Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter – Psalm 98

1 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.

I have always loved this Psalm. It is the basis for the classic Isaac Watts paraphrase and hymn we often sing at Christmas: Joy to the World. It fits there well but also here in the Easter season. The psalmist is encouraging everyone to get into the celebratory mood and take part. God has remembered his steadfast love and his faithfulness and acted upon it. All the ends of the earth can see it. I think about all the people all over the world who for the first time believed in Jesus today. That is over 100,000 people today. Can you imagine meeting them all in one place? That is a small city!

He wants this to be a musical celebration. Horns, lyres, and trumpets are mentioned, but so are voices raised in song and shouts of praise. This is loud. The psalmist does not imagine a calm or serene sort of joy, but one which bursts forth from people with a shout.

He then expands the celebration, not only people making music but now the sea roars and all that fills it. Does he mean the fish and whales and other animals? He urges the rivers to clap their hands and the hills themselves to sing for joy together. This is getting to be a very strange party indeed.

But it is verse 9 which throws me for the real loop. The reason for all this joy is that God comes to judge the world. Wait a minute! Aren’t we supposed to be afraid of that? Is that a cause for celebration? Indeed it is. Jesus has died and risen again to remove from us all fear of condemnation and judgement. He comes to show the world the holes in his hands and feet which are the marks of our redemption, the very holes which Thomas touched. He will judge the world with equity and righteousness, but it will be his righteousness which is applied to us. That is what Easter means! We come to the end of the world with joy. 

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