The Old Testament records numerous victories made possible by the LORD. It records the victory of Abraham in rescuing Lot and his company (Gen. 13). It establishes the amazing power of God to deliver in the record of the crossing of the Red Sea and the Song of Moses sung in exaltation after the fact (Ex. 14-15). It draws attention, time and time again, to the military victories made possible through very unmilitary means throughout Israel’s years wandering in the wilderness, in the conquest of Canaan, and in the deliverance under the judges. The LORD’s providing victory is an unmistakable theme for Israel and for God. However, the celebration of victory recorded in Psalm 98 has many unique characteristics, and they deserve our attention and reflection.
Psalm 98 appears within a group of psalms emphasizing the reign of the LORD, but Psalm 98 distinguishes itself by its confident declaration of victory achieved (Psa. 98:1). While the LORD provided victories aplenty for Israel throughout their history—and certainly a number throughout the reign of David—this poetic announcement falls within a series of regnal psalms filled with Messianic imagery. Therefore, while the words could apply to David’s victories over Israel’s political foes, they apply even more to the greatest of victories God made possible through His Son. This indeed proved to be a victory that declared salvation and righteousness revealed (Psa.98:2; cf. Rom. 1:16-17), a victory that fulfilled His promise to Israel and is made known throughout all the world (Psa. 98:3). Having thus obtained the victory, He provided the greatest reasons for joy—a triumph if ever there was one (Psa. 98:4-6; Col. 2:14-15), a victory so great that the earth itself, in figure, was moved to acknowledge it (Psa. 98:7-8). However, the final verse removed any doubt regarding the connection intended between the surrounding psalms as well as its forward-looking meaning, restating in variation the closing of Psalm 96 that, by doing these things, the LORD had established His right to judge the earth, authority granted to the risen Lord (Psa. 98:9; Matt. 28:18; cf. Acts 17:30-31).
Every victory the LORD provided throughout all of the Old Testament was, in some way, an anticipation of the greatest victory He would provide ultimately. The Ammonites and the Philistines were mere shadows of the lurking enemies of sin and death. Therefore, if the joy over these earthly enemies deserved celebration and exultation, how much more does Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and Satan deserve our ongoing appreciation and adoration? But most of all, this victory established that the LORD reigns, just as Paul later described (1 Cor. 15:24-28). How powerful then the imagery for us to note that while the LORD achieved previous victorious by slaying these foes in battle, the greatest victory of all He achieved by being slain Himself so that He could rise victoriously! Conquering sin and conquering death, Jesus conquered Satan and made victory possible for us all. Surely this deserves to be lauded! But just as surely, His victory gives Him every right to judge. But His people can once again rejoice because He will judge with the same quality of character by which He achieved the victory. Jesus reigns! Jesus is on His throne! Jesus is victorious! Therefore, “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).