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Wordwise Insight, Issue #052
February 13, 2009

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free monthly newsletter of


BIBLE INSIGHTS (and Reader Q & A): What is meant by "the new song"? Did human beings "invent" God? Where did Cain get his wife?


MORE ARTICLES: The Human Heart; Factors That Mold a Church

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What Is Meant by It?

QUESTION: What is meant by the "new song" spoken of in many verses of Scripture.

ANSWER: The singing of a “new song” is referred to nine times in the Word of God (Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isa. 42;10; Rev. 5:9; 14:3). It is logical that most of these are found in Psalms, the hymn book of the Bible. Some of the texts refer clearly to an individual singing (e.g. Ps. 40:3), others to a group (e.g. Ps. 96:1).

It is possible, and often beneficial, to sing when we are alone. But there is a special delight in singing God’s praises in the assembly of His people. However, our corporate music-making must not be merely a hollow ritual (cf. Ps. 47:7; I Cor. 14:15). It must be a sincere expression of the heart (Ps. 28:7).

That is what is implied by “a new song.” Sadly, some have used this phrase as an excuse to ignore the hymn book, to abandon the richness of two thousand years of Christian hymnody, replacing it with shallow contemporary ditties. ("Why preserve them for our use when they are so old? We want to keep up-to-date.") But if that were the meaning, God would never have given us the book of Psalms, and His people would not have found blessing in singing the hymns and gospel songs written over the years.

The new song is fresh and refreshing, it is renewed and renewing. It may be old in the sense of having been written many years before, or of having been sung before (as the Psalms became, as Israel used them over the years). But it arises out of a fresh experience with God, giving the singers a new motivation and a new testimony. In the sharing of it they are renewed in faith and confidence, and in a spirit of praise and...

To see the full article, click on The New Song.

QUESTION: Pat asks, "What is this I hear about archeological discoveries that point to the Israelites [creating] the idea of Yhwa [Jehovah] from YHW, the patron god of the "Shaw-say" in Egypt?

ANSWER: Great question, Pat! I'm assuming from your comments that you may have seen one of the PBS documentaries about the Bible. Irritating stuff, in my opinion! I usually turn it off. But I did see a bit of a recent one. What we are dealing with is a bottom-up way of looking at things, versus a top-down way. (I'll explain further in a moment.)

It all comes down to where our faith is placed. The Christian puts his faith in God, and in His trustworthy Word. The secular humanist places it in an evolutionary theory that seems to make God unnecessary. Natural processes, and the operation of blind chance, over time, are thought to account for everything. Charles Darwin popularized this way of thinking with his 1859 book on evolution in the world of nature. But others were soon applying evolutionary ideas to what was happening in society, in industry, in economics, and to religion as well.

For the Christian, everything begins with God. "Of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever" (Rom. 11:36). God alone is eternal, in the sense of having no beginning as well as no ending (Ps. 90:2). Everything else that exists has been called into being out of nothing, by His almighty word. For example, "God said, ‘Let there be light;' and there was light" (Gen. 1:3). "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible" (Heb. 11:3; cf. Isa. 46:9-10).

If human beings choose to take what I've called the "bottom-up" view, "God" becomes the invention of...

To see the full article, click on Inventing God.

QUESTION: Evelyn asks, "Where did Cain get his wife?"

ANSWER: This is an old question, sometimes considered unanswerable by the skeptics. If one takes the early chapters of Genesis literally, it is supposed that Adam and Eve, and their two sons, Cain and Abel, were the only four people on earth. Where then did Cain's "wife" of Genesis 4:17 come from?

First, it is important to note that the details provided in the early part of Genesis are sketchy. Chapters 1-11 skim over several thousand years, with only as much information included as the Lord deemed necessary for us to have.

Chapter 4 speaks of three specific sons of Adam and Eve: Cain, Abel (whom Cain murdered), and Seth. We are given more detail on these, as both their spiritual history and their descendants prove to be significant later on. But these three were not the only children of Adam and Eve. We learn from Chapter 5 that Adam lived to the age of 930, and "had sons and daughters" (vs. 4-5). He and Eve could easily have had dozens of children in that time.

All that was necessary for Cain to have a woman to marry is for at least two of Adam's children to marry each other and have children of their own. Perhaps Cain married a sister too, we do not know. And we are not told how long Cain lived. But if he lived to be over 900 years of age, as his brother Seth did (Gen. 5:8), there could well have been many generations of the family born during that time.

Today, there are civil laws prohibiting siblings from marrying. However, in the beginning the Lord apparently permitted it, in order to get the population started. It was only with the giving of the Law to Israel around 1400 B.C. that a man was forbidden from marrying his...

To see the full article, click on Cains Wife.



Living Echoes

Stand before a rocky cliff, and shout. Chances are, if conditions are right, your voice will bounce back to you again. We call that an echo. As one poet puts it, "My words had gone forever, / They left no trace or track. / But the hills nearby caught up the cry / And sent the echo back."

There are echoes in the realm of light, as well. As any grade school child knows, the moon itself gives no light. What we see is the light of the sun, reflected back from the surface of the moon. Can you imagine a cold, rocky landscape trying to shine on its own? Or speak on its own? It has no power to do so. It works fine as a reflector, but that is all.

In a similar way, human beings are made to be reflectors of God and His truth. All around us are those in deep spiritual need. What can we do for them? Nothing, on our own. They need a touch from God. They need Him. But we can have a part in bringing the two together. We can be His reflectors. His "living echoes." As Jesus said to His followers one day, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matt. 10:8). And later Paul was able to say, "I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you" (I Cor. 11:23). We can only pass on what we have received.

In 1872, Frances Ridley Havergal wrote a hymn-poem she entitled, "A Worker's Prayer." We know it by the opening words, "Lord, Speak to Me." It is the kind of prayer that should rise regularly from the heart of each servant of Christ. It says, "Lord, speak to me that I may speak in living echoes of Thy tone; / As Thou hast sought, so let me seek / Thy erring children, lost and lone." And a later...

To see the full article, click on Lord, Speak to Me.


You may have noticed that the newsletter arrived a day early this month. Since Saturday is Valentine's Day, I thought you might be able to use the discussion Bible study on "The Human Heart" on Sunday. The earlier day may give you a better chance to check it out. The article "Factors That Mold a Church" provides a good reminder of some of the things that make each local church unique.

The Human Heart

Factors That Mold a Church

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