Wednesday of Pentecost 23 – Psalm 98

Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
    he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
    to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
    let the hills sing for joy together
before the Lord, for he comes
    to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity.

It was with dread that I picked up that envelope at the student services. The student whose exam was in that envelope was struggling, really struggling. We had worked out an accommodation for him to take the exam at another time, with some extra time, through the testing service at the university, but I seriously doubted how much help that would be. Yet, when I grabbed my pen and set the exam against the grading key, he did well, not an A+ but well. It was evident that he had taken my admonition to study to heart. His mastery of concepts and the information required was good. I finished grading the exam and thanked God for a little victory that day.

This psalm is familiar to all of us. The familiar Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World,” is a metrical paraphrase of this psalm by Isaac Watts. Just from the title and as you consider the words of Watts’ hymn you realize that the world is glad that God’s judgment is rendered. The sea roars, the rivers clap their hands, the hills sing together for joy. All this is because the Lord comes to judge the world with righteousness. Have you ever wondered at the joy of sea, rivers, and hills? Elsewhere in the psalter the forests and mountains also get into the rejoicing act (Ps 96:12 and 148:9). Back in Deuteronomy 30 Moses had called heaven and earth as witnesses against the people of God if they broke that covenant. They did break that covenant, but God sent His Son to bear that price and atone for the sins of the world. Now, the witnesses that were supposed to bear testimony against us, have the joyful duty of bearing witness to what Christ has done. They robed themselves in darkness that day which Jesus died. But on that day to come, that last day, they shall shout the truth of Christ’s redemption, a far more joyful task. My day of bearing witness to the study and hard work of a struggling student is only the tiniest fraction of that joy. I look forward to the rivers clapping their hands and the hills singing together for joy.

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