“Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands and all who live in them.” – Isaiah 42:10 (NIV)
Of the nine instances in the Bible where the phrase ‘new song’ is found, this is the only one in the prophetic literature. In this prophecy of Isaiah, what prompts him to command that a ‘new song’ be sung? From the outset, I think the answer to this question is clear. Isaiah calls on the whole world to sing praise to God. No longer are songs of praise restricted to God’s covenant people at a specific time and place in history. This is ‘new’ in the sense that it is global and universal. The reason for such a song is the triumph of God and his purposes for creation as portrayed with the imagery of the warrior. The extremities of the earth, ‘ends’, ‘islands’, ‘sea’, ‘desert’, ‘mountaintops’ are emphasized expressing totality.
Isaiah is proclaiming that God is not simply the God of his covenant people. He is the universal God, and what he does for his people has joyous implications for the whole world. If he can deliver an enslaved people from their oppressors, then there is no one whose distress and difficulty is beyond his delivering power. No obstacles will stand in his way, rivers or forests or mountains. God is going to birth a new reality on behalf of his people, a reality of deliverance and salvation. And any who oppose him will be defeated. This is the refrain of the new song, false gods will never explain the meaning of life, foretell the future accurately, nor care for and deliver their worshippers. This is the reality of the new song. May God grant us grace to sing to the Lord this new song!!!
Dr. Keith Wells is the Chaplain for Canto Deo and also a Professor at Denver Seminary.