RPM, Volume 16, Number 49, November 30 to December 6, 2014


Psalm 100

By D. Marion Clark


We are taking a break from our 1 Corinthians series to consider the subjects of thanksgiving and Christ's birth. These are fun themes and I hope you will be moved to a greater spirit of thanksgiving during this season.


Call to Worship God: With Joy

1 Make a joyful noise to the
LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

"Joyful noise" is not a comment about our singing ability, nor is it a call to be noisy. "Shout for joy" (NIV) is a good rendition. It is the shout of the people as they enter into a large hall and behold their great king standing before them. It is the cheer given to a victorious hero. The psalmist is calling all the earth to hail Yahweh, the Lord over all the


Serve the LORD with gladness! To worship God is to serve him, and to serve him is to worship him. In no better way do we serve God than by offering him worship. We do not serve God on other days by doing good works and then take a break when we worship. Instead, worship is but our highest form of service.

This is an important point. One of our church membership questions reads: Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability? I will then ask how the candidates intend to support the church. Sometimes they will say it, but the first answer ought to be "attend worship." Get this clear. Worship is an act of obedience. God calls us to worship him. When the church doors open for worship – morning and evening, Sunday or weekday – God's people should come and serve their God.

Worship is entering into the presence of God: Come into his presence with singing! Wherever we are, God is present. Nevertheless, when we come together for public, corporate worship, there is a special sense in which we have gathered together before God. And that understanding ought to control how we appear for worship. Our common take about how we worship runs along the perspective of what we like. We choose our dress based on personal preference; the time we arrive for worship, the songs we sing and the manner in which we sing, and so on. If we are honest with ourselves, we will find that most of how we worship is based on personal taste and not on an inquiry into what God wants from us. If we received an invitation to appear at a White House banquet to honor the president or some other distinguished person, would we not inquire as to what would be expected of us? Would we simply prepare based on "this is what makes me most comfortable"? Would we excuse ourselves by saying that the President is only concerned that we are sincere? We are entering into God's presence, and our first concern should be what he prescribes for worship.

This psalm makes very clear what is required for this worship service – joy! Make a joyful noise…serve… with gladness…come… with singing! There are certainly times in worship for solemn observance and even expressing grief, but not at this particular service. Somehow an attitude took hold in the church that feeling is secondary in how one worships and serves God. Indeed, we have been taught that it is more noble to serve when one doesn't feel charitable and to worship when one doesn't have the heart for it, that God is primarily pleased with our obedience. Truly God does desire obedience. "To obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Samuel 15:22). But as any parent knows, how much better when one obeys out of love and joy.

Do you think God delights in our muttering hymns and songs that express joy for his greatness? Do you think he delights in our stern and indifferent expressions as we sing of his salvation? He is no different from us. We would rather nothing be said than to receive thanks from a person who is clearly going through the motions. If we are going to give thanks to God, then express it like we mean it.

We are all different and express ourselves differently. I am mild mannered and my gestures are more subdued than many others. Nevertheless, a smile is a smile and a frown a frown. Neither one takes effort, and whereas, one can easily falsify a smile to appear to be happy, rarely in worship does one frown while singing a praise song unless he is unhappy or not attentive to what he is singing.

God is like a woman; he doesn't want us to merely do the right things; he wants us to enjoy doing them. He wants our hearts as well as our obedience.

Our Relationship to God: We Belong to Him

3 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

This verse expresses who is to worship God. Isn't it all the earth? All the earth may be called to worship God, but only the true God and in covenant relationship to him. This psalm does not call all people everywhere to worship God as they see fit, and especially not as they perceive God.

Know that the LORD, he is God! When we read LORD written in capital letters, we know that the Hebrew name "Yahweh" is being used. "Jehovah" is another version of the name. The psalm is declaring that Yahweh is the one true God, not Baal or Asherah or Marduk. The LORD is particular about this.

I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things
(Isaiah 45:5-7).

Was it not I, the LORD?
And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.
"Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
'To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance'
(Isaiah 45:21-23)

The LORD is our Creator and Lord. He has made us. We are not our own creators; we do not exist apart from God. We cannot credit ourselves for our existence nor for our sustenance. We belong to God, and like a Shepherd, he watches over and provides for us.

When David speaks of being "his people," he is thinking as an Israelite of God's covenant made with the Hebrews to be God's people. It is not only as creatures that we belong to the Creator, but as people brought into a covenant with him that he has a special claim on us, and, for that matter, we on him. Yahweh, the one true God, is our God who has made us, sustains us, and places his claim on us.

For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called
(Isaiah 54:5).

Purpose of Worship: Thanksgiving

We are called to worship the LORD with joy as his people. Our purpose in worship is to give thanks.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

The people are walking into the tabernacle. They have entered the gates and are moving into the temple courts. The psalmist calls out, Give thanks to him; bless his name! That is the spirit in which they are to come. We have attended dinners and events designed to honor and express thanks for individuals. Perhaps we will give our own tribute, perhaps only listen and assent with the tribute others give. We intend to applaud. We hope for the opportunity to give our personal thanks.

That is the attitude in which we are to come to worship. God is worthy of our honor and thanks. It should be our intent to bless him – i.e. to delight him – with the joy and gratitude we express. He is to receive the glory; he is to be the center of attention.

Furthermore, understand that we are not worshipping in order to obtain God's favor. It is because he has graciously granted us favor that we worship with thanksgiving. The service we are rendering to God in worship is the service of being mindful of the blessings of God; it is the service of delighting in God and his blessings. That is not a bad assignment!

This spirit of thankfulness should mark God's people.

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High
(Psalm 7:17).

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds

The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him

Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!

Reason for Thanks: The Character of God

The reason we give thanks to God is that…well, is because of who he is.

5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

The LORD is good. What does it mean for the Lord to be good? We speak of persons being good, meaning good to us. "You are a good wife; you take care of me." "You are a good friend; you are always there for me." "You are a good person; you are always willing to help someone in need." In the same, the psalmists speak of God. The Lord, of course, is morally good; he is righteous and holy. He does not sin. But for the psalmists, to speak of God being good is to reflect on his doing good for his people.

Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way
(Psalm 25:8,9).

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing

God is a do-gooder. He instructs us to know the right way; we can turn to him for refuge. He provides for us so that we lack no good thing.

His steadfast love endures forever. The KJ translates "mercy," the NASB "lovingkindness," and the NIV typically "unfailing love." God's love to man is always mercy; it is an undeserving love. But the particular trait of this love, and which is what the Israelites' hope was placed in, is it being steadfast, unfailing. It is steadfast because God made a promise; he made a covenant with his people to love them.

How important to them is God's steadfast love. Consider that 52 psalms – over one-third – speak of it, 123 times altogether, and 178 times in the Old Testament. So much for the criticism that the God of the OT is a God of wrath.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you
(Psalm 5:7).

6 Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions

3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands

Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
2 For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD!

Finally, gives thanks to God for his faithfulness which continues through all generations. The Hebrew word for "faithfulness" is often translated "truth." You can see their close link. A man who is true to his word is one who is faithful. God is faithful because he is true to his word which endures forever. He does not lie, nor does he change his mind or falter. What he says he will do, and certainly that is worth giving thanks for. How difficult it is to find one who is faithful. There are those who make promises but deceive; there are those intending to be faithful but lack strength, courage, or wisdom to remain true. But God's promises never fail; he does not grow weary; he does not lose heart or patience, nor does he err in his decisions. We can count on him.


What about us? Whenever I read a psalm such as this which thanks and praises God, I am struck by how much more we have reason to do the same. When the psalmists speak in awe of creation, understand that we have all the more reason to marvel for we see more clearly how infinitely huge creation is and equally how complex it is. They did not know about atoms and black holes and supernovas. Surely, they did not consider that the Creator had created billions of stars reaching hundreds of millions of light years away. How they would have marveled then to consider what it means to be the sheep of God's hand whom he cares for.

They did not know about us. When David called upon the earth to worship God, he did not know the existence of the Western hemisphere. Certainly he could not peer into the future and imagine such peculiar people as ourselves with our strange clothes and incredulous technology. And with what wonder would he be sitting in our midst, hearing us in our strange tongues attest that yes, God's faithfulness endures throughout generation after generation, century after century, millennium after millennium. We attest 3,000 years later that God is true to his word. He has provided for us. He has been a refuge to us. He has instructed us in his way. Morning by morning we can speak of his love, and evening by evening recount his faithfulness. Yahweh is our God too.

But the real knowledge we possess that should make our thanksgiving greater is our knowledge of the cross. "What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?" What steadfast love is this that God would send his Son to die for the people who had rebelled against him, who, in truth, had become his enemies? Though the clues are in the prophesies, even in the psalms, how clearly could the psalmists understand that the Good Shepherd would become the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

It is good to give thanks for the blessings of this life. It is good to view creation and thank God for the beauty of the earth and the universe. It is good to give thanks for the daily blessings of life – for family and friends, for health and life, for the multitude of blessings that may seem small and indirect, yet make our lives pleasant. A danger for us is to take all these things for granted. I encourage you to each morning start your day with thanksgiving and end it the same.

But the greater danger is to take the greatest gift, the greatest blessing for granted, and that is the salvation that God has wrought for us. God the Father chose us to be his before he created this world. He planned our redemption. God the Son gave up his glorious estate to dwell in our sinful world. The Son of glory became our servant, even dying for our behalf. God the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in our unholy bodies and give us life. We would reject the gift of life offered to us, were it not for his working in us to understand, repent, and receive the gift of eternal life.

We are about to enter into the season of remembering God's gift of Jesus Christ. Be sure that your Thanksgiving includes thanking God for that greatest of all gifts and blessings. Be sure everyday to give thanks to God for this gift. Be sure every Lord's Day, as you gather together in God's presence, to give thanks that the very reason you may enter into his presence is because of this wondrous gift. I closed last week's message speaking of God's mercy and noting that those who belong to God are moved by the thought of his mercy. Those who know God through Jesus Christ are moved to thanksgiving for his blessed salvation. Give thanks to him. Bless his name!

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