Theme: Singing a New Song
In this week’s lessons, we see the importance of song in worship.
Scripture: Psalm 149:1-9
We need to begin this study by thinking about singing, not performing before an audience, but the kind of singing that takes place because a person is happy and singing seems a natural way to express delight. This happens when a person sings alone, like singing in the shower. But it also happens when a person sings with other people, as Christians do in church.
The sad thing is that not many people sing today, which is probably a reflection of the unhappy times in which we live. People used to sing in their homes as they gathered around the piano, or they sang together in clubs. But that doesn’t happen much anymore. Someone has pointed out that it is possible to trace the changing mood of our century by remembering that the soldiers of the First World War sang as they marched to battle. The singing soldier was a heroic figure. The GI of the Second World War was not a heroic figure but a wise-cracking joker. He had nicknames for his officers and poked fun at them. By the time the Vietnam War came around, the typical fighting man neither sang nor joked. He took drugs instead.
Some of the best memories of my youth were singing fun songs with my friends at camp in Canada in the summer or with my sisters as my family drove places together on vacations. Today almost no one sings. The young do not sing, though they listen to music. About the only place people today do sing is in church. Christians sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, and it is good we do. We are preserving something precious.
Psalm 149 encourages us to think about singing and what it means for the people of God. “Sing” is the psalm’s first word after “Hallelujah,” and what we are told to sing is “a new song” (v. 1).
Psalm 149 might be thought of as a response to Psalm 148:14. In that verse, God’s special grace to Israel has been noted, and the nation has been urged to “praise the LORD.” In Psalm 149 that happens. Or we might say that in Psalm 148 the whole creation, from heaven above to the earth beneath, has been praising God but that now it is time to hear specifically from God’s saints. That is another word that is repeated. The word “saint” is found in each of the psalm’s three stanzas (in vv. 1, 5 and 9).
How are the saints to praise God? The answer is what is special about this praise composition. It is by singing “a new song”: “Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.”
To sing a new song is not a new idea, of course. We have already come across these words in Psalms 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; and 144:9. (They appear again in Revelation 5:9 and 14:3.) But they are unique to this final set of psalms (Psalms 146-150), and we ought to ask why a command to sing “a new song” is found here, in this next to last psalm in the Psalter. Probably it is to call attention to the importance of singing in our worship.
What is unique about singing, especially the singing of psalms, hymns and praise songs by Christians, is that singing joins affirmations about God and the gospel, expressed in words, to an emotional response to that content which music both encourages and affords.
What is reflected in singing?
Why did the psalmist sing a new song?
Read Psalms 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; and 144:9, as well as Revelation 5:9 and 14:3 to put together a complete definition of a new song.
Reflection: Do you enjoy singing praise to God? What does Psalm 149 encourage?
Key Point: Christians sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, and it is good we do. We are preserving something precious.
For Further Study: If you would like to add these studies in the psalms to your library, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is offering the three-volume paperback set for 25% off the regular price.