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What does it mean to “sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 96:1)?


sing to the Lord a new song
Question: "What does it mean to ‘sing to the Lord a new song’ (Psalm 96:1)?"

Answer:
Psalm 96 may hold the key to understanding why worship has continuously evolved throughout history, and new songs have ever been written and sung to the Lord. The psalmist declared, “O sing unto the LORD a new song: Sing unto the LORD, all the earth. Sing unto the LORD, bless his name” (Psalm 96:1–2, KJV).

Many other psalms unite in the refrain: “Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him” (Psalm 98:1). David intoned, “I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you” (Psalm 144:9). “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy,” insists Psalm 33:3. Again and again, God’s people are encouraged to “Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people” (Psalm 149:1).

In each of these passages, new means “original,” “fresh,” “one of a kind,” and “never seen before,” or, in this case, “never heard before.” God is a creative God. He’s always doing something new—like saving, intervening, answering prayers, and working miracles. Through the prophet Isaiah, God said, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18–19). Right before this, the Lord declared, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth” (Isaiah 42:9–10, ESV).

When we are born into the family of God, He makes us new creatures in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul explained, “The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17; see also Galatians 6:15). To the Corinthians, Paul said, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10).

One thing our inventive God loves is for His newly created people to express innovative, spontaneous, and unrehearsed praise and thanks to Him. Singing unto the Lord a new song is the natural reaction of an individual who is newly saved and transformed by the Lord: “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” (Psalm 40:3, ESV).

The “new song” we sing does not have to be a newly composed worship number. The new song is merely a fresh response of praise and thanks—one that matches the freshness of God’s goodness and mercy, which are “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). A new song springs forth unrehearsed from the heart of a worshiper who has been struck anew with wonder at the greatness of God and the salvation He has provided. When we see the mighty hand of God working in a way we’ve never observed before, we can’t help but burst forth with a song we’ve never sung before.

A new song has been heard from people of every generation—sung by a choir of born-again believers who have tasted and seen the goodness and salvation of the Lord. From days of old and for all eternity, followers from every tribe, language, people, and nation sing unto the Lord a new song (Revelation 5:9). Throughout the earth and before the throne of God in heaven, we can hear the redeemed singing a new song to the Lord (Revelation 14:3).

Recommended Resource: Psalms 76-150, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Steven Lawson

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