A Joyful Noise
Do you remember earlier this year when the cicadas were singing in the trees? Of course you do; who could have missed it? This year should be known as the “Year of the Cicada”, for once every 17 years Brood X emerges from the ground to procreate the species and, in the process, make a tremendous amount of sound. Many people had a presence of cicadas much more pronounced than I experienced so perhaps they would not describe it as singing but rather as noise. This brings to mind Psalm 98:4, ” Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!” The ESV translates the Hebrew word rua as “joyful noise” although Bible translations are about evenly split between “joyful noise” and “shout joyfully”. So are the cicadas shouting joyfully or are they making an annoying noise? Psalm 98 tells us it is the former.
Verses 7-8 continue, “Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together.” The psalmist is telling us that not just cicadas but all creation is to sing praises to the LORD: the earth, the sea, the world, the rivers, the hills, and all that is in them. Yes, mankind is included here and the psalm gives instructions to us as well, but let’s stick with the rest of creation for the time being. And to whom is the praise directed? Verse 6 says, “Make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!” The capitalized “King” is a Messianic reference to King Jesus, God the Son, who was a participant in the Creation with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit (John 1:1-3, Genesis 1:1-2). All of creation is called to praise the triune God who created everything.
How do we know when creation is making a joyful noise to the LORD? We have to quiet our hearts and minds and our human activities to allow our ears to pick up the sounds of creation. Tune out the background traffic sounds and airplanes, the TVs and stereos, the lawn mowers and chain saws, the beep-beep-beep of a truck backing up and distant sirens, even the sounds of children playing and the voices of neighbors. After filtering out all these sounds listen to what remains. Do you hear the rustle of the wind in the leaves in the trees or the scratch of a dried up leaf blowing across the ground? Creation is making a joyful noise to the LORD. Do you hear raindrops pattering against the leaves or splashing into puddles? Creation is making a joyful noise to its Creator. How about the distant rumble of thunder or the sharp crack of a nearby lightning bolt? Creation is shouting joyfully to its Maker. Do you hear songbirds warble or mourning doves moan or owls hoot or cicadas sing? Creation is making joyful noises to the Lord Jesus Christ. We all have heard recordings of the delightful clicks of dolphins and the wailings of whales even though we don’t often have the opportunity to hear these sounds in nature. Creation is shouting joyfully to the Creator Spirit.
If we hear and appreciate the sounds and songs of nature praising the Creator, what should our response be? Psalm 98 tells us to “sing to the LORD a new song” (v. 1), “with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn” (vv. 5-6). We are to use our voices to sing new songs, make joyful noises, shout joyfully, create melodies, roar with the sea, and sing with the hills. We are to clap our hands, tap our feet, and play musical instruments. God doesn’t care what we do, He just wants to hear our praises. Let’s start praising God now, not tomorrow or next week, but right now. Then in 17 years when the cicadas return we will be well rehearsed in order to sing with them.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!