Rod Cooper writes, “I used to be the chaplain for the Astros and the Oilers when I was in Houston, Texas. After I'd do a chapel, they'd give me tickets. One time in the Astrodome I watched Earl Campbell run over everybody, his own men included, to get to the goal line. When he got to the goal line, he put the ball down. The place went crazy. People were giving high fives and jumping around. The same thing happened when the Astros hit a home run.
“I'm not saying that when you come to church you need to give each other high fives or do cartwheels down the aisle, but worship is a time of anticipation and expectation. We come together because all week God has been knocking home runs and scoring touchdowns in our lives. Worship is a time to celebrate what God has done for us.”
I have often wondered about that myself. I cheer, or watch people cheer at a sports event, but at church, I am quite subdued. What is the nature of your relationship with God? Is it serious, dutiful, strictly obedient, solemn or is it joyful, worshipful, celebrating?
Psalm 100 is the only Psalm which is identified as “A Psalm of Thanksgiving.” It invites us to a faith that celebrates God, that is open about expressing the goodness of God. Since God’s goodness is seen in every land, it invites us to praise Him in every land.
I. Joyful Worship Psalm 100:1-3
A. The Call To Joyful Worship
This Psalm calls us to express worship.
First of all it says “shout.” Now I have to confess that I have not often shouted to the Lord, certainly not in church. If I have, it was quietly so I would not disturb anyone. But the Bible says that we are to shout to the Lord. Shouting starts way down deep in our hearts. It arises in a conviction within us. I am sure that most of us have the conviction, the sense of wonder about God in our hearts. But notice that the emotion and power of the conviction is not to stay in our hearts. It is to come out of our mouth with a shout. Have you ever shouted to God?
The second thing it says is that we are to serve the Lord. The word serve means to function as a slave or work for someone. It can also mean to worship. If shouting involves our heart and our mouth, serving involves our heart and our hands. This tells us once again that our convictions about God are to be acted upon. It is more than a thought in our minds, it is more than a feeling in our hearts. Worship is something we do - an expression of our love for God, our admiration for His power and majesty that is acted upon when we do something for Him. George Bowen said, God’s servant “eats, he drinks, he sleeps, he walks, he discourses, he finds recreation, all by the way of serving God.”
But please notice that there is one word which permeates these verses. Our shouting and our serving are to be done with joy. Joy and gladness are in each line of the first two verses of Psalm 100. Do we have such joy in the presence of the Lord? When we come before the Lord, is there a scowl on our face? Is there a frown on our mouth? Or is our whole being one big smile? Joy must certainly come out if it is present in our hearts.
B. The Reason For Joyful Worship
Why such joyful worship? Please look at verse 3 which says, “know.” You don’t come up to a complete stranger on the street and sing his praises. You praise someone when you know them. Someone has written, “knowledge is the mother of devotion.” It is as we know the Lord, that such joyful praise and thanksgiving are birthed within us. So the Psalm invites us in verse 3 to know the Lord. What is it that we are to know?
We are to know that the Lord is God. There are a lot of things that put themselves up as symbols of power, as being in charge, as representing the greatest thing there is. In former days there were physical idols which were worshipped. Today, it is governments, military installations, terrorists and dollars. But none of these things is eternal, infinite, all powerful or sovereign. God, however, is. He is God. As Charles Spurgeon says, “He is God - the only living and true God. Infinitely perfect, self existent and self sufficient and the fountain of all being…”
We also worship Him because He is our creator. In verse 3, we read, “It is he who made us.” Today is Mother’s Day and we have an expectation that we ought to honor the woman who brought us into the world, or if you are a mother, you hope that your children will appreciate you because you brought them into the world. How much more is it right for us to appreciate the one who has made every one of us, our creator. When we add to that thought, the realization which the Psalmist has in Psalm 139:14 when he says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” we have even more reason to praise, to shout and to worship God.
Probably the thing that I have spent the most time making and am most proud of is my canoe. In my pocket computer, which has pictures of Carla, my children and my mom, I also have a picture of my canoe. I made it and I care for it. In a similar way, the one who made us cares for us. If he had a wallet, God would carry a picture of us in that wallet. I think that is an appropriate thought which comes from the statements made next in which the Psalmist says, “we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” All of these images together, communicate the care of the owner for his creation. We have recently seen God’s care for us in some very practical ways. Our daughter came to live with us recently. She had a really nice car, but knew that the wise thing to do would be to sell it. Since she came from Alberta, it had insurance and registration from Alberta and the Alberta insurance ran out on March 31. We had tried to sell it from the beginning of March, but it had not sold and we knew that on April 1, we would have to pay to register it in Manitoba. Well, on April 1, before we registered it, it sold. I thought at the time, this is more than coincidence. If it had sold 3 or 4 days earlier or later, we would have said thank you, but because it sold exactly on April 1, we saw that as an act of God’s caring. An act of the loving shepherd.
James Denney wrote, "The important thing in religion is not to believe that God is omniscient but to experience that God knows me. The important thing is not that God is everywhere but that wherever I am, God is with me."
In the song, We’re Marching to Zion the words of the second verse are, “Let those refuse to sing, who never knew our God. But children of the heavenly King May speak their joys abroad.”
II. Worship In His Presence Psalm 100:4-5
A. The Call To Worship In His Presence
The second part of the Psalm, in verses 4,5, once again calls us to worship. Here we have words that we are a little more comfortable with. We are invited to thanksgiving and to praise. Praise is acknowledging God for who He is. Thanksgiving is acknowledging the specific benefits we have received from Him.
But there is an interesting thing we need to take note of in this Psalm. There are a bunch of words of approach. We are invited to enter his gates and to enter his courts. Earlier, in verse 2, we were invited to “come before Him.”
In the Old Testament, the tent of meeting and later the temple were represented as the place where God lived. When the temple was built and then dedicated, God came down into the temple in a visible presence. The people knew that this was where God was. The people were invited to come to the temple in order to meet with God. It was a gracious offer. The sinful people of Israel knew how they could enter into the presence of their holy God. This Psalm is one of many which reflect this thinking, that it was in the temple that God’s people could come to meet Him. Later, when Israel was in exile, they realized what they had lost. We read about Daniel who prayed 3 times a day with his windows opened towards Jerusalem - understanding, as he had been taught, that this was where God met with His people.
Today, we understand that God is not present in the temple in Jerusalem. We understand that God is present in a different temple - the temple of His people. Ephesians 2:22 says, “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Therefore, we enter into God’s presence as we worship together with His people. What a blessing that we can come together like this as God’s people and worship Him.
Of course, even in the Old Testament, people realized that God was not confined to a temple. He was and is present everywhere. Therefore, we can worship Him wherever we are.
Whether in the Old Testament temple, the temple of His body today or wherever we are, the truth of the invitation to “enter” is most wonderful because we can come into His presence. We are welcome in God’s presence and it is with the awareness that we are in God’s presence that we are invited to praise Him and give thanks to Him.
B. The Reason For Worship In His Presence
As we come into His presence in praise we discover, as we read on, that there is good reason to do so. There is good reason to feel good about coming into His presence and there is reason to praise Him there.
We come in praise because the Lord is good. God is good - because he does good things - acts which give life, which deliver from evil, and which empower the recipient with grace. God is also good because of his care for his people. How have you experienced the goodness of God? I told you earlier about how God had cared for us and for Kristen when she sold her car. Several weeks ago we had another experience. Kristen and I were talking about what her next step needed to be. We wondered about a job, what kind of a job, where she would find one and so on. As we were talking about this, the phone rang and it was someone, in our area, offering her a job. After the interview, she was very excited because it was a job along the line of something that she enjoys doing and has skills and interest in. We rejoiced that once again, God had demonstrated his goodness in such a real and practical way.
A further reason to praise Him is because His love endures forever. The love of God is probably one of the most common themes in Scripture. If we have any awareness at all that we are sinners and if we understand that our sins are forgiven, that we are free from the guilt of our sins and also from the consequences of our sins, and that we have been given eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross, then we have personally experienced that “His love endures forever.” We have experienced it because we know that we not only were sinners, but that we are sinners. We know it because we need to rely on the grace and forgiveness of God on a daily basis. Understanding that, we have great reason to praise Him for His love which endures forever.
Finally, we give thanks to Him because His faithfulness continues through all generations. “A changeable God would be a terror to the righteous, they would have no sure anchorage…” But we do not have such a God. God is good today and He was good in the same way when Jesus died on the cross and He will be good in just the same way when Jesus returns in glory. I have read my great-grandfather’s story and it tells me of God’s faithfulness in his life. I have read my grandmother’s story and it tells me that God was faithful to her in very trying circumstances. I have heard my mother’s story and she has experienced the faithfulness of God. I have experienced God’s grace and have discovered His faithfulness. He is indeed faithful through all generations!
We have the privilege of a relationship of intimacy and love with an amazing God.
One writer says, “My 8-year-old daughter, Christina, didn't have any trouble completing the essay "about something you were thankful for" that her third-grade teacher assigned. Titled "Two People I'm Thankful For," she wrote: "I'm thankful for God and Jesus. I'm thankful for God because he created us. I'm thankful for Jesus because he died for our sins. God and Jesus are always there for us. They're just like any other friend. If you're thankful for pets, you're thankful for God and Jesus because they made them. God and Jesus are pretty neat alright!”
As we reflect on God, may we join the Psalmist and not be afraid to shout, to serve, to praise and to thank our God.