Psalm 98: Liturgical Education; a sermon

Family Advance Conference; Joint Service with Trinity Presbyterian Church

Sermon: Liturgical Education: Celebrating God’s Song and Salvation

Text: Psalm 98

Pastor Uriesou T. Brito

Text: Sing to Yahweh a new song,
For He has done wonderful things,
His Salvation-worker is His right hand and His holy arm.
Yahweh has made known His Salvation;

Before the eyes of the nations He has revealed His righteousness.
He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the land have seen the Salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to Yahweh, all the land;
Break forth and sing for joy and make music.
Make music to Yahweh with the lyre;
With the lyre and the voice of song.
With trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn
Shout joyfully before the King, Yahweh.

Let the sea roar and its fullness,
The world and those who dwell in her.
The rivers: let them clap their hands;
The mountains all together: let them sing for joy before Yahweh.

For He is coming to judge the land.
He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity.[1]

This is the Word of the Lord!

Thanks be to God!

Sermon: People of God, Isaac Watts wrote:

“No more let sin and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as the curse is found.”[2]

Watts was inspired to compose this hymn in light of Psalm 98. It was this psalm that drove the songwriter to compose this jubilant proclamation that heaven and nature sings the coming of the king.

In light of the Advent Season a few weeks away, it is significant that we meditate and hear this psalm this morning, for Psalm 98 offers us a powerful glimpse into the cosmic nature of Jesus’ coming. We are all aware that there are worldwide implications for the Second Coming of our Lord, but we must realize that it is the First Coming of Christ, at His incarnation, that fulfills this great world-wide party the psalmists sings of in Psalm 98.

This passage can be divided into three sections. In verses 1-3, there is doxology in the Church—the house of Israel; in verses 4-6, there is doxology in the land; and in verses 7-9, there is doxology in all creation.

There is a progression in this great psalm: it begins like a mustard seed and it ends like a tree covering all the earth. In many ways, Psalm 98 is a summary of world history. It begins with a small nation praising Yahweh and it ends with a mature Bride from every tongue and nation rejoicing. This song ends every political debate on whether religion should be privatized or made public. It is a song that castigates and rebukes any Christian body that attempts to limit God’s reign to one sphere or another. This song tells us that the praising of God is not relegated merely to the Church, but to all spheres of human society. But do not overlook the fact that it is the Church that begins this holy act of worship. It is the Church that begins this tsunami of praise, which eventually covers all the earth with the glory of God.

The Psalmist begins by calling us to:

Sing to Yahweh a new song,
For He has done wonderful things,
His Salvation-worker is His right hand and His holy arm.
Yahweh has made known His Salvation;

To sing a new song is to respond to the marvelous deeds of Yahweh. He is the rescuer, deliverer, and redeemer of His people. When God performs a great act on behalf of His people, God’s people compose and sing new songs to celebrate.[3] This is always the response of God’s people when they are delivered: they sing to Yahweh a new song. This is the response of the people in Exodus 15. When God delivers them from the hands of the Egyptians, the people sing:

“I will sing to the Yahweh, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his chariots he has hurled into the sea.
Yahweh is my strength and my song, and my salvation;

This phrase “wonderful deeds” that appears in Psalm 98 is also used in Exodus 15; an indication that this psalm is a psalm of deliverance–but deliverance from what?–deliverance from an old world to a new world; deliverance from darkness to light. This new song for us is the song of the gospel. It is the song that something new has happened in our midst that calls for continual celebration and feasting. This new song is a song about God’s new deliverance; a deliverance which occurred at the First Coming of Christ, when evil and darkness began to be confronted in a decisive way in the Person of Jesus Christ.

This is the beginning of liturgical education: the celebration of God’s great deeds. This education must shape the training of God’s people in all times and in all places. To put it simply: the “who” cannot be separated from the “what” of redemption. That is, Yahweh cannot be separated from what He has done for His people in history. It is Yahweh’s works that cause us to sing. The reason the psalmist calls us to sing is because we are created in the Image of God. We are liturgical beings;[4] musical and rhythmic people. What is the chief end of man– To glorify God by singing a new song: this is how we enjoy him forever.

The Psalmist then says:

His Salvation-worker is His right hand and His holy arm.
Yahweh has made known His Salvation;

Once again this language is found in Exodus.[5] What does it look like when God reveals His arm? Exodus says that He shatters the enemy.[6] This is how His salvation is made known: He destroys His enemies and this destruction is comprehensive. The atheist is blind for he questions the existence of God because he cannot see His deeds,[7] but we dare not question the deeds of God because they are visible to all the nations of the earth.

As the psalmist puts it:

Before the eyes of the nations He has revealed His righteousness.

He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the land have seen the Salvation of our God.

Who sees the deeds of Yahweh? The eyes of the nations see that he has revealed His righteousness. And what is His righteousness? It is his fidelity to His promises. God’s righteousness means that His promises are Yes and Amen and He will not fail His people.

Psalm 98 is showing us that the gospel is not some private experience of God, but an action of God in history to rescue his people publicly.[8]

This salvation is a public act; it is a political act, because the gospel is highly and profoundly political. According to Psalm 98, it is gospel treason to view the gospel as non-political, because the gospel speaks to politics. Liturgical education celebrates God’s public deeds in song and salvation because it speaks to the political arena. Our Lord Jesus suffered and died publicly in front of the religious and political authorities of the day. His death was not a private event, but neither was His resurrection. Jesus was raised publicly for our justification and to reveal once and for all that His Kingship implies that the kings of the earth must worship Him alone. We do not live in order to make Jesus Lord someday; we live to celebrate His Lordship now.

Yahweh remembers his faithfulness to the house of Israel. We can say today, He remembers His faithfulness to the New Israel; to His holy Bride, because this is where doxology begins: in the Church and then it flows to the ends of the earth.

We see this worship flowing to the earth. The psalmist continues:

Shout joyfully to Yahweh, all the land;
Break forth and sing for joy and make music.
Make music to Yahweh with the lyre;
With the lyre and the voice of song.
With trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn
Shout joyfully before the King, Yahweh.

The progression now goes forth into the land: from Church to land. This is the overflowing of worship. If you want to build a case for composing music, for using musical instruments, and for singing strongly with feast-like voices, this section of Psalm 98 makes that case. The references here to musical instruments[9] are references to the tools of warfare. It was only when David played the lyre with his hands that Saul was refreshed and the demons departed. Instruments are weapons of warfare. You can’t march without rhythm. Celebrating God’s song and salvation demand basic musical education.

According to this psalm singing is political. What you do in Church affects the world. Your voices announce God’s kingship. If you want an a-political religion, then the Christian faith is not for you, because the Christian gospel is all about politics. Singing this new song means singing the demise of the evil and corrupt systems of this world. The entirety of the Christian message is one of perpetual warfare, and in warfare you need weapons and strength, and the tempo of this warfare is not found in Bach, it is found in David and Moses. As the psalmist says, “Shout joyfully before the King, Yahweh.”

Finally, this sacred progression comes to an end in verses 7-9:

Let the sea roar and its fullness,
The world and those who dwell in her.
The rivers: let them clap their hands;
The mountains all together: let them sing for joy before Yahweh.

For He is coming to judge the land.
He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity.

Worship begins in the Church. She is the alternative city; the alternative nation. Through her worship and life, she establishes a model for the nations of the earth. Through singing, through word, water, bread, and wine she fights for the justice of all the nations. The Church is not dependent on earthly structures and institutions to change the world,[10] because God has given her all she needs. As Martin Luther said: “The Church is the font of hope in all the world.” And from that font of hope, worship flows out into the nations, and now into all of creation: from the Church to the land, and to the world. All creation exalts Yahweh; all creation sings this new Song of deliverance and salvation. This is a picture of world history; a picture, which is far from being fulfilled, but a picture that will be fulfilled before Christ returns.

The psalmist tells us that the One who will restore full justice and equity in the world is Yahweh himself. He is, as psalm 94 tells us, the Great Avenger. He is the One who brings fire from heaven to consume wickedness and He is the One who guides civil rulers to do her job well as His deacons.[11] The greatest response we can give to the enemies of the gospel is singing the gospel. This psalm makes clear that salvation will flow to the ends of the earth and the only thing that Yahweh’s enemies can do is to watch and hear the cosmic song of praise.

Liturgical education is eschatological; it looks to the future. However, it also looks to that decisive moment in history when Christ entered the world and earth received her King, so that as far as the curse is found healing follows. Liturgical Education demands a wholistic view of life and a high view of worship.

Parents, make music central in the education of your children. Make the Psalter central in their education. Encourage them to love the music of the Church. As parents you set the example for your children. If you do not love God’s music, they will not love God’s music. How can they celebrate God’s song and salvation without knowing what that looks like?

God is judging the world and He is doing it through the worship of His people. May His Church roar like the seas and sing for joy the salvation of Yahweh, our King.

In The Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


[1] Translation used at Providence Church. Translated by James B. Jordan for use at Providence.

[3] See Lusk’s sermons on Psalm 98. Trinity Presbyterian Church.

[4] See Jim Jordan’s Liturgical Man, Liturgical Woman at Rite Reasons. http://www.biblicalhorizons.com

[5] References to the song of Deborah is found in Exodus 15.

[6] See Exodus 15:6, ESV.

[7] Romans 8:7-8

[8] Rich Lusk.

[9] See my post at apologus.wordpress.com where I disagree with Calvin on this issue.

[10] See Lusk.

[11] Romans 13.

 

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About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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