A friend of mine routinely says, “Keep the victory,” as his goodbye. What he means by that, I never bothered to ask. I figured I knew, but now I question this. That phrase came back to me as I read Psalm 98.
Once again we are called to sing a new song, this time about God’s victory. “O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. The Lord has made known his victory . . . All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.” (1-2a, 3b) In the King James Version, the word victory is translated as salvation in verse 2a and 3b.
Whatever this victory is, it is a reason for rejoicing. Those who have the victory praise God. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” (4)
All of creation rejoices at the coming of the Lord. The floods clap their hands, the hills sing, both beautiful images from nature that is characteristic of Hebrew poetry. “Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to rule the earth.” (7-9a)
So what is this victory? Webster defines victory as the overcoming of an enemy or an antagonist. It is also the achievement of mastery or success in a struggle or endeavor.
If we look to Scripture for insights, we see in Isaiah how God swallows up death in victory (Is. 25:8). This concept is echoed in 1 Corinthians, 15:54-57 “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? . . . But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Revelations 15:2, victory is over the beast. In 1 John 5:4 “the victory that conquers the world is our faith.”
One of the wonderful aspects of the Bible is that the past is often a foreshadowing of the future. “The salvation accomplished in history is the promise and warrant of the salvation that shall be in the end time.” (The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, p. 170)
It’s both/and, now and future. God’s kingdom is both present now and is yet to come. Salvation is ours already through Jesus Christ, and yet to come. Jesus in his death and resurrection won us victory over death, and yet we need to participate in this victory. We need to struggle to gain mastery over the power of sin and evil, over our own sinful tendencies and evil present in the world. Only then will we have victory.
Victory is ours and yet to come. And when that day arrives, what a wonderful day it will be. All creation will sing and clap their hands at the wonder which is our God, the victory which is ours!
How do you understand the phrase, “Keep the victory?” What needs to be mastered in you in order to have this victory?