This psalm is simply titled A Psalm, and it is the only one given that simple title with no other explanation. Like Psalm 96, it speaks of praise to God for His work of salvation in widening circles – first Israel, then all the earth, and finally all creation.
“A noble, spirit-stirring Psalm. It may have been written on the occasion of a great national triumph at the time; but may, perhaps, afterwards be taken up at the period of the great millennial restoration of all things.” (Thomas Chalmers, cited in Charles Spurgeon)
A. Singing praise to the Savior.
“There are striking parallels between the first part of Psalm 98 and Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), which may mean that the mother of Jesus had the psalm in mind as she composed her hymn and that she rightly saw that the promises of the psalm were to be fulfilled in the spiritual victories to be achieved by Jesus Christ.” (Boice)
1. (1) Praising Yahweh with a new song.
Oh, sing to the LORD a new song!
For He has done marvelous things;
His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.
a. Sing to the LORD a new song: The idea of a new song is found in many places in Scripture (Psalms 33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 144:9 and 149:1; Isaiah 42:10; and Revelation 5:9 and 14:3). The concept of the new song means there should be something fresh and dynamic about worship and the songs we sing to God.
i. Miriam didn’t use an Egyptian song. Deborah didn’t use Miriam’s song. “There must be new songs on new occasions of triumph.” (Spurgeon)
ii. A new song: “The song of redeeming grace can never grow old, even though the same words recur…. Are not His mercies new every morning, and His faithfulness every night? Is not His love always at work spreading thy table for new meals, making thy bed for new slumber, contriving new alleviations and delights? Look out for these till meditation induces thanksgiving.” (Meyer)
iii. “The new song, in the context of this hope of victory, evidently means a song to be composed for the occasion; other suggestions seem over-elaborate.” (Kidner)
b. For He has done marvelous things: The new song has a reason – to extol the great works of God, His marvelous things. It isn’t empty praise or singing for the sake of singing. The worship is connected to life experience of His marvelous things.
i. Marvelous things: “Niphlaoth, ‘miracles,’ the same word as in Psalm 96:3, where we translate it wonders.” (Clarke)
c. His right hand and His holy arm: These are the instruments of God’s victory, the expressions of His skill and strength. As in Isaiah 52:10, the idea of His holy arm is that God has rolled up His sleeve to do His mighty work. Together, His hand and arm have gained Him the victory.
i. Right hand: “So Christ fought our battle with his right hand; he did it with ease, with strength, and with infinite wisdom.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “As the singer rejoices over the salvation of God manifested on behalf of Israel, he emphasises the fact that it has been wrought by Jehovah alone. ‘His right hand, and His holy arm’; these were the only instruments available for, or capable of working deliverance.” (Morgan)
2. (2-3) The revelation of Yahweh’s victory.
The LORD has made known His salvation;
His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
a. The LORD has made known His salvation: The marvelous things of Psalm 98:1 have been published in the sight of the nations.
· This is evident because of the public nature of God’s unfolding work of redemption.
· This is a prophecy of a coming day when all the earth will hear.
· This is an exhortation to God’s people to proclaim the message of His salvation and righteousness.
i. Salvation, righteousness: “Through his power the Lord has obtained victory – ‘salvation’ and ‘righteousness.’ In Isaiah these two words are synonyms for the establishment of God’s just order on earth in fulfillment of the prophetic word (cf. Isa 46:13; 51:5-6, 8).” (VanGemeren)
ii. Made known: “The Lord is to be praised not only for effecting human salvation, but also for making it known, for man would never have discovered it for himself.” (Spurgeon)
iii. The New Testament shows that God made known His salvation in a way beyond the psalmist’s expectation. The Person and Work of Jesus Christ and the worldwide spread of the Gospel are fulfillments of this.
iv. “The Hebrew singer celebrated a truth the full value of which he hardly recognized.” (Morgan)
b. He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel: One of God’s marvelous things is His unending mercy and faithfulness to the covenant people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is strange to think that some believe God has forgotten His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel.
c. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God: God’s work was centered in the house of Israel, but the ends of the earth were never to be forgotten. From the very beginning of His covenant plan with Abraham, all the families of the earth were in view (Genesis 12:3).
i. All the ends of the earth: “All the inhabitants of the earth, from one end to another.” (Poole)
B. Bringing praise with music.
1. (4) The music of joyful song.
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth;
Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.
a. Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth: Since the great news of God’s marvelous things (Psalm 98:1) goes to the ends of the earth (Psalm 98:3), it is right for all the earth to praise Yahweh.
i. “The joyful noise of verses 4 and 6 meets us elsewhere as the spontaneous shout that might greet a king or a moment of victory. It is the word translated ‘shout aloud’ in Zechariah 9:9, the prophecy that was fulfilled on Palm Sunday.” (Kidner)
ii. “‘The noise of temple worship was legendary,’ according to Marvin E. Tate. He points to the accounts of Israel’s worship in 2 Chronicles 29:25-30 and Ezra 3:10-13, where in the second passage the sound of the instruments and the shouts of the people are said to have been “heard far away” (Ezra 3:13).” (Boice)
b. Break forth in song, rejoice: The praise is to be enthusiastic, varied, and in song. This is the opposite of the dreary singing of somber songs.
2. (5-6) The music of many instruments.
Sing to the LORD with the harp,
With the harp and the sound of a psalm,
With trumpets and the sound of a horn;
Shout joyfully before the LORD, the King.
a. Sing to the LORD with the harp: This can be understood in two senses. The first is that musical instruments should accompany the singing mentioned in Psalm 98:4. The second is that the instruments themselves sing to the LORD a song of praise.
b. With the harp…trumpets…a horn: A band of musicians added to the praise of the song, the psalm, and the joyful shout. The combination of instruments assumes some level of effort and skill among the musicians.
i. The sound of a psalm: “I think zimrah, which we translate Psalm, means either a musical instrument, or a species of ode modulated by different voices.” (Clarke)
ii. “The horn [shofar] proclaimed such events as the year of jubilee, or the accession of a king: Leviticus 25:9ff.; 1 Kings 1:39.” (Kidner)
C. Majestic praise from all creation.
1. (7-8) The praise from all creation.
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell in it;
Let the rivers clap their hands;
Let the hills be joyful together before the LORD,
a. Let the sea roar, and all its fullness: The musical instruments mentioned in the previous verses were not the only voices to give God the praise He deserves. Now the sea itself is called to add its roar to the sound of praise. The rivers and hills are brought into the worship team with their joyful sounds.
i. “These appeals to nature in her great departments – of the sea in its mighty amplitude, and the earth with its floods and hills – form, not a warrant, but a call on Christian ministers to recognise God more in their prayers and sermons as the God of Creation, instead of restricting themselves so exclusively to the peculiar doctrines of Christianity. Do the one, and not leave the other undone.” (Chalmers, cited in Spurgeon)
b. The world and those who dwell in it: The poetic image of praise from inanimate creation is wonderful, but not enough. The praise should also come from those who dwell in it – perhaps a reference not only to people, but the animal world as well.
i. “The Psalmist, beholding in spirit the accomplishment of the promises, the advent of Christ, and the glory of his kingdom…bids the whole earth break forth into joy.” (Horne)
2. (9) The reason for this mighty praise.
For He is coming to judge the earth.
With righteousness He shall judge the world,
And the peoples with equity.
a. For He is coming to judge the earth: The strong and deep praise described in this psalm is not only for the marvelous things God has done (Psalm 98:1). It is also for the work He is about to do – with righteousness He shall judge the world. His righteous rule and reign will be a welcome relief for all creation that has suffered under the sin and rebellion of mankind.
i. “It makes the point which Romans 8:19ff. expounds: that nature will not come into its own until man himself, its proper master, is ruled in righteousness and equity.” (Kidner)
ii. “I think of the way C. S. Lewis developed this idea in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the first section of that book, when Narnia was under the power of the wicked Witch of the North, the land was in a state of perpetual winter. Spring never came. But when Aslan rose from the dead the ice began to melt, flowers bloomed, and the trees turned green. It is poetical writing, but it describes something that will happen. The rivers will indeed clap their hands. The mountains will indeed sing. And we will all join in.” (Boice)
b. And the peoples with equity: In the ancient world, justice was rare – and this is still true sometimes. Judges were bribed or turned by ideology and prejudice. The idea of coming judgment with equity was a great relief to those who were often oppressed and denied justice.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com