Sing to the LORD a new song;
Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless His name;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation
from day to day.
Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
For great is the LORD,
and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
— PSALM 96:1-6 (NASB)
I grew up during the worship music wars of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. And they were wars. Terrible things were said about those who gloried in the hymns and gospel songs of the 18th through the early 20th century. And then there were the songs like “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” written by Martin Luther in 1529.
But the chief antagonism was the implication that it was near sacrilege to introduce not only new lyrics but a different musical structure to worship music. The criticisms ranged from “unsingable,” “just repetition,” “no depth,” “no theology,” “man centered,” to “dishonoring to God,” and “the devil’s music.” Singers like Larry Norman, Love Song, and Andre Crouch were slandered.
Whether in the church or other organizations, when there is a need for renewal, the instinct seems always to look back, to recapture something. Yet what happened back there was often a response of newness to a present situation. When George Beverly Shea, the soloist for the Billy Graham Crusades sang “How Great Thou Art” every night for sixteen weeks at Madison Square Garden at the New York Graham Crusade, it was a new song, the English version written by Stuart Hines in 1949.
I am not a fan of chronological snobbery where anything old is considered without value. But our God is a Creator who continues to create and so an automatic prejudice to what is new is to cut ourselves off from the fresh, immediate work of our Creator.
A “new song,” we are told in Psalm 96. I wonder if that is how Peter felt when he came down from the rooftop, realizing that the vision he had just seen meant that the gospel was for the Gentiles. Or was he disheveled. What is this new word? This was a new thing and I’m grateful—for I’m a Gentile.