Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the Lord with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
play skilfully, and shout for joy.
Psalm 33:1-3 NIVUK
But I can’t play an instrument or hold a tune, I hear you say. And as for making up a new song, that’s totally beyond me. I can remember taking a course at school in music composition, where we were encouraged to make up a piece of music in four parts. A mental blank ensued.
In these verses the Psalmist, presumed to be David, encouraged the reader to do several things. He or she, assumed to be righteous and upright, were instructed to sing. Not just in any old way, but with a dose of joy. Why? Because the Psalmist thought it appropriate to do such things. He went on to suggest that God be praised on musical instruments, in this case the harp and the 10-string lyre. And then in verse 3 a new song was to be sung, accompanied by an instrument or instruments played skilfully, and the new song to include the occasional shout, underpinned and enhanced by “joy”. To a godless person this must have been the stuff of nonsense. What on earth are they doing, might have been the question.
But all this was not as strange as we might imagine. The Psalmist was instructing a worship band, made up of the Levite contingent of musicians and choristers. They crop up all over the Old Testament and performed many useful functions connecting the Jews to God in the acts of worship. Perhaps their most prominent occurrence was when Jehoshaphat placed the worshippers at the front of his army, as they headed off to do battle (2 Chronicles 20). So when we look at it from that perspective, it all seems to make sense. You see, worshippers, true worshippers, are led “in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). And true worship comes out of a heart-felt relationship with God. From worshippers who have spent time in God’s presence. Who know how great God is. Who have experienced the gentle touch of His Spirit, ruffling their spiritual hair with a closeness that has to be experienced to release the joy welling up inside.
But what about those who aren’t in the worship band. Who can’t play a note or keep a tune? The amazing thing is that God understands our shortcomings, our lack of ability and instead puts within us all the ingredients we need to make a new song, to sing and shout out with joy, and experience His presence in our expression of praise and worship to our loving Heavenly Creator God. And God is so blessed by His children praising Him, He doesn’t care what it sounds like in the natural. He sees our hearts and loves us anyway.