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Christmas Day A Psalm

Psalm 98

Avarilla Flemming | Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene

Merry Christmas! The Son of God is here!

People around the world are gathering together to celebrate the holiday festivities of Christmas. Since Thanksgiving, Christmas trees have been prepared, gifts have been purchased and candles have been lit. The Christmas season is a bustling busy time getting ready for the sacred day filled with gifts and family. Christians are also gathering to celebrate the birth of the incarnate Savior. The Christian church recognizes this liturgical time prior to the incarnation as the Season of Advent. The word Advent is derived from the Latin phrase adventus for “coming” which reminds us of the covenantal promise of a Messiah coming for his people. The season of Advent is a time where we, as the people of God, begin to posture our hearts and minds for the long expected Jesus. We acknowledge our strife and we wait in anticipation.

When I hear the words of “O come, O come, Emmanuel” I am reminded of the deep sorrow the Israelite people felt during the time of the exile. No nation has experienced this deep longing more than early people of God torn from their land and temple. They were strangers in a foreign land, forced to conform to traditions contradictory to Torah, and stripped of their identity. In their mourning they remembered the promise of a coming King and waited in anticipation. As we prepare for our Christmas celebrations, the Advent Season calls us to remember our past pain so that we can fully grasp the nature of our praise when the King has come.

So on a Christmas Eve service we begin our final preparation for our Savior singing,

“O come, Desire of nations, bind

All peoples in one heart and mind;”

We are joined together in longing for our savior, remembering the exile and the promise God has given all his people. This year we will sing Psalm 96 which invites us all to sing “a new song (v.1)” [1] of the arrival of our King. The Psalmist also invites the choir to be ready to declare that God is King as verse 13 sings “for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness (v.13)”. Just as the people of God were delivered from the hands of Pharaoh, God saved them again from the tyranny of exile! In good Hebrew fashion they sang Psalm 98 as a joyous declaration of the saving power of God and his kingdom come! On Christmas day we too will sing this song, rejoicing in the arrival of our Savior. Much like Psalm 96, we are called again in Psalm 98 to “sing a new song (v.1)”. Psalm 98 does not replace the words of 96 but rather expands the deeper meaning of the kingdom of God now that the Lord has finally come.

Psalm 98 is part of a collection of 7 songs and poems entitled the Enthronement Psalms (47,93,95-99). The Enthronement Psalms honor God or YHWH as the ruler and king over all. They are the songs declaring God’s kingship over earth; humanity and nature alike. [2]

Psalm 98 can be broken down into 3 major sections. [3]

v. 1-3 Invitation why to praise

v. 4-6 Invitation to Israel how to specifically praise

v. 7-9 Invitation for the elements of the Earth to praise

Verses 1-3 begin the song as a declaration that the Lord should be praised because he “has done marvelous things”. The Psalmist immediately calls attention to the power of God as the main focus for praise. The choir sings that God’s “right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory”, revealing that God’s victory was not won by the power of weapons and destruction, but rather the direct hand and arm of the one who loves unconditionally. God is depicted as a mighty warrior but I believe that the Psalmist is suggesting that Gods very nature is that of non-violent power. The Israelite people would understand for when the people of Israel were delivered from exile, the Lord did not send armies, rather he used the empathy of the Persian king to save God’s people and send them home (Isaiah 44-45). Verses 2-3 reveal the grace of God by vindicating the wrong doings of his people by “remembering his steadfast love and faithfulness” for them. These 3 verses give reason for praise and indicate that the Lord has lead with grace and righteousness to deliver his people.

Verses 4-6 now calls Israel and the inhabitants of earth to begin to rejoice! The Psalmist seems to feel that music is the loudest and most effective way to begin praising the Lord, calling the Choir to sing with a “lyre” and with the sounds of “[melodies]”. Verse 6 states “with trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord”. The introduction of a King or person of power was often first declared by the sounds of many trumpets identifying their importance. This imagery draws the Choir to the great kingship of God and coronation for the new heavenly king.

The Psalmist invitation is not just extended to humanity, but with great imagination the elements of the earth are also invited to praise. Verses 7-9 call the hills of the land and the seas of the earth to joyfully sing! To the ancient world the thought of seas roaring was a mysterious terrifying occurrence. But in 98, the “seas roar and all that fills it…sing together for joy”(v.7-8). God judges with righteousness to all the earth. With purposeful rhetoric the Psalmists calls all the nations and all of creation to join in joyous songs of praise to the kingship of God.

In the Advent season we wait patiently for the Son of God. We look deep into our lives and prepare our hearts for new kingdom under a loving and gracious God. Together as a body of people we wrap up the Advent Season with deep longing and anticipation for the hope promised by our Savior. We sing songs of Israel’s past mourning in remembrance and we posture our lives and congregations for a marvelous triumph. On Christmas day we gather all together to praise that “all the ends of the earth [will] have seen the victory of our God” (v. 3). Psalm 98 invites us all to sing songs of praise for the majesty of the Messiah. We are in awe and joyous wonderment that the Lord Jesus Christ has been born. The Savior has come for us. Let us sing our praises!

The lord is come

Let earth receive her king

Let every heart prepare him room

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven and heaven and nature sing

Nature sing

[1] “Commentary on Psalms 98 by Matthew Henry.” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed December 16, 2016.

[2] Branson, Robert, Jim Edlin, and Timothy Mark Green. Discovering the Old Testament: story and faith. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2003, Pg. 265

[3] Commentary on Psalms 98 by Matthew Henry.” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed December 16, 2016.