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THE NEW SONG
‘O sing unto the Lord a new song.’
The psalm divides itself with great naturalness into three equal parts of three equal verses each. The whole is an expression of praise, and the different parts deal with the theme of praise, the mode of praise, and the spirit of praise.
I. The theme ( Psalms 98:1-3).—The psalm commences with the announcement that it is a new song, and it is obvious that it has been written to celebrate a new event in the history of Israel. A new event deserves a new song. The particular occurrence referred to may very likely be the return from the Exile; but the psalm may be applied to any great manifestation of the power and love of God.
The sacred poet says that he has been inspired to sing because God has done marvellous things. The return from the Exile was a marvel, but far more marvellous is the life of Christ. It is an inexhaustible magazine of marvels. What wonder there is in the incarnation, in the teaching of Christ, in His miracles, in His character, in His death! Then the experience of every Christian is a marvel—a world of marvel. What wonder in the awakening of a soul, in conversion, in sanctification!
Although in nature and in providence there are innumerable reasons for praising God, the songs of redeemed souls will always be principally inspired by the work of salvation. God is glorious as Creator, but the name by which the saints always know Him is ‘the God of salvation.’
II. The mode ( Psalms 98:4-6).—The reasons for praising God having been fully given in the first division of the psalm, the sacred poet now calls upon those who have been blessed to praise Him. First, in Psalms 98:4, he addresses all in general; then in Psalms 98:5 he specially addresses the Levites; and finally, in Psalms 98:6, he addresses the priests. The first are to praise with the voice, and they are exhorted to make a loud noise. Are not congregations too much afraid of abandonment in this part of worship? The joyful noise of a great multitude is a far more impressive thing than the most artistic music of a few. Yet the latter ought not to be absent.
III. The spirit ( Psalms 98:7-9).—It is sometimes said sarcastically that gratitude is a vivid anticipation of favours to come, and all who are wont to give to the poor are aware how often beggars put forward the plea that we have helped them before. We are rather disposed to resent this argument, and look upon our having given already as a reason why we should not give again. But God does not resent this kind of asking; He delights when those who come to Him make His former gifts a reason for believing that He will give more, and His acts of salvation are expressly intended to awaken the expectation of greater acts yet to come. So this psalm concludes with the anticipation that the Lord is coming to be King of the whole earth; and every part of creation, land and ocean, rivers and mountains, are called upon to welcome Him, as a crowd with shouting and clapping of hands welcome the approach of a sovereign.
‘All the earth Jehovah made, and all the earth must sing to Him. The multitudinous languages of the sons of Adam who were scattered at Babel, will blend in the same song when the people are gathered at Zion. Not men alone, but the earth itself is to praise its Maker. Made subject to vanity for awhile by a sad necessity, the creation itself is also to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, and brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God, so that sea and forest, field and flood, are to be joyful before the Lord. Is this a dream? Then let us dream again.’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Psalms 98". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20