The Sunday before Thanksgiving I always take a break from whatever we are studying so we can focus on some Scripture that will help stir thoughts of gratitude and thankfulness for who God is and what He has done in our lives. Focusing on gratitude is very important for me because I recognize that there is so much going on in so many of our lives that would seek to pull us down and cause us to lose sight of the gratitude that we all should have regardless of our circumstances or situation at this time.
I learned something really interesting this past week. The Psalm we will take a look at, Psalm 100, is the only Psalm that has the title, “A Psalm for Thanksgiving,” or “A Psalm for Giving Thanks.” There are 150 psalms and 117 of them have superscriptions, or titles, to introduce them. The superscriptions sometimes name the author of the psalm, give insight into which instrument should be used when playing and singing the psalm, or group the psalms together. Let me give you an example of how some of the psalms are grouped together. Psalms 120-134 carry the superscription or title, “A song of ascents.” These psalms were sung by worshipers who made their journey up to Jerusalem for one of the feasts to be celebrated.
The Psalms are filled with praise, worship, laments, confessions, and thanksgiving, but only one, Psalm 100, is titled, “A Psalm for Giving Thanks,” or as the NIV translates it, “A psalm. For giving grateful praise.” The psalm is made up of only five verses, but those five little verses are jam packed with passionate emotion and deep truth for you and me. Let’s read the psalm and then we’ll see what we can learn.
A psalm. For giving grateful praise. Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5 NIV)
There’s something I want us to notice as we begin taking a look at Psalm 100. Take a look at verses 1-2. In these verses we find the command, or invitation, to praise God. We are called to “shout for joy to the LORD,” “worship the LORD with gladness,” and “come before Him with joyful songs.” Then, in verse 3, we are given the reason for our praise. We know “that the LORD is God,” “He has made us and we are His,” “we are His people,” “the sheep of His pasture.” In verse 4, we are commanded, or invited to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise,” and “give thanks to Him” and “praise His name.” Then, in verse 5, we are given the reason for our praise: “For the LORD is good,” “His love endures forever,” and “His faithfulness continues through all generations.” The invitation comes in verses 1, 2, and 4. The reason and motivation for our praise comes in verses 3 and 5.
Psalm 100 is a powerful roadmap to guide us through this winding, often terrifying, journey of life filled with joy and exuberance at times, but also heartache, disappointment, trials, and sorrows beyond description. It is easy for us to lose hope, to lose the joy and peace that the Lord desires for us to experience in life, and to give in to depression and despair when we focus on our circumstances instead of our God.
I will never forget sharing a Thanksgiving meal with our Celebrate Recovery group a few years ago. I was so blessed to be part of the celebration. I sat at a table with three guys and I listened as they shared their stories with me. It was an evening of irony for me. Each of the three guys I shared a meal with were inmates here in Oklahoma City and yet they spoke about the Lord with such joy. Two of the guys were out of prison when they violated their probation and were sent back to prison. Neither of the guys picked up additional charges for violating their probation. When they violated the terms of their probation the judge sent them back to prison and ordered them to start over and serve their entire sentence. After listening to them talk for a while I said, “How do you keep from being eaten up with bitterness?” All three guys spoke up. They told me that they avoid giving in to bitterness and anger by focusing on God. One guy said, “I have to remember that God has a plan for my life. He is working in my life even when I don’t understand the ‘why’ or the ‘what’ of His plan. I just have to stay focused on Him.”
Let me tell you something. You can travel the world to find the greatest Bible teachers alive today and not hear any greater truth than what I heard sitting and listening to three men who were incarcerated at the time. My friends understood the lesson of Psalm 100 even though they never mentioned it during our conversation.
I want you to notice something about Psalm 100. I want us to focus on some key words for just a moment. The first word I want to point out to you is the word that is translated, “praise” in the title of Psalm 100 in the New International Version and “thanks” or “thanksgiving” in some other translations like the ESV and NAS. The Hebrew word, “towdah” literally means “confession, praise, or thanksgiving.” We are to confess God’s character and His amazing works throughout all of creation. The word also appears in Psalm 100:4 where we read,
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving (confession) and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. (Psalm 100:4 NIV)
Derek Kidner calls Psalm 100 the “unclouded summit.” It ends a series of psalms, beginning in Psalm 93, called, “enthronement Psalms.” Over and over again, in Psalms 93, 96, 97, and 99, we read the phrase, “The LORD reigns.” In Psalm 100 we find the culmination of the “enthronement psalms” which is an invitation for us to celebrate God and what He has done. How are we to celebrate? That’s a great question and the psalmist provides the answer for us. We are to…
Shout for Joy to the Lord!
“Shout for joy to the Lord…” The Hebrew word that is translated as, “shout” is “?????” (ruwa`), and it was most commonly used for the way the citizens of the city would greet their king who came home after winning the battle. A messenger would arrive before the king and his army announcing the good news. The people would line the streets waiting for the arrival of their victorious king. When he would appear with his army the people would explode with cheers and shouts of victory!
You’ve probably never seen the celebration of a victorious king, but you may have seen the tickertape parade held in San Francisco earlier this month when the Giants and their fans were celebrating their World Series Championship. Excitement, enthusiasm, loud shouting, cheering, and unbridled joy were the order of the day as the people expressed their praise and love for their Giants! We are invited to praise our God with enthusiasm and shouts of joy!
Worship the Lord with Gladness!
The psalmist also invites us to “Worship the Lord with gladness;” The Hebrew word translated, “worship,” in the NIV, but “serve” in most translations, is “aw-bad” and it means, “to work or to serve.” So, we have to ask the question, “Which is it? Is it ‘worship the Lord with gladness’ or is it ‘serve the Lord with gladness?’” I want you to consider something…it is both. Our “work” is our “worship” and our “worship” is our most fundamental “work.” Worship isn’t confined to the sanctuary on Sunday morning. Worship is to take place in the mechanics garage on Monday morning. Worship is to take place in the surgeon’s operating room on Tuesday afternoon. Worship is to take place in the teacher’s classroom on Wednesday morning. Worship is to take place on the showroom floor of the car dealership on Thursday night. Worship is to take place as the laborers pound out the “Hallelujah Chorus” on rooftops all over city while they put on new roofs on a Friday morning. Regardless of what kind of work you do, your work is to be an expression of worship to God. In the New Testament, Paul wrote,
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, (Colossians 3:23 NIV)
Paul says, “work at it with all your heart…” The psalmist says, “worship, serve, the Lord with gladness.” The Hebrew word for “gladness,” is “simchah” and it means, “joy, gladness, or pleasure.” There is a distinctiveness about our work, our service, as followers of the one True and Living God. We are to serve the Lord, worship the Lord, work for the Lord with a disposition of “gladness.”
I love going to Chick fil-A just so I can hear the workers, after they take my order, say, “My pleasure!” Wow! How out-of-the-ordinary is that at fast food restaurants today? I want to give you a sure fire tip on how to get a raise at your place of work. Are you ready? By your actions, countenance, and words communicate a sense of delight in getting to do what you do. If you do that your boss will stand up and take notice. We are to serve the Lord with gladness in the sanctuary and we are to worship the Lord with gladness all throughout the week in everything we do.
Come Before Him with Joyful Songs!
The psalmist also invites us to “Come before Him with joyful songs.” The phrase, “joyful songs,” is a translation of the Hebrew word, “renanah.” I have to point something out for us so that we don’t get confused. The “joy” that prompts “joyful songs” is not the happiness that people try to experience through all kinds of pursuits. The joyful songs are not like Pharrell’s song, “Happy.” The source of joy, the constancy of joy is not determined by positive vibes or great things that just keep happening for us. In Psalm 63, David was going through such a difficult time. He was on the run, out in the desert, and yet he wrote,
3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. 4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. (Psalm 63:3-5 NIV)
How could David sing “joyful songs” in such a tough place? He answers for us, “Because your love is better than life…” That’s it. Can I be brutally honest with you? You will never come to fully know the joy that God desires for you as long as you keep seeking happiness, fulfillment, excitement, and satisfaction in what this world has to offer. It is His love that alone is better than life!
Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving and Praise!
Let’s move on. The psalmist invites us to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise;” It is an invitation to come into God’s presence: An invitation to draw near to the Lord with confessions of His greatness, majesty, glory, and goodness. It’s an invitation to declare our God’s glory and worth to the nations. The word for “praise” is “tehillah.” and the prophet Isaiah uses it over and over again. In Isaiah 63:7 we read,
7 I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us– yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. (Isaiah 63:7 NIV)
C.S. Lewis said that when he was a young man he was troubled by the incessant call to “praise God.” What made it even worse for him was that God Himself urged people to declare His praises. He thought, “What kind of God is it that constantly demands His people to tell him how great He is?” To C.S. Lewis it seemed arrogant, utter vanity on behalf of God. Then, at some point, the light came on for him. It dawned on Lewis that people praise that which is of greatest value to them. He writes,
But the most obvious fact about praise — whether of God or anything — strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless…shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it…The world rings with praise — lovers praising their mistresses [Romeo praising Juliet and vice versa], readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game — praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars… Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible…I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. (C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms. (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1958), pp. 93–97.)
C.S. Lewis is so right. We talk about, praise, and get excited about those things, people, places, or experiences that excite us. There is no greater satisfaction than the satisfaction that comes from finding our greatest delight in the Lord. David wrote,
7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. (Psalm 4:7 ESV)
David didn’t flinch in confessing that all of the wealth of their harvest and overflowing vats of wine couldn’t even begin to touch the abundance of joy that the Lord had put in his heart. Are you in that place? Is that your confession today or are you still looking for someone to complete you? Are you still looking for some experience to kick start the humdrum existence you’ve been living? Are you still looking for the golden ticket, for riches to finally propel you to satisfaction in life?
It’s interesting to me that so many people, even people who say they are followers of Jesus, roll their eyes and snicker when folks get “too” excited or emotional about the Lord. Stop and think about something for a minute. Do you realize that it is unacceptable in the world’s eyes not to be excited what they are excited about? Let me explain. I’ve been to all kinds of sporting events. I love going, but I don’t get crazy. I’ve been to concerts and I appreciate the talent of those who perform, but I don’t cry and scream their names. That’s just plain unacceptable to those around you at those events. People will give you looks. They might even ask, “What’s wrong with you?” or “Are you not having a good time?” It’s almost expected that you express emotion when you go to these kinds of events, but you better not show that kind of emotion at church on Sunday. The same person who gave you dirty looks for not getting hoarse at the game or the concert will be embarrassed of you if you say, “Amen” or “Thank you Lord” at church. I know why they don’t get as excited about the Lord as they do about watching their team play or checking out their favorite band—they don’t know Psalm 100:3. Take a look at it with me.
3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3 NIV)
Please don’t miss this. The emotion that filled the heart and mind of the psalmist as he wrote Psalm 100 flowed from the truth of Psalm 100:3. “Knowing” the truth about who God is: His character and attributes, His unfailing love and constant care, produces joyful songs, thanksgiving, confessions of praise, and service overflowing with gladness. If we don’t know the truth of God then our praises and joy will be “seasonal.” We will only praise Him and sing joyful songs when the sun is shining and everything is wonderful in life. What are the truths that are included in Psalm 100:3? Well, let’s take a look.
YHWH is God!
First of all, YHWH is God. Not Allah, Buddha, Shiva or Vishnu, but YHWH alone is God. There is no other. He has no competitors, there are no rivals to His power and ability.
He Made Us
The second truth we need to know is this: “It is He who made us.” You and I are not accidents of the cosmos or products of the evolutionary process…we are the “handiwork of God.” (Ephesians 2:10) David, who wrote about the overflowing joy the Lord put in his heart, also wrote,
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13 NIV)
David knew that his life, even with all of the heartache and trouble that he encountered in life, was not a product of happenstance or circumstance, but his life possessed inherent purpose because He was created by God. Oh how I want you to recognize that my friend. There are people who end their life every day because they are searching for some reason to hold on, some hope to carry them through the darkest times of their life. Your reason and hope is found in the fact that you were created by the God who has placed purpose and meaning in everything He ever created. You will find your hope and reason for living in Him alone.
We Are His People
The third truth we need to know is that “we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” He made us, but we have all sinned and turned away from Him and gone our own way. There was no hope for us ever “finding” God…none. So, He came for us. He sent Jesus to seek us out, to reconcile us through His death on the Cross, and reclaim us as His very own people. Peter wrote,
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV)
Anybody here think that is worth celebrating? Wow! What an amazing, gracious, loving God we serve and worship!
God is Good!
The fourth truth is found in verse 5: “God is good.” There is so much discussion today about the question of evil and its relationship to God. People ask, “If God is all-powerful and loving then why does He allow such horrible things to happen?” I don’t know all of the answers to that question, but I know that He is more than familiar with sin and evil. It was our sin and the evil of humanity’s heart that beat His Son to a pulp and nailed Him to the Cross. In the midst of a broken world, the Bible declares again and again, “Don’t lose sight of the truth that God is good!”
His Love Endures Forever!
The fifth truth is this: “His loves endures forever.” There really is no word in English to translate the Hebrew word, “checed,” but something like “loving-kindness or steadfast love” comes closest to capturing this word that describes the covenant love God has shown to His people Israel and to us through Jesus. Paul, in Romans 8:38-39 comes as close as possible to describing this beautiful word when he writes,
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)
“His love endures forever!” There is nothing that can separate you from His love my friend. Is that worth celebrating?
His Faithfulness Extends to all Generations
The last truth that we must learn and never forget is, “His faithfulness extends to all generations.” Through it all, through everything you’ve ever been through in your life, He has been faithful. He has never left you and He never will. He has never forsaken you and He never will. He is faithful! What’s even more amazing is this: We are not faithful and yet He remains faithful through it all.
If you want to celebrate with the psalmist then you must learn the truths about God that the psalmist knew: He is God, He made us, we belong to Him, God is good, His love endures forever, and His faithfulness extends to all generations.
There is no doubt that our modern-day worship has changed since the day when the psalmist wrote this beautiful Psalm of thanksgiving. Today’s worship is more of a spectator sport than a participatory experience. We sit back and watch those in leadership worship while we bid our time until we leave. R.C. Sproul has written,
I am convinced that the most profound reason why worship has declined goes beyond the often identified problems of archaic language and adjusting to unfamiliar rituals. I am persuaded that worship has become irrelevant to multitudes of people because people are bored by a God they really don’t know; therefore they consider him irrelevant. (R.C. Sproul)
If we want to worship joyfully and serve gladly then we must remind ourselves of who this Great God really is. Do you know Him? Do you know who you are because of Him? In just four more days we will celebrate Thanksgiving. This could be a Thanksgiving like you’ve never experienced before if you will come to know these most important truths this morning. Won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
November 19, 2017