New Songs

New Songs

One of the things we give to the next generation is our songs. Sometimes they like them and keep them and sing them. Sometimes they don’t. My generation gave you the Beetles, the Beach Boys, the Bee Gees, and Black Sabbath. You kept the Beetles and Beach Boys, but tossed the Bee Gees and Black Sabbath. No problem. Some things are worth keeping. Some aren’t.

When our first grandchild was born I wanted to give Eleanor Grace a gift that might have the chance of following her through life. I knew things would disappear, so I decided on a gift that would be planted deep in her consciousness – a song. First I chose the tune, and every time I held her or walked with her or rocked her, I hummed the tune. “Doo-doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo.” (The actually tune is an old English melody titled “O Waly Waly.” Several hymns have been written using the tune.) It became our song.

Then her parents did something profoundly unbiblical. They moved away. So I called her at bedtime and hummed the tune. (“Doo-doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo”). Eleanor Grace’s mother would hold my picture up as I hummed the tune on a cell phone. It became her bedtime song. When I was not on the phone, her mom hummed it to her. She associated the song with me.

They planned to come see us at Christmas (which is quite biblical for children possessing our grandchildren to do). Eleanor Grace was almost one year old. “We’re going to see Grandma and Papa,” her mother told her. Eleanor Grace looked confused so her mother pulled out my picture. “We’re going to see Papa.” Eleanor Grace looked at the picture, smiled, pointed, and replied, “Doo Doo.” Thus my name for the first years of her life: Doo Doo.

I’ve been called worse. Like Dr. Doo Doo.

We are identified by the tunes and songs we sing. God’s people have always been.

They sang the great song of creation, giving God praise for the loving hands that shaped all that exists.
They sang the song of deliverance at the Red Sea where the waters were split open and they walked to freedom on dry ground.
They sang the songs of thanksgiving for manna from heaven and water from a rock and fiery clouds in the sky, and rescue from enemies.
They were identified by the songs they sang.
Their history was in those songs.
They claimed their lineage in those songs.

In the writings of the prophet Isaiah, an interesting thing happens. Here they are, the exiled people of God, far from home, disconnected from the holy places of memory – and Isaiah’s writings become as bedtime songs sung to them as a reminder of one who seemed distant but loved them nevertheless – one who was coming to see them and take them home into a brand new day. Isaiah begins by reminding them of the things they have always sung about – creation, covenant, calling.

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people who walk upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness,
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
A light to the nations,
to open eyes that are blind,
to bring prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the LORD, that is my name;
My glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.
See, the former things have come to pass…
(Isaiah 42:5-9a)

Isaiah takes the exiled child Israel in his arms and soothes them with a tune reminding them that they belong to someone who loves them. But he does not stop there, because the song goes on into their tomorrow.

See, the former things have come to pass,
And new things I now declare;
Before they spring forth I tell you of them.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
His praise from the end of the earth!
Let the sea roar and all that fills it,
The coastlands and their inhabitants….
Do not remember the former things,
Or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
(Isaiah 42:9b-10, 43:18-19)

It is time to sing a new song… because God is about to do a new thing. A new thing in keeping with all the old things. A new thing that does not obliterate all the old things, but a new thing nevertheless. Why new? Because their situation is different than it used to be. Like it or not, exile had changed their world and the new wine of God did not fit into the old wineskin of their past.

God was giving them not only permission to sing a new song, but he was also commanding them to do it in response to what he was about to do.

The world has changed.
Jihad is now practiced.
The planet is in peril.
A political stalemate in Washington DC
keeps our leaders from doing anything
except blocking each others path.
The rich nations are fragile
the poorer nations on the brink of chaos.
Our energy sources cannot support
the lifestyle of an affluent America.
Farming is in jeopardy.
Cities like Detroit are trying to find their future.

Our world in exile needs a saving move from God. And you are given permission to sing the new song of God’s new-thing redemption. Write a new verse to an old song, and sing the new song of God’s way in your world.

I finally put words to Eleanor Grace’s bedtime tune:

The Lord has been so good to me,
his grace is sure, his mercy free.
Lord give us rest throughout the night,
and wake us in the morning light.

She knows the song I gave her by memory, but the situation she finds when she wakes up in each new day, will call for a new song of response.

Are you ready to sing a new song?

This post is adapted from my baccalaureate address at Trevecca Nazarene University.


  1. Howard Marks says

    Great truth.

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