I began writing new songs of worship when I was fifteen years old. No one sat me down and said this practice can be a part of growing in Christ, nor explained the spiritual benefits of writing songs. I simply tasted the goodness of God and felt compelled to respond by crafting a new song.
Now, for the last twenty years, I have been trying to bend the English language around for the glory of God and write melodies to encourage the hearts of his people. I know the difficulty and the reward of this labor and, more than ever, I feel the need to sing to the Lord a new song.
The Hymnal’s Not Closed
From the beginning of our history, God’s people have been a singing people. In Exodus 15, Moses stood before the Israelites who had just been rescued from slavery and led them in a new song of praise. In Judges 5, when God powerfully delivered his people from the Canaanites, Deborah and Barak led the people in a new song of salvation. At the dedication of the temple in 2 Chronicles 5, the people sang a new song of God’s love and faithfulness.
The hymnal of the church has no back cover. While the canon of Scripture is closed, our hymnal is an ever-expanding work. We ought to continue to sing the historic songs of our faith, but we should not blush to add new expressions of worship to God. We have many new songs that are helpful, richly theological, and thoroughly biblical.
The “new song” we sing is informed by the “old song” (Exodus 15) and looks with anticipation toward the new song we will sing in the presence of God (Revelation 5:8–10). Through the lens of the past, and with an eye to the future, our songwriting finds its place.
As the timeline of redemption unfolds, culminating in the restoration of all things, God’s people will continue writing and singing new songs.
Old Truths, New Songs
When you hold a diamond in your hand and allow the sunlight to pass through, it casts brilliant colors around the room. When you turn the diamond, you see the brilliance of the stone in even more vibrant and beautiful ways. New songs have the same effect with the truths of God. When we sing new songs, we see the truths we sing in a new light, provoking our hearts to continued praise.
Our new songs proclaim old truths. We walk a well-worn path of people who have wrestled with theological issues, philosophical tensions, and written about their experience with God. That road has not yet reached its end.
When we sing new songs of praise to God, we walk in a tradition that from the beginning is marked by singing. Every historical hymn we sing has a birthdate. It was once a new song and, over the course of time, has served the people of God by putting concepts into words, shaping emotions, and providing a tool of communicating truth. Our new songs aim for the same thing: helping us wrap our hearts and minds around rich, theological truths, resulting in praising God.
Celebrate New Mercies
We should celebrate the historic hymns of our faith. They have carried the burdens and lifted the hearts of countless people who have gone before us. At the same time, we must celebrate new songs of our faith that will surely do the same work in us and the children who follow. As we continue to experience the newness of God’s mercies, surely we will continue to have new songs to sing.
The next time you are in a church service and a new song is introduced, lean in and listen closely. Hopefully in it you will find truths for your heart to be warmed by, and find your mouth open to sing a new song of praise. Walk with renewed wonder and obedience to “sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 96:1).
There is more of God to know and praise, no matter how much of him you already have enjoyed.