Psalm 149 A New Song of Salvation

The hills are alive with the sound of music! This is from the highest point on Salt Spring Island.  The views were fantastic and awe inspiring.  You couldn’t help but praise the Lord there.  Isaiah the prophet wrote, “Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them” Isaiah 42:10.

I had no problems following that command on the day I took this picture and a few hundred more like them.  With the amazing beauty around the islands it wasn’t hard at all to commune with God!  I can see why so many hippies live on it.  You can’t help but be inspired there.

Our Psalm for this morning is Psalm 149.  Now to be perfectly honest I like the first 51/2 verses of this Psalm and have no problems with what they tell us as believers.  There are many good points as we’ll see going through them.  But what follows those verses until the latter half of verse 9 is very difficult for me to understand.  It just doesn’t seem to fit the tone that the Psalmist sets off with.  And it seems I’m not alone in that struggle.  In fact it seems that every Christian commentary I read either ignored what follows verse 5 altogether or focused in on some technical detail concerning the instrumentation or implements contained within them.

But let’s give it a go shall we?  Let’s begin with the first 5 verses.

 “Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.  Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King.  Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp.  For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.  Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.”  Psalm 149:1-5 (NIV)

Like I said these words are not a hard swallow for the average believer.  Although there are a few things that need clarification for you and me as Christians even in those five verses.

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The psalmist begins the same as he has for the last few Psalms preceding this one.

Praise the Lord” – ‘Hallelujah’!

The best views from the mountain top were actually beyond the fenced in area.  Though the path was narrow and steep and the drop off deadly.  The view was panoramic and unobscured so it was compelling.  There was no turning back for me I had to see what lay ahead on the trail.

For the Psalmist this was another call to praise as the procession was going up to Mt. Zion.  The pilgrims are pictured as enjoying the fellowship each step of the journey…though to be sure some of those steps were not easy nor enjoyable.  There was much danger on their path.  The faint hearted might have been tempted to turn around if it wasn’t  for the encouragement they received along the way.  Yet clearly by the time they began this Psalm the end was in sight.  Victory was most assured.  Soon they will be at Mt. Zion in the presence of the Lord.

So now the Psalmist calls for a new song.  “Sing to the LORD a new song”.  Why new?  Why not those wonderful old hymns of yesteryear?   Why not a psalm from the first half of the psalter?  Or a praise ditty that has withstood the riggers of time?  Why a new song I found myself asking of this Psalmist.

This wasn’t  the first time the Psalmist has called for a new song.  A quick flip through the Psalms and we find,

 “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy”  (Psalm 33:3).  It was a response to the deliverance that had come from the Lord.  A song worthy to be sung because of the latest victory according to the latter half of Psalm 33.

In Psalm 40 we read, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD” (Psalm 40:3).  Again the song was new because of what God had done anew.  It was a testimony of the new level of relationship that David felt.

In Psalm 96 we read: “Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth” (Psalm 96:1).   And you only have to go to verse two to see why the Psalmist is calling out for people to sing.  “Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:2).  Are you beginning to see a pattern here?  Seems to me that every time there is a call for a new song it is because of a recognition of God’s salvation and deliverance afresh.

Again in Psalm 98:1 we read: “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” (Psalm 98:1).   When has He done those marvelous things?   Surely one could say that with the Lord there wasn’t  ever a time when what He did wasn’t marvelous.  Yet here again the Psalmist is calling for the congregation to join him in a new song. Why?

Because, “The LORD has made known His salvation; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations”

Psalm 98:2 (NASB).   Once again the Lord has reached out and delivers the Psalmist and the people of God and so once again it is time for a new song.

In Psalm 144 we read,  “I will sing a new song to you, O God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you…” Psalm 144:9 (NIV)  In verse 7 of that psalm David cries out to the Lord for deliverance from his enemies.  In fact the whole of Psalm 144 could be considered a prayer of salvation.  But not in our usual sense of the word.  We think that a prayer of salvation is simply asking Jesus into one’s heart.  Sort of a one-time life insurance policy.  But clearly from David’s and the other Psalm writers, salvation was required in an on-going way.  And by verse 9 of Psalm 144 David said that when God answers this current prayer for deliverance his response will be to “sing a new song to you, O God” (9) complete with instrumental accompaniment.

It seems the new song is in keeping with salvation.  But salvation is not something that happened to you it is something that is happening to you.  You are being delivered and restored daily as you walk with the Lord.

Isn’t  that awesome?  Every day the Christian receives opportunities for more salvation to happen in their life.  Every day in a real sense we should be praising the Lord for the salvation of that day.  Then and only then does it become a new song.

What is your new song today?  How has God recently saved you?

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“The steadfast law of the Lord never ceases his mercies never come to an end…they are new every morning…great is thy faithfulness oh Lord.”   How is His faithfulness new for you today?

Maybe it is some old bad habit that threatened to flare up again today but the Spirit of God saved you!  You had strength to say no!  David says we ought to sing that new song “in the assembly of the saints!”  To remind one another of God’s redeeming love when we come together.

In verse 2 we read, “Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King.”   Some say that only Christians are truly Israel these days. Though I’m sure the Jewish people world-wide might have a different take on that.

Yet the Psalmist seems to include more than the Jewish people as he calls for this new song.  “Let the people of Zion be glad in their King”.

 Who are the people of Zion?  And who is this King that they are to be glad of?

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The people of Zion are those who live in or have come to know Jerusalem as their special city.  But Zion had less than noble beginnings.

Biblically,  Mt. Zion was a Jebusite   fortress that was considered unconquerable.  We read in 2 Samuel that David, “The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites,  who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.”  They thought, “David cannot get in here.”  Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David” (2 Samuel 5:6-7 (NIV).

Their arrogance was their undoing.  Somehow David knew that there was only one way to conquer that city.  It was one of those God moments I’m sure.  He realized that blind and lame could go in through the water shafts and so he did just that.  The rest is history.

But David did not proudly pronounce himself the unstoppable conqueror nor even give himself the well-deserved pat on the back.

“…David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel” 2 Samuel 5:12.  So that fortress known as Mt. Zion became the city of David and of course is now synonymous with Jerusalem.  God had delivered it into David’s hands.  It was a day of salvation!  And you can be sure that David sang a new song that day!

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Zion theology throughout the bible speaks of the special Kingdom where the everlasting King will reign.  David was the first but God promised that he would not be the last.   We read in Rev.21:2, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” Revelation 21:2 (NIV).    All those who are Zionists can look forward to spending an eternity worshiping the King whose throne will be centered in Jerusalem.

So this Psalm calls upon all who would worship the everlasting King to bring a new song.  And to do so with whatever instruments they may have. Including their bodies!  Dancing and singing, banging loudly on tambourines!  What a sight!  What a sound!

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I don’t know about you but I get tired of the debate in Christian circles about noisy instruments in worship.  What do you think, it was a quiet event that day?   …let me just say this,  the amount of trumpets and or air moving instruments blowing combined with drums, tambourines and other stringed instruments mentioned throughout the Psalms must have been plenty loud enough all on their own.  But wait….you add perhaps a million people singing a new song and that would have been loud!  Very loud! In the best sort of way!   What a party!

And the reason for this new song celebration?

Verse 4 says, “For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with?”….yup you guessed it…“salvation”.   They were called to celebrate God’s fresh deliverance.

God is always doing that it seems.  But sometimes we don’t notice or perhaps simply take it for granted.

For example those who were born into Christian households have much to be thankful for but often when they give testimony they have little to say.  Whereas those who were delivered from a life on streets may be able to point to a short history with God’s salvation but not see how He was directing their path even on the street.

So it is good that we keep even shorter records.  What has God saved you from or out of today?  Sing to Him a new song of praise in the assembly of the saints.

The Psalmist writes, “Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds” Psalm 149:5 (NIV).   When you wake up and when you retire for the night are wonderful times to praise the Lord.  If you can’t think of what to praise Him for …how about this…  You woke up this morning!  Or God helped you make it through another day!  Don’t take that for granted.

We in Canada have much to be thankful for.  We have a justice system that for the main part works and is impartial.  It’s not perfect but God can use it to bring justice and restore righteousness.  PTL?

I think in a small part that is what verses 6-9a are getting at.  There we read:  “May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them” Psalm 149:6-9 (NIV).

In the book of Nehemiah we read how Israel rebuilt the walls with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.  The people were constantly concerned that their enemies would come and kill them while they rebuilt Jerusalem.  The priests stood watch in key places and when they saw something suspicious they would blow a horn and the people stopped their building and gathered together to defend themselves.

We don’t live with that kind of pressure here in Canada.  There are plenty of places where our Christian brothers and sisters are being attacked, burned out and even murdered while the local government officials, whose job it is to protect and serve, turn a blind eye.  But this is not the case in Canada or even the USA and many parts of Europe.  For hundreds of years the rule of justice founded on Biblical principles has been upheld.

Again I would have to say not perfectly but at least it has provided a measure of security for the peoples.

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When good people do nothing evil reigns it just does.   Though we are a church that seeks non-violent solutions to the evil around us our present world is not following those rules and principles yet.  The Psalmist was perhaps looking to the day I spoke of early, found in Revelations when the New Jerusalem will be perfectly just.   But that day has not come yet.  And in the meantime Paul wrote in Romans, “… if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4).

God has given the power of the sword to the state to bring justice, and when they actually do they are acting as His vessels of vengeance and wrath.

The Psalmist said that it is the job of God’s people …no not simply the job… “This is the glory of all the saints” (9b).   They are given this glorious responsibility.  Who but those who have relationship with their maker are qualified to balance justice with mercy?  To bring even heads of state and those in positions of power and authority back in line with God’s precepts?  Yet we sometimes think that this should be the job of the non-believer.

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What restraint can they possible have?  A code of ethics?  Laws of the land that change at a politician’s whim?

Saints need to be in the positions of power and authority to help bring true justice.  So I applaud my brothers and sisters who are in the RCMP or have placed themselves in harm’s way by being in the military especially when they are following God’s decrees while “working for the man”.

It’s not easy so I’ve been told  and to a small degree experienced.  But it is necessary until the second coming of Christ.  Without the faithful our societies would collapse in chaos!  PTL?

Yes there is a new song for you to sing today.  The song of the redeemed who have been protected and saved by God’s agents of vengeance.

You see salvation is an ongoing process.  And it is a multifaceted daily event in the believer’s life.  Some of the things we take for granted…the police who guard our properties and uphold justice.  The Firefighters who sit and wait hours on end but respond when pandemonium breaks loose. The medical system that is used by God to restore health when disease threatens to rob our peace.

So again I ask you and will leave this question for you to wrestle with all week long.  What has God saved you from today?  Sing a new song of praise to him on your bed tonight as you begin to know His salvation.

 

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