The Biblical Imperative We Love to Ignore: Inspiration from the High Calling

The Biblical Imperative We Love to Ignore

Sing a new song to the LORD!
Let the whole earth sing to the LORD!

Psalm 96 begins with a simple imperative: “Sing a new song to the LORD!” If you look up all of the Hebrew words that underlie this command, you find that they really mean “Sing a new song to the LORD!”

Fine. But here’s the problem: We don’t like to sing new songs to the Lord, at least not for the most part. Oh, I suppose we don’t mind a new song every now and then. But, by and large, people like to sing to the Lord the songs they know already.

I confess to being one of these people. Recently, I found myself worshiping in a church I hadn’t attended before. I knew about half of the hymns and songs used in the worship service. The others were new to me. I found myself feeling uncomfortable. I was critical of some of the words of the songs. Mostly, I wished that I could just sing to the Lord rather than trying to figure out the unfamiliar tunes and rhythms. I felt rather cranky. Then I felt guilty for turning worship into a matter of my preferences rather than God’s glory.

Commentators on Psalm 96:1 will sometimes point out that “a new song” could be a familiar song sung with new meaning and vigor. I expect that’s true. But, when God’s people experience God’s goodness in fresh ways, the more poetic and musically inclined among us tend to write new songs. If we’re open to these songs and hymns and spiritual songs, they can help us to be renewed in our relationship with the Lord and to express our worship in new ways.

I’m not saying that every new song is a good one. But I am saying that I need to learn to be more open to new ways of worshiping the Lord, even as I continue to use the songs and hymns I love. In the end, I must remember that worship is not about me. It’s about God and the people of God offering themselves to him. Surely I can do this sometimes with a new song.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond when you have to sing a new song in church? If you love new songs, why? If you resist new songs, why? How can you put Psalm 96:1 into practice in your life?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, your Word is clear. We’re to sing to you a new song. But, to be honest, there are times I’d much rather sing an old song, times when I am hypercritical of the new song, times when I’m so wrapped up in what I like and dislike that I completely forget about worshiping you. Forgive me, Lord.

Give me an open spirit, one that welcomes new expressions of love for you. Help me to be stretched by new songs, so that I might offer worship to you in a new key. May I learn to offer worship to you without getting caught in the web of criticism and critique.

All praise be to you, O God. May the whole world sing to you a new song! Amen.

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This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.

  • Evan

    Mark,

    I suppose we all have our blind spots and pet peeves about “worship songs.” In the early ’80s, I went to a church that did Contemporary Christian music exclusively. This church had a piano, guitar, bass and drums group that used no sheet music.  I persuaded the worship leader to give a whirl to a song they had never played before, and they and the congregation ended up really liking it: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” and they played it “old school.” For those folks, the “new song” was an old song!

    I suppose my stance on worship songs comes from Matthew 13:52:

    He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

    Evan

  • JaJane Buttery

    Our Church once used praise songs regularly; now we have a minister who does not like them as much but we try to get one in now and again. At one time I was inspired to compose songs and in 5 years, I wrote 46 new songs. I wish we could have more imput into worship where I go to Church as I love new songs that make us think and help us get closer to jesus.

  • Janetruestorybooks

    Sorry about my mistakes. I couldn’t see how to edit them I meant ‘input’ and Jesus with a capital. Please ciorrect below for me!

  • Anonymous

    Great story. Great verse. Thanks, Evan.

  • Anonymous

    Writing songs is a great devotional practice. Thanks for the comment.

  • Anonymous

    Not to worry.


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