Sing a New Song (v. 1-5)
David begins here with an exhortation (v. 1-3) for us to rejoice in the Lord and to praise him with music, with singing and shouting. He then gives us the reason for this exhortation (v. 4-5) – we should praise God because he is upright, because his work is true, righteous, and full of goodness.
The Works of the Lord (v. 6-19)
We praise God for his character, his attributes. But we don’t learn about these by reflecting on them in the abstract. We come to know about God’s character by studying what he has done. We know God through his works. David directs our attention to two key works of God – creation and salvation.
Creation (v. 6-12)
David looks at God’s power in creation and concludes that “all his work is done in truth” and that “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.”The triune God is our maker, creating and upholding all things by the power of his Word and the strength of his Spirit. This is why our doctrine of creation is so important. Creation is the proof of God’s authority, proof of the authority of his Word and the power of his Spirit. The argument about six day creation is not just about the exegesis, it is about the ever-present, sovereign authority of God in our everyday lives. Because he is the creator, he is the continuing sustainer of all things. This means that all peoples must fear him.
Salvation (v. 13-19)
David now describes how a king, no matter how mighty his army is, cannot stand against God and his plans. The power of a horse in battle might be awesome, but it is no match for the power of the Lord. This section is pointing back to Israel’s deliverance from Egypt at the Red Sea crossing. In fact, even when he was describing creation, he did so in a way that would remind the Israelites of the victory at the Red Sea (v. 7). And God’s deliverance in the Exodus is meant to be a picture of our ultimate salvation.
The church has long understood creation and redemption to be inherently connected and to be the two places in which we most clearly see God’s character. The church father Athanasius argued that because God created the world by the power of his Word, it was only appropriate then that he redeem us by the power of his Word. So, as David teaches us, we praise God and we fear him for his creation and for his redemption.
Mercy, Hope, and Singing
However, this Psalm began as an exhortation to the “righteous” and “upright.” Unfortunately, if we spend any time actually meditating on the greatness of God’s character as revealed in his creation and salvation, we will find it difficult to conclude that we are in this category. How can we sing this new song? But if we look again at God’s work, it will become clear to us. God created ex nihilo. God’s triumph comes not from the strength of horses. This is another way that creation and salvation are connected (2 Cor. 4:6). When God acts, he acts unilaterally, supplying all that is needed for the action. Moses sang about this when he saw God’s deliverance (Ex. 15:1-2). And Isaiah foresaw when this would be fully accomplished in the Messiah (Is. 12:1-2).
Moses sang, not because he was upright, but because he saw the uprightness of God in his actions. And as he sang, God became Moses’ salvation. There is a pun in the Hebrew of Ps. 33, between verses 3 and 4. “Sing to him a new song. . .” “For the word of the Lord is upright. . .” Singing and uprightness are rhymed with one another. Our singing is an expression of our trust in the Lord, a trust inspired by our understanding of God’s work as Creator and Redeemer. And by this faith we receive the uprightness of the Lord. In other words, we sing by faith alone.