The term “new song” appears about ten times in Scripture. It is a label for a victory song; fresh praise for fresh victories. The term “new song” is always found with the indefinite article “a new song.” There is nothing in the Old Testament to which we can point and say, “this is the new song.” It a different song for different victories. The emphasis is on the newness, rather than that song itself. This song celebrates fresh victory, anticipating a victory in which all nations will share and culminates in the eternally fresh praise of the redeeming Lamb.
A Song that Israel Sang
Israel’s hymn book was the Psalter, which, for the most part was prepared for Temple worship. However, often in Israel’s history, the nation had cause to break into spontaneous praise.For example, Moses’ song of deliverance from the pursuing Egyptian army (Exodus 15:1ff); there is also the song of Hannah concerning the birth of Samuel (I Samuel 2:1-10). When the Israelites returned from Babylon and the foundation of the new temple was laid, or at the dedication of the walls, spontaneous songs of praise characterised the event (Ezra 3:11, Nehemiah 12:27ff).When Hezekiah restored temple worship he burst into a song of praise (2 Chronicles 29:28). These, and other Old Testament events, were occasions for a new song.
In Psalm 40, the Psalmist had a new song. He had waited for the Lord in a particular situation, and the Lord delivered him. Notice the close link between the victory and the victory song. The song is part of the victory event; the psalmist waited, God turned, heard, lifted him up, set and established him and put a song in his heart. It was the Lord who put the praise in his heart, expressing thankfulness for deliverance. God puts praise in the heart and then receives it as coming from us.
Throughout the Psalms, however, the imperative is used, and we are reminded to sing “a new song.” This implies forgetfulness and indifference to our responsibility to praise (Psalm 33:3; 96:1; 98:1; 149:1).
A Song that the Nations will Sing
The “new song” also has a missional purpose and goal. David is confident that “many shall see it…and shall trust in the Lord” (Psalm 4:3). In Psalm 96:1 and also Psalm 98:1 the missional intent of the new song theme is explicit; “all the earth” is invited—commanded—to sing. These Psalms imply that there is some event to come, which all people of the earth would be interested and from which “all nations”would benefit.
The victory that God gave David (Psalm 40), opened David’s ears (Vs. 6) and his heart (Vs. 8) to see that the sacrifices and offerings associated with this praise will be completed in Christ. Christ will come as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices (Vs. 7 cf. Hebrews 10:5), a sacrifice that would benefit “every kindred,and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
This is a song about Christ, His life, His death, His victory, His glory. It is a song that celebrates Christ, redemption accomplished and applied. The subject of the song is always the same, but the freshness never leaves.
A Song that will Unite the Praise of Heaven.
In his vision on the Isle of Patmos, John saw the Lamb, who alone had earned the right to approach the throne. As He took the scroll, the whole Church fell before Him and in unison sang a “new song.” This is the only time the words of “a new song” are recorded.
“Thou art worthy to take the book,
and to open the seals thereof:
for thou wast slain,
and hast redeemed us to God
by thy blood out of every kindred,
and tongue, and people, and nation;
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests:
and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
The angels join in this song with the saints, in loud, awe-inspiring voice, and every creature swells the choirs of heaven and the volume of eternal praise. When David sang his new song, and when the saints gather today to join with those who’ve gone before, and with those from every nation, this is the praise we anticipate.