Sing Praise

Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.

The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
(Psalm 98:1-4)

Scripture Study

98:1 holy arm God’s arm is a symbol of his strength in both judgment and salvation. The arm of God is a symbol of His strength in judgment as well as salvation (Exod 6:6; Isa 52:10). The right hand, specifically, represents the hand of special blessing according to Hebrew thought (Gen 48:17–20). It also is connected as a metaphor to God’s protection (Ps 119:173) and His powerful acts of salvation (98:1; 109:27; 118:15–16) or creation (95:5; 102:25).

98:2 his salvation Refers to deliverance from real hazards and problems. The Hebrew word used here, yeshu’ah, refers to help or deliverance. God’s yeshu’ah here is viewed as deliverance from hazards and problems. his righteousness The psalmist describes how God’s deliverance displays His righteousness.

98:3 the house of Israel Probably refers to family or community. the salvation of our God Coupled with v. 2, the term yeshu’ah (“salvation”) provides a bookend structure to define what God has revealed to Israel and the nations. By remembering His commitment to Israel and acting on it, God has shown Himself to the world.

98:4 Sing joyfully to the Lord Compare 100:1.

Scripture Reflection

The psalm is the Old Testament text for Isaac Watts’s Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World!” The hymn celebrates the birth of Jesus as the coming of the LORD to rule the world with truth and grace. It uses the language and themes of the psalm in order to say that the nativity is an event of the kind and significance proclaimed in the psalm. The psalm announces the coming of the Savior God as king of the world.

Psalmists and prophets saw the exodus and the return as a “coming” of the LORD into the affairs of human beings. They believed that the mystery of that coming was the meaning of history. The kingdom of God was coming through salvation. The New Testament witnesses saw in Jesus a continuation and climax of these salvific comings. In an echo of verse 3, Mary called her unborn child a marvelous deed in which the LORD “remembered his mercy to Israel.” Paul saw in the gospel of Jesus Christ the salvation of God that reveals God’s righteousness to the nations.

The early Christians chanted the psalm as a hymn about the Christ to express their joy at having found a king who brought salvation instead of oppression and misery. When Isaac Watts transformed the psalm into a hymn for Christmas, he was tutored by Scripture and tradition—and he got it right. “Joy to the World!” as hymn reflects and renews what the psalm has always meant as Christmas liturgy. It catches and repeats the exuberance of humankind and nature in recognition of what is happening. It interprets Christmas as a decisive event in the reign of God, something that changes history for the nations. It maintains the connection between salvation and rule: “The Savior reigns.”

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.