The responsorial psalm for this week comes from Psalm 98, an enthronement psalm that praises God as king over all.
Sing praise to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and melodious song. With trumpets and the sound of the horn sing joyfully before the King, the LORD.
This psalm repeatedly summons all creation to praise God, who rules as king over all.
These initial verses elaborate on the musical element of the praise, with instrumental directions that are quite specific, suggesting that they might have originated in an actual enthronement ceremony.
Let the sea and what fills it resound, the world and those who dwell in it; let the rivers clap their hands, the mountains shout with them for joy.
The scope of God’s rule encompasses the entire world (tēbēl), a Hebrew term that includes not only the land but all that lives upon it.
The specific mention of the sea has a mythic undertone: Yam, the Hebrew word for “sea,” is the name of an ancient Canaanite god of watery chaos whom God defeated at the beginning of time. The sea, which was once considered a terrible threat in an earlier way of thinking, is here merely a subdued body of water under God’s control.
“River” was the name of yet another mythic deity; it too, is now a mere participant in the celebration of God’s sovereignty, along with the mountains, which were thought to be the place where God dwells.
All of these elements are part of the throng that sings praise to God.
Before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to rule the earth, he will rule the world with justice and the peoples with equity.
The final verse is eschatological in character. The LORD is coming and is coming to judge (shāpat).
The idea of judgment often imparts a sense of dread, since it implies the notion of passing judgment. However, within the cosmic setting of this psalm, judgment means setting things in order so life can prosper.