I realize we are still four months away from Christmas, but I thought it would be interesting to look at the 98th Psalm.
1 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.
2 The Lord has made known His salvation;
His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.
3 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.
4 Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.
5 Sing to the Lord with the harp,
With the harp and the sound of a psalm,
6 With trumpets and the sound of a horn;
Shout joyfully before the Lord, the King.
7 Let the sea roar, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell in it;
8 Let the rivers clap their hands;
Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord,
9 For He is coming to judge the earth.
With righteousness He shall judge the world,
And the peoples with equity.
From this Psalm Isaac Watts found the inspiration for his popular hymn “joy to the World,” often classified as a Christmas carol but more accurately identified as a “kingdom hymn.” for Isaac Watts described Christ’s second advent, not His first, the Messianic kingdom and not the manger. The parallels to the 96th psalm are obvious but the psalms are not identical. This psalm was written to praise the Lord for a great victor over Israel’s enemies. Many have thought it was perhaps the victory of the Medes and Persians over Babylon which eventually led to the return of the Jewish exiles to their own land.
Some of the language reflects the language of Isaiah the prophet who in chapters 40-66 wrote about the exodus of the Jews from Babylon. But the psalm speaks of a future judgment and a future victory. What the psalmist saw and Isaac Watts wrote about was the final destruction of sin and suffering that will happen at Christ’s Second coming. You see, the Psalmist foresaw that the destruction of ancient Babylon was just a foretaste of God’s judgement at the end of time.
Therefore, let us rejoice and be glad, 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!