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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 98

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-9

Psalms 98:1-9

O sing unto the Lord a new song.

Genuine praise

Genuine praise is founded on the strongest reason (Psalms 98:1-2). Why should man be so urgently called on to praise God?

1. Because of the extraordinary deliverance which was vouchsafed to him--from the bondage of ignorance, carnality, prejudice, and guilt. Unfallen angels should always sing praises unto the Lord, and they always do; but we have no reason to believe that they have such deliverances to celebrate as we have.

2. Because all the extraordinary deliverances vouchsafed to him originated in the mind of God. “His mercy,” “His truth, . . . His righteousness.” As transgressors of His laws and rebels against His government, men, instead of having any just reason for expecting deliverance, have the strongest reasons to apprehend eternal bondage. It was of His free love and compassion that He interposed. Therefore “sing unto the Lord a new song.”

Genuine praise should be rendered by all with rapturous enthusiasm.

1. By all. This means all mankind. Praise should be as wide as the race. Its spirit, like the tide in ocean, should heave and swell, and rule the mighty mass.

2. By all with joy. True praise is not a ceremonial service, not an irksome duty, still less a moan of sadness, it is the soul breaking out into the transports of delight.

3. By all with enthusiastic rapture. (Homilist.)

Christianity’s most joyous fact

These words, this Easter Sunday, will find an echo in every Christian heart and congregation. The hymns of Lent, and the passion songs, are beautiful, and touch the heart; but if they were not to be followed by any Easter hymns our condition would indeed be sad. It would be a night without a morning. But today, everywhere, the Church resounds with this song, “O sing unto the Lord a new song!” For the great Easter message is--

A most assured word.

1. It bears the bloodstained seals of many witnesses. See the Gospel histories, listen to the impassioned arguments of St. Paul, who brands himself as a false witness if his message be not true.

2. Upon it rests the massive building of the entire Church of Christ. If it had been founded upon imposture or falsehood, would it be standing now?

3. And if this also testifies the heartfelt experience of all true Christians, in themselves they have the realized presence of Christ. He speaks to them, they to Him. They know He is with them.

It is a most precious word. For it enables us to believe properly, to live godly, and to die happily. (Charles Von Gerok, D. D.)

A summons to song

According to the language of the “royal singer,” God’s great cathedral of nature is full of magnificent harmonies. The heavens rejoice; the earth sings; the sea and the fulness thereof roar in deep-toned bass; the fields with all they contain, and the trees of the woodland with their ten thousand tongues, peal forth melodies. This chorus we have in creation; and the laziest in the song is man, who should be loudest, noblest, heartiest. Oh, it is time for us to be roused to duty by an inspired voice! We have been musicless too long, prosaic too long, dormant and mute too long, ungrateful and selfish too long. We want the summons to song, to action, to thankfulness. “O sing unto the Lord a new song,” etc. And why a “new” song? Because new mercies, new deliverances, new gifts, new triumphs demand new songs. God’s “marvellous things,” or doings, are many and multiform. They are to be seen in creation, in providence, in redemption, in grace, in the world, in the Church, in nations, in families, in individuals. Everywhere in His theatre of action are His wonders manifest. It is impossible for us to be praiseless, if we only pause and recount our Father’s gracious dealings, and manifold mercies, and wondrous goodness towards us. But interpreters of the Scripture refer this psalm to Jesus Christ. Its prophetic finger points to Him who was not only marvellous in doing, but likewise marvellous in person. From the manger to the ascension-mount, the cloud of mystery enveloped Him. At times He seemed near, intimately near as a brother-man--at other times distant, infinitely measured off as the awful and the “mighty God.” Every privilege, every blessing, every gift, every enjoyment, every mercy crowded into our daily lives, flows to us through that Divinity which, blending with humanity, satisfied the claims of holiness, and instituted peace between heaven and earth, God and man. Have we, then, no song to sing unto Him who has done such “marvellous things”? Yes, thank Heaven, we have a song; and while the redeemed on high chant it, we join in the chorus, saying, “Worthy is the Lamb.” Once more, not only are we called upon to break forth into joyful song because of the doings of “marvellous things,” but also because of the achievement of splendid victory. “His right hand and holy arm hath gotten Him the victory.” This unquestionably has specific reference to the sternest battle and grandest conquest ever fought and won on the world’s great carnage-field. Through Christ’s victory we shall be victorious. Our life in grace is a prolonged battle--a succession of engagements. We are on the winning side, and shall be “more than conquerors through Him that hath loved us.” Awaiting us, in the not far-distant heaven, is the crown, the palm, the robe, the kingdom, and the welcome song! Let our onward march be brightened by the music of martial songs and celebrations of our Captain’s praise, whose “right hand and holy arm” will assuredly secure for us the victory. (J. O. Keen, D. D.)

Verse 2

Psalms 98:2

The Lord hath made known His salvation.

The praise of the vastness of God’s salvation

Mr. Booth, of the Blue Ribbon Army, told me that on his first journey to England, before he started, he said to his wife, “I have dreamed a dream. I have dreamt that I shall be wrecked and be the only person that will escape; and what a thrilling story that will be for me to tell.” He left home, and there was a collision, both ships were in very great danger, but by the wonderful providence of God both ships got back in harbour, and there was nobody lost whatever. So he said to his wife, “Is not this a much more thrilling story to tell? Is it not a much more happy thing to have to say, ‘Saved, and all saved that sailed with me, not one of them lost‘?” Oh, that we might have the privilege of saying, “Here am I, and the children that Thou hast given me.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verses 7-9

Psalms 98:7-9

Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

Man and nature

When piety and poetry are married to each other, such a song as this is the offspring of their marriage. Alas! that the two should be so often divorced--that the pious man should so often look abroad upon the earth with unimaginative gaze, and that the poet should so often revel in the beauties of nature with a heart unmoved by any perception of the Divine glory. Here we have a man who is elevated into a state of joyful adoration by the Spirit of God, transferring his own emotion to the world around him, and, without any sense of incongruity, calling upon the inanimate creation to share his gladness and to join him in his worship. The truth is that a religious man becomes or remains unimaginative, not in virtue of, but in spite of, his religion. And so far is it from being an unreal or “sentimental” thing for a devout man to associate the inanimate creation with himself in praising the Creator, that, on the contrary, such association is natural to all simple, fervid godliness. For man--according to the Divine idea--is the prophet, priest, and king of nature.

Man is nature’s king. The psalmist speaks as if he were the leader of nature’s orchestra. And indeed, insignificant as man may seem in presence of those forces by which he is surrounded, yet here he stands in the midst of the world, “by the grace of God,” its king. The earth was made for man, not man for the earth. If the “Great King” were governing nature capriciously, without any fixed or discoverable order, man would be the slave of nature, instead of her lord. He would be at the mercy of her ever-varying moods,--liable to have his plans nullified by the unexpected outbreaks of her power, and to be himself dragged as a captive at the wheels of her mighty chariot. But, as it is, every fresh discovery which man makes in the realm of science is a new gem in that royal crown which bespeaks his lordship over the world. All fuller knowledge of nature’s facts is virtually, for him, a more extended mastery over nature’s forces. And so he harnesses these forces to the chariot of human progress, and makes them do his bidding.

Man is nature’s priest. The whole inanimate creation, reflecting the glory of God, and radiant with the beauty which He has impressed upon it, seems to the mind of the psalmist to be praising its Creator. Or rather, looking abroad upon the world with the eye of a priest who is laying upon the Divine altar the sacrifice of grateful adoration, he takes it upon himself to interpret and present the inarticulate offering of nature. The most beautiful melody may be played upon the harp or the organ; you may call it a “sacred” melody if you please; and the sounds which are drawn forth from the instrument may, in their very nature, be such as would furnish a most fitting vehicle of worship; yet, in these sounds there is no actual praising of God, if there be no praise in the heart of player or listener. But, on the other hand, even if the player be himself an ungodly man, let there only be some one by who can interpret these sounds and who makes them his own through sympathy with their spiritual significance, having his heart attuned to the feeling which they are fitted to express,--and now the melody is no longer soulless; it becomes a living thing; the very sounds themselves rise up before God as acceptable worship. In like manner, throughout the whole region of the material world, considered merely in itself, there is no actual praise of God; for there is no spirit conscious of His presence, thankful for His goodness, exulting in His smile. The trees of the wood are beautiful as their green leaves glance in the sunbeams and rustle in the summer breeze; and the song of the birds amongst the branches harmonizes with the idea of thankful worship; but there is no thankfulness--no worship--there, until man comes, with a devout, joyful heart, consecrating the grove into a temple and making the birds his choristers. Influenced by the beauty and music of the world, be in turn fills all that beauty and music with a soul. To his eye the sun is as “a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoicing as a strong man to run a race.” To his ear “the heavens declare the glory of God.” And, having an ear for the voiceless language of nature, when she speaks to him of God, he in turn becomes, as it were, the voice of nature, enabling her to speak to God. And who can doubt that, through the exercise of this “royal priesthood,” the whole world becomes more beautiful in the sight of the Creator Himself? The smile upon the face of earth, as it brightens beneath the sunshine, becomes a living smile. And nature is thus made to praise God, just as the harp or the organ praises Him, when the listener has not only an appreciative ear, but also a worshipping soul.

Man is nature’s prophet. The psalmist feels sure that the righteous and merciful God will not allow sin to disfigure and curse His world for ever, that He will manifest Himself as the rectifier of the earth’s evil, the healer of the earth’s sorrow, the enlightener of the earth’s darkness. And there is no wonder that, in his glad hopefulness, he should call upon the inanimate creation to rejoice, as it were, with him, in prospect of that coming day which he himself delights in anticipating. For the prophetic vision of the world’s regeneration implies and includes the vision of nature’s redemption. Surely it is but natural that we should thus identify ourselves with the world in which we dwell, so as to associate its future, in our thoughts and hopes, with the future of its inhabitants. We know how much more heavenly this earth seems to us when we ourselves are in a heavenly frame of mind; and we can conceive in what a “celestial light” it would be “apparelled” were it only the abode of an unsinning race. We observe, moreover, how, as mankind advances in intelligence and goodness, the face of the earth undergoes a corresponding change, so that, even literally, the “wilderness” is often made to “rejoice and blossom as the rose.” And therefore, cherishing, as man ought to do, a faith in the ultimate perfection of the race, it is only right that, as the prophet of nature, he should also speak with glad hopefulness concerning the future which is in store for the material creation. We may well rejoice in the thought that this earth, linked to our memories by so many associations, is to share the destinies of our redeemed humanity. And, looking forward with prophetic eye to the time when this world shall be the perfect dwelling-place of a perfected race, we may, with poetic fitness, call upon the inanimate creation to share our gladness. (T. C. Finlayson.)


Psalms 99:1-9

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 98". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/psalms-98.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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