The Lord reigns

O sing to the Lord a new song,

for he has done marvelous things!

The psalmist invites us to sing, and what do we do? We ask one of us to open the good book and read the words for us. The psalmist invites us to sing, and what does the preacher do? He steps into the pulpit and speaks.

[Preacher sings] Am I the only one who thinks that’s curious and more than a little incongruent? [Continues, to the tune of HYMN TO JOY]

Curious, curious, no one’s humming,

no one’s chanting to the Lord;

Shouldn’t we all sing together

faithful to the word of God?

Shouldn’t we be singing, clapping,

dancing to the tune of love?

Saints on earth all joining voices,

praising God with saints above!

O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. Marvelous things call for marvelous songs. The wonders of God’s overflowing love call for hearts overflowing with gratitude and praise.

We celebrate Mother’s Day, thankful for all the ways the life-giving and sutaining love of God has touched and shaped us through our mothers.

The life of God is love overflowing, bringing forth new life in and through us, around us, and sometimes despite us. The Lord has done marvelous things. Look around. See the faces. Remember the stories. Imagine the journeys. The daily routines and the great moments. Look around. The Lord has done marvelous things. Sing to the Lord a new song!

Ours is a singing faith. When Israel, on their journey to the promised land, escaped Pharao’s slave catchers, the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”[1] Miriam and the other women established a pattern of praise for God’s people: Sing to the Lord, for the Lord has done marvelous things. The Lord has brought us up, out of the land of Egypt. Sing to the Lord! The Lord has made covenant with us at Sinai and given us the commandments of life. Sing to the Lord! The Lord has brought us into a good land, flowing with milk and honey. Sing to the Lord! The Lord is the maker of heaven and earth, whom sun and moon and stars obey. Sing to the Lord! The Lord has saved us from our enemies. Sing to the Lord! The steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord are from everlasting to everlasting. Sing to the Lord!

The destruction of the Temple and the exile in Babylon was a devastating experience of loss for God’s people, but even then the songs did not cease. The Lord’s judgments are right. Sing to the Lord!

Hope flourished among the exiles when the prophets spoke of a way the Lord would make in the wilderness. And then they began to return, and it was the Lord’s doing, and it was wonderful in their eyes.

O sing to the Lord a new song,

for he has done marvelous things:

The Lord has made known his salvation;

The Lord has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations;

The Lord has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.

The psalm has the familiar pattern of praise, but the radical newness of the moment of redemption and return pushes the language of praise to global and cosmic levels.

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.

God’s righteousness has been revealed in God’s dealings with God’s people. Every instrument is claimed and used to make a joyful noise, because the Lord reigns. The Lord’s faithfulness endures forever; and the Lord’s power to save extends to all.

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

the world and those who live in it.

Let the floods clap their hands;

let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord.

The mighty waters offer thunderous applause while every living thing and every speck of dirt has its part in a cosmic symphony of praise. The Lord reigns and the Lord is coming to judge the earth.

The psalm is a song of gratitude mingled with bold expectation; those who sing it take the wonders of liberation and redemption already accomplished as an earnest of the full manifestation of God’s mercy in judgment, when God’s just rule will be established throughout the world.

The Lord will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity.

The psalmist challenges us to see God’s judgment, not as a matter for private celebration by the righteous and, correspondingly, dread for the wicked, but rather as the occasion of cosmic jubilation: The righteousness of God will set things right. Few of us are inclined to rejoice at the prospect of judgment, but this song of praise invites us to examine our preconceptions and embrace judgment as a promise rather than a threat. Jubilation is the appropriate response to God’s judgment, because this judgment is characterized by righteousness, that is, by God’s abiding concern to sustain, restore, and enhance relationship with us, among us, and between us and rivers, mountains, and all living things.[2] The song of the redeemed includes the whole creation. God’s righteousness is a passion for wholeness.

Ours is a singing faith. Another Miriam, Mary the mother of Jesus, when she was pregnant with the promise of God, sang of the Mighty One whose name is holy.

The Lord has shown strength with his arm and has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. Sing to the Lord! The Lord has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. Sing to the Lord! The Lord has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed. Sing to the Lord! The Lord has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, just as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever. Sing to the Lord![3]

As Christians, we recognize the fullness of God’s righteousness in the person of Jesus Christ. Mary’s firstborn is the salvation that God has wrought in the sight of the nations. His whole life – that is, his life and teachings, his death and resurrection – is the passionate assertion of God’s will for the world. He is our righteousness and our salvation, and through him we join Israel in singing a new song to the Lord, for he has done wondrous things.

John of Patmos wrote in Revelation, “I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea—I heard everything everywhere sing, ‘Blessing, honor, glory, and power belong to the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb forever and always.”[4]

The Lord reigns. This confession of God’s people is an act of profound hope, and more than hope. The God who brought Israel out of Egypt and who raised Jesus from the dead has poured the Holy Spirit on all flesh so that we, in the face of injustice and every form of brokenness, have the courage to defy such realities as we live under God’s claim and sing the song of God’s reign.

Ours is a singing faith. Miriam’s song of triumph on the seashore; the psalmist’s call to rivers and mountains; mother Mary’s song of good news for the poor; and in the end the cosmic choir John of Patmos heard: “I heard everything everywhere sing, ‘Blessing, honor, glory, and power belong to the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb forever and always.’”

The Lord has won the victory over all that is opposed to God’s will. The righteousness of God has triumphed and will prevail over the powers of sin and death. The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now, but the whole creation is already singing of its redemption. And what do we do? [Preacher sings, to the tune of HYMN TO JOY]

Mortals, join the happy chorus,

stars of morning, take your part;

love divine is reigning o’er us,

binding those of tender heart.

Ever singing, move we onward,

victors in the midst of strife,

joyful music leads us sunward

in the triumph song of life.


[1] Exodus 15:20-21; see also the song of Moses in Exodus 15:1-18.

[2] See Ellen F. Davis, “Psalm 98,” Interpretation 46, no. 2 (April 1, 1992), 172-173.

[3] See Luke 1:51-55

[4] Revelation 5:13