God the Warrior King
Preached by Jason Abbott, senior pastor
What we have in Psalm 98 is a song to be sung following victory in battle. One scholar explains that this psalm is “a Divine Warrior victory song celebrating the return of Yahweh the commander of the heavenly hosts who is leading the Israelite army…home after waging victorious holy war.”1 Thus, God’s army sings his praises following this battle since—without him fighting for them and with them—victory would have been and would be impossible.
Let’s read this victory song together and see what it has to teach us about our warrior king God.
1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
2 The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!
7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it!
8 Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together
9 before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
1. There is a difference between human and divine praise.
Former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson believes in self-praise:
- “There [are] three things in life that [are] certain: Death, taxes, and 85 will always be open.” –Chad Johnson
- “Man, they’ve got a better chance at finding Osama than stopping me tonight.” –Chad Johnson
- “It’s crazy. The refs want to see what I’m going to do. That’s when you know you’re good. When the refs want to see it, you know you [are] doing something right.” –Chad Johnson
What’s the problem with such self-praise? What’s the real problem with boasting that you will win or succeed? It is not merely that Chad Johnson or you or I would boast about such things. It is that when we boast we cannot—with absolute certainty—back it up. It’s that we claim to be in complete control when we’re not! It’s that we cannot follow through on our boasting with omnipotent certainty. If we could, it wouldn’t be boasting. It would be truth, and we would deserve praise!
In Psalm 98, the psalmist is inspired by God to emphatically call the faithful to praise God. However, unlike Johnson demanding praise for himself, God’s demand to be glorified is not empty boasting. It is a statement of righteous truth because God can and will always deliver. He is all powerful and completely in control! He has demonstrated this in history past, and he will demonstrate this in history future! We are therefore commanded to praise him because he alone can guarantee victory, and he alone is worthy of praise (Psalm 96:4; 145:3)!
So, this morning we’re going to learn to praise God in two directions: (1st) we’re going to learn to praise him because he has won past victories for us, and (2nd) we’re going to learn to praise him because he will win future victories for us!
2. God has delivered and should be praised (vv. 1-6).
- He has done marvelous things and worked salvation (v. 1).
- He has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness (v. 2).
- He has remembered his love for Israel, and all have seen his salvation (v. 3).
Notice that the specifics of God’s past victories are kept intentionally vague. We want to ask:
- What marvelous things has God done, and what salvation has he worked?
- What salvation has God made known, and what righteousness has he revealed?
- How has God remembered his love for Israel, and who has seen his great salvation?
Yet, by asking such questions, we have wandered straight into the genius of this song! The specifics are intentionally not provided so that you can personally provide the specifics!
- What marvelous things has God done for you, and what salvations has he worked for you?
- What grand salvation has God made known in your life, and what righteousness has he revealed to you?
- How has God remembered his love for you, and when have you seen his great salvation?
And as we begin to answer such questions intimately and personally, we begin to fulfill the song’s opening command: Sing to the Lord a new song (v. 1)! We begin to write this praise song for our victorious Warrior-King God afresh with the notes of the intimate events of our lives!
Ironically, I have seen this most profoundly done at funerals or in the wake of great tragedy when it seems most like there is no victory. Let me illustrate how this often looks.
While serving in Missouri, we had a young man from our congregation die very suddenly in an avalanche. He was engaged to be married. He was very bright and influential and involved in a Christian outdoor ministry. It was a tragedy that affected many people in our small city. The funeral itself had to be moved to a larger church in order to serve the great number of people in attendance. However, as the funeral unfolded, individual after individual shared specific and personal praises (new songs) to God for how he had divinely worked victories in their lives through this godly young man!
As Christians, we must be willing, in any and every circumstance, to look back on how God has won repeated victories in our lives and, in response, sing ever new songs of praise to him. Too often, we fixate on the problems or difficulties ahead without pausing to recall the record of his faithfulness to us and others over the years. We forget to:
Remember the former things long past, for [he is] God, and there is no other; [he is] God, and there is no one like [him] (Isaiah 46:9).
Now we must move to the second direction of praise. We must learn to praise God for his future victories! The psalmist tells us:
3. God will—once and for all—deliver and should be praised (vv. 7-9).
Where do we see God’s future victories being celebrated here?
- All the sea and the earth and all those who are in them are told to resound with praise because the Lord will come (v. 7).
- The rivers are to clap and the mountains are to sing for joy because the Lord will come (v. 8).
- All creation is to sing before the Lord because he will come and will judge in righteousness and equity (v. 9).
What do we have pictured here?
It’s the great end-times coming of the Lord. It’s an inspired song of praise for the approaching final victory of God! We (and all creation) are commanded to sing worship songs to God for his righteous and equitable final judgment that is still to come!
Now, for a moment, please let me have a timeout. I want to allow these verses to springboard us into a short discursus on the nature of the New Heaven and New Earth so that we might become a more understanding and gracious community toward one another!
These verses (7-9) seem to point to a renewed creation—the celebration of this world at the end-times coming of the Lord. Why else would the rivers clap their hands and the hills sing for joy at God’s coming judgment? This passage, in fact, indicates much the same thing as Paul does in Romans when he says:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:18-21).
Many Christians thus read such passages to mean that the New Heaven and New Earth express that this heaven and this earth will be redeemed, restored, or made new again!
Yet, others see the New Heaven and New Earth and believe it means a literally new created order. They cite passages like 2 Peter 3:
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (vv. 11-13).
These Christians would suggest that New Heaven and New Earth means that the old order has passed away (been destroyed) and that the new order has come (literally a new creation).
I don’t presume to solve this divine mystery for you today, though I do have my own convictions on this matter. Rather, I want to encourage (even challenge you!) to be gracious in such enigmatic matters. Work out your convictions in humility! And, above all, work out such convictions with your brothers and sisters, who differ from you on this question, in humility and in unity!
Allow the twelve disciples to be your guide in this matter. These were men who walked with Jesus for years, and yet they—when he explained the mission of the Messiah (to suffer and die on a cross)—could not accept his teachings! All that the law and the prophets had testified to concerning the coming of the Christ, they had misunderstood! Might we do the same with his second coming?
Well, if that was a time out, let’s call time in! Let’s pursue Psalm 98 to a conclusion. Let’s bring our praises of God’s victories past and our praises of God’s victories future together. How do we do this? Well, we think about job interviews!
Let me illustrate. When I was going through the awkward pastor-church online dating site that’s called MinisterConnection.net, I found that there was an interesting pattern to which most interview processes conformed.
When a church would contact me and want to interview me, they would begin the interviews by asking me questions about my past ministry experience. Only after asking about what I had done in the past would they move on to asking about what I would do in the future at their particular church.
Moreover, before they would consider hiring me, they would go through the list of references I had provided. They would contact these people in order to get a firm grasp on how I had pastored in the past. They wanted to know what these individuals had seen and experienced firsthand in my ministry.
- Was I capable?
- Was I trustworthy?
- Could I be depended upon to do the work I said I would do?
These were the kinds of questions they wanted my references to answer. But why did they ask so much about my past? Why was my past ministry record important for a potential future ministry position?
They asked because the report of positive past ministry performances gave them assurance about their future—if they were to call me as their next pastor! In other words, by looking back and seeing positive results (faithful results!), they were given confidence in the future—that I might be a good future pastor as I had been a good pastor in the past!!!
What’s true of job interviews is also true of our Warrior God! When we look at how he has brought his people through times of trouble, when we think of how he has used even the tragedies of life to bring victories to his beloved people (e.g. Naomi, Job, Moses, David, Peter, or Paul), when we think about these past victories, we gain hope—even in the darkest of times—that God will do the same in the future! In fact, an empty tomb (some 2000 years ago) guarantees it!