Worship Music – the New Song (Part 1)
The Bible instructs us to “Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.” (Psalm 96:1-3)
Here we find the command to sing new songs—canticum novum. The passage also tells us what to sing and to whom we are to sing; in fact, it gives us several direct commands about our singing and songs. Psalm 96 says we are to sing:
New songs (vs. 1)
To the LORD (vs. 1)
Day after day (vs. 2)
His salvation, His glory, His marvelous deeds (vss. 2 & 3)
Among the nations and all people (vs. 3)
Because He is great, and to be praised, and to be feared (vs. 4)
Because He made the Heavens (vs. 5; He is Creator)
Because of His splendor, majesty, beauty, and strength (vs. 6; His attributes)
In other words, our new songs are to be directed to God and should be about Him. They should describe His acts (creation/redemption) and His attributes (glory, holiness, omniscience, etc.). And they should be sung every day anywhere and everywhere amongst all people.
I wonder…how often do we measure new worship songs by these standards? In particular, is their focus on God’s actions and attributes? If instead their focus is on man’s felt needs, desires or experiences alone, perhaps the song is not properly suited for a worship service.
In other cases we may find new hymnody with excellent texts—theologically sound and even expressly biblical; however, the music written for it does not underscore its textual meaning. Instead the music cheapens it, conflicts with the text, or belittles the gravity and seriousness of its message by attempting to wed a significant idea about God with a tawdry pop idiom unsuited for this purpose.
Those with gifts to write or compose should heed this call for biblical canticum novum and be writing/composing biblical songs to aid our worship of God. Yet this work should not be entered into hastily or without thought. There are those without the necessary skills and training who attempt it; but others who have the essential abilities may not be exercising such gifts. What will follow in subsequent parts of this posting are reflections on the process of writing new songs/music for worship. Stay tuned!