Psalm 98 recollects the salvation of the Exodus and offers hope for every impossible possibility.
Remember – the song sings. Remember the times in our history when we had no hope and then something completely unexpected, new and marvelous came into being.
Thus Psalm 98 offers hope for Israel as it waits in Exile. Along with the prophets of the Exile, this poetic prophet holds out hope for vindication and salvation (see the similarities of encouragement in Isaiah 52).
Just as God “remembers” steadfast love and faithfulness, so God’s people must remember God’s faithfulness and hold on to hope.
The Lord has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
God has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.
See the parallels here? Poetry often taps into synonyms and parallels; the Psalms are a perfect example of that intensive form.
The Lord made known his victory.
The Lord revealed his vindication.
God’s vindication is revealed in the sight of the nations.
All the ends of the earth have seen God’s victory.
The New International Version uses the term “salvation” instead of “victory” as in the New Revised Standard Version. Both are good choices and demonstrate the range of appropriate translation. It also indicates how translators often choose vocabulary based on theology.
Psalm 98 hearkens back to the salvation of the Exodus. Chapter 15 in the book of Exodus sings the Song of Moses and the Song of Miriam as they praise the victory of God over their enemy Egypt.
“Victory” and “Salvation” both describe the Defining Event of Israel: the Exodus from slavery and journey into freedom.
Centuries later – God’s Victory and Salvation hold out hope for those who are exiled. Looking back, Exiled Israel puts their faith in the steadfast love and faithfulness of the God who brings freedom.
Then again, more centuries later – for New Testament theologians – God’s Victory and Salvation are made concrete in the One Jesus the Christ.
In Jesus Christ:
God’s Victory over powers of darkness.
God’s Salvation for all the earth.
This psalm is a cosmic song. An eschatological hymn.
All Nations will experience God’s righteous and equitable judgment.
All the ends of the earth will recognize God’s victory and salvation.
All Creation will sing together for joy at the coming of the LORD.
Psalm 98 sings the core message of the psalter: God Reigns.
The Good News that something marvelously New will come into being. Just as the prophet Isaiah spoke of the eternal hope of Israel:
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
Those of us who recognize this promised newness in Jesus proclaim the hope as a new and unexpected reality. The Good News of Jesus Christ that:
If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
And Not Yet.
The Already and Not Yet mystery.
The psalmists looked forward in hope.
The prophets looked forward in hope.
Jesus People look backwards in confidence, trusting that Something Very New has happened in the cosmos.
And Yet, we also look forward with all God’s people across the ages to God’s ultimate Newness.
God’s final Victory and Salvation.
J. Clinton McCann Jr., The New Interpreter’s Bible, volume IV (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1996.