************ Advent Sermon on Psalm 98:4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 4, 2016
"Joy to the World"
2016 Advent # 2
Christmas is a difficult time for many adults in our culture. For those who have lost loved ones, it is a time of loneliness and grief. For others it means too much to do: parties to plan, gifts to buy, elaborate meals to cook, long trips to take, or out-of-town guests to host. Often there is too much eating and too much drinking and "peace on earth" degenerates into a family fight. Some people spend way too much and struggle with their Christmas debt the rest of the year. Christmas brings stress.
A woman was doing last-minute Christmas shopping at a crowded mall. She was tired of fighting the crowds. She was tired of standing in lines. She was tired of fighting her way down long aisles looking for a gift that had sold out days before. Her arms were full of bulky packages when the Elevator door opened. It was full.I love this story. We need to remember Him Who is responsible for this whole Christmas thing. It is all about how "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). It is all about a little baby -- a baby like those we baptized this morning.
The occupants of the Elevator grudgingly tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load. As the doors closed she blurted out, "Whoever is responsible for this whole Christmas thing ought to be arrested, strung up, and shot!" A few others nodded their heads or grunted in agreement. Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator came a single voice that said, "Don’t worry. They already crucified Him."
Christmas should be a time of joy. But for many it is a time of stress. Part of the reason is that we confuse joy with happiness. The song we will be singing after this message is NOT "Happy to the World" but "Joy to the World."
The Bible doesn't say much about happiness. But it does say a lot about joy. Happiness depends on circumstances: circumstances like possessions, entertainment, hobbies, sports, work, money, family, drugs, or alcohol. Joy, on the other hand, is an inner sense of well-being that has absolutely nothing to do with the circumstances of one's life.
I want to tell you this morning that if you receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord, yours is joy. Christmas and advent should be all about the joy of salvation. If you substitute happiness for joy, you will never be satisfied and you will have a big hole in your life.
From beginning to end, Christmas joy is the theme of Psalm 98. We find the word "joy" three times in this psalm (Ps 98:4,6,8). On this second Sunday of advent, this psalm tells us joy's expression, joy's reason, and joy's judgment.
I Joy's Expression (vs 4-8)
A We start with joy's expression. Our text -- with its following verses -- gets right to the heart of the matter:
(Ps 98:4-6) Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; (5) make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, (6) with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn-- shout for joy before the LORD, the King.Notice the how of joy: shout, song, music, harp, trumpet. Joy is something that needs to be expressed. It is expressed in song and music.
Now, when is it that we sing? When is it that we make music? Maybe you sing in the shower, or when you clean the house, or when you drive to work. But for most of us, singing is something we do in church, in worship. That's when we make music to the LORD, play the harp (today we would say organ or piano or keyboard), and hear the trumpet. Joy is expressed in worship; that's what it comes down to.
B Joy is expressed in worship. That's what Psalm 98 is getting at.
A number of years ago the Detroit Free Press published an article titled "Remedy for a Prune Face." You know what a prune face is: someone who is sour looking and unhappy.Now, I'm not suggesting that you all show up for choir practice after the service this morning. This might improve your facial expression but it may also seriously damage the quality of the choir.
The writer's solution: join a church choir. Those who sing look younger and happier. One of the reasons: A singer's cheek muscles become developed so their face will not wrinkle as soon as the nonsinger.
Here is another solution, the psalmist's solution: be part of a church where the congregation is expected to sing. In our church we aren't spectators to what a priest or choir or praise team does. We sing. We sing a lot. We sing loudly. We usually sing all the stanzas. We sing joyfully.
Do you hear what Psalm 98 says? It says that everyone should sing for joy. Everyone! It says that every person of faith, every believer in God, every recipient of God's goodness ought to sing. Even those of us who can't carry a tune in a bucket are expected to sing:
(Ps 98:4) Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music ...Everyone. No exceptions.
If you have a voice, you can sing. Anyone with a voice is supposed to sing. One doesn't have to be a trained musician to sing to God. The simple songs of children or the out-of-tune songs of a tone-deaf person can be sung to God.
C "Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music ..." (Ps 98:4). You might wonder about this. You might think it is easy to sing when you have just witnessed a few miracles and escaped from Pharaoh's army -- as was done by Israel at the Red Sea. And sure, it's easy to praise God when you've just found out you're going to be the mother of the Messiah, or when an unexpected refund check comes from the IRS, or when the Publishers' Clearinghouse Prize Giveaway van pulls into your driveway.
But what about those times when we don't feel like it, when we are not well, and when things don't go well? Singing to God seems natural when we receive good news, but what about those times when the news isn't good? How can we sing when the doctor says, "it's cancer," or "miscarriage"? Or, when the judge says "guilty" or the newspaper says, "bankrupt"? What song do we sing when the boss says "You're fired" or your spouse says, "I want a divorce"? We are still to sing. All of us. No exceptions. After all, joy does not depend on circumstances.
D "Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music ..." (Ps 98:4). Not just everyone, but also everything. Listen, again, to verses 7-9:
(Ps 98:7-9) Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. (8) Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; (9) let them sing before the LORD ...Creation also rejoices in the Lord and before the Lord. All of nature: the sea, the rivers, the mountains. Birds and bees. Little babies like those we baptized this morning (cf Psalm 8:2). The "morning stars" and "all the angels" (Job 38:7). Remember the words of Psalm 19?
(Ps 19:1) The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
"Joy to the World." That's our song and Creation's song on this second Sunday of Advent. As we will be singing in a few minutes:
1 Joy to the world! the Lord is come: "Joy to the World." Is that your song?
let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing ...
2 Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns:
let all their songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
repeat the sounding joy ...
II Joy's Reason (vs 1-3)
A I've told you about the psalmist's call for joy and song and worship. But now let's tie this in with Christmas and Advent by telling you the psalmist's reason for joy. Look at verses 1-3:
(Ps 98:1-3) 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 his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. (3) He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Do you hear the reason for joy? Do you hear the reason for song? Because the LORD has brought salvation. Our joy is in the fulfilment of God's covenant promises -- promises made to Adam & Eve, Abraham, David, and the babies baptized this morning. Our joy is in God's love and God's faithfulness. Our joy is in Christ and what He has done. Our joy is the joy of salvation. Our joy is Christmas joy.
I want you to notice that Christmas joy includes "all the ends of the earth" (Ps 98:3). Since the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ Jesus, God has mercifully sent the Gospel message to every tribe and language and people and nation. All who repent of their sin and believe in the Lord Jesus "have seen the salvation of our God" (Ps 98:3) and experience the joy of salvation, the joy of Christmas.
B Salvation from what? Salvation from sin. Salvation from misery. Salvation from the great serpent we know as Satan. Salvation from slavery to our old man and old desires.
Last week, as we looked at Psalm 74, I stressed the need for the Savior, our need for Emmanuel. Our prayer and our song was "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." We need the Savior because we all are sinners, because we and our children are born in sin. This reminds me of what I saw in one of our Psalter Hymnals recently. It was opened to Q & A 5 of the Catechism. There, based upon the Bible, the Catechism says "I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor." Do you know what someone wrote beside this answer? "This is ridiculous. I do not Hate!"
No, it is not ridiculous. I am a sinner. I do not love God above all. I do not love my neighbor as myself. Everyday I am selfish. Everyday I put myself first. Everyday I have evil thoughts. Everyday I, as a Christian, make only a small beginning in living according to all God's commandments. Unless you see your sin, you don't see you need for the Savior!
Today we see and emphasize that Emmanuel has come: "Sing to the LORD a new song ..." (Ps 98:1). "Joy to the world! the Lord is come ..." "Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns ..."
3 No more let sin and sorrow grow A new song because of Christmas joy. A new song because the Savior has come.
nor thorns infest the ground;
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found ...
C You might wonder about the phrase "new song." "Sing to the LORD a new song ..." What is this "new song"? Is there an "old song"? What is the difference between the two?
The old song is the song that all of Creation owes God as our Maker and Provider. This is the song of those who realize that all that has breath owes God praise. This is the song of those who know our purpose is to live for God and to enjoy Him forever. This is the song that sinners find impossible to sing because their natural inclination is to hate God and neighbor.
The new song is the joyful song of those lifted from the burden and trial and bondage of sin. The new song is the joyful song of the redeemed. The new song is the joyful song of those Israelites who walked safely across the Red Sea on dry ground (cf Ex 15). The new song is the joyful song of those who walked around the walls of Jericho until God made those walls fall down. The new song is the joyful song of those gathered at the cross and grave of Christ (cf Phil 2:6-11). The new song is the joyful song of the redeemed in heaven (Rev 5:9ff; 15:3ff).
III Joy's Judgment (vs 9)
A We have heard the call for joy and worship and song. We have heard the reason for joy and worship and song. We end with joy's judgment. Listen to verse 9:
(Ps 98:9) let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.Did you hear that? We are called to sing for joy because of God's judgment.
In verse 1 God is praised because of salvation. In verse 9 God is praised for judgment. Here is a reminder that the coming of the Lord Jesus means both salvation and judgment.
This double theme of salvation and judgment is found throughout the Bible. As baptism reminds us, we see salvation and judgment when God saved Noah and his family but destroyed the rest of the world with the Flood. As baptism reminds us, we see salvation and judgment at the Red Sea when God miraculously saved Moses and the Israelites and drowned the obstinate Pharaoh and all his army. We also see salvation and judgment at Jericho when God gave Israel victory and judged the Canaanites.
And, we see salvation and judgment at the foot of the cross. Anyone who repents of their sin and believes in the Lord Jesus is given the Lord's salvation. Those, however, who reject Jesus or neglect Jesus are judged.
B How does this fit in with the psalmist's call for joy? How are we to rejoice in the judgment of the wicked? I love how the Catechism explains this in Q & A 52 when it asks how Christ's return "to judge the living and the dead" brings comfort:
In all my distress and persecutionNotice, when Christ returns there is salvation for the chosen ones and judgment for the enemies of Christ and the cross.
I turn my eyes to the heavens
and confidently await as judge the very One
who has already stood trial in my place before God and so has removed the whole curse from me.
All his enemies and mine
he will condemn to everlasting punishment:
but me and all his chosen ones
he will take along with him
into the joy and the glory of heaven.
What does the judgment of Christ mean? On that day the Lord Jesus will right all wrongs and cause eternal justice to fall upon the enemies of His people. That will be a dreadful day for the impenitent, but for those who have been declared righteous, it will be a day of glory. The judgment of Christ is reason for joy and celebration.
"Joy to the World." We are one big choir and God is the conductor. He raises His baton. All is in readiness. When Christ came to earth to suffer and die and rise from the grave, the conductor of the universe lowers His baton and the new song begins: the whole earth bursts into jubilant song, the sea resounds, the rivers clap their hands, the mountains sing together for joy, and all the earth -- that is, all believers from all corners of the earth -- burst into jubilant song with music. Because of Christmas joy a new song is sung to the Lord.
"Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music" (Ps 98:4). This is our call to Christmas joy on this second Sunday of Advent.
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