PSALM 98 OVERVIEW.
TITLE AND SUBJECT. -- This sacred ode, which bears simply the title of "A Psalm," follows fitly upon the last, and is evidently an integral part of the series of royal psalms. If Psalms 97:1-12 described the publication of the gospel, and so the setting up of the kingdom of heaven, the present Psalm is a sort of Coronation Hymn, officially proclaiming the conquering Messiah as Monarch over the nations, with blast of trumpets, clapping of hands, and celebration of triumphs. It is a singularly bold and lively song. The critics have fully established the fact that similar expressions occur in Isaiah, but we see no force in the inference that therefore it was written by him; on this principle half the books in the English language might be attributed to Shakespeare. The fact is that these associated Psalms make up a mosaic, in which each one of them has an appropriate place, and is necessary to the completeness of the whole, and therefore we believe them, to be each and all the work of one and the same mind. Paul, if we understand him aright, ascribes Psalms 95:1-11 to David, and as we believe that the same writer must have written the whole group, we ascribe this also to the son of Jesse. Whoever that may be, the song is worthy to rank among the most devout and soul stirring of sacred lyrics.
Division. We have here three stanzas of three verses each. In the first, Psalms 98:1-3 , the subject of praise is announced, in the second, Psalms 98:4-6 , the manner of that praise is prescribed; and in the third, Psalms 98:7-9 , the universal extent of it is proclaimed.
Verse 1. O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things. We had a new song before ( Psalms 96:1-13 ) because the Lord was coming, but now we have another new song because he has come, and seen and conquered. Jesus, our King, has lived a marvellous life, died a marvellous death, risen by a marvellous resurrection, and ascended marvellously into heaven. By his divine power he has sent forth the Holy Spirit doing marvels, and by that sacred energy his disciples have also wrought marvellous things and astonished all the earth. Idols have fallen, superstitions have withered, systems of error have fled, and empires of cruelty have perished. For all this he deserves the highest praise. His acts have proved his Deity, Jesus is Jehovah, and therefore we sing unto him as the LORD.
His right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory; not by the aid of others, but by his own unweaponed hand his marvellous conquests have been achieved. Sin, death, and hell fell beneath his solitary prowess, and the idols and the errors of mankind have been overthrown and smitten by his hand alone. The victories of Jesus among men are all the more wonderful because they are accomplished by means to all appearance most inadequate; they are due not to physical but to moral power -- the energy of goodness, justice, truth; in a word, to the power of his holy arm. His holy influence has been the sole cause of success. Jesus never stoops to use policy, or brute force; his unsullied perfections secure to him a real and lasting victory over all the powers of evil, and that victory will lie gained as dexterously and easily as when a warrior strikes his adversary with his right hand and stretches him prone upon the earth. Glory be unto the Conqueror, let new songs be chanted to his praise. Stirred by contemplating his triumphs, our pen could not forbear to praise him in the following hymn: --
Forth to the battle rides our King;
He climbs his conquering ear;
He tits his arrows to the string,
And smites his foes afar.
Convictions pierce the stoutest hearts,
They bleed, they faint, they die;
Slain by Immanuel's well aligned darts,
In helpless heaps they lie.
Behold, he bares his two edged sword,
And deals almighty blows,
His all revealing, killing word
Mixed with joint and marrow goes.
Anon arrayed in robes of grace
He rides the trampled plain,
With pity beaming from his face,
And mercy in his train.
Mighty to save he now appears,
Mighty to raise the dead,
Mighty to stanch the bleeding wound,
And lift the fallen head.
Victor alike in love and arms,
Myriads before him bend:
Such are the Conqueror's matchless charms.
Each foe becomes his friend.
They crown him on the battle field
Of all the nations King;
With trumpets and with cornets loud
They make the welkin ring.
The salvation which Jesus has accomplished is wrought out with wonderful wisdom, hence it is ascribed to his right hand; it meets the requirements of justice, hence we read of his holy arm; it is his own unaided work, hence all the glory is ascribed to him; and it is marvellous beyond degree, hence it deserves a new song.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. -- The inscription of the psalm in Hebrew is only the single word rwmzm Mizmor, "Psalm" (whence probably the title "orphan Mizmor" in the Talmudic treatise Avodah Zara). J.J.S. Perowne.
Title. Hengstenberg remarks, "This is the only psalm which is entitled simply `a psalm.' This common name of all the psalms cannot be employed here in its general sense, but must have a peculiar meaning." He considers that it indicates that this is the lyric accompaniment of the more decidedly prophetical psalm which precedes it, -- in fact, the psalm of that prophecy. He also notes that in the original we have in Psalms 98:5-6 words akin to the title brought into great prominence, and perhaps this may have suggested it.
Title. -- It is at least interesting to notice that a song Of Zion which so exults in the king's arrival should be called preeminently rwmzm, Mizrnor; as if the Psalm of Psalms were that which celebrates Israel, and the earth at large, blessed in Messiah's Advent. Andrew A. Bonar.
Whole Psalm. A noble, spirit stirring psalm. It may have been written on the occasion of a great national triumph at the time; but may, perhaps, afterwards be taken up at the period of the great millennial restoration of all things. The victory here celebrated may be in prophetic vision, and that at Armageddon. Then will salvation and righteousness be openly manifested in the sight of the hostile nations. Israel will be exalted; and the blessed conjunction of mercy and truth will gladden and assure the hearts of all who at that time are Israelites indeed. Godliness will form the reigning characteristic of the whole earth. Thomas Chalmers.
Whole Psalm. The subject of the Psalm is the praise of Jehovah. It consists of three strophes of three verses each. The first strophe shows why, the second how Jehovah is to be praised; and the third who are to praise him. Frederick Fysh.
Whole Psalm. This psalm is an evident prophecy of Christ's coming to save the world; and what is here foretold by David is, in the Blessed Virgin's Song chanted forth as being accomplished. David is the Voice, and Mary is the Echo.
- DAVID. "O sing unto the Lord a new song." (The Voice.) MARY. "My soul doth magnify the Lord." (The Echo.)
- DAVID. "He hath done marvellous things." (The Voice.) MARY. "He that is mighty hath done great things." (The Echo.)
- DAVID. "With his own right hand and holy arm hath he gotten himself the victory." (The Voice.) MARY. "He hath showed strength with his arm, and scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts." (The Echo.)
- DAVID. "The Lord hath made known his salvation; his righteousness hath he openly showed," &c. (The Voice.) MARY. "His mercy is on them that fear him, from generation to generation." (The Echo.)
- DAVID. "He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel." (The Voice.) MARY. "He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy." (The Echo.)
These parallels are very striking; and it seems as if Mary had this psalm in her eye when she composed her song of triumph. And this is a farther argument that the whole psalm, whether it record the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, or the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, is yet to be ultimately understood of the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ, and the proclamation of his gospel through all the nations of the earth: and taken in this view, no language can be too strong, nor poetic imagery too high, to point out the unsearchable riches of Christ. Adam Clarke.
Verse 1. 0 sing unto the LORD a new song. This is man's end, to seek God in this life, to see God in the next; to be a subjection the kingdom of grace, and a saint in the kingdom of glory. Whatsoever in this world befalleth us, we must sing: be thankful for weal, for woe: songs ought always to be in our mouth, and sometimes a new song: for so David here, "sing a new song:" that is, let us put off the old man, and become new men, new creatures in Christ: for the old man sings old songs: only the new man sings a new song; he speaketh with a new tongue, and walks in new ways, and therefore doth new things, and sings new songs; his language is not of Babylon or Egypt, but of Canaan; his communication doth edify men, his song glorify God. Or a new song, that is, a fresh song, nova res, novum canticum, new for a new benefit. Ephesians 5:20 : "Give thanks always for all things." It is very gross to think God only in gross, and not in parcel. Hast thou been sick and now made whole? praise God with the leper, Luke 17:11 - 19: sing a new song for this new salve. Dost thou hunger and thirst after righteousness, whereas heretofore thou couldest not endure the words of exhortation and doctrine? sing a new song for this new grace. Doth Almighty God give thee a true sense of thy sin, whereas heretofore thou didst draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with cart ropes, and wast given over to work all uncleanness with greediness? 0 sing, sing, sing, a new song for this new mercy.
Or new, that is, no common or ordinary song; but as God's mercy toward us is exceeding marvellous and extraordinary, so our thanks ought to be most exquisite, and more than ordinary: not new in regard of the matter, for we may not pray to God or praise God otherwise than he hath prescribed in his word, which is the old way, but new in respect of the manner and making, that as occasion is offered, we may bear our wits after the best fashion to be thankful.
Or, because this Psalm is prophetical, a new song, that is, the song of the glorious angels at Christ's birth, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men," ( Luke 2:14 ); a song which the world never heard before: that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head is an old song, the first that ever was sung; but this was no plain song, till Christ did manifest himself in the flesh. In the Old Testament there were many old songs, but in the New Testament, a new song. That "unto us is born a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord," is in many respects a new song; for whereas Christ was but shadowed in the Law, he is showed in the Gospel; and new, because sung of new men, of all men. For the sound of the Gospel is gone through all the earth, unto the ends of the world ( Romans 10:18 ); whereas in old time God's old songs were sung in Jewry: "His name is great in Israel. In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion," Psalms 76:1-2 . John Boys.
Verse 1. A new song. O ye who are new in Christ, though formerly old in the Old Adam, sing ye to the Lord. Psalter of Peter Lombard, 1474.
Verse 1. He hath done marvellous things. He has opened his greatness and goodness in the work of redemption. What marvels has not Christ done? 1, He was conceived by the Holy Ghost. 2. Born of a virgin. 3. Healed all manner of diseases. 4. Fed thousands with a few loaves and fishes. 5. Raised the dead. 6. And what was more marvellous, died himself. 7. Rose again by his own power. 8. Ascended to heaven. 9. Sent down the Holy Ghost. 10. And made his apostles and their testimony the instruments of enlightening, and ultimately converting, the world. Adam Clarke.
Verse 1. His right hand. Since the Psalmist says, that Christ hath gotten him the victory by his right hand and his arm, it is not only a demonstration of his divine and infinite power, but also excludes all other means, as the merits of saints and their meretricious works. Martin Luther.
Verse 1. Holy arm. The creation was the work of God's fingers: "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers," Psalms 8:3 ; redemption a work of his arm; "His holy arm hath gotten him the victory"; yea, it was a work of his heart, even that bled to death to accomplish it. Thomas Adams.
Verse 1. A clergyman in the county of Tyrone had, for some weeks, observed a little ragged boy come every Sunday, and place himself in the centre of the aisle, directly opposite the pulpit, where he seemed exceedingly attentive to the services. He was desirous of knowing who the child was, and for this purpose hastened out, after the sermon, several times, but never could see him, as he vanished the moment service was over, and no one knew whence he came or anything about him. At length the boy was missed from his usual situation in the church for some weeks. At this time a man called on the minister, and told him a person very ill was desirous of seeing him; but added, "I am really ashamed to ask you to go so far; but it is a child of mine, and he refuses to have any one but you; he is altogether an extraordinary boy, and talks a great deal about things that I do not understand." The clergyman promised to go, and went, though the rain poured down in torrents, and he had six miles of rugged mountain country to pass. On arriving where he was directed, he saw a most wretched cabin indeed, and the man he had seen in the morning was waiting at the door. He was shown in, and found the inside of the hovel as miserable as the outside. In a corner, on a little straw, he beheld a person stretched out, whom he recognised as the little boy who had so regularly attended his church. As he approached the wretched bed the child raised himself up, and, stretching forth his arms, said, "His own right hand and his holy arm hath gotten him the victory," and immediately he expired. K. Arvine.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. A new song. The duty, beauty, and benefit of maintaining freshness in piety, service, and worship.
Verse 1. He hath done marvellous things.
- He hath created a marvellous universe.
- He has established a marvellous government.
- He hath bestowed a marvellous gift.
- He hath provided a marvellous redemption.
- He hath inspired a marvellous book.
- He hath opened a marvellous fulness.
- He hath effected a marvellous transformation. W. Jackson.
Verse 1. The victory. The victories of God in judgment, and in mercy: especially the triumphs of Christ on the cross, and by his Spirit in the heart, and in and by the church at large.