Sunday Devotions: New Song, New Heavens, New Earth
Psalm 98, Isaiah 65
O sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gotten him victory. (Ps 98:1)
How good it was to sing again.
While I’ve been happy to help out with Confirmation this fall at our church, that does mean that I haven’t been able to sing with our choir; I can’t be in two places at once on Wednesday nights, when confirmands study and singers practice. But I had promised our choir director that he could add one more tenor to his Christmas concert roster, so I spent yesterday morning at the first rehearsal for that event.
I was rusty: I couldn’t reach all the high notes, couldn’t find some of the other notes, and had to take more breaths than made for good phrasing. But it was good to sing again. To join all the earth in making noise joyfully.
Making that kind of noise is so much fun by itself that I don’t always think closely about the words. But the opening to one anthem caught my eye:
The Lord has said a day will come when wolf and lamb will live in peace.
As God renews and mends the world,
the leopard lies down with the kid,
the lion walks beside the calf.
And a little child shall lead them,
a little child shall love them,
a little child shall show them the reign of God has come.
Richard Leach’s text actually comes from Isaiah 11, but it stuck with me because the description of a renewed world of peace also echoes this week’s Old Testament reading, from later in that same book:
For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind….
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
says the Lord. (Isa 65:17, 25)
That day will come, but has it yet? How do we sing “a new song” of reconciliation when the world seems to be stuck in older, more violent ways?
No song will bring closer the day when weeping and distress will be things of the past. Yet I don’t think it’s unimportant that God’s promise of renewal comes to the sound of such worship. To sing of wolf and lamb together to “be glad and rejoice forever” in what God is creating, to participate in the joy and delight he is “about to create” (Isa 65:18). In the words of this week’s psalm, for humans to “break forth into joyous song and sing praises” to God is to join the chorus of seas and hills rejoicing “at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth” (Ps 98:4, 9).
And in the process, perhaps our noisy souls can better imagine what our calculating minds can never really comprehend: a kingdom in which a little child shall lead and love us.
Next week’s lectionary readings: Psalm 46; Jeremiah 23:1-6; Luke 23:33-43; Colossians 1:11-20.
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