Why do we need to write new songs? Aren’t the old ones good enough? We have hymn books that contain hundreds of songs, and many of them have endured for several centuries. These are the songs that past generations used in services week after week and many people feel they shouldn’t be thrown out now.
But when we read the Bible, we find instructions like this:
“Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!” (Psalm 96:1).
“Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy” (Psalm 33:3).
“Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things!” (Psalm 98:1).
“Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!” (Psalm 149:1).
Theologian David Mathis wrote, “…I’m unaware of any command in the Bible to ‘sing old songs.’ It’s not disobedient to sing old songs. It simply isn’t something God needs to remind us to do. Our inertia is toward humming and singing and selecting the stuff we already know. We already like the songs we like, after all. What we don’t know yet is the new songs. And it takes some energy to write them down and learn them. So the scriptures need to remind us again and again to ‘sing a new song.'”
Songwriters cannot put their pens down and only rely on popular songs or hymns of the past. One of the reasons Village Hymns exists is to encourage worship leaders to write songs for their local churches. We have the privilege to spend time writing songs that fit the particular moment, context and people in our congregations. We get to experience what happens when we live out Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
The Church is made up of those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and that means we will always have a reason to write new songs.
In scripture, the Apostle John recorded a vision he had while exiled on the island of Patmos. It was full of vivid sights from heaven, apocalyptic scenes and the revelation of the Son of God. There are also moments where John shares sounds he heard. On this remote island, John got to hear an unreleased track from heaven. The melody stayed with him, constantly reverberating in his heart. It reminded him of the true home he yearned for.
That’s what good songs do. We write songs so people can carry hope with them when they leave the weekly gathering.
There’s an old hymn that says, “Streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise.” We are constantly experiencing the mercy of God shown through the redemptive power of the blood of Christ. The Church should constantly be streaming new songs as we are constantly living in the flood of God’s love.
All things made new
It is also important to remember what the word “new” points toward in Revelation 5:9. The adjective in this case is not referring to the most recent. It’s speaking of new in kind or quality. This song was called a “new song” because those who sung it were those who had experienced redemption and were living in the reality of “all things made new.”
“…Every time this Greek term for new is used in the New Testament it is in connection with salvation. So it is logical that those who are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit will sing a new song, one that is radically different from the world’s songs. If there is anything tangibly new in the Christian life, it ought to be the songs that rise from our hearts as a result of the joy we have in submitting to Him…” (John MacArthur)
I believe that people in our cities, and neighborhoods can be changed as churches send out people of faith strengthened by psalms and hymns that stream from the hearts of songwriters who know that the Church will always need new songs.
Terrence Gooden is a husband and father of three who serves as the Worship Pastor at Victory Life Church in Plantation.