Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Psalm 98:1-3 ESV
It seems likely that psalms 90–106, sometimes designated as the fourth book of the psalms, were collected together with the Babylonian exile in mind (whether they were written during that time [586 – 539 BC] is another question). They particularly stress that Yahweh is the King, a thought that would be very appropriate with the apparent dissolution of the Davidic royal dynasty. This divine kingship is a cause for overflowing joy throughout these psalms
But there is another thought that appears in these songs. That is the one seen here, and also in the first verse of psalm 96. This is the idea of a “new song” (see also Pss. 33:3; 40:3; 144:9; 149:1). What does that mean? Why a new song?
A clue to the answer to the question is found in Isaiah 43, where, following a contest between Yahweh and the Babylonian idols, Yahweh announces that he is going to do a “new thing” (v. 19). The point is that the idols, being simply personifications of this world’s endlessly cycling forces, can never do anything new. They must simply repeat what they have always done. So, it is not really a new day, or a new year; it is simply a “rerun.”
But for us followers of Yahweh, that is not true! He, standing outside the universe, having made the universe, can do things that have never happened before! Even though no one had ever gone home from exile before, Yahweh says he can do it! Sing a new song! He is not shackled by our situation, nor by our limitations. He can transform us!
A recent Wall Street Journal column tells the story of “the napalm girl,” who is shown in the famous photo as a naked, screaming child running toward the camera with flames at her back. In the column she tells of the agony and hurt, but then of the way Christ has healed her and made her whole. A new thing!
It is not for you and me at the dawn of a new year to dictate to God what new thing he must do for us. But what we can do is to step into the unknown with joyous anticipation for the ways in which our “new-making” Father can take whatever comes to us, whether it be grief, or frustration, or dead-end, and transform it into joy, into fruitfulness, into endless possibility. “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5).