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Joy to the World & Tears Over Zion

A Pastoral Prayer from Psalm 98

By Tim Cantrell – 26 October 2023


For our regular public reading of Scripture, our church has been going through the Psalms.  Last Sunday was Psalm 98 – a very timely and hope-filled song in light of the war in the Middle East and rising tensions globally.  Here it is, followed by a pastoral prayer leading our congregation in applying this psalm to our day.[1]

O sing to the Lord a new song,
For He has done wonderful things,
His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.
The Lord has made known His salvation;
He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

 Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
With the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord.

 Let the sea roar and all it contains,
The world and those who dwell in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy
Before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth;
He will judge the world with righteousness
And the peoples with equity.

Our Almighty King, our loving Father, our sovereign Lord – in Jesus’ saving name we approach Your royal courts, by His blood alone we stand boldly, and we come gladly before Your righteous throne.  We approach You, the Judge of all the earth, our omnipotent, gracious, and covenant-keeping God – faithful to “the house of Israel”. Savour of the “ends of the earth”.

Rightly has Isaac Watts taught us to join in this psalm: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King!”.  In this world crying out for justice, yet blinded by false, social justice – You have given us this song celebrating true, godly justice.

This psalmist spoke better than he knew:  Who can sing a “newer” (v. 1) song than us, who have new hearts and have found new life in Christ because of His New Covenant redemption – we who are the “one new man”, the body of the living Christ, His Church?

Truly Lord, You have done “wonderful things” (v. 1) – none more wonderful than saving us from our sins!  Your “righteousness” and Your “salvation” (vv. 2-3) supremely in Jesus and His glorious gospel.  Your saving, justifying action in Christ has rescued us eternally, and is being made known across the globe as Your gospel advances, as You build Your Church.

Nothing but Your ‘strong arm’ (v. 1) could have ever raised us from being dead in our trespasses, snatching us out of the vice grip of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  No wonder this psalm calls us to such exuberant joy and great celebration!

 No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

As Your Word tells us, “Creation groans in the pangs of childbirth until now” (Rom. 8), awaiting this promised day of our Lord’s 2nd Coming, His return to this earth when He will “make all things new”, when all wrongs will be put right, when evil will be defeated once and for all.  So we cry out, ‘How long, O Lord, how long?!’

How long, O Lord, will this Satan-occupied, wicked world cause evil to abound, virtue to vanish, and moral outrage to disappear?  How long will public figures deny the Holocaust and side with genocidal murderers yet still graduate, keep their jobs and parade their views without shame in public?  How long will our media blame Israel for the atrocities done against her?!  How long will our world declare that any other nation can do its God-given job to defend itself and avenge its enemies, except for the Jewish nation?

Worst of all, O Lord, we see Your Church again joining in this Satanic antisemitism and Jew-hatred:  Just as Your apostle Paul repeatedly warned in Romans about the Gentile Church boasting of replacing the Jews, when instead we should be making them jealous by loving and evangelizing them (Rom. 9-11).  Your Word is so clear that one reason we trust Your faithful name and Your gospel’s credibility is that You have not abandoned Israel, though she is hardened in unbelief, under Your heavy judgment and in desperate need of the only gospel that saves.

Yet still the Jews are “Your people”, “beloved enemies” – against us because of the gospel, yet still we are for them “because of the fathers”.  Without Israel we would have no Bible, no Jesus, no Church, no gospel, no salvation (Rom. 9-11)!

Forgive us, Lord, if we have joined in any way in the Marxist lies and popular propaganda of this godless age that despises the Jews and anything representing the West – all because they hate You and Your Word, and the resulting order, beauty, freedom, human dignity and civilization that a biblical worldview has produced.

O God, if the day comes where the Jews must again flee their lands to find safe haven, may You so awaken and purify Your Church here in South Africa that they could flee here in droves and find many friends of Zion.

We owe such a great debt to the Jews; keep us mindful of this in an ungrateful, arrogant world.  Most of all, we owe it to Israel and to all nations to bring them the gospel – for Jew and Arab, African and Afrikaner alike!  Use us, Lord, use our church, use our seminary – use every sermon, every worship service, every worshipper here today – to plead with the lost to “flee the wrath to come”, to be saved before You come to “judge the earth, to judge the world with righteousness”, to judge all peoples “with equity”.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy!



[1] I’ve omitted various specific names and other items I also prayed for that were specific to our congregation and context.

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