“O sing to Yahweh a new song”. This is a call to intentionally engage in fresh worship.
The prognosis was grim. Bill was completing a series of chemo treatments. We were beyond the point of expecting or seeking physical healing. My objective was to help him to die as a Christian. The question was simple, “Bill, what is the Lord teaching you through all this?”
He paused and pondered the question. “Well”, he said, “everyday there is a song.”
Bill’s faith was strong. He has walked with the Lord for many years and he still, even in suffering, found a new song every morning. Sometimes the song came seemingly out of the blue; the product of divine inspiration. Other times it was the result of a conscious choice; an intentional search to find expression for his life in Christ.
Athanasius said the Psalms do not simply speak to us, rather they speak “for” us. They provide us with expressions for our deepest affirmations and questions of faith. I grew up in a church where we would often hear “amen” to a message of truth in a sermon or a song. It was a declaration of agreement. “Yes! What you said matches what is in my heart!”
Cause for Praise- What God Has Done:
If you have ever been asked to introduce someone to an audience, you began by presenting the accolades and accomplishments of the person you are introducing. Then you may have followed the introduction with a call to applaud. “Put your hands together for…” Well, this is a psalm of enthronement (coronation). I like to think of this as an introduction for the King at his coronation followed by a call to demonstrate your praise by applause.
…he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. SO, SING HIM A NEW SONG! The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. SHOUT FOR JOY USING EVERY INSTRUMENT AT YOUR DISPOSAL! He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. ALL NATURE JOIN IN THE CELEBRATION! RIVERS CLAP! MOUNTAINS SING!
The call to respond to God’s past work extends to all creation. I cannot help but think of the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness, as we “join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness…” This is all good, and we all should say amen to these truths. God has done great things! God’s past faithfulness is a foundation for our present praise. The people of Israel always recounted the mighty acts of God on their behalf. They even kept objects in the Ark of the Covenant to remind them of God’s past intervention. But wait! There’s more! This God who has acted for us has another great act coming!
Cause for Praise- What He Will Do
What amazes me about this psalm is the eschatological focus at the end. The reference to the coming judgement of God, as a cause for praise, is remarkable. Let us go back to the metaphor of a person introducing the King in front of the crowd. After recounting all that the king has done, the introduction turns to a lofty declaration of what the King will do.
…God will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in equity.
That is why my friend Bill was able to sing a new song each day. He was assured that the God who had kept him in the past would have the final word. The injustice of this life was not the last chapter. Yes, he was convinced that the past was good. But he rejoiced in the present sufferings because he knew God’s faithfulness would endure to the end of the age. He was praising God before he could see the path ahead. By faith, he chose to rejoice in the face of overwhelming odds. His faith looked both backward and forward.
May it be so for all of us. Psalm 98 is an enthronement psalm, a coronation hymn, if you will. But it seems to me this is a psalm for all times. In every situation He is Lord. In the difficult times He is Lord. In the end He will be Lord!