As promised on Monday, I am going to take some time today to do to do a little study of a psalm, just to put to practice some of the principles of studying them.
As I mentioned, there are a few different types of psalms. Just for the sake of review, they are hymn, lament, thanksgiving, confidence, remembrance, wisdom, and kingship. Psalm 98, which I am looking at today, is a familiar hymn to most, and is a psalm of praise.
If we take a look at the surrounding psalms, from 90-106, there are many psalms of praise, and which focus on God's attributes. This psalm is one of them.
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.
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!
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
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 the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.
Psalms of praise generally have three parts to them: a call to praise, a list of noteworthy acts and attributes of God, and a conclusion such as a prayer or a wish. The first part of verse 1 is the call to praise: Oh sing to the Lord a new song. As we read the following list of noteworthy acts, we can see that the psalm has three distinct sections. Verses 1-3 says calls for a praise to God because of his deliverance. Reference to his mighty hand and holy arm working salvation show us that. We don't know exactly what Israel has been delivered from, and that doesn't matter. The point is that God remembered his people, and he delivered them. Furthermore, the whole earth has seen the salvation of God. It is a testimony to the entire world.
The second stanza, verses 4-6 begins by encouraging the praise to be made with a "joyful noise." The words in this stanza make noise and indicate music: song, sing, lyre, melody, trumpets, horn. The word "joy" is used three times. The point is that not only is Israel to praise God for his deliverance, but the entire world is to praise as well; and it is to be a joyful praise.
The third stanza calls upon all of creation, including nature, to praise Him. This is where we see personification used. The sea is to roar, the rivers to clap their hands, the hills to sing. All the world and all who dwell in it are to praise Him. And there is an interesting dimension of praise added: the call to praise is because God is coming to judge the people.
Let's re-cap. In stanza one, God the deliverer is praised; in the second, God the King, and in the third, God the Judge. These are precious truths about God, that he is the deliverer, the King, and the Judge. Right there, we have learned some valuable attributes about God. They are attributes which can be said about Christ as well. Jesus is our Saviour, our King, and our coming Judge. While the Isrealites could praise God for whatever deliverance was afforded them, we can look forward to His coming again. We can be delivered from sin, we can bow before Him as King, and look with expectation for him to Judge. We are told his judgment will be righteous and with equity. The concluding statement of this psalm is in the last part of verse 9. It began with the call to worship because He has done marvelous things, and ends with the statement that He will do another marvelous thing, He will judge the world with righteousness and judge the peoples with equity. Did you pick up on the use of parallelism in that last phrase? It is an example of synonymous parallelism. Each part says basically the same thing, but in different words.
In addition to learning God's attributes, we learn about praise. Praise and worship is to be joyous and noisy. Now, this does not mean we need to have someone swinging from the ceiling fan while we worship, but our praises should not be ashamed, or hidden. We should be joyful because God has remembered us.
So, this was a word to God by a people who praised him. It becomes a word from God to us through giving us words to praise Him and by revealing to us who He is. When we are discouraged about something, we can look to this psalm and know that God remembers His own, and even in a difficult circumstance, we know we have been delivered from sin and can look forward to being eternally delivered.
On Monday, I hope to look at a lament.
By the way, if you are interested in commentaries to help in your study, I have two suggestions.
Derek Kidner's series is in two volumes.
James Montgomery Boice's are more like sermons, and are excellent.
I have both of these and have used them.