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In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon observes that “there is nothing new under the sun.” A wise man in his own right, he points out that today’s sunrise and sunset is a rerun. The winds may change, but they’ll come back around again. Rivers have been rushing into the sea for eons, but it never fills.
Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us (Ecclesiastes 1:10).
With redundancies and repetition making up the fabric of our lives, Solomon is correct and incorrect; he is right but, praise God, he is also wrong.
Psalm 98 calls on God’s people to sing a “new song.” What does this mean?
Well, it might help to know that the Church traditionally uses, prays, and sings Psalm 98 twice each year. We sing it first on Christmas morning, the day the world opens its eyes to see something that is truly “new.”
A virgin is a mother. While that’s definitely new, there’s more to this and to this song…
Her Child is without sin. He is holy and pure. The earth hasn’t seen someone like this since Adam and Eve bit into that forbidden fruit.
In contradiction to Solomon, Christmas morning reveals something genuinely new and worth singing about.
But it’s the second time we use Psalm 98 that we truly see something new and praiseworthy because ever since Adam and Eve, we have been hearing the same old song and dance.
It’s the song and dance of sin and death, the final lyrics to all life. Ever since sin imposed its grim wage onto God’s creation, death has been the final chapter written onto every page in this world’s history.
Six feet beneath cemetery grass, you’ll find the old song of sin and death. Dig deeper and you’ll find that song written as a fossil record and as coal and oil deposits.
Sin’s inexorable wage. Even the virgin’s Son, that baby of Psalm 98, is subject to this rule. Because He took on human flesh, now even He was subject to the same old song of death.
Beat Him, scourge Him, nail Him to a cross and He will die just like anyone else. The tune in the background is the same old dirge that grinds everything in creation to dust: our grandest buildings, highest mountains, stars in space, and even the sinless Son of God.
But pulling double duty, Psalm 98 is also an Easter song. When His family and friends came to sing His last verse and finish His burial, angels proclaimed news of the Church’s new song.
He is not here. He has risen. See the place where they laid Him. See it and sing of something entirely different and new.
Christ is Psalm 98’s “marvelous thing” that shatters all this world has ever known about the permanency of death and the iron bars of the grave. God and man died in Christ. The Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep.
But now… His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory. The Lord has made known His salvation (Psalm 98:1-2).
In Christ, God has remembered us. His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel (98:3).
Here is something new and something to sing about! Let all creation, the sea, the rivers, the hills, and the peoples clap, shout, and sing for joy!
Break forth in song…with harp…trumpets…horn…shout joyfully before the Lord, the King (98:4-6).
Most times, life still seems to be the same old song and dance. A tired old tune of battling disease, growing old, and being haunted by a lifetime of sin and guilt. But in Christ, you have something new to sing about. This song is not just His and not just about Him. His victory is yours. The Lord’s salvation, His righteousness, His mercy, and His faithfulness are for you.
Psalm 98 (NKJV)
A Psalm. 1 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. 2 The Lord has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations. 3 He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. 4 Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. 5 Sing to the Lord with the harp, With the harp and the sound of a psalm, 6 With trumpets and the sound of a horn; Shout joyfully before the Lord, the King. 7 Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell in it; 8 Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord, 9 For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, And the peoples with equity.
-Rev. Tony Pittenger