Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The LORD Reigns! (Psalm 98)


“John and Pat have a nice arbour (‘arbour).” Are there any ships in it? Sometimes a play on words confuses us. The meanings of words can confuse us.

1.     The LORD is the One who straightens things out (for us)

We have to start by reading the Psalm in its original context. This is an enthronement Psalm (v6). The Lord is going to return to the temple, and Israel would proclaim Him as king! But in the meantime that wasn’t the case. Israel was surrounded by the nations, who were polytheists, worshipping gods (each nation had a god or gods – Psalm 96) they believed brought fertility to the earth, which was deified (much as in Hinduism today – Hindus treat nature as divine). Psalm 98 is counter-cultural, in that it brings the created order under God’s control, and creations’ praise of Him is personification, not deification v7-9. God is not just God of history (removing the sacred from nature) but the God of creation. Often we meet people today who believe that creation is sacred – if you ask the question ‘Do you believe in God’ they have to qualify it: ‘What do you mean by God?’ – New Age, walking the lay lines of Britain.
God is in charge, he ‘rules’ (shephot – same root word as for Judges who lead Israel – they were the shophet – the rulers). He will visit to save/punish as appropriate (trouble is English word ‘judge’ often comes across negatively). If it is about judgement, it is about a present visit of God to save and punish. The Message:

A tribute to God when he comes,
When he comes to set the earth right.
He’ll straighten out the whole world,
He’ll put the world right, and everyone in it.
The translation of ‘Judge’ into Tengir was difficult. One word came across meaning ‘condemn’, so we had to use the other, more neutral term.

God has won the victory (v3 – Salvation, vindication and victory are very close ideas). We have experienced God’s saving work in our lives. Isa 52:10 ‘all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.’ It’s the same in Hebrew (prophetic perfect in Isaiah). From God’s perspective the victory is already won! Remember this is an enthronment Psalm (The Lord is going to return to the temple, and Israel would proclaim Him as king!). In the OT there was no fulfilment, after the exile, of the hope that the Lord would return to the temple in His glory (with a cloud or fire and the presence of the LORD Exo 40; Lev 9; 1Ki 8 or even Isa 6). For the fulfilment we have to look to the NT, to the coming of Jesus, who’s name means Saviour, and who Luke, John and others frequently remind us is the Saviour of the World. ‘We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.’ 1Jn 4:13-14
Application: we are living in a place of victory. Not as individuals but as a people who know they are part of God’s covenant plan (v3). How do we do this?

  • Don’t dwell on past injustices
  • Dig into God’s word together. Meditate on God’s word – let it seep into your bones
  • Be filled and refilled with the Holy Spirit
  • Share and pray for each other. Encourage one another with prophetic words, songs, and whatever ‘builds up’
  • Take part in ventures for God together (more on that later
  • Expect revival! Expect the LORD to arrive in power! If the Jews could expect the LORD to come, how much more can we!

2.     The LORD is the One who straightens things out (for all)

However it’s not just for us. The original covenant was with Israel, but ‘the redemption of Israel will provide the opportunity for the nations to turn to Yahweh’ (Anderson) v2-3. It is God’s Mission. The ‘Mission of God’. ‘If God owns the universe, there is nowhere that does not belong to him. There is nowhere we can step off his property, either into the property of some other deity or into some autonomous sphere of our own private ownership’ (Wright, 2006: 403). Ultimately, as I say, Jesus, as God’s ambassador, won the victory. What does that mean? The good news is that God saves, and this can be known by all nations.

What should our response be? Praise. A new song. ‘God’s praise is inexhaustible’ (Anderson).
Music-lead worship are so important, using whatever instruments are appropriate. Maybe a dutar (two-string) if you are in Central Asia? There is a department in our organisation called ethnic arts. Here’s a story they tell: one church had 100 hymns translated from other languages, but there was no church growth. As soon as they had some songs written in the way they like (their melodies, rhythms, etc.) the church began to grow.

ESV Psalm 98:1 A PSALM.
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. 
2 The LORD 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 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises! 
5 Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody! 
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD! 
7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! 
8 Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together 
9 before the LORD, for he comes to judge [rule] the earth.
He will judge [rule] the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.