Sing A New Song To The Lord!

December 7, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Psalm 96:1-13

Sing A New Song To The Lord!

1. "Sing a new song to the Lord!" Today's first reading began with these words of calling out to persons to conduct themselves like that. "Sing a new song to the Lord!" Of course, there are many varieties of "songs." Among [the many varieties] there are also songs of lament. That kind of song can be found even in the Psalms. Lamenting and sorrowing do bring forth singing. They do bring forth new songs. "The new song" of which this scripture speaks is obviously not a song of lament or a song of sorrow. It is a new song brought forth from faith and hope. It is a new song of praise offered up with trust and hope. We are being called to sing to the Lord a new song like this one.

2. But the fact that the scriptures are calling out to us in that way also means, on the other hand, that our always being able to sing new songs with joy and hope is endless. "I can't sing any song at such a terrible time as this." "Can I sing some song in this sorrow I'm in?" Won't there be times we feel like that? Last week, I did a funeral service for a person who passed away at age thirty-eight. The person's older sister passed away just a month and a half ago. I performed the ceremony feeling crushed about how the mother must be so sorrowful and broken hearted. When you consider it on a normal basis, this very situation would not be the kind where you could sing a song.

3. Is the Bible mindlessly saying "Sing a new song!" because it is a book that has nothing to do with our own reality in the world? No, it is not. The Bible is a very realistic book. The Bible clearly states that this world is not a garden of Eden at all. The Bible states from the beginning that we humans are, so to speak, persons expelled from the garden of Eden and we are helpless to live always suffering on a cursed earth. The Israelites who had sung this psalm had experienced the downfall of the state. There are times when it feels like, "[This] surely isn't a situation for singing some song." [We] know that all too well.

4. But, even still, no, precisely because it is so, that the Bible is calling out to us with "Sing a new song to the Lord!" We must not stop singing to the Lord regardless of the kind of hour it is. We must not stop worshipping the Lord saying, "At this time it doesn't seem to be an occasion for praise and worship"; because if we stop turning to the Lord, then we will only be turning to ourselves. Or we will only be turning to other persons. All we'll have left is the comfort humans can give, the hope humans can offer. Whenever a person has stopped turning to the Lord, all that remains is what humans can do. If things get out of control, as far as what humans can do, there will only be hopelessness. As a matter of fact, there are not a few persons who have thus stopped singing to the Lord, and as they stare at their small [powerless] hands, they stand there stuck having lost their hopes. For that very reason we must listen to this call out to us repeatedly. "Sing a new song to the Lord!"

The Lord Is Coming To Judge The Earth

5. So, in order to keep singing a new song with trust and hope "to the Lord" just as the scripture says, we must turn steadfastly to the Lord. We must turn to the Lord those hearts [of ours] which have been turning only to our own sorrow, our own pain, our own suffering, and our own worries. And our eyes, which have been turned only to the many different powers out there that bind and control us, the unresolved problems that mount up, the irksome people around us, we must turn them to the Lord who is much greater than all that.

6. In fact, when this psalm was sung in the rebuilt temple, the unshakeable Persian imperial government was reflected in their eyes. They were amid the prosperity of Persia, the temple they had built and the ceremonies in it seemed truly shabby because they were, after all, no more than one of the conquered and occupied people groups. Yet, they themselves were not held captive by it. Neither were they taken up by fascination in the size and the prosperity of the nations around them. They had Someone much much greater, to whom they sung, looking to this Lord God of theirs. For that very reason then, they were able to sing a new song with hope.

7. To turn their hearts to this God of theirs was also to turn their eyes onto the end. For, the one who holds the very end is the Lord God. "Say to the nations, the Lord himself is the king. The world is firmly fixed in position, and it will never be shaken. The Lord will judge the many nations with fairness," (verse ten). Also, "The Lord is coming, he is coming to judge the earth. The Lord will righteously judge the world, he will judge the nations with truth," (verse eleven), says the scripture. The Lord is the true king. The Lord righteously judges the world. It is the Lord God who ultimately straightens out the world. The Lord will give the conclusion to it.

8. When one turns his or her heart to the Lord as the ultimate conclusion giver, one's way of seeing "the present" will be different. Until we come to the "end" that God will determine, everything thing is "on the way." [Everything] is in progress along the way on a journey. It sure looks it. What we are seeing with our eyes is ever moving towards that future. However, in spite of that, a lot of times we end up coming to our own conclusions arbitrarily. Unfortunately, we end up pronouncing the end in an arbitrary way. And unfortunately we arbitrarily hand down a decision about whether something is disastrous or lucky. We end up arbitrarily handing down a decision about whether we've lost or gained, about whether it was fair or unfair. But, aren't we really still clueless about such matters? Even though humans may see it as a period, from the eyes of God, it is no more than one comma. The future still goes on because the one who ultimately judges righteously is the Lord. "The Lord is coming, he is coming to judge the earth. The Lord will righteously judge the world, he will judge the nations with truth," (verse thirteen).

9. And when the Lord does ultimately execute judgment, it is said to be a time of great joy. Please observe that the word "joy" is repeatedly given in verses eleven and twelve. "Oh heavens, celebrate with joy, oh earth, dance with joy, oh seas and everything which fills them, throb, oh fields and everything which is in them, be enraptured with joy, oh trees of the forests, sing with joy together, welcome the Lord," (verses eleven through thirteen). When the Lord ultimately judges, it is said to clearly be a time of joy for "the seas and everything which fills them," and "the fields and everything which is in them," and "the trees of the forests" etc. When God executes righteousness and when he brings things to conclusion, it will be a time of great joy and a time of deliverance for [nature].

10. So, how will it be for humankind? How will it be for the human world filled with sin? Yes, indeed, the cross of Christ was erected on this earth in order to atone for our sins, so that it will be a time of joy for humankind. It wasn't an atonement of sin for "the seas and everything which fills them." It wasn't an atonement of sin for "the trees of the forests." It was an atonement of sin for us. It was so that we would come to see the day of the end, as a day of joy and a day of salvation. What's more, we are informed, that the Lord, who will ultimately judge this world, is none other than Jesus Christ, it was he who had atoned for our sin. It is just as we say in the confession of the faith, [The Apostles' Creed], we state, "He shall come from yonder [heaven] and judge the living and the dead."

11. Thus, even more than when this Psalm ninety-six used to be sung in the Old Testament period, we should be able to sing to the Lord "a new song" with hope. For, everything that we see with our eyes is still en route, and we know that it is en route to great joy and the perfection of salvation. Therefore, even if there is something that we've had [to experience], we will not stop singing to the Lord. Even if there has been something, we will gather together, worship the Lord and sing to the Lord. We will keep singing a new song, a song of hope.

12. As I mentioned earlier, the mother whose son passed away, when considered from a normal view, even if she had said, "I cannot sing any songs at this time," it would not have been considered strange, but that mother, at the time of the funeral service did sing steadfastly. She sang to the Lord. According to her faith she sang. Because she knew that her sorrow for the moment would not ultimately remain. She knew that her deceased son found atonement for his sins. She knew that even her own sins had been atoned for. Therefore, [her] sorrow was no more than part of the journey. She knew that she was merely en route to the ultimate greater joy, the joy of the perfection of salvation, the joy of the kingdom of God. Therefore, she could sing to the Lord. And even today she is singing to the Lord at this same hour with us.

Announce The Good News Of Salvation!

13. One last word. That we are being called to "Sing a new song to the Lord!" and that we will not stop singing a new song to the Lord are not just for our own good. [These] are also for the world's benefit. When Israel kept singing with hope it was to make the light of hope shine into the world. Israel would sing to the Lord, praise his name, and announce the good news of salvation. It would announce it to the various nations who still did not know the Lord. A new song was given into the mouth of Israel, first, for that very reason. "Sing to the Lord a new song! Oh all the earth, sing to the Lord! Sing to the Lord and praise his name! From day to day announce the good news of his salvation! Report the glory of the Lord to the nations, and his amazing deeds to the various peoples!," (verses one through three). Just as it is so stated, Israel was not supposed to be thinking only of its own salvation and its own hope.

14. Even though this passing world loses hope and gets so gloomy, Christians [should be] together and should not get gloomy. The church must not get gloomy along with the passing world. We will keep singing with hope. And we will keep announcing the good news of God's salvation. Since we believe and since we are living in hope, we will therefore be agents to shine forth hope into this dark and gloomy world. "Sing to the Lord a new song!" "From day to day announce the good news of his salvation!"