Ironic isn’t it? The oldest collection of songs known to man includes the admonition to “sing a new song” to the Lord. Six times in the Psalms the exhortation is clear –“Sing a new song to Him.” (Psalm 33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1)
And what better time to sing a new song than at the beginning of a new year? With all our thoughts around new starts and fresh opportunities in 2015, shouldn’t we think about the new songs of faith we will sing this year?
If you think about it, it makes sense that God would invite us to create new expressions of worship as we give our praise to Him. After all, we are created in His image and of all of the titles that we give Him, “Creator” is one He gave Himself (Colossians 1:16). Our inclination to create is one of God’s fingerprints on us. And it is one of the ways we reflect His nature. No other part of His creation “creates.” We share that trait alone.
To gain clarity around this command, it is helpful to see the other references in scripture that call for “new songs.” Isaiah 42:10 reads,
“Sing a new song to the Lord; sing His praise from the ends of the earth…”
The prophet continues in the next seven verses to describe the vast reach of the praise of our God, across groups of people and mountain ranges of land. No barrier – whether man made or God created – will thwart the new song of praise from God’s people.
There are two references to new songs in the New Testament, both found in The Revelation. In chapter 5 and verse 9, the elders fall down before the Lamb and sing a song that fills the halls of heaven; “You are worthy to take the scroll…” is how it begins.
Revelation 14:3 is the last “new song” reference in scripture and it reads, “They sang a new song before the throne…” and goes on to give the rest of the lyric.
On that day, the song is new, but we know the lyric now. As a matter of fact, the songs proclaiming the worthiness of the Lamb fill church libraries and musical repositories across the world.
It is noteworthy that just one chapter later, the song of God’s servant, Moses is sung in heaven, (Revelation 15:3), proving that old songs will be part of eternity as well.
So what makes a song “new?” And, what is the significance of the Psalmists’ exhortation for the worshiper to sing “new songs” to the Lord? It comes with the realization that the qualities of the song itself are not what make it “new.”
Think of it this way; suppose you had a tried and true recipe for bread. It was passed down to you from your great grandmother’s family. And every time you assemble the ingredients and prepare them just the way she used to a hundred years ago, you get the finest bread you have ever tasted. The recipe is old – but the bread you enjoy is fresh and new.
The “new song” does not have new ingredients. As a matter of fact, the song of faith from today’s worshiper has the same truth of the song of faith the Psalmist gave us centuries ago. But it must be assembled and prepared in a new heart. The only thing new about the “new song” in scripture is the heart of the believer that sings it.
It’s not just new words or new melodies that make up the new song. It is a new spirit of surrender and adoration filling the heart of the singer as he sings the timeless truth of God’s eternal Word in an expression of worship to the Almighty Lord of All. The ingredients are tried and true; the outcome is fresh and new.
And when we sing the new song of praise to the Lord, the world around can smell the freshness of our offering and be drawn in to taste and see the goodness of our God in the person of Jesus Christ, the bread of life.
In this NEW year, sing a NEW song to the Lord. Let that be our mission.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.