547

Sing, Sing a New Song to the LORD God

Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

In the liturgy of a high festival that annually celebrated the LORD's cosmic rule (perhaps the Feast of Tabernacles), the Levites used Psalm 98 to call first the congregation at the temple (st. 1); then all the people of the earth (st. 2); and finally all creation (st. 2-3) to joyful praise of the LORD. This praise celebrates God's acts of redemption (st. 1) and God's future coming "in righteousness" (v. 9; st. 3).
 
Bert Polman, Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

The best-loved expressions of praise for God’s care-taking work of his children comes from the familiar words of Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 1: “My only comfort in life and death [is] that I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil...Because I belong to him, Christ by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes we wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”
 

This great truth is explained more completely by Belgic Confession, Article 20. God has given his Son to die for us “…by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him, we might have immortality and eternal life.” And in Article 21, “…He endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins.” For this redemptive work we give praise and adoration.

547

Sing, Sing a New Song to the LORD God

Additional Prayers

Victorious God, all creation lifts its voice in a cacophony of joyful praise.
In your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
you have come to judge the world in truth and equity.
We await his return to make all things new,
joining creation’s chorus with our new songs of praise. Amen.
547

Sing, Sing a New Song to the LORD God

Tune Information

Name
GENEVAN 98 (118) (RENDEZ À DIEU)
Key
G Major or modal
Meter
9.8.9.8 D
547

Sing, Sing a New Song to the LORD God

Hymn Story/Background

In the liturgy of a high festival that annually celebrated the LORD's cosmic rule (perhaps the Feast of Tabernacles), the Levites used Psalm 98 to call first the congregation at the temple (st. 1); then all the people of the earth (st. 2); and finally all creation (st. 2-3) to joyful praise of the LORD. This praise celebrates God's acts of redemption (st. 1) and God's future coming "in righteousness" (v. 9; st. 3).
 
Dewey D. Westra versified this psalm in 1931 for the 1934 Psalter Hymnal; some revisions were made for the 1987 Psalter Hymnal.
 
GENEVAN 98/118 was first published in the 1551 Genevan Psalter as a setting for Psalm 118; in the 1562 edition it was also set to Psalm 98 (hence both numbers in the tune name). The tune is also often named RENDEZ À DIEU, the French incipit for Psalm 118.
 
This beloved tune is one of the finest and most widely sung of the Genevan psalm tunes (next to GENEVAN 134). Its clear melodic structure and vibrant rhythm call for firm accompaniment with bright organ registration, though some congregations may want to try unaccompanied singing on a stanza or two in the tradition of the sixteenth-century Reformers.
 
The 1564 harmonization here by Claude Goudimel originally placed the melody in the tenor. 
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Dewey D. Westra (b. Holland, MI, 1899; d. Wyoming, MI, 1979) was a dedicated educator, writer, and musician who faithfully served the Christian Reformed Church. He attended Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Wayne State University in Detroit. In the 1920s and 30s he was a Christian school principal in Byron Center and Detroit, Michigan. During the 1940s he was involved in various ventures, including becoming a diesel instructor for the Ford Motor Company. After 1947 he became a principal again, serving at Christian schools in Sioux Center, Iowa; Randolph, Wisconsin; and Walker, Michigan. Westra wrote poetry in English, Dutch, and Frisian, and translated poetry into English from Dutch and Frisian. He arranged many songs and composed songs for children's choirs. He also versified all one hundred and fifty psalms and the Lord's Prayer, as well as the songs of Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon, in meters that fit the corresponding Genevan psalm tunes. His manuscripts are housed in the library of Calvin College. Seventeen of his psalm versifications and his paraphrases of the Lucan canticles were included in the 1934 and 1959 editions of the Psalter Hymnal. Much of the credit for keeping the Genevan psalms alive in the Christian Reformed Church goes to Westra.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

The Genevan Psalter is the major gift of the Reformed branch of the Reformation to the song of the church. John Calvin (1509-1564) first experienced congregational singing of the psalms in Strasbourg when serving as a pastor of French exiles there, and when returning to Geneva in 1541 he finally persuaded the city council to permit congregational singing, which they had banned entirely under the influence of Ulrich Zwingli. Just two months after returning to Geneva, Calvin wrote in his Ecclesiastical Ordinances: "It will be good to introduce ecclesiastical songs, the better to incite the people to pray to and praise God. For a beginning the little children are to be taught; then with time all the church will be able to follow." Calvin set about overseeing the development of several metrical psalms with melodies, rather than the hymns, or chorales, of the Lutheran tradition, and also in contrast to the published psalters with texts only that followed in England and Scotland. The emerging Genevan Psalter was published in instalments until completed in 1562, including the 150 psalms, the Ten Commandments and the Song of Simeon. He employed the best French poets and composers to prepare metrical settings rather than continuing to chant the psalms, since poetry in meter was the popular form of the day—and also the choice for the Lutheran chorale.
 
The publication event was the largest in publishing history until then; twenty-four printers in Geneva alone, plus presses in Paris, Lyons, and elsewhere produced more than 27,000 copies in the first two years; more than 100,000 copies were available in over thirty editions. The Genevan Psalter was extremely popular, and almost immediately translated into Dutch, Hungarian, and German. Due to the intense persecution of the French Huguenots in the 16th century, the center of activity of the Reformed branch of the Reformation moved away from France and especially to the Netherlands, and from there to Indonesia, South Africa, and North America. The most recent translation (2004) of the entire psalter is into Japanese. The most recent English translation of the entire Genevan Psalter is available with melodies from the Canadian Reformed Book of Praise, available at http://www.canrc.org/?page=23 .
Calvin’s goal was to provide a distinct tune for every psalm, so that each psalm would have its own identity. Every tune would then bring to mind a particular psalm. The psalter didn’t quite reach this goal: it contains 125 different tunes. Today, only a few of those Genevan tunes are in wide use, among them the psalm tune most widely known around the world, often identified as OLD HUNDRETH, or simply, “The Doxology.” 
— Emily Brink

Dale Grotenhuis (b. Cedar Grove, WI, 1931; d. Jenison, Mi, August 17, 2012) was a member of the 1987 Psalter Hymnal 1987 Revision Committee, and was professor of music and director of choral music at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa, from 1960 until he retired in 1994 to concentrate on composition. Educated at Calvin College; Michigan State University, Lansing; and Ohio State University, Columbus; he combined teaching with composition throughout his career and was a widely published composer of choral music. He also directed the Dordt choir in a large number of recordings, including many psalm arrangements found in the 1959 edition of the Psalter Hymnal.
— Bert Polman
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