Ep.214: Psalm 98: Sing a New Song.

Ep214_Psalm098. Sing a New Song.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 98 begins,
    Sing a new song to the Lord,
        for he has done marvellous things (v. 1a). 

The poet’s suggestion for a “new song” answers traditionalists who say, “What’s with this modern music? The old hymns are better–more singable, more substantial than this fluffy modern stuff.” Consider, however, that the psalms model many of the most criticised features of modern worship music:

– Too repetitive? Psalm 136 repeats the phrase “His love endures forever” 26 times.

– Too much complex instrumental music? Psalm 150 is all about instrumental music and dancing. Perhaps churches should add worship dance to their contemporary music.

– Too much emphasis on personal experience, too little on doctrine? Psalm 133 is all about the unity of God’s people; God is just a footnote in the last verse.

– Too much emphasis on personal emotions, too little on God? Psalm 40, “Why are you downcast, O my soul” is about personal depression. Psalm 100, “Shout for joy to the Lord” is exuberant, and probably too loud for the traditionalists in many churches. (inspired by Rant About Worship Songs | Jeremy Pierce | First Things). 

Traditional hymnals speak the cultural and musical language of an older generation. However good that culture is and however regrettable its loss, the church needs to move on, translating the gospel into new words and cadences that speak to moderns. The lost tribes of the Amazon need the Bible translated into their language. The lost tribes of western civilization need to hear and see the gospel in their lyrics and their culture. 

The  happy-clappy hymn, “In my heart there rings a melody”, was page 276 in the hymnal I grew up with. It is a lasting testament to the fact that every generation needs exuberant songs of the heart, even if they don’t teach sober doctrines. Perhaps God approves us translating the heartfelt melody into contemporary English accompanied by contemporary music.  

“Sing a new song,” the poet tells us. Don’t stay stuck in your old way of doing things. 

Let’s pray. 

Lord, I too am stuck. Week after week I pray familiar psalms in a similar manner. Teach me a new song, new words to speak to you, new melodies in which to live my life, new metaphors to communicate to the modern world. 

O Lord, we are all stuck in complaints about our churches and their style of worship. The sermon is too long or too short, the music too old or too modern, the church culture too traditional or too irreverent. 

O Lord, teach us to know you and love you and to experience you in the ways the poets did in the psalms, in the ways the hymn writers wrote and sang about, and in the ways our modern music speaks of you. 

Teach us to
  Sing a new song
      for you have done marvellous things!


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.