Happy, Clappy

Psa. 98:1 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.
Psa. 98:2
The LORD has made known his salvation;

he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.

Psa. 98:7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!
Psa. 98:8 Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
Psa. 98:9 before the LORD, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

I remember hearing this Psalm fairly regularly in chapel at seminary. The Book of Common prayer places it in our evening devotional prayers. It was the jam that sandwiched and held together the Old Testament and New Testament readings. “Sing to the Lord for he has done great things!” When Archbishop Cranmer put together the Book of Common prayer he wanted us to respond in awe and wonder to God’s self-disclosure and vindication throughout history.Here there are no comparisons, no instructions in right worship: all is joy and exhilaration.

As the years went on in seminary, some of my professors tried to downplay the beautiful, wonderful and sometimes mysterious God of the Old Testament. Often they would describe Him as being a God who just did not take his medication. Thankfully, by the time Jesus came around, God learned to be merciful and nice. Though it sounded like a great idea to some of the folks in lectures. This jam sandwich would not let us escape the awesome beauty of this Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. Something in me knew that this Creator had always been loving and always been lovingly indisposed towards that which harms his beautiful creation. The last two verses of this psalm (v 8, 9) speak of the chorus of nature finally able to rejoice again. Paul echoes this very motif in Romans 8:19. This praise is artless and inarticulate, unlike the praise of man. But it too can be heard already, since the whole earth even now is full of God’s glory.

Nature will not come into its own until man himself, its proper master, is ruled in righteousness and equity. It is a truth which modern man is learning by default and with alarm.

The joyful noise of verses 4 and 6 meets us elsewhere as the spontaneous shout that might greet a king or a moment of victory. It is the word translated ‘shout aloud’ in Zechariah 9:9, the prophecy that was fulfilled on Palm Sunday. Jesus came not only to bring Judgement, but also to bear it(v.8,9). Let us erupt in praise at the story of this beautiful rescue. The price to Justice has been paid and we are redeemed.