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.
The LORD has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
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.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
before the LORD, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.
Today’s text reaches quite grandiose heights. God’s victory has been made known, not just to Israel, not just to the nations, but throughout all creation. “All the earth” is to make a joyful noise. Lest one think the psalmist simply means “all people” he goes on to speak of the sea, and all within it, and the world and all who dwell in it. The rivers should clap and the hills sing. The victory that God has accomplished has been made known to “all the ends of the earth.”
If we are honest, however, this victory does not always feel so present, so visible. The loved one still has cancer. The cloud of loneliness and depression has not dissipated. The important relationship is still broken. None of us need to look very far, but if we then allow ourselves to reflect on problems facing our communities, or humanity, or the creation itself, we might be justified in wondering what it is precisely that the ends of the earth have seen. The theme of this year’s Advent devotional, “light has come,” is a reference to the prologue of the gospel of John. As the theologian Nicholas Lash observes, “the prologue does not say, however, that we live in sunshine, but that darkness has not overcome the light.”
If we look again at Psalm 98, in the final stanza the psalmist makes an interesting shift. It is not simply that God’s victory has been made known. The rivers and hills rejoice because the Lord is coming to judge the earth with righteousness and equity. He is coming. In Advent we learn to wait. We learn to live in spaces where righteousness and equity have not been fully realized, spaces not of sunshine, but nevertheless, places where light has come, because he is coming.
Dr. Angela Carpenter is an assistant professor of religion at Hope College.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.