Psalm 97 opens with the LORD reigning as King, and the inhabitants of the earth rejoicing (97:1). Christ is presented in His majesty, and His judgment is described as one of righteousness and judgment (97:2). He is just, and holy, for “fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about” (97:3). The earth trembles, and nothing can stand in His “presence” (literally, the person), for God is holy (97:4-5). Indeed, “the heavens declare [God’s] righteousness, and all the people see his glory” (97:6).
The Shame and Confusion of the Heathen (97:7)
When Christ reigns, the heathen who have worshipped and served “graven images” will find their idols are not gods at all. They are, in the words of the psalmist, “The work of men’s hands. 16They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; 17They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths” (Psalm 135:15-17).
The Rejoicing of the Saints of God (97:8-9)
When the people of Zion (i.e., Jerusalem), hear how the heathen have been confounded and put to shame, they will be glad and Judah will rejoice (97:8). There is none like the LORD, for He is exalted, “high above all the earth… [and] above all gods” (97:9).
The Righteous and God’s Blessings (97:10-12)
How do the righteous prove their love for the LORD? They “hate evil” (97:10a), the evil way, and the path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). They love the LORD, and keep their feet far from wickedness.
Because God loves the righteous, He preserves them (guards; watches over). Though the righteous find themselves hated, and even persecuted, the LORD will in the end save the righteous “out of the hand of the wicked” (97:10). To the righteous, the LORD gives light, and He rejoices the heart (97:11-12).
Psalm 98 – “Sing unto the LORD a New Song”
Psalm 98, like Psalm 97, is a reflection on the Second Coming of Christ, and inspired Isaac Watts’ memorable hymn, “Joy to the World” (although sung at services reflecting on Christ’s birth, it is in fact a celebration of Christ’s Second Coming). Psalm 98 is an invitation to believers to worship the LORD in song, and rejoice in His salvation and righteousness (98:2).
First Stanza: “Sing unto the LORD a new song” (98:1-3)
What is this “new song?” It is a song of victory, and praise to the LORD for His strength and power (98:1-2a). It is a song of redemption, and a praise to God for His grace (98:2b). It is a song of rejoicing that the LORD is faithful, and He had not forgotten Israel (98:3).
Second Stanza: A Call to all Nations to Worship the LORD (98:4-6)
The musicians in the Temple were Levites, and were trained, skilled, and dedicated musicians. The sound of their voices and instruments was not noise (98:4), but an energetic expression in music and song. The “joyful noise” and the “loud noise” was a “shout,” or cry or triumph (98:4, 6).
The music of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, was not meant to entertain the congregation. The focus of the music was the LORD, and His holiness was reflected in both the message (words) and the music. Accompanied on string instruments (the harp, vs. 5) and wind instruments (trumpets and coronet, vs. 6), the focus of worship was “the LORD, the King” (98:6).
Third and Final Stanza: A Call to Creation to Worship the LORD (98:7-9)
Only when creation is freed from the curse of sin, and the LORD ushers in His millennial kingdom, will all creation rejoice (98:7-8). Romans 8:18-25 reveals the devastating effect man’s sin has had upon creation, and the world will not be delivered “from the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21) until the Second Coming of Christ.
Closing thoughts – Violent storms, earthquakes, and yes, pandemics, remind us that “creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together” (Romans 8:22). When Christ comes again, He will right the wrongs, and judge the earth in His righteousness (98:9). Think about that the next time you sing:
“Joy to the World, the LORD is Come!”
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith