Sermon for May 10, 2015
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Psalm 98 is the inspiration that Isaac Watts used to write “Joy to the World.”
See the comparison words:
Joy to the Earth, the Savior reigns! Let all their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy. Repeat the sounding joy.
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands;
Lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it,
The world and those who dwell therein.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
And let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord,
Psalm 98 is believed to be one of the ENTHRONEMENT psalms that rejoices in God because God IS God! Worthy of worship and praise just because God is!
While scholars are not certain what verse one means, many believe that “whose right hand and holy arm have won the victory” refers to being brought back from exile in Babylon.
70 years, the children were away from the Promised Land in Babylon, and when Cyrus, King of Persia attacks, he allows them to return home, where they rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the temple. Many believe this is one of the psalms written to celebrate that return.
Hearing its words, this makes sense:
O Lord, you have made known your victory,
You have revealed your righteousness in the sight of the nations.
You remember your steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
Cyrus may have been the earthly agent that brought about the return from exile, but, as the prophet Isaiah declares, Cyrus, WHO DOES NOT EVEN KNOW GOD’S NAME, is the one chosen by God to accomplish GOD’S PURPOSE – returning his children to the Land of Promise!
The psalmist calls for all the earth to break forth in song to God: incorporating musical instruments in the praise of God as sovereign — the lyre, trumpets, and the sound of a horn (Hebrew shofar) in vv. 5 and 6.
In v. 7, the psalm singer invites all of creation to add its own “instrumental mix.” The sea and all that fills it, the world and all that live in it are invited to “roar” — literally “make the sound of thunder.”
And in v. 8, the floods are invited to “clap their hands,” and the hills to “sing together for joy.”
Because God is victorious!
We are still in the celebration of Easter, God’s greatest victory:
More amazing than saving Noah and family and creation from the flood;
More amazing than honoring the promise that Sarah and Abraham would have a child in their old age and become the parents of many nations;
More amazing than being with Jacob through his long journey
More amazing than bringing Joseph out of slavery to be the #2 in all of Egypt, and because of him, the people do not starve in the time of famine – including his own family!
More amazing than rescuing God’s chosen children from the hand of the Pharoah in Egypt, by the Exodus and the parting of the Red Sea;
More amazing than saving Daniel in the Lion’s Den; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar,
More powerful than the symbol of the reanimation of the Valley of Dry Bones,
More great than even the return from Exile in Babylon:
THIS VICTORY IS THE GREATEST OF ALL
Jesus, rising from death defeats death, once and for all, not just for him, but for all who believe!
His right hand and holy arm have CERTAINLY won the victory!
As St. Paul says in Ephesians 2:
God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved); and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God!
What a great victory! What a reason for all the earth to sing for joy to the God of our salvation!
For God remembers God’s steadfast and love and faithfulness, not just to the House of Israel, but to us – who are loved and claimed with an everlasting love.
No more let sin or sorrow grow nor thorns invest the ground; he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness
And wonders of his love,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders, and wonders of his love!