“O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory,” declares Psalm 98:1. The redeemed of the earth are called upon to thus sing unto the Lord God because He “raised the standard” when He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sin atonement. The commandment was made new. Jesus told the young lawyer in Matthew 22:36-39, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind … And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

No longer was man simply to live by the letter of the law, but rather by the incredibly higher Spirit. It seemed to the Israelite that Christ had reinvented everything, and most were not happy about that. For one thing, money could not be made in this new covenant like it was in the old. The riches of true Christianity are in the world to come and not necessarily in this one.

Our Psalm enjoins the Christian to sing “unto the Lord” because of what He has done for us in Christ. Sacred music is directed to the audience of the Lord, primarily, and not to human ears. When we sing or play Christian music, care must be taken to keep the glory flowing God-ward, lest we begin comparing and competing with others. It is not for our entertainment or hand-clapping enjoyment. The human audience may listen, of course, and be blessed as the musician keeps his or her focus on the Lord.

We all are advised to sing from the bottom of our hearts, no matter the degree of talent. Remember that Satan is a master musician. He knows well how music can easily be used to sway human emotions the wrong way. When the beat of the drums explodes to prominence and overwhelms the melody, we should know something is wrong. The object of our joy is to be the Lord above and not our flesh here below. Sacred music should be kept sacred as we make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Psalm 98 directs us to the new song of Jesus Christ.

Verse two of our Psalm uses the past tense to declare that “The Lord hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen.” It may seem to be the improper tense because God would not commission His Son to go to earth for another 1,000 years or so after this Psalm was written. It proves that God can write prophecy just as if it were history. When He says it will be done, it is equal with having been done. The 322 prophecies concerning Christ’s coming have shown complete accuracy up to our day. We should confidently expect these to culminate in His second coming any day.

“Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together before the Lord” exclaims verse eight and the beginning of nine. The Psalm carries the theme of joy as it projects our thinking to the Messianic Kingdom when our Messiah returns (Revelation 19:11-16) to rule in complete
power and absolute authority on earth for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-7).

Psalm 98 takes us from Bethlehem’s manger scene to the day when the Lamb of God will return with His bride as the Lion of Judah. The crucible of time will have filled. God’s incredible long-suffering with mankind’s Gentile age will cease. It will be time for Him to bring the Hebrew nation back to center stage. Psalm 98:1 says: “his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.” Jesus Christ will marvelously overthrow the Antichrist, set up His kingdom and win the conflict at Armageddon – all great reasons to sing.

In the early 1700s, Mr. Isaac Watts was reading this 98th Psalm and reasoning on the joy about which it spoke. His interest in poems began when he was a small child, and now he had become well-known in literature and poetry. He captioned a work entitled “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom” and published it in “Psalms of David Imitated” in 1719. The words in it reflect upon when our Messiah will reign and rule “with a rod of iron” (Psalm 2:9) in a perfect and righteous dominion over all Creation.

Jesus Christ came “to” us a babe in Bethlehem. Any day, He could come “for” all second-born Christians to take us from the earth. Then He will come back again “with” His bride of genuine believers to stand again on this planet (Zechariah 14:4) at the Mount of Olives. “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one” says 14:9.

The world dominion of Christ will take place after the Great Tribulation and before the beginning of God’s eternal kingdom. Most every Old Testament prophet concludes his writing by bringing in this good news. Although our times are increasing in trouble, God is going to have the final word. It
seems like the Devil is winning every skirmish, but the Bible tells us that God wins all in the end.

Zechariah finishes up his last chapter by assuring us “that everyone that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up … to worship the King (Christ)” (verse 16).

Everybody and everything will be concerned with the worship of Jesus Christ in that day – even the bells on the leather rigs of horses and the pots in the kitchens (verses 20, 21).

The poetry that Isaac Watts wrote back in 1719 dealt with the Messianic events recorded in Psalm 98, but which to this day have not yet come to fruition. He wrote about every heart preparing room for Jesus, that the Savior reigns over us and rules with truth and grace over His creation. None of these blessed events have yet fully taken place.

Watts also pens that the nations will be made to “prove” or to acquiesce to the fact that God indeed is glorious in righteous sovereignty and wondrous in everlasting love. No proclamations are yet coming out from any of the capitols of nations concerning how we should bow in reverence to
Christ. Political declarations about recognizing Him as “The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) are not rendered, to the exclusion of all others. That day will come upon this earth; meanwhile, we must be busy in helping others prepare to go when He comes. It is our joy to sound out the Gospel of Christ.

In 1846, composer and publisher Lowell Mason from Boston, Mass. wanted to put Watts’ poetry to song. He found no proper musical setting for this century-old poem, but in his search he came upon a beautiful melody taken from the work of George F. Handel of Germany. So three men from three nations, spanning the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, came up with the Messianic melody we so richly enjoy. You may remember the second verse:

“Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ.
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.”
May we each believe in and repeat that sounding joy!

Salvation is in Christ alone. Secure it in your heart, then sound it out by speaking it, singing it and standing for it. It is “Joy to the World!”

R.D. “Bob” Hottle is a retired schoolteacher, farmer and pastor of the Anchor Baptist Church.