Several times in the Psalms we find the admonition to "sing a new song." As worship leaders and church musicians this should immediately get our attention. We are always looking for a new song to learn and then teach to our congregations. Let's examine these references to "singing a new song" found in the songbook of the ancient Hebrews.
Sing to him [God] a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
I will sing a new song to you, O God;
upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you [God],
Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Here are 10 things we learn about music and worship from examining these verses:
Sing! Throughout the Psalms we find references to singing. God has created human beings with the physical ability to sing. With our own bodies we create music. We call this singing.
These verses teach us that our singing is to have a purposeful direction. We are to sing directly to the LORD. Our physical cognitive process (our minds) enable us to lift our singing voices up to God as praise and worship.
We are directed to sing a "new song" to the LORD. What does this mean? We will discuss this in detail below.
Musical instruments are a part of singing a new song to the LORD.
Loud shouts of joy are a part of singing a new song to the LORD.
"All the earth" is to sing to the LORD. This includes humans and all of God's creation (rivers, mountains, tress, etc.).
We sing to the LORD because "he has done marvelous things!"
Instrumentalists play their instruments and make music to the LORD.
Singing a new song to the LORD is synonymous with praising the LORD.
We are to sing a new song to the LORD with other people who love the LORD. We do this each Sunday morning when we come together to worship the LORD.
Now, what does it mean to "sing a new song?" Here are four suggestions to consider:
Yes, obviously it can mean to write new words and compose new melodies to form a brand new song. This has happened throughout Christian history and it must continue today. We always need new songs of praise and worship to express our love for God, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The writer of Lamentations helps us with this understanding:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
It could also simply mean that the words and music are new to the singers. The singers have found a song that was previously written and it is new to them. This happens all the time. As Christians we have a rich heritage of hymns and songs that have been written in the past by persons who have loved the LORD. Let's keep on looking for that one special song to express our love for the LORD.
Non-Christians and new Believers could all of a sudden decide to sing the songs of Yahweh. Yes! This is wonderful! Non-Christians are being prompted by the Holy Spirit to become believers in Jesus. As they experience singing new songs about God's love for them they will soon become followers of Jesus. New Believers must sing new songs about forgiveness of sins and the joy of their salvation because of Jesus' death on the cross. This reminds us of the reference to singing a new song in John's Revelation:
And they sang a new song, saying,
Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
Here is one last possibility about the meaning of singing a new song. There are many worship songs that we have been singing for many years. The words and melody are very familiar. Then, all of a sudden while singing one of these songs a particular word or phrase jumps out at us with a fresh, new understanding. We are now singing this familiar song as a new song. This reminds us of Paul's instructions to the church in Corinth:
What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind [understanding] also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind [understanding] also.
(1 Corinthians 14:15)
There is one more reference to singing a new song in the Psalms.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
This is amazing! God himself puts a new song in our mouths and we lift this new song back to God as a new song of praise! AND (!) because of this new song many people will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in the LORD! The singing of this new song will lead to new Believers!
Amen! Let's continue to lift new songs unto the LORD!
- Dr. Merril Smoak