Reading Time: 5 mins

Old Testament: Psalm 98 (Easter 6: Series B)

Reading Time: 5 mins

During the Easter season, our redemption as Christians is proof that God, in Christ alone, is all our righteousness and strength.

The dilemma in Eastertide for preacher’s hoping to use the Old Testament pericope is that there is of course NO Old Testament pericope. So, I suppose this could be the untimely end for this homiletical help! However, rather than capitulate and claim some hidden Machiavellian Pseudo-Marcionite motive behind the lectionary, we shall soldier on and see what we can do with this preaching challenge. Each week we are in Eastertide, the goal will be to preach the appointed Psalm of the day. This will keep us on track for the Old Testament and it will also help us exercise our homiletical skill on an all too often underrepresented category of preaching: Preaching Christ from the Psalms.

Of course, Luther famously pointed out that all the Psalms are about Christ. Therefore, the potential for gospel proclamation from these texts remains high. Psalm 98 teaches us that praise forms the community of faith. This psalm of praise moves the community of the faithful from a historically rooted expression of joy in God’s might to a deeper understanding of God as a God of faithfulness. Our text spends time reminding people of God’s deliverance in Israel’s past, while also inviting praise after God safely delivers them from exile. These verses reveal how the entire purpose of praising God from days of old to this present moment of worship and even on into the future is about praising our Lord as the God who comes in victory, which we see clearest in our Easter celebration of God’s work in Jesus for us. Let us handle this Psalm in an expository fashion.

Praise is the Theme (verse 1).

The opening verse is a prelude introducing the main theme of what follows. Worshipers are invited to sing to God a new song because of the deeds He has done. God’s right hand and holy arm have secured for Israel then and for us now cruciform and resurrection victory in Christ. These “marvelous things” which God did in battle in Israel’s history culminates in Christ’s battle and victory over sin and death in the resurrection. The same language of God’s “holy arm” and “victory” is used all over the Psalms and in Isaiah as well to speak of God’s liberating work in the Exodus, but also in reference to God’s deliverance through His Messiah. Through the postexilic historical context for this psalm, you can see God’s “victory” in Israel’s release from Babylon which points forward to our liberation from the dominion of Satan in Christ’s Easter victory.

Praise is in God’s proof (verses 2–3).

The fact God actually delivers His people in real time and in real history demonstrates to the world the truth that our God is mighty to save. God’s mighty saving acts are grounded in righteousness. “Righteousness” in the Old Testament is a concept which signifies the truth, justice, and integrity characterizing right action in relationship. God’s righteousness has been revealed to all, but our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). One important purpose of the Exodus was to show the Egyptians that God is the Lord (see Exodus 14:4, 18). Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro, testifies after the Exodus, “Now I know the Lord is greater than all gods, because He delivered the people from the Egyptians” (Exodus 18:11). In Ezekiel, we find more than sixty times the refrain, “Then you [or they] shall know that I am the Lord.” God’s holiness and righteousness are performed for the sake of the divine name, to show both Israel and the nations that God alone is righteous and mighty. Here, in Psalm 98, the redemption of God’s people is proof God is the one who can save. On Easter, our redemption as Christians is proof that God, in Christ alone, is all our righteousness and strength.

God’s holiness and righteousness are performed for the sake of the divine name, to show both Israel and the nations that God alone is righteous and mighty.

Verse 3 then shows the connection between God’s power and God’s faithfulness. God has “remembered” His steadfast love to the house of Israel. God has kept the promises made to Abraham back at the beginning of Israel’s formation as a nation. God has kept His promises to David as well. God’s relationship with Israel is rich in grace. Because Israel’s God is mighty to save and trustworthy, Israel has due cause to sing for joy. Israel’s salvation has been witnessed to the very ends of the earth. In the word of the Gospel, God has kept His promise for us in Jesus. Jesus is might to save, and His resurrection proves His trustworthiness. For this, all our Easter songs are songs of joy and hallelujah. The proclamation of the Gospel is a witness of God salvation to the very ends of the earth (Matthew 28:18-20).

Praise forms our community (verses 4–6).

This section, the heart of the psalm, shows the reason for our gathering. In light of all this great work of the Lord for our salvation, the only response is, “Shout to the Lord!” Break forth, cry aloud with joy, sing! All will praise the name of the Lord for what He has gloriously done for us (Philippians 2:5-11). Instruments are added until the whole earth resounds with festal sounds and Easter praise. The crescendo of this section is that God, our deliverer, is King! The crescendo of Easter is that Christ is King!

Praise is rooted in tangible reality (verses 7–9).

Praise to God also comes through creation itself. The sea and its creatures, the earth with its created things, and the mountains are to sing out, rejoicing to praise their Creator. At last, in verse 9, God is coming to judge the earth with righteousness, for sure, but also to save. This is a word of both Law and Gospel. The psalm moves us from the story salvation to an invitation: Come and meet the God who has come for you. The only way to meet God in grace is to meet Him in the mercy and salvific work of Christ, crucified and risen again for you.

Psalm 98 inspired the eighteenth-century British hymn writer Isaac Watts, who tied the incarnation (God is coming) to praise (Psalm 98) in his beloved Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World.” In 1719, this was his new song about his God, who is powerful to save from the beginning (John 1:1), to the empty tomb, to even our worship and praise today. Everybody talks about Christmas in July, maybe it would be fun to sing a Christmas song during Eastertide in May this year.

As noted earlier an expository approach to preaching this Psalm will allow you to mine all of the twists and turns it gives for the proclamation of the Gospel.

“This structure uses the versification of the text to lead the hearers sequentially through the reading. Rather than follow the arbitrary division of the text into verses, however, the preacher often divides the verses into sections that can be considered according to their content (for example, the communication of a complete thought), their form (for example, the first articulation of a refrain in a psalm), or their function (for example, the creation of an experience of tension in the opening conflict of a narrative).


The sermon can open deductively by highlighting a topic that will be addressed for the hearers through a close reading of the text or inductively by communicating a need on the part of the hearers which will be answered by a closer reading of this particular text. The introduction is important in that it communicates the value of walking slowly through the text and invites the hearers to join the preacher on that journey. The preacher then focuses upon one portion of the text, offering textual exposition and hearer application before moving to the next selection of verses. Ultimately, the preacher seeks to trace a consistent theme throughout the sequence of verses for the hearers and relate this theme to the proclamation of God’s gracious work in Christ. This approach should not simply offer the hearers random exegetical comments and various reflections without a coherent theme.”[1]


Additional Resources:

Craft of Preaching-Check out out 1517’s resources on Psalm 98.

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Psalm 98.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Psalm 98.

Lectionary Kick-Start-Check out this fantastic podcast from Craft of Preaching authors Peter Nafzger and David Schmitt as they dig into the texts for this Sunday!