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Oh 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 known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God (Psalm 98:1–3).

“GOD’S BLESSEDNESS is his essential property, on account of which he is per se [intrinsically, in and of himself] and by his nature always free from every evil and affluent in every good—which signifies him to be most perfectly knowing, self-sufficient and content in himself, such that he neither needs nor grasps at our goods” – Amandus Polanus (1561–1610)

The background to Psalm 98 is the exodus event—an extraordinary moment in redemptive history that trumpets a singular truth: God is the deliverer of his people. In this display of omnipotent power, Yahweh “worked out His salvation” (v. 1c), “made known his salvation” (v. 2a), and “revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations” (v. 2b). For this reason, God’s people praise him (vv. 4–6).

In verses 7–9, the inspired Psalmist conveys through poetry what the Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 8:20–23: God’s saving goodness extends to the created order. (There’s a reason Psalm 98 lies behind Isaac Watts’s hymn “Joy to the World”!)

The application practically writes itself: With all creation, we are to sing joyfully to God because of his marvelous deeds. We praise him for the vastness and intricacies of his creation; we stand in awe of his effortless governance of the world; we bow in humble adoration at the effusive grace he showers on us in his Son, Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3ff.); and we long for the day when we will behold the King in his beauty for all eternity (Isa. 33:17).

But we must go deeper.

I submit that we must trace these external works of God—creation, providence, redemption, and consummation—back into the inner life of God and uncover what they reveal about him and how they should affect our lives. When we do, here’s what we discover: God is life (John 5:26). And since God is life in and of himself, “God does not need us for his own perfection.”[1] Hence, the God who gives life does not seek to grasp life from the creature or the created order.

Here’s why this is good news: God does not share his light, life, and love with you in order to get something from you. He shares his light, life, and love with you because he is love (1 John 4:8)—that is, he wills the good of his creatures. And he wills the good of his creatures because this loving God is good: “Goodness is the very essence of God’s Being, even if there were no creature to whom this could be manifested.”[2]

But God has chosen to manifest his goodness by sharing the joy of his inner life with us through his Son in the Spirit: “God’s goodness is a communicative, spreading goodness. . . . The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were happy in themselves and enjoyed one another before the world was. But that God delights to communicate and spread his goodness, there had never been a creation nor a redemption.”[3] Read: God created the world in order to spread his goodness to others by enfolding us into his reign of grace.

Practically, here’s what this means: Because God gives to creatures without needing creatures, “he relieves them of the false burden of completing [his] own identity,”[4] which means “I can never be defined by the job of meeting God’s needs.”[5]

This frees us to lift our eyes heavenward in astonishment. It is fitting for creatures to be astonished by their sheer existence. More than this, we are moved to praise God since he sustains us; we do not keep ourselves breathing; rather, we “breathe every day in his air and live upon his bounty.”[6] Taking our astonishment into a higher key involves basking in the realization that the God who sustains us also sent his Son to secure our redemption. He delivered us.

This truth also liberates us for a life of gratitude. The fact that God needs nothing proves that all the blessings he bestows on us spring from his good pleasure (Acts 17:24–25; Eph. 1:11–12): “God’s will toward anything outside himself is not an expression of desire but of pure benevolence.”[7] This means that we count our blessings, knowing that God gave them to us freely. They are occasions of pure charity. Truly, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:13).

Psalm 98 highlights God as the source of all blessing, the fountain and wellspring of all goodness, who acted to deliver his people from bondage. While our sin exiled us from God’s presence, God acted to restore us to a right relationship with himself through the Messiah—Jesus Christ. By virtue of his obedient life and curse-bearing death, redeemed sinners are able to share in his filial relationship to the Father.

Soli Deo Gloria!


[1] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, God and Creation, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 342.

[2] Wilhelmus á Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Vol. 1, God, Man, and Christ, trans. Bartel Elshout, ed. Joel R. Beeke (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017), 122.

[3] Richard Sibbes, “The Successful Seeker,” in Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander B. Grosart (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1983): 4:113.

[4] Donald Wood, “Maker of Heaven and Earth,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 14:4 (2012): 391.

[5] Rowan Williams, “On Being Creatures,” in On Christian Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 72.

[6] Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1, ed. Mark Jones (1682; repr., Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 237.

[7] Scott R. Swain, “That Your Joy May Be Full: A Theology of Happiness,” That Your Joy May Be Full: A Theology of Happiness – Reformed Blogmatics ( (accessed 8 September 2019).