“Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and sing aloud for joy.” – Psalm 33: 1-3
In our review of biblical passages and themes related to sacred choral music, I have made note before of the phrase ‘new song’. The phrase is found seven times in the Old Testament (Ps. 33:3; 40:3 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; Isa. 42:10) and twice in the New Testament, both, interestingly, in the book of Revelation (Rev. 5:9; 14:3). It occurred to me that it may be helpful for us to look at the ‘new song’ as a paradigm for Canto Deo. What make a song ‘new’ and worthy of our joyful singing?
I want to suggest several features of this song emerging from the psalm that contribute to our understanding of its newness.
The first is the character of the singer. We find that the ‘righteous’ and ‘upright’ are called to sing ‘joyfully’ the new song. And the musicians are called to play ‘skillfully’. Why should the virtue and attitude of the singer be important? It is befitting for those whose hearts and minds resonate with the nature, character, and purposes of God to sing of them. One can sing beautiful sacred music and be far from the God about whom the song is written. A ‘new song’, then, comes from a ‘new heart’, one cleansed by the grace of God.
The second feature of this song which makes it a ‘new’ song is the theology of the song. Here we note the ‘character’ of God (vv 4-5) faithful, truthful, and dependable and trustworthy; the ‘word’ of God (vv 6-9) creative and powerful, and the purpose of God (vv 10-11) the plotting of the nations, the schemes of their leaders, the manipulations of human interactions are all for naught. God sees them all, frustrates and restrains them and establishes his purposes forever. This is a ‘new song’ which extols, lauds, and magnifies the greatness, the glory, the splendor, the dominion, and the authority of God over all of creation.
And, the third feature of this song which makes it is a ‘new’ song is that it is comprehensive of all reality. God is not just a deity for an individual or a specific people. God is not just the God of the Psalmist or the nation of Israel. God is the God of all peoples, all nations, and all creation and it is futile to think otherwise. There is no competition of gods or idols dependent upon human power and control. Military might, political power, economic control, are insignificant. The creation is handled like weights and measures to the omnipotent God. The Lord is our strength and our shield. That is a ‘new song’ worth singing!!!
Dr. Keith Wells is the Chaplain for Canto Deo and also a Professor at Denver Seminary.