“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. Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn— shout for joy before the LORD, the King. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands. Let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.” — PSALM 98
I’m not happy. I’ve always thought of myself as a genuinely happy person, but this past week I learned that I’m really not happy. I discovered an online “Happiness Test” while I was surfing the internet this past week. So I took 10 minutes of my day to complete the 35 question test. The results were disappointing. To my dismay, I learned that I am only experiencing 63% of my potential happiness. Any teacher here will tell you that 63% on any test is not very good. In fact, 63% is a failing grade! So, by education standards, you might say that I am failing to be happy in my life. And of course, the website which offered the test had many suggestions on how to improve my happiness in life.
I wonder how the writer of Psalm 98 would have faired on the happiness test. He sounds like a pretty happy individual, doesn’t he? There is no mention of sin or sadness in his words. The text is virtually pure joyful praise to God. I would think that this psalmist would at least score a passing grade on the happiness test!
Of course, I realize that the online happiness test isn’t exactly scientific. I really don’t put much stock into its results. But the assessment that I’m not as happy as I could be is certainly true. In fact, I dare say that it is true for everyone. If we’re honest, we all will admit that we’re not as happy as we possibly can be. The fact is that we can’t be 100% happy on this side of heaven. The Devil constantly entices us with temptation, our world contaminates our lives with evil and immorality, and our own bodies and minds are infected with sin and imperfection which attacks us daily. The Devil, the world and our own sinful flesh prevent us from experiencing pure happiness in life.
We’ve all experienced unhappiness caused by sin. Sin causes difficult relationships with our children, our spouse and co-workers. Sin inflicts health problems that result in pain and suffering. Sin brings frustrations and heartaches to our lives. Sin leads to failed plans, loneliness and depression.Christians aren’t an exception to the unhappiness that sin brings. Sin causes unhappiness in our lives day in and day out.
The same is true for the writer of this psalm; although when you read his words, you might have a hard time believing that is true! His words are oozing with joy and thankfulness. But these joyful words were written by a sinful human being; who was taunted by the Devil daily; and lived in a wicked and corrupt world just like you and me.
So who is this writer? And how did he learn to live with such a joyful outlook on life? We don’t know who this writer is. We’re not even sure when the Psalm was written. Some believe it was after Israel crossed the Red Sea. Others think it was penned by King David. And still others think it may have been composed when Israel returned from exile in Babylon.
We can’t know who wrote Psalm 98 or when it was written. And it really doesn’t matter. But we do know where this unknown writer found his joy in life. He found new joy each day in God. His Psalm focuses on God’s strength; on God’s love; on God’s salvation; on God’s righteousness. His words are filled with joy and happiness because his words focus entirely on God. When life is about God, life will have real, and meaningful joy — even during difficult days.
Strive to make each day of your life about your awesome God and his promises to you. May your focus on Him bring you much joy and happiness in life.
Written by Staff Minister Brent Bitter