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Psalm 98

The God who remembers

Sometimes it feels like we’ve been totally forgotten, forsaken. Even by God. This psalm celebrates God’s remembering his people’s plight and rescuing them—not just for their sake, but for that of the whole world.

1 Sing a brand-new song to Yahveh
because he’s done such awesome things.
He himself has won the victory—
his holy arm has revealed his saving power.
2 Yahveh has made it clear
that he’s a God who saves
showing all of earth’s peoples
that he’s going to put the world to rights.
3 He remembered his promise
to show his people, Israel
unfailing love and faithfulness.
And he’s done it in such a way
that the whole world has witnessed
his act of deliverance.

4 Shout in triumph to Yahveh
all the earth!
Burst into joyful song
and sing his praises!
5 Sing praise to Yahveh with the lyre
with the lyre and a sweet melody.
6 With trumpets and ram’s horns
play a joyful tune to Yahveh, our king.

7 Let the sea and everything in it
roar their applause.
Let the whole world
and everything living in it join in.
8 Let the ocean breakers clap and cheer
and the mountains sing together for joy.
9 Because Yahveh is coming to reign on earth.
He’ll rule the world with justice
and judge its peoples with fairness.

Psalm 89 expressed the psalmists’ sense of God-forsakenness, finally asking God how he could have forgotten the promises he’d so solemnly made to David. Likely written after the Israelites’ second exodus, from Babylon, this psalm celebrates the fact that God has faithfully remembered his promises and rescued them.

As in the first exodus, from Egypt, the Israelites bested the superpower without drawing a single sword. When they couldn’t save themselves, God’s holy arm overcame the power of evil purely by good. He thus revealed to a watching world that he’s still in control and the tragedy the Israelites had brought on themselves had in no way diminished his unfailing love and faithfulness.

This is cause for total joy—the sort of unrestrained elation a fan feels when their beloved team wins the playoffs. Having repeatedly failed God, Israel seems a most unlikely choice. But God remains faithful. And it’s joy not just for Israel, but for every people on earth because God is going to bless every people through Israel. So the psalmist calls absolutely everyone and everything in the world to join in celebrating the fact that God hasn’t given up on us. He’s determined to keep his appointment. He’s coming to reign over the earth with justice and fairness for all.

O God, humankind is broken and rebellious, yet you’ve relentlessly refused to forget us. We praise you that your heart is bigger than all our brokenness, your love stronger than all our hate—that your kingdom is coming to stay. We rejoice and celebrate your unfailing faithfulness. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Yahveh has made it clear that he’s a God who saves
showing all of earth’s peoples
that he’s going to put the world to rights.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.