A Salvation to Celebrate
(H) A psalm. (1) Sing to Yahweh a new song, for he has done wonderful things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. (2) Yahweh has made known his salvation. He has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. (3) 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. (4) Shout joyfully to Yahweh all the earth! Break forth, give a ringing cry, and sing praises! (5) Sing praises to Yahweh with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of singing! (6) With trumpets and the blast of the shofar shout joyfully before the King, Yahweh! (7) Let the sea roar and everything in it, the world and those who dwell in it! (8) Let the rivers clap their hands! Let the mountains give a ringing cry together (9) before Yahweh, for he is coming to judge the earth! He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity.
Several repetitions and synonyms are found in this psalm including a number of words for music making. These include “sing a new song” (vs. 1), “shout joyfully,” “break forth, give a ringing cry, and sing praises” (vs. 4), “sing praises with the lyre” and “sound of singing” (vs. 5), “with trumpets and the blast of the shofar” and “shout joyfully” (vs. 6), “let the sea roar” (vs. 7), “let the rivers clap their hands” and “the mountains give a ringing cry together” (vs. 8).
Why all this music and shouting? Two answers are evident in the repetitions. First, “salvation” is mentioned in each of the first three verses. From the outset, Yahweh receives praise for the deliverance of his covenant people. In the final verse, we find a second repetition of the word “judge.” Yahweh is coming to “judge” the world in “righteousness” (another repeated word from vs. 2). The “salvation” of his chosen nation and the “judgment” of the world in order to right all wrongs are two key reasons for singing Yahweh’s praise.
I. Israel’s praise for Yahweh’s gracious salvation (1-3)
II. Universal praise for Yahweh when he comes to judge the earth (4-9)
Israel’s praise for Yahweh’s salvation will turn into universal acclamation when Yahweh comes to judge the world in righteousness.
“Salvation” is one of the Bible’s most glorious truths but also one of its most complex and multifaceted concepts. Because this word can refer to many different kinds of salvation, those who study God’s Word must determine from the context which specific salvation the author has in mind when the word occurs. Does it refer to salvation from sin, deliverance from an enemy, national liberation, or something else?
When the Old Testament authors spoke of Israel’s salvation, they often had in mind the Exodus, God’s miraculous deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, forming them into a nation at Sinai, and bringing them into the Land of Promise after forty years of wilderness wandering. It is likely that Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and her subsequent rescue from the domination of her enemies is in view when the author speaks of salvation in Psalm 98. He is not referring to salvation from sin under the New Covenant which believers today all too easily assume the psalmist meant when we read these verses. Just as Yahweh delivered his covenant nation in historic times, so he will someday return to the earth to deliver the offspring of Abraham from oppression. He will judge the wicked, set everything in order, and establish the Millennial Kingdom of Messiah, the coming Davidic ruler. This is a salvation truly worthy of universal celebration and praise.