THE MISSIONARIES’ “NEW SONG”
“Oh sing to the Lord a new song: sing to the Lord, all the earth!”
Some of us grew up singing a hymn of praise and hope written almost one hundred years ago by J.R. Baxter entitled “The New Song”. It was a song about heaven. The music was composed by C.C. Stafford. It was a fast-paced hymn. Those who joined in to sing had be alert and to know when their “part” (soprano, alto, tenor and bass) came in and dropped out of the song. Whether or not one recalled all the words of the hymn, one absolutely had to know when to start singing! It was almost an art to grasp when your voice was supposed to “jump in” to the quick-moving song about heaven.
THE NEW SONG OF MISSIONARIES
When reading Psalm 96 I was reminded of a song the ancient people of God called the “new song” which focused on the joyful announcement that God is Lord over all the earth. His glory is to be declared “among the nations” and “to all the peoples!” (verse 3). The “new song” honored the Lord and carried the message that He alone is God, the universal Lord, who cares about everyone, and who will judge the nations of the world in righteousness and faithfulness. “When a nation or individual receives God’s blessing, he immediately becomes responsible for telling others what God has done for him” (John T. Willis). This is the “new song” missionaries carry to the world!
THE NEW SONG OF GOD’S POWER
While some may have thought the Old Testament proclaimed that God loved only Israel, Psalm 96 affirms that God cares about people everywhere, even those whose understanding of God is distorted. Our pluralistic society may say that “one god is as good as another god,” that various gods are needed to help people with various needs, and that “all roads lead to heaven.” The truth is there is only one true God, who is Lord of the universe. He is fully capable of providing everything we need — He can do it all! He wants everyone to hear about His “marvelous works” (verse 3). He wants people who bow to man-made images to understand how empty and powerless idol-worship is: “They lift it to their shoulders, and carry it; they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries to it, it does not answer or save him from his trouble” (Isaiah 46:7). They “keep on praying to a god that cannot save” (Isaiah 45:20). The true God is not made by human hands. The true God cannot be picked up and carried about. The true God knows everything about everybody and wants idolaters to “come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The living, eternal God is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-seeing. Idols, on the other hand, are incapable of thinking, hearing and seeing. Idols are impotent, but the true God “made the heavens” (verse 5). “All the gods of the people are worthless idols” the psalmist declared. The message of the missionary is this: it makes a difference if one worships the true God or a worthless idol! In today’s pluralistic society this is the song that needs to be sung. It’s a call to worship the Lord in the “splendor of holiness;” to “tremble before Him, all the earth!” (verse 9). It may be a “new” song to many, but it’s the right song to sing. And if Christians don’t sing it, we dishonor the Lord, who is “greatly to be praised!” (verse 4).
THE NEW SONG OF ESTABLISHED ORDER
The “new song” proclaims that God “established” order and harmony in the earth. In Him all things “hold together” (Colossians 1:17). As this psalm puts it: “the world is established; it shall never be moved” (verse 10). Only at the final act of God (on the “Day of the Lord”), when His purpose for earth has been fulfilled, the heavens will “pass away,” be “burned up and dissolved” and the earth “exposed”. On that final day, “all these things will be dissolved” (2 Peter 3:10-11). Polytheism may tell us that the gods are at odds with each other and one god will send fire while another god sends rain to put the fire out, that one god sends health while another sends disease, that one god wants to bless us while the other god sends chaos and tragedy. The reality is that until the day when the true Lord of the Universe determines to bring an end to His plans and protections for life on earth, things will be orderly for those who live on this planet. The true God has made a covenant with the earth that “while the earth remains seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22).
THE NEW SONG OF RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT
The “new song” announces the true God will “judge the peoples with equity” (verse 10). Justice and fairness are God’s plan for all human beings, regardless of race, color or country of origin. Those who bow themselves to man-made idols think the gods are biased, unjust, unfair and demand that everyone earn his way into the next life (through re-incarnation or perhaps becoming “one” with the universe) through his own efforts and good deeds. Only the religion of the true God and His Son, Jesus Christ, speaks about love, grace and forgiveness. When we commit our lives to Him we trust Him to save us from our sins even though we don’t deserve it, and we commit ourselves to love our neighbors as ourselves. When people pattern their lives upon the example of Jesus they will treat each other with kindness, mercy and justice. Society will be completely changed! Life based on man-made idols leads to hopelessness, terror and injustice. The “new song” of God’s love brings justice, forgiveness, peace and joy. “This psalm throbs with the hope of the Lord’s coming” (H.C. Leopold). As the psalmist said: “Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice… for He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His faithfulness” (verse 11-13).
Christ for the world we sing;
The world to Christ we bring,
With loving zeal;
The poor and them that mourn,
The faint and over-borne,
Sin-sick and sorrow-worn
Whom Christ doth heal.
Christ for the world we sing;
The world to Christ we bring
With fervent prayer:
The way-ward and the lost,
By restless passions tossed
Redeemed at countless cost
From dark despair.
––Samuel Wolcott (1869)
All scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version