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Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 33 - February/March 2010 > A New Song (by Norman Tew)

A New Song

by Norman Tew

A New Song - Nine Biblical sections that use this term

It is interesting to look at the phrase "A New Song" in the Bible.  It is found 9 times; six in Psalms, once in Isaiah, and twice in Revelation.  We will look at the context of each text and see if there is any common reason for having a new song.

Rather than take them strictly in order, I will group them by types, then I want to ask; What are they singing about?  Why is it a called new song?

Four of the six from the Psalms seem to have a similar theme.   In each case they seem to be exalting the greatness of God though they may be looking at it in different ways

Here are these four texts together with their context.  I have put the phrase using the term "new son" in bold and put the reason for the new song in italics.  The first section includes more than just singing.

(Psa 33:1-5 NRSV)  Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous. Praise befits the upright. {2} Praise the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings. {3} Sing to him a new song; play skilfully on the strings, with loud shouts. {4} For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. {5} He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.

(Psa 96:1-4 NRSV)  O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. {2} Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. {3} Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous works among all the peoples. {4} For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods.

(Psa 149:1-4 NRSV)  Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. {2} Let Israel be glad in its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King. {3} Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre. {4} For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory.

(Psa 98:1-3 NRSV)  O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvellous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. {2} The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. {3} He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

The What is clear in these four verses but Why is it a New Song?  Is it because while this is an old experience as individuals we have to experience it anew for ourselves?

The final two from Psalms have a more specific reason stated.  The reason seems to be in the first verse quoted here.   God has given him a new spiritual experience and given him a new song to go with it.

(Psa 40:1-4 NRSV) I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. {2} He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. {3} He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. {4} Happy are those who make the LORD their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods.

The final reference from the book of Psalms is  another one of deliverance.   But this time the deliverance is a physical one, not a spiritual one.   And it is followed by a prayer.

(Psa 144:9-11 NRSV) I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you, {10} the one who gives victory to kings, who rescues his servant David. {11} Rescue me from the cruel sword, and deliver me from the hand of aliens, whose mouths speak lies, and whose right hands are false.

Again in this section the what is clear.  But why a new song?  Is it because both spiritual and physical deliverance have come to David as a new experience?

For the  text from Isaiah I have chosen a much longer section.  The reason for the new song is given first, and parts of it are very familiar.  It is a prophecy spoken by the Lord.  Then follows the request for a new song, as a natural response to the words of God.

(Isa 42:1-12 NRSV) Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. {2} He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; {3} a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. {4} He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching. {5} Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: {6} I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, {7} to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. {8} I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. {9} See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them. {10} Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth! Let the sea roar and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. {11} Let the desert and its towns lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the tops of the mountains. {12} Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare his praise in the coastlands.

In some ways this prophecy of deliverance was a new experience.  It is good for all of us to look again at what Jesus has done for us with new eyes.

There is an old hymn that goes "New Every Morning is the Love".  Another hymn tells us to "Count your blessings"

the final line for that one  is "And it will amaze you what the Lord has done"

And so we come to the final two verses in the book of Revelation. The first  is from the Throne room scene in heaven which is given us in chapters four and five..

Let us start reading from the start of the chapter to get the context.

(Rev 5:1-8 NRSV)  Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; {2} and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" {3} And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. {4} And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. {5} Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals." {6} Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. {7} He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. {8} When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

There was a scroll that no one could open then it was stated that the Lion of the tribe of Judah could do it but John looked and saw a lamb that looked as if it had been killed,  but he was able to open the scroll. And a new song starts with a few singers and them spreads.

(Rev 5:9-12 NRSV) They sing a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; {10} you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth." {11} Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, {12} singing with full voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!"

The final verse is surely the key to why they have a new song - The Lamb is worthy.  But is it not only because they were at an impasse with the sealed book, surely the paean of praise goes beyond that.  Was this new to them, or had they just realised it again?

And so we come to the final verse.  In this one John is shown a future scene.

(Rev 14:1-4 NRSV)  Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion! And with him were one hundred forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. {2} And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, {3} and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have been redeemed from the earth. {4} It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; these follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb,

I do not want to get involved with speculating on who the 144,000 were. I once heard a suggestion that it is the same people mentioned in both verses 4 and 9.   (Rev 7:4 NRSV)  And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel:  (Rev 7:9 NRSV)  After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.

At first glance they are two groups, but maybe not.  However the important thing is that in chapter 14 the 144,000 were singing a new song.   Why?  Surely the answer is in v 3.  "No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have been redeemed from the earth."

This implies that without a doubt they could only sing that song because they have been redeemed. There is an interesting old hymn from the 19th Century that may not be widely known.  It is number 425 in the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.

In the chorus after talking about the songs of the angels it concludes with the words, "But when I sing redemptions's story they will fold their wings, for angels never felt the joys that our Salvation brings.

Here are the second and third verses,

But I hear another anthem,
    Blending voices clear and strong 
"unto Him who has redeemed us
    And hath bought us" is the song.
We have come thro' tribulations
    to this land so fair and bright
In the fountain freely flowing
    He hath made our garment white.

Then the angels stand and listen,
    For they cannot join that song,
Like the sound of many waters,
    By that happy, blood washed-throng;
For they sing about great trials,
    Battles fought and vict'ries won,
And they praise their great Redeemer,
    Who hath said to them, "Well done."

Now that raises some questions.  Do we have to wait till then to be able to sing that new song? Do you have a new song?  A personal song of redemption.

I do not think that Paul was specifically thinking of that new song when he wrote

(Col 3:15-17 NRSV)  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. {16} Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. {17} And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

He mentions not only the new song here, but also Psalms which were probably Old Testament psalms sung to instrumental accompaniment;  Hymns by which he probably meant praises to God composed by the believers and sung by the whole group; and Spiritual Songs which would have been general and meditative odes with or without accompaniment.

Will you keep on singing it?  Now and on the sea of glass?

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 33 - February/March 2010 > A New Song (by Norman Tew)