Psalm 100:1-5.
 
Give Thanks with Sincere Joy.

Copyright © 2007, American Journal of Biblical Theology
www.biblicaltheology.com   Scripture quotes from KJV


You are walking down the street when you stop to have a conversation with a stranger. That stranger smiles, asks for permission to give you a gift, you agree, and then the benefactor gives you a shiny new penny. How would you respond? Such a small gift would probably leave you perplexed as to what to say. I have met Chinese peasants who became excited over the gift of a shiny American penny. However, if I were to leave a shiny new penny for a tip in a fine American restaurant, the gift would be considered a grievous insult.

Let us go back to the street and our generous benefactor. Instead of a shiny new penny, you are given a crisp new twenty-dollar bill. What would you say to this stranger? Most likely you would say something to express your thanks for their generosity. The statement might be something like, “Thank you, I really appreciate that.” What would you say if the gift were one-hundred dollars? One-thousand dollars? What would you say if the gift were an annuity that will pay out $10,000 every month for the remainder of your life? Most of us would be overwhelmed by this last gift, finding it difficult to find the words to express our thanks.

Most likely, the amount of thanks we express to others is proportional to the size of the gift; the larger the gift, the greater the thanks. What is the greatest gift that any person could give to us? Perhaps it would be the gift of a life-saving organ for your own child, given by the parent of a dying child. It would be very difficult to find the right sequence of words to share with the grieving benefactors who sacrificed their own child to save yours.

What is the greatest gift of all? When we consider this sequence of ever-increasing value, we can probably come to the conclusion that the greatest gift is life itself, both the physical life that we experience on this earth and the eternal life that is to be experienced in heaven by those who love God. The experience of physical life is a gift of God, given to every person who has ever lived (or will ever live.) Every heartbeat and every breath is an undeserved gift. Every joy and every sorrow is an undeserved gift. Every physical object that we touch and hold is a gift of God’s creation.

Eternal life is a gift of God, given to every person who places their faith and trust in Him. With this eternal life comes God’s promise of the unending presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer as He provides illumination of life itself, showing us His Word and his creation through His eyes. With this eternal life comes an assurance, a peace, joy, and hope that comes from no other source.

If it is so easy to thank someone for a small gift, and so difficult to thank someone for a large gift, how do we thank God for the indescribable gift He has given us in this physical life and in the eternal life He gave us through the sacrifice of His own son? How do we find the words to express to God the true thankfulness that we have? Many people simply do not try. Like spoiled children they received God’s gift of life without even acknowledging its source. Many do not recognize the gift that they have received. However, most people who love God do recognize the profound gift that they have received, and they genuinely seek to thank God in an appropriate way.

The 100th Psalm is probably one of the more well-known and loved Psalms, likely ranked second behind the 23rd. Its words have been penned into poetry and sung in songs and spiritual songs for generations. The 100th Psalm is a compact and complete teaching on how to appropriately show thanks to God for what He has done for us. Spending a few moments looking at the content of these verses can not only help us to better thank God, but can also serve to teach us how that attitude of gratitude can be expressed throughout our entire experience. Though the list of responses to God’s gift that are listed in Psalm 100 may not be inclusive, it is certainly instructive.

Psalm 100:1.

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.

We show thankfulness with joyful sounds.

We often quote this verse as an apologetic for our inability to utter what we think are beautiful sounds. God has given a command to those who love Him for their praise to be joyful, not beautiful. Worship was expressed in ancient Israel with joyful abandon. We also find much joy expressed in Christian worship of the first century. However, with the establishment of the autocratic Roman church, such joy faded over the years. The 15th and 16th century reformers did much to bring God’s word back to the people, defining much of what is today’s Christian church. However, they also did us a disservice. Following the demand for respect of the autocracy of the church and reverence for God that was the nature of the established church, they carried this tradition of willed sobriety into the churches of the reformation. The church’s demand for sober reverence stifled God’s request for the expression of joy. To show joy in one’s salvation was to be irreverent, and so a church culture of stifled joy continued even into the 21st century. This represents one discrepancy between God’s heart and church tradition. The church has been teaching us to stifle our expression of joy when God’s word encourages us to express it.

It may also be instructive to understand that what we interpret as a beautiful sound and what God interprets as a beautiful sound are quite different. We measure beauty by its ability to please ourselves. God measures beauty by its ability to please Him. What pleases God, a beautiful sound that pleases people, or the sound of heart-felt joy that is an expression of love for Him? We show thanks to God with the sounds of heart-felt joy that are an expression of our sincere love for Him.

Who is commanded to make a joyful noise? This command is not just for Israel, and not just for her offspring, the Christian church. The command is given to all people. Paul writes in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans that God reveals His righteousness to all people, and all who reject His offer of grace are without excuse. All people are to praise the One God with sincere joy.

Psalm 100:2a.

Serve the LORD with gladness:

We show thankfulness with joyful service.

Showing true thankfulness requires more than words. Such a command speaks to the very nature of His Lordship. As God, He is our LORD and we belong to Him. If He is truly our LORD, than we will serve Him as the one true and ultimate authority in our lives. This is not a radical concept at all, and most Christians understand that to love God is to serve Him. However, the Reformers just got in our way again. Their penchant for reverence produced a church that taught that service to God was characterized by dramatic sacrifice. The result was a culture where demonstrations of sincere service were accompanied by a sacrifice that was sufficient to inspire mourning. Those who truly served truly sacrificed. Those who truly served did so in drudgery to assure that a true sacrifice was duly given. Referred to as ascetism, this doctrine demanded that those who were truly “spiritual” took on a life characterized by the abstinence from any and all activity that might bring pleasure. Priests took vows of poverty. Monks secluded themselves from the world. Service to God was a burden, or it was not service at all.

When Jesus stated, “My burden is light,” he was referring to the nature of Christian service. Christians are called upon to serve Him with gladness. Gladness is simply the product and expression of true joy, the same joy that is promoted in verse 1. Though the command is to serve God, it is also commanded to do so with gladness. Where does this gladness come from? Joyful service comes from the joy of knowing that we are serving God Himself in all that we do for Him. Other scriptures teach that we can do all things for the Glory of God, whether they are great or small by man’s measure. Every act of ministry and service to one another can be done with gladness because it is done in service to the LORD. Christians can execute with joy tasks that others despise as onerous and demeaning. Joyful service is another way we show thanks to God for what He has done for us.

Psalm 100:2b.

Come before his presence with singing.

We show thankfulness with joyful singing.

It was one of the greatest of the Reformers, Martin Luther, who wrote a very short essay entitled, “Music is a fair and glorious gift of God” In it he concluded,

“I am strongly persuaded that after theology there is no art that can be placed on a level with music; for besides theology, music is the only art capable of affording peace and joy of the heart.”

We probably cannot blame the Reformers for any failure on our part to come into his presence with singing. This 20th century culture has come to fully embrace the thought that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” (Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, Molly Bawn). Though penned in 1878, this theme appears consistently in literature from as early as the 3rd century B.C. As is true for any form of beauty, we tend to evaluate music by our own measures, and by so doing we encourage those who do not please us with their voice to stifle their singing. This is both a sin and a tragedy. God gave every person the ability to praise Him with singing and in these (and other) verses instructs us to sing to Him. When we sing, whether our noise is pleasing to others, the joy of our hearts and the testimony of our words are pleasing to God. We should be encouraged when we hear someone joyfully singing with a voice that is not particularly pleasing to us. We are witnessing singing that is beautiful to God.

Psalm 100:3a.

Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;

We show thankfulness with joyful submission.

It was William Earnest Henley, in his poem “Invictus” (c. 1875) who wrote,

It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul

The title is Latin for “un-conquered,” written by a man who had found personal success midst tremendous difficulty in his life. Thus is well-stated the opinion of those who reject God: I am the LORD of my own life. One comes to salvation when, and only when, one changes that opinion to “God is the LORD of my life.” Without faith in God, we cannot please Him (Heb. 11:6).

The word used for “know” implies an intimate knowledge. This word is used in the Old Testament to describe the relationship between a man and a woman that results in a family. God desires that our knowledge of Him is intimate, a knowledge that comes from loving Him and continually seeking to know more about Him. The more we know of God the more we recognize His right to be our LORD. It is God who created us; we did not create ourselves. It is God who shaped the miracle of both our physical body and our eternal soul. God is indeed is the Master of our fate, and the Captain of our soul. He has called upon His children to submit to Him joyfully as our Master and LORD.

Psalm 100:3b.

we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

When we come to truly know God, we find that there is a great difference between us. Some would seek to trivialize God’s authority by referring to Him as the “Old man upstairs,” or refer to Jesus as “my Buddy” or “my Co-pilot.” Some seek to share God’s authority as they sanction their own self-promoting actions as those of God. Some even claim to supersede God’s authority as they think they can manipulate Him through their prayers and demands. The truth is that God has all the authority, we have none. God does not belong to us: we belong to God. God does not submit to us: we are only to submit to Him.

We are the sheep in His pasture. When we visualize the good and righteous shepherd and his sheep, we get an appropriate image of the relationship between the LORD and those who have placed their faith and trust in Him. The 10th chapter of the gospel according to John describes this relationship of Jesus as the good shepherd and the faithful as the sheep. The sheep have no authority over the shepherd, and simply do not have the cognitive abilities of the shepherd. Left to its own the sheep will wander away and will find itself helpless against the many dangers, toils, and snares of life. The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep and provides for all of their needs. He protects them against those dangers of life. When one comes to faith in God, one is like that sheep who is brought into the fold. Salvation is exactly what it is called: being saved from the danger of separation from the Shepherd that this world promises. As the sheep willingly and joyfully submits to the Shepherd whose voice it learns to recognize, Christians willingly and joyfully submit to God.

Psalm 100:4.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

We show thankfulness with joyful praise.

As was stated in verse 1, we are called to enter into His presence. The structure of the Hebrew poetry of this Psalm is quite evident in this verse as we see a repeat of the first half of the verse stated slightly differently in the second. We are to “enter into his gates with thanksgiving: be thankful unto Him.”

When we come to truly know that the LORD is God, we also come to know the power of His Majesty and righteousness. This serves to illuminate our understanding of our own unrighteousness, and consequently, our own inadequacy to enter His presence. The gates referred to in this passage are those which protect the entrance to a fortified city. One did not enter the gates of the city without the approval of the LORD of that city. We might envision a traveler in the desert who has run out of water and provisions, one who cannot survive any longer outside of the city walls. Acceptance through those gates is a matter of life and death. The traveler has good reason to express thankfulness to the king for allowing him to enter the gates. Likewise, all who enter the gates of this passage do so only by the approval of God, and to fail to enter the gates is to spend an eternity separated from Him, an eternity of death. Recognizing this we are first called to enter the gates by accepting God as our LORD and then expressing thanksgiving for His provision.

The second rhymed statement in this poetic verse is “and into His courts with praise: and bless His name.” Not only is the traveler invited into the gates: he is also called into the presence of the King. Having been saved from death, the only appropriate response of the traveler is to praise the King. The traveler is sincerely grateful for what the King has done. Likewise, all who have entered the Gates of God’s city have been saved from eternal death. The only appropriate response for one who has been saved from eternal hell is to praise God, expressing to Him our gratefulness for His grace. God is pleased by our thanksgiving, and He is pleased by our praise since both of these is an expression of our acknowledgment of His Lordship. When we fail to be grateful, when we fail to thank and praise God, we fail to express our sincere belief that He is truly our LORD.

Psalm 100:5.

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

We show thankfulness with joyful sincerity.

God is worthy of our joyful sounds, our joyful service, our joyful singing, our joyful submission, and our joyful praise as we sincerely express our thanksgiving to Him in all of these ways. We can trust God to be the Master of our fate and the Captain of our soul because He is eternally faithful and reliable. He is the One source of eternal goodness, mercy, and truth that we can fully depend upon.

God’s righteousness is eternal. God is good, all the time. God’s goodness and righteousness goes far beyond our understanding, as our minds are so blinded by our own unrighteousness. God’s goodness is full and complete. All that is good comes from God, and all that comes from God is good. We, in our unrighteousness do not deserve to enter the gates of our righteous God. Yet God calls us because …

God’s mercy is eternal. God expresses His love for us by His grace, calling we whose righteousness is like filthy rags, unto Himself who cleanses us of that unrighteousness. We deserve death, but God is merciful. Also, as an eternal God, His mercy is eternal: it will not change with the passing of time. The mercy that God showed to Adam, to Noah, to Moses, and to every person before us will continue to be lavished upon all who follow us until the end of the age.

God’s truth is eternal. The Word of God does not change. The nature and character of God does not change. The salvation offered through the blood of Jesus Christ does not change as was offered to those of both the Old Testament period and the New.

Because of His Holiness; because of His Majesty; because of His love, mercy, and grace, God is worthy of our sincere thanksgiving. Let us never fail to give God thanks for all He has provided for us and all He has done for us. Let us show our thanksgiving by expressing our gratitude with joy: joy in our noise, joy in our singing, joy in our service, joy in our submission, joy in our praise, and may that joy always be sincere.