands the satisfaction of his justice. God must do what is right and just.
What the psalmist seems to be reacting to is such a sincere love for God, that he delights to see God’s righteousness expressed. Should anyone be left mocking God with their lives? Would anyone be content to witness unbelief or the rejection of God’s mercy and grace any longer than God has and will patiently endure their mockery?
Let us rejoice that God will accomplish all his holy will in his perfect timing. And let us look forward to his triumphant conclusion when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11).
Until God is satisfied, there can be no salvation. Our sin must be dealt with. That’s why we need to be saved in the first place! Alec Motyer writes, “Salvation has to satisfy holiness or it is not salvation.”
But, we’ve already seen that “his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him” (v.1). The Son, seated at his right hand, is the epitome of God’s holiness and salvation. The righteousness of God is perfectly reflected in the Son who covers our sin by his penal substitutionary atonement.
Because of Christ, God is both just and justifier (Romans 3:23-26). We can now sing, God is satisfied “to look on him and pardon me.”