“Sing to God a brand-new song, for He’s made a world of wonders! He rolled up his sleeves, He set things right. God made history with salvation, He showed the world what he could do.” — Psalm 98:1-2 The Message
Psalm 98—which encourages some excessive, extravagant celebration—begins with the phrase, “sing a new song.” Indeed, if you take a quick survey in the Bible, six of the Psalms in the NIV version encourage us to “sing a new song,” as well as several times in the book of Isaiah. But then the book of Revelation doesn’t encourage us to sing a new song. Instead, if you read Revelation carefully, you’ll notice that it says that they sang a new song. Past tense. In other words, in the last days, in the triumphant victory of our Lord, the redeemed and the heavenly beings sang a new song to the Lamb.
So what does that mean anyway, to Sing a New Song?
We sing a brand-new song because our God is setting things right, renewing and redeeming us and His creation. We sing a new song because we once were lost and now are found. We sing a new song because of what He has done and who He is. We sing a new song of God’s saving love and faithfulness. And notice how. With shouting and clapping and singing, with trumpets and harps and ram’s horn. With jubilance and loud celebration. Once again, in the Message version, it says,
“Shout your praises to God, everybody! Let loose and sing! Strike up the band! Round up an orchestra to play for God, Add on a hundred-voice choir. Feature trumpets and big trombones, Fill the air with praises to King God. Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause, With everything living on earth joining in. Let ocean breakers call out, “Encore!” And mountains harmonize the finale!” — Psalm 98:4-8 The Message
So we sing because our God is the God of Salvation, our salvation. And we sing with exuberance, with abandonment, with excess, with joy and laughter and applause. So that is why and how we sing a new song. But what is that new song? Well, I have a theory and it goes like this.
I’ve spoken a lot about faith and the arts, and about being an artist because we are made in the image of an Artist God. For He creates all of the universe for His pleasure and to His glory. Well, in this metaphor, He is not just the God the Artist, He is God the Songwriter. He is writing this symphony into his universe, and each of us is a unique melody in this symphony. As he pours His grace out into the world, as He calls us to Himself and redeems and renews us, He is writing His song into our hearts and lives. He writes the New Song which is each of us. And then He puts these melodies together—intwining melody upon melody like a contrapuntal, ever-changing prism—to form the rich and harmonically dense symphony which is His church, the Bride of Christ.
You see, our lives are the New Song that the psalmist is referring to. When we live out our faith, when we live fully and completely in God’s Kingdom, when we live out loud God’s redeeming plan into the world, we sing that New Song. When we love others, when we give ourselves away, when we worship, we sing that New Song. When we feed the poor and clothe the naked, when we care for the widow and orphan, we sing that New Song. And even more than that, when we enter into community together, the New Song becomes His Magnus Opus, His grand work, His ultimate triumph. And this makes sense when you understand that we are God’s handiwork, his art, his symphony.
Now, I certainly believe that the Psalmist intends that we literally sing a new song. In fact, Psalm 98 was in fact a new song at one time that they sang. But the Psalm has much deeper meaning when we understand the greater metaphorical truth—that your life and my life, and all our lives together—are the New Song that our songwriting God is writing and conducting in the universe.
[NOTE: This is an excerpt of a recent sermon I presented at Oak Hills Church on August 16, 2015. For the full audio version, please hit the page here.]