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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 98

Calvin's Commentary on the BibleCalvin's Commentary

Verse 1

1Sing unto Jehovah a new song I have already remarked, that the expression here used denotes an extraordinary, not a common, ascription of praise. This appears from the reason assigned for it, That God had manifested his salvation in a singular and incredible manner. For having spoken of marvelous things, he represents this as the sum of all, that God had procured salvation with his own right hand; (108) that is, not by human means, or in an ordinary way, but delivering his Church in an unprecedented manner. Isaiah enlarges upon this miracle of God’s power:

“The Lord looked if there were any to help, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his own arm brought salvation, and his righteousness sustained him,”
(Isaiah 59:16)

In both passages the arm of God stands opposed to ordinary means, which although when employed they derogate nothing from the glory of God, yet prevent us from so fully discovering his presence as we might otherwise do. The language of the Psalmist amounts to a declaration that God would not save the world by means of an ordinary kind, but would come forth himself and show that he was the author of a salvation in every respect so singular. He reasonably infers that mercy of such a wonderful, and, to us, incomprehensible kind, should be celebrated by no ordinary measures of praise. This is brought out still more clearly in the verse which follows, where it is said that his salvation and righteousness are shown to the nations What could have been less looked for than that light should have arisen upon these dark and benighted places, and that righteousness should have appeared in the habitations of desperate wickedness? Salvation is mentioned first, although it is, properly speaking, the effect of righteousness. Such an inversion of the natural order is often observed in stating divine benefits; nor is it surprising that what is the means, and should be mentioned first, is sometimes set last, and follows by way of explanation. I may add, that the righteousness of God, which is the source of salvation, does not consist in his recompensing men according to their works, but is just the illustration of his mercy, grace, and faithfulness.

(108)Car apres avoir parle des miracles, il les restreint specialement a une somme, ascavoir, que Dieu s est acquis salut par sa propre vertu .” — Fr.

Verse 3

3He hath remembered his goodness Having spoken of the general manifestation of his salvation, he now celebrates his goodness more particularly to his own chosen people. God exhibited himself as a Father to Gentiles as well as Jews; but to the Jews first, who were, so to speak, the first-born. (109) The glory of the Gentiles lay in their being adopted and in-grafted into the holy family of Abraham, and the salvation of the whole world sprung from the promise made to Abraham, as Christ said, “Salvation is of the Jews,” (John 4:22) The Psalmist therefore very properly observes, that God in redeeming the world remembered his truth, which he had given to Israel his people — language, too, which implies that he was influenced by no other motive than that of faithfully performing what he had himself promised. (110) The more clearly to show that the promise was not grounded at all on the merit or righteousness of man, he mentions the goodness of God first, and afterwards his faithfulness, which stood connected with it. The cause, in short, was not to be found out of God himself, (to use a common expression,) but in his mere good pleasure, which had been testified long before to Abraham and his posterity. The word remembered is used in accommodation to man’s apprehension; for what has been long suspended seems to have been forgotten. Upwards of two thousand years elapsed from the time of giving the promise to the appearance of Christ, and as the people of God were subjected to many afflictions and calamities, we need not wonder that they should have sighed, and given way to ominous fears regarding the fulfillment of this redemption. When it is added, all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of God, this is not merely commendatory of the greatness of the salvation, meaning that it should be so illustrious that the report of it would reach the ends of the earth; but it signifies that the nations formerly immersed in delusions and superstitions would participate in it.

(109)Afin qu’ils fussent comme les aisnez.” — Fr.

(110)Qu’il n’a point este induit par autre raison, sinon afin que fidelement il accomplist ce qu’il avoit promis.” — Fr.

Verse 4

4Exult before Jehovah all the earth Here he repeats the exhortation with which he had begun, and by addressing it to the nations at large, he indicates that when God should break down the middle wall of partition all would be gathered to the common faith, and one Church formed throughout the whole world. When he speaks of musical instruments the allusion is evidently to the practice of the Church at that time, without any intention of binding down the Gentiles to the observance of the ceremonies of the law. The repetition made use of is emphatical, and implies that the most ardent attempts men might make to celebrate the great work of the world’s redemption would fall short of the riches of the grace of God. This is brought out still more forcibly in what follows, where feeling is ascribed to things inanimate. The whole passage has been elsewhere expounded, and it is unnecessary to insist further upon it.

Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 98". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cal/psalms-98.html. 1840-57.
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