Oh sing a new song to the Lord! Sing to the Lord all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
I don’t know about things in your end of the world, but it’s been a long time since my church group has sung, deliberately and together, a Bible psalm. With all the singing done at church, the 150 songs of God’s composition seem to be ignored. It seems that the thinking behind this practice of not singing psalms has to do with wanting to sing new songs. Singing a ‘new song’ is surely a Bible idea, but I think the Bible’s idea of a new song is different from this modern practice.
First of all, the exhortation in Psalm 96 is to sing a new song, not to write one. The writing of Psalms was to be the work of people who had the designation of ‘prophet’. David, we are told, was a prophet since he foretold, for example, the resurrection of Jesus in Psalm 16 (Act 2:30). In fact, all the writers of the Psalms were prophets/seers (1 Chronicles 25:1-7), who spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20). In that case, these Bible Psalms were of no private interpretation; they were not merely the reflections of the human author but, as they are in truth, the Word of God and the songs of the Lord. We have no prophets of this type any more, the ‘new songs’ have been written. We now have the privilege to sing them.
So how can old songs be ‘new’? When we see them afresh in Jesus Christ. For example, when there was revival in the Old Testament Church during king Hezekiah’s reign, he commanded ‘the Levites to sing praise to the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads in worship’ (2 Chronicles 29:30). When the Holy Spirit brings our focus back to the Gospel “the good news of His salvation”, these ‘old songs’ – then 300 years old — were sung with vigour and joy. They were made ‘new’ again because the Gospel had come to them again in newness and freshness.
Well, you might say, that’s very Old Testament. We live in the freedom of the New. We do things Jesus’ way. That’s fine. Jesus was a Psalm singer (the hymn of Matthew 26:30 was undoubtedly a Psalm), he told his disciples that the Psalms spoke of Him (Luke 24:44) and he enabled them to see things that way (Luke 24:45). The first three Chapters of the book of Hebrews alone makes it abundantly clear that the Psalms speak of Jesus. Again, Paul in Eph. 5:18-19 and Col. 3:16 urges the church to sing Psalms, Hymns and Songs Spiritual (the adjective applies to all three words). The word ‘spiritual’ usually indicates something that is particularly a work of the Holy Spirit. These songs are word-of-God songs, as the context implies: — ‘be filled with the Spirit’; ‘let the word of God dwell in you richly’. Further, in I Corinthians 14 Paul tells the church to bring a Psalm (note, ‘bring’ not ‘write’) for their community times of worship. Because Jesus rose from the dead (Ps. 16), we have newness of life. The old songs become new again.
The New Testament church was a Psalm singing church, and they sang Psalms in worship of their risen Saviour Jesus, who is both Lord and Christ (Ps.2) . Why are we apparently so reluctant to do the same?