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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 98

“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him” (Rev 19:6b-7).

We may well put these verses as the title above this psalm, for with the coming of Christ, the King of Israel, the cup of thanksgiving and praise of the faithful remnant of Israel overflows. Back then, the people sang a song because of their deliverance from Egypt (Exo 15:1-18; Psa 77:11-12). But in Isaiah 43, the LORD says: “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? … The people whom I formed for Myself will declare My praise” (Isa 43:18-19; 21).

The song of praise is a new song after a new redemption. Compare Revelation 15 where the LORD is called the King of the nations and all the nations will come and bow down before Him (Rev 15:3-4). The expressions in the new song of this psalm come from the second half of the book of Isaiah (Psa 98:1 - Isa 42:10; Isa 51:16; Isa 52:10; Psa 98:2 - Isa 51:5; Isa 40:5; Psa 98:3 - Isa 49:8; Psa 98:4 - Isa 44:23; Isa 52:9; Psa 98:7 - Isa 55:12).

Not only will the remnant magnify the LORD (Psa 98:4-6), but also the nations, symbolically represented by the sea (Psa 98:7-9), who were at first in rebellion against God, will rejoice before the LORD. Yes, “let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Hallelujah!” (Psa 150:6).

Verses 1-3

Sing to the Redeemer

This is “a psalm” (Psa 98:1a). It is the only psalm in the entire book with this short heading. But the content is all-encompassing. The psalmist again calls for singing “a new song” to the LORD, because He has brought about a new age (Psa 98:1b; cf. Psa 96:1; Psa 33:3). To that belongs a new song.

It is not just a repetition of the song from Psalm 96. It is a strengthening of it. In Psalm 96 we find a song of praise for the Creator-God, here it is a song of praise for the Redeemer-God, a song of praise that belongs to a triumphal march! It is also an answer to the prayers of the remnant (cf. Isa 64:1-4).

To bring about that new age, a time of undisturbed blessing for His people and the whole earth, “He has done wonderful things” (cf. Psa 77:14; Psa 86:10). He has caused everything to turn for the better for His people. In performing His wonders, no one helped Him. He did it Himself, with “His right hand and His holy arm”. His right hand speaks of power (cf. Isa 59:16; Isa 63:5). His arm also speaks of power to which “holy” is added here because His work is a holy work.

These “have gained the victory for Him”, that is, through them redemption, salvation has been gained. While His people deserved judgment, He brought them into blessing for His own sake. This is not primarily about His people, but about Him. The purpose of the work of salvation is the maintaining of His own authority and government.

Every conversion of a human being is a wonder brought about by God. There is nothing of man in it. Those who have been converted will realize that it is because of a work of God’s Spirit in their hearts. By grace a man is saved, not by works (Eph 2:8). Every believer will eternally praise Him for this with songs of thanksgiving and worship. He has done everything to the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph 1:5-6).

Israel’s salvation is “His salvation” (Psa 98:2). He has established His kingdom, He has done it. It is His salvation. That’s how faith sees it. He has made that known all over the earth, not by proclamation in words, but by doing it. In the past it was visible in the redemption of His people from Egypt and the return from exile in Babylon. Above all, it is visible in the work Christ accomplished on the cross.

His salvation and His righteousness are two sides of His work. His salvation means blessing for all who are saved. His righteousness is the basis for this, for Christ fulfilled His righteousness by bearing the sins of all who are saved. Therefore, God can make His salvation come true.

“His lovingkindness and His faithfulness” (Psa 98:3) are the starting point for the unfolding of His power in His salvation and His righteousness. Lovingkindness or love and faithfulness are always present in Him. It belongs to His Being. Lovingkindness is the blessing, love and goodness of the LORD by virtue of His covenant; faithfulness is the assurance that He and His covenant are unchanging.

In His lovingkindness and faithfulness, He has always had in His heart the promised blessing for His people, “the house of Israel” (cf. Lk 1:54-55; 72). The house of Israel is the whole people, the remnant of the two and ten tribes, in the land. All unbelievers perished. The remnant of Israel is “all Israel” that is saved (Rom 11:26; cf. Zec 13:8-9).

The people did think that He had forgotten them (Psa 77:9). But that is impossible, for He cannot forget His lovingkindness and His faithfulness. He cannot deny Himself (2Tim 2:13). That is what the house of Israel will experience. The testimony of “the salvation of our God” will be seen by “all the ends of the earth”. The psalmist speaks of “our God”, that is, the God of His people, the God Who takes care of His people. Everyone on earth will see this and honor Him for it.

The Hebrew word eretz, translated here as “earth”, may also be translated as “land” (Israel). The choice depends on the context. Given the contrast with Psa 98:7 – the sea, symbolizing the nations – it is better to translate the word eretz with ‘land’ in Psa 98:3 and in Psa 98:4. Then in Psa 98:4-6 we find the praise song of Israel and in Psa 98:7-9 the praise song of the nations.

Verses 4-6

Shout Joyfully before the King

What has been said about the LORD in the preceding verses about the redemption He has wrought for His people demands a response. That comes from the psalmist, who calls on “all the earth” to “shout joyfully to the LORD” (Psa 98:4). It must be an outburst of joyful shouting and singing praises (cf. Isa 44:23; Isa 49:13; Isa 52:9; Isa 54:1; Isa 55:12).

The singing of the praises must be accompanied by a stringed instrument, the lyre, and the singing must be loud (Psa 98:5; cf. Isa 51:3). There are also two wind instruments: trumpets and the horn (Psa 98:6). The trumpet is used to call the people together and bring them to God’s remembrance (Num 10:2; 8-10). The sound of the horn announces the jubilee year, when everything is returned to its rightful owner, and the enthronement of the king (Lev 25:9; 1Kgs 1:39). Both events are fulfilled with the coming of the Messiah.

All the additions underscore the revelry. The joy swells into a great concert. It could not be otherwise, for the great “King, the LORD” reigns. He has taken the reign upon Himself and brought the earth back under the rule of God. That means great prosperity and blessing for God’s people and the whole earth. Who then would not be immensely happy?

For us, the Lord Jesus already has dominion over us now. God has already made Him Lord and Christ. He possesses His kingdom in heaven and in the heart of every person who has accepted Him as Lord and confesses it with his mouth (Rom 10:9-10). Such a person is a subject in the kingdom of God which at this time consists of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”, in which Christ is served (Rom 14:17-18).

Verses 7-9

Sing for Joy Before the Judge

Because the Creator-King reigns, the sea and the world of the nations are called to join the chorus of the joyful shouting crowd (Psa 98:7). “The sea … and all it contains” is the sea of the nations. It is synonymous with the second half of the verse “the world and those who dwell in it” (cf. Psa 96:11b). The sea of nations, once whipped up and troubled, producing mire and mud (Isa 57:20), is now going to clap its hands before the LORD, Who has come. There will be an outburst of joy. “The sea” is to “roar and all it contains”. The sea, which has always been mighty and indomitable, joins with all that it contains with its roaring voice to the chorus shouting for joy before the King.

The foothills of the sea, the rivers, which traverse the world, and the mountains, which rise above the world, are called to express themselves in a loud and joyful tone (Psa 98:8; cf. Isa 55:12). The expressions of joy fill the creation that has been freed from the sighing caused by sin (Rom 8:19-22). Creation breathes a sigh of relief; it comes to rest and to the purpose for which God created it: to honor Him.

Why should the whole world rejoice and be merry “before the LORD” (Psa 98:9)? Because He is coming to judge the world in righteousness. That means that all evil will be righteously removed by Him and then He will rule righteously (Isa 11:3-5). This is what the believer and with him the whole creation craves.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 98". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.