Sermon Text: Psalm 98
Pastor Philip Bigelow
We have reached the culmination of our sermon series “Singing the Psalms ‘Til the End Times” today, and it’s not just the end of our sermon series, but it is also the Sunday that brings the church year to a close “Christ the King Sunday”. It’s a fitting end to the church year because it reminds us who our God is, what he is doing for us, and that he rules and reigns over all. After all that we learned throughout the church year of Jesus ministry and teaching, his suffering, death, and resurrection and then how we grow in our faith and in Christian living through the work of the Holy Spirit in Word and sacrament and now it all comes back to who our Lord is and what he continues to do for us. Four weeks ago, I asked two questions about your singing. I asked where you like to sing, and we’ve talked about that one a bit during the sermon series and the second question I asked as we kicked off the series was: “Why do you sing?” And we listed some easy responses to that. We sing because we are in a good mood. It’s just one of those days that not only did you wake up on the right side of the bed, but everything is going your way. Another reason to sing might be when things are going great in life. When you hear the news, “It’s a boy or it’s a girl.” “Congratulations, you got the promotion”. Today we are going to see some specific reasons to sing and specifically to whom we sing.
Today we see that we sing to our King. This is a picture that the Israelites would have connected with easily. They knew what it meant to have a king seated on the throne with crown perched on his head. In their history what was a king responsible for? A king was responsible for a number of things. They were responsible for protecting the people and providing security for their nation. They were responsible for leading the armies in battle. Kings would go out and fight against other nations for a number of reasons, whether it was financial gain or to expand the dotted lines on the map that outlined their kingdom. The king was responsible for providing for the citizens and ensuring the economic stability of the kingdom. Probably the greatest household name king for the Israelites was none other than King David. It was under King David that Israel really gathered the political power to throw around with other nations. While he was king the boarders of Israel expanded rapidly because of his conquests and toward the end of his reign and into the reign of his son Solomon the Israelites enjoyed an economic prosperity that would be unduplicated in their history. The Israelites knew what a king was supposed to do and what a king that was worthy of praise looked like.
We probably don’t. The idea of a dictator over a nation or the power of a nation residing on the throne makes the American democracy in us squirm in the pew a bit today. Probably the closest experience we have with royalty is watching the royal wedding of Prince Henry and Megan Markle last spring. A connection that we can relate to is what do you look for in a great leader, a great CEO, someone that can take charge and move things in the right direction. According to Forbes the top five qualities that make you CEO material are passion, vision, grit and courage, decisiveness, and self-confidence. Then if you want to measure if they are doing well you look at the product they are leading. How is the company performing? How do the quarterly reports look? Did the company hit the quarterly projections? What is the profit/loss margin? Do they have what it takes to say, “That’s a good leader. That’s a good CEO. Or to put it in the terms that our text does: That’s who I would want to be my king and I would sing his praises.”
Let’s look at what God lays out before us today. Our lessons do a beautiful job of tying the truth of who our king is together all the way from beginning to end. In Genesis 49 today we read the establishment of the royal line of Israel. The one from whom the kings would come to rule Israel. I wish I could tell you that royal line remained intact both in spiritual leadership and political guidance for the nation of Israel, but that line was scarred with idolatry and stained with weakness and jealousy, wickedness and want. The earthly throne established would be toppled over and the crown removed, and the enemies of Israel would exert their power and authority over them. The royal line in Israel didn’t remain so royal throughout its history to the point where the earthly kingdom would be toppled and tarnished with sin. It was not what you would look to glean the top five qualities for a royal dynasty. However, the ultimate fulfillment of the King that would come from the line of Judah and establish his rule would not be found sitting on a throne in Jerusalem but is found on a cross for a criminal on Calvary. That is where our Gospel Lesson takes us today and there we see the fulfillment. Is that the place where we go to find a king? Is that where we go to find a great leader? Where is his performance? Where is his following? At that point it was a rag tag group of misfits called his disciples. There was a leader that couldn’t even stop the deception and betrayal from one of his own. Hardly the scene of triumph as Jesus hangs helplessly on the cross. Taunted, jeered, battered. To this scene the world gazes and scoffs, “This is your King? Thanks, but no thanks.”
And tragically, so do we. We may not outright deny Jesus like those that scoff at him, but our Psalm today tells us, “Sing to the LORD a new song…” (Psalm 98:1) and we reply, “I’d love to, but just give me a little more reason to sing a new song to my King. I know what Jesus has done for me, and I’m thankful for that, but I need a little more before I can start singing to him. I can really start singing to him when he starts showing who he is more in my life because last time I checked if you look around in the world and take an inventory of actions I don’t reach the conclusion, “Wow is God winning!” And if I put the microscope on my life and begin to think, “So Jesus, if you are the King of kings then come and be the King of my family and pick up all of the broken pieces and put it back together. So, Jesus, if you are the King of kings could you just wave your scepter over my life so I can stop the struggle. So, Jesus, if you are the King of kings can you just place the crown on my head for a little bit. I’m not asking for the crown of creation here, but maybe the tiara of good tidings for a while.” Is that too much to ask? In other words, “Thank you Jesus for salvation and all of that stuff, but if you could do these other things, because after all you are King of kings and Lord of lords, then I’d really have a reason to sing a new song to you. Then you’d really hear some praise from my lips.”
Wow, we have a reason to sing to the King! God has every reason to say to you and me, “I’m done. Away from me. I’m done with you and your sin. Go and get what you deserve, which is nothing from me, and is the hell that you deserve.” We are like the eight-year-old that sits down for supper after mom just spent 4 hours making lasagna from scratch and says, “Yuk, I don’t want that. I want mac and cheese and it better be the blue box kind,” to which mom replies, “Fine, go hungry. You don’t get anything.” That is what God should say to us.
Here is what he says, “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 his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. 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.” (Psalm 98:1-3). This is nothing short of a miracle of grace! God comes to you and me and says, “Sing to the LORD a new song.” Sing to the LORD, the God of free and faithful grace, who never changes, who never takes away his promises, who is the God of grace and love and forgiveness no matter what our sin-filled past. He is the one that has accomplished it all for us! He saved us in Jesus. He made Jesus saving work known and he reveals it to us because we would eternally lost. Wow, what a reason we have to sing to our King!
Jesus comes to us and says, “I have picked up the shattered pieces of your sinful life not just now, but for eternity and made you whole. Now, shout for joy because of what the Lord has done and sing praise to him in all of the ways that Pastor Hillmer highlighted last week. It’s repeated again in our Psalm today with the harp, trumpets, ram’s horn. And it can’t be held back. All of creation sings out in joy. The sea, the earth, the rivers, the mountains all of creation joins in a crescendo of praise.
We may lament at times and say, “Boy, doesn’t look like God is winning in this world.” The end of our Psalm reminds us he has the victory and he will have the final say. “For he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity” (Psalm 98:9). He judges not a whim, not changing with the circumstances. He judges justly. His judgment is right. He judges according to his salvation promised to us and revealed to us in Christ. Wow, we have a reason to sing to the King! Amen.
 “If You Want to Be CEO Material Develop These 15 Traits” Forbes.com. December 29, 2017