Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
- Psalm 96:1-3
I will sing a new song to you, my God;
on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
to the One who gives victory to kings,
who delivers his servant David.
- Psalm 144:9-10
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.
Let the wilderness and its towns raise their voices;
let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice.
Let the people of Sela sing for joy;
let them shout from the mountaintops.
Let them give glory to the Lord
and proclaim his praise in the islands.
The Lord will march out like a champion,
like a warrior he will stir up his zeal;
with a shout he will raise the battle cry
and will triumph over his enemies.
- Isaiah 42:10-13
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
- Job 38:6-7
And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
- 2 Corinthians 12:3-4
And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
- Revelation 14:3
And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb:
“Great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
King of the nations.
Who will not fear you, Lord,
and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
- Revelation 15:2-4
“Singing together [das gemeinsame Lied] joins the praying of the Psalms and the reading of the Scriptures. In this, the voice of the church is heard in praise, thanksgiving, and intercession.
“’O sing to the Lord a new song,’ the Psalter calls out to us again and again. It is the Christ hymn, new every morning, that a community living together begins to sing in the early morning, the new song that is sung by the whole community of faith in God on earth and in heaven. We are called to join in the singing of it. It is God who has prepared one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter God’s community join in this song. It is the song that ‘the morning stars sang together and all the children of God shouted for joy’ (Job 38:7). It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea, the Magniﬁcat of Mary after the Annunciation, the song of Paul and Silas when they praised God in the darkness of prison, the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their deliverance, the ‘song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb’ (Rev. 15:3). It is the new song of the heavenly community. Every day in the morning the community of faith on earth joins in this song and in the evening it closes the day with this hymn. The triune God and the works of God are being extolled here. This song has a different sound on earth than it does in heaven. On earth, it is the song of those who believe; in heaven, the song of those who see. On earth, it is a song expressed in inadequate human words; in heaven they are the ‘things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat’ (2 Cor. 12:4), the ‘new song that no one could learn, except the 144,000’ (Rev. 14:3), the song to which the ‘harps of God’ are played (Rev. 15:2). What do we know of that new song and the harps of God? Our new song is an earthly song, a song of pilgrims and sojourners on whom the Word of God has dawned to light their way. Our earthly song is bound to God’s Word of revelation in Jesus Christ. It is the simple song of the children of this earth who have been called to be God’s children, not ecstatic, not enraptured, but soberly, gratefully, devoutly focused on God’s revealed Word.”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
Bonhoeffer blends instruction on singing being part of our daily worship with the singing of the new song that no one knows on earth.
I love the old hymns, reluctantly warming up to some of the new stuff, and I usually gravitate to the renditions of those old hymns, or the tune or arrangements found in old, out-of-print hymnals. If the hymnal is over a hundred years old, the likelihood of the words being closer to what the author wrote is a lot better, and the composers and arrangers in that era often had complex harmonies and more echo refrains than what you see today. The music was fun to sing, and the arrangement sometimes tested your ability to sing the harmony.
My favorite from an old hymnal, using shaped notes, that was last printed in the 1890s, I think. We used photocopies since there were not enough hymnals to go around. (Shhh! Don’t tell anybody!) The hymn was All Hail the Power of Jesus Name. We always sang this version of the hymn by Edward Peronnet (1779) as the introit for the sunrise service on Easter morning. In the video, the French Horns are playing the melody and the trumpets are playing the tenor part in the introduction. I know since I sang tenor and had to memorize it since we sang it too quickly to keep up with the notes on the page. When done the way we sang it, each part started with the other parts and ended with them, but everything in between, each part was on its own, sometimes singing while everyone else was taking a breath. Each having a solo, so to speak. And each part goes all over the place, only sung correctly if you have a good range. I admit to squeaking on a couple of notes, one a “solo” part. In this recording, I never heard all the tenor part, and none of it until the second or third verses. When we sang it in our little church in Mississippi before the preacher had ever said a word, it did not matter how little sleep you got the night before, YOU WERE AWAKE!!!!
In most hymnals these days, you will not find that tune, even with a simplified harmony.
These days, they have tried to get rid of the KJV style language in old hymns. They have changed “men” to a more inclusive word when possible. And then when the rhyming words cannot be made without using words that are only found in KJV language or crossword puzzles (poetic words like ere), they abandon the message that the composer intended altogether. Some hymns have become so Woke, conforming to the secular worldview, I refuse to sing along. I love it that the Getty’s told the Presbyterian church (I think, PCUSA) that they refused to change a single line in the song, In Christ Alone, and you will not find that song in the new hymnal. But composers who have passed on do not get to make such refusals.
No, we do not necessarily need to sing new songs that are fresh off the presses exclusively to comply with “sing a new song.” The Scriptures state that the earth does not know the “new song” that will be sung to God’s glory in the End Times.
But we should sing. When my wife and I were first in the Pittsburgh, PA area, we were invited to a first century church style setting in a friend’s home. He and his wife were from Indonesia, as was my wife. When the worship service, once each month, was started, we would pray, then the hostess led us in songs. We had the lyrics printed and if the hostess was off key, we were all off key. It was a glorious “joyful noise.” On occasion, she could not remember the tune, but that never stopped her. My wife and I exchanged glances and stifled laughter, but we never said anything. Then we would have prayer requests, and one person after another would be asked to pray for someone else. So, you had to be paying close attention during the prayer requests. Then we would make a circle, hold hands, and take turns praying for our assigned people, group of people, or event. Then the host would give one of about three testimonies. We had heard them all countless times, but we listened dutifully. I loved them all. Then the assigned teacher would cover one chapter of the Bible. I think I had a chapter from Ephesians the last time the ‘church’ met – with the host becoming to frail to continue. It was not daily as Bonhoeffer suggests. It was in the evening instead of first thing in the morning, but this book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds me of those meetings.
But our old hostess is proof that you do not even have to sing the right tune or be on key to raise a joyful noise unto the Lord.
In fact, when it is off – just a little – it becomes even more joyful.
Let’s end with Francesca LaRosa, singing Psalm 98.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.