“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
For He has done marvelous things;
His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory” (Psalm 98:1, NKJV).
This new song of Psalm 98 wasn’t so new. Commentators point out a pattern similar to other psalms. One says the beginning and end echo Psalm 96. But every new thought of the Lord’s salvation causes the saved to break out in new variations on the same theme. Just this first verse contains a whole range of wonderful thoughts of God.
First, as we stand amazed to see what the Lord has wrought, one reaction is especially appropriate. “Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!” It’s praise, it’s thanksgiving, it’s the wonder of His acting on our behalf. It’s awe at the power of the Almighty. The words may be the same ones we’ve sung for years, but the song is always new because the gratitude and joy that wells up within the breast every time we think of his salvation.
Second, it’s the Lord’s doing. “For He has done marvelous things.” His right hand swept away the enemy. His holy arm brought down the crushing blow. The new song runs the scale of God’s doings.
Some good brethren say it this way, “The Lord’s done his part; now it’s up to us to do our part.” That all right as far as it goes, I suppose, but it makes it sound a lot like a 50/50 proposition. While we talk about obedience being necessary for salvation, let’s not let that obscure the marvelous salvation by God’s mercy through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
On the other side, some folk blot out man’s reception of the great gift. They say God picks and chooses at random. If you have any say in the matter, just mouth this little prayer and it’s a done deal. They chop down the “faith-response” to a few mumbled words instead of a submissive life of dedicated obedience. No can do!
Now, when we consider the Lord’s victory, our doings, even the divinely ordained obedience necessary for salvation and the Spirit’s reception, just pale into nearly nothing. I don’t want to diminish obedience for one minute, especially considering even some folk in the church are pitching it out with the Lord’s model for Christian life, but the Psalmist seems to want us to see how immense and overwhelming the Lord’s great deed is over and above any puny human effort. Oh, our “part” gets mentioned elsewhere, sure enough, but when your eyes are full of the Lord, nothing else is big enough to impinge on the sight.
Third, it’s not about me. It’s not about you. But I thought the Lord gained the victory for US, you say! Nope, the text says his great power gained the victory for Him. Sure, he sweeps us along in the advance of his conquering Kingdom. Yep, he plucks us from the jaws of sin and shame and death and corruption as the myriads of celestial forces crush the head of Satan. And still, he is concerned with every little child, each small human being, every single person, especially the oppressed, the excluded, and the downtrodden. I can even go along with the idea that Christ died for the sins of the one transgressor.
But it has never been about us. The Psalmist knew that. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (Psalm 115:1). God is in the center of the picture; the rest is just decoration, window-dressing, the garnishes of his glory. Oh, how happy I am just to be in the picture!
“For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10).
The victory celebration has already begun. Let’s join the parade to honor the Victor.
“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!