“And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” – Psalm 40:3
You may have thought my title should have been “Singing a Song”; but I assure you, my intention, like David’s, is to go farther than that. Reading this verse again recently, I was struck by several things I probably missed last time through, and I decided to share them with you. As a singer before audiences from my youth, passages and verses about music and singing understandably pique my interest, and perhaps these thoughts will speak to others in that category. But I caution you “pew singers” that when God instructs His children to sing praises to Him, he doesn’t limit the command to public singers. You and I may have a preference as to who we want to listen to, but God’s criteria is far different than ours, and His ear is fine-tuned to the heart, not the vocal cords.
I used to sing a song that said, “There’s a new song in my heart, since the Savior set me free,” but the Psalmist says that God put a new song in his mouth. I know Ephesians 5:19 says that our singing should come from the “melody in [our] heart.” If it isn’t in the heart, it has no business on the lips; that’s always been the standard for my own song choices. Perhaps David is saying, when the heart is truly filled, it should—and will—spill over into praise. As I often say when someone compliments me on a song I sing, “It just sings itself!” As a poet and singer, when David thought about the “horrible pit” and the “miry clay” from which God had lifted him, and the steadiness of his footing for the path ahead (v. 2), his heart praise to God bubbled up from his chest, past his windpipe and vocal cords, into his mouth! And he sang a “new song.” As Matthew Henry, again, says, “New mercies call for new songs.”
Notice, though, that his song inspired both fear and trust in the hearers. In other words, his singing caused a reaction—of one kind or another—in others. And here I want to speak to those among my readers who have been deemed worthy by their peers of singing publicly before others, no small privilege and responsibility. And notice, as I said, David thinks it more important to point out what people “see,” instead of what they hear. Matthew Henry suggests that one thing they saw in David was a man “after God’s own heart,” who still couldn’t get away with sin. That should strike fear in all our hearts! As a singer, I want people to see and understand what I’m singing, not just hear it. I want it to be plain, pointed, and personal. They must not be distracted by a shabby testimony, questionable attire, or “showy” talent. If God has given me a voice that is pleasing to some, He expects me to use it for His glory, not mine; and He knows whether or not that’s the reality.
If God has put a new song in your heart, sing it, with others in a congregation or gathering, or alone before expectant listeners. Sing it! And when others “see” our song, may they be challenged to fear and trust the Lord God. He is our Song of Songs!