The Psalmist writes: “Sing a new song to the Lord” (96:1). I don’t think that means God doesn’t like old songs. I know we like them. Songs that are so familiar, we don’t need hymnals or even words on a screen. We know the words and the melody so well they are part of us. They may come into our heads during the week, maybe at the very moment when we need the message of that particular hymn or song. I think God likes our old songs, and I know we do. The most consistent criticism pastors report is that they don’t use enough of the old songs in worship. New songs aren’t usually well received. In fact, I can imagine the first Sunday “How Great Thou Art” was introduced in worship, the pastor was probably told to “stop making us sing new songs none of us know!”
But I’m not talking about new versus old songs in worship. When we are told to “Sing a new song to the Lord” I think it’s talking about something more than music. Life can become like an old song. It’s so familiar, so comfortable, so predictable. We know exactly what comes next. No surprises. We have our lives set up just the way we like them, and please, don’t anybody introduce any changes!
Life can go on that way for awhile, but not for a very long while. Things happen. Maybe God causes them to happen, maybe they just happen. But the new intrudes in ways that are not necessarily welcome. (Kind of like that new song we really don’t like and really wonder why the pastor is making us sing it!) We can fight these changes, but the changes usually win such a fight. Psalm 96 is telling us that rather than fight the new, we should rather celebrate the new. Celebrate by singing a new song to the Lord! If we accept, embrace, and celebrate change, just maybe that new song that is feels so strange and awkward at first will come to be a song we love to sing. One of our new old favorites!
Revelation speaks of the new songs we will sing in heaven (5:9, 14:3). One of our favorite old songs refers to these verses: “And when in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song, ’twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.” There is one thing that never changes, and that’s “the old, old story of Jesus and his love.”
In Christ, Pastor John Watts