“Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth.” Psalm 96:1
As the Canto Deo Chamber and Festival Choirs prepare the majestic Cantate Domino by John Rutter for the Jubilate Deo Spring Concert, I think it may be helpful to reflect briefly on the first verse of Psalm 96 which serves as the text for this anthem. In particular, I want to make note of the phrase ‘new song’. 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). So what constitutes the ‘new song’ of which we sing so emphatically in Cantate Domino?
I want to suggest two features of the ‘new song’ emerging from the study of this text that contribute to our understanding of its newness.
The first is the role of the singer as a herald. Proclaim (v.2), testify (v.3), ascribe, (v.7), announce (v.10) are all verbs of declaration and pronouncement. The role of the singer is to herald the good news of God’s nature, character, and acts in salvation history. We are God’s messengers to herald the ‘new song’.
The second is the theology of the song. Note how the ‘new song’ lauds, magnifies, and exults God in glory, majesty, dominion, and power. Note how all of creation stands in reverence, awe, and wonder of the greatness of God. This is a ‘new song’ which affirms the righteousness and holiness of God and the coming judgment of God upon the earth and the peoples of the earth, in faithfulness and truth. So let us sing this ‘new song’ together!
Soli Deo Gloria!!
Dr. Keith Wells is the Chaplain for Canto Deo and also a Professor at Denver Seminary.