Text: Psalm 100
Our everyday lives are saturated with ‘thankyous’. Thankyou for opening that door for me. Thankyou for making that cup of tea. Thankyou for returning the mobile phone that I left in your taxi. Thankyou for helping me mend my bike. Thankyou for being patient with me. Thankyou for being you. Thankyou for thanking me.
But it is our God who is the source of every good and perfect gift, and it is therefore to our God that we owe our biggest debt of thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is good for our souls. When the heart if full of gratitude it is impossible to be faithless, resentful, hostile, depressed, or self-absorbed.
Thanksgiving is also pleasing to God. ‘As the Lord loves a cheerful giver, so likewise a cheerful thanksgiver.’ (John Boys)
Here in Psalm 100 is a joyous invitation, universal in scope, to praise and give thanks to God because he made us, cares for us, and is timelessly faithful. It is,
1. A Joyous Invitation
‘Shout for joy; worship with gladness, enter with thanksgiving and praise,’ vv1,2,4.
Of course, joyousness is not the only mood we find in the psalms. David and the other psalmists lived in the real world, and experienced doubt, conflict and temptation just as we do. They do not teach us to sing, “now I am happy all the day.” They recognise that sometimes God’s people have reason to cry out to him from the depths. They record times when as exiles in a foreign land they hung up their harps on the poplar trees and wept when they remembered Zion. But praise and thanksgiving are the norm in the psalms, just as they are the norm in the Christian life. ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!’ writes Paul in Phil 4:4. And why? Because God always gives us more to be thankful for than to complain about.
Bible commentator Matthew Henry demonstrated this attitude of thanksgiving in all circumstances. After being robbed, he wrote in his diary: ‘Let me be thankful. First, because I was never robbed before. Second, because although they took my wallet, they did not take my life. Third, because although they took my all, it was not much. Fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.’
My late father was a lay preacher before me. Whenever I heard him pray, he would always begin, “We thank thee, heavenly Father.” He experienced a long, slow, decline in his health. He gradually lost all his mental and physical faculties. But the faculty that remained until nearly the end of hs life was his ability to pray. And he would still always begin, “We thank thee, heavenly Father.”
It is the apostle Paul who points out the wonderful paradox of being able to give thanks in even the most difficult of circumstances,
2 Cor 6:10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
This invitation to praise and thanksgiving is not only joyous, it is also,
2. A Reasoned Invitation
You may have heard of the church where they put on the screen the words of a new song. The words went like this:
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
And underneath it said: ‘Words copyright’
But there is solid doctrine in our psalm. ‘Know that the Lord is God,’ says v3. And to have this knowledge is, as Derek Kidner says, ‘to have firm ground underfoot.’
Our psalm then goes on to appeal to some of the wonderful timeless truths about our God:-
God made us, and we are his, v3. There is no such thing as a self-made man. We are made by God, made like God, and made for God.
God shepherds us, v3 – and Jesus will teach the lengths to which the Good Shepherd will go for his sheep.
God is good, v5 – and has set as our chief end to glorify him and enjoy him for ever.
God is loving, v5 – more disposed – much more disposed – to kindness than to wrath; so much so that he calls judgement his ‘strange work’, his ‘alien task’, Isa 28:21.
God is timelessly faithful, 5 – and promises to those upon whom he has set his love, “I will never fial you nor forsake you.”
And if these truths do not give us sufficient reason to fill our hearts with praise and thankfulness, I don’t know what will.
This invitation to praise and thanksgiving is not only joyous and reasoned, it is also,
3. A Richly Varied Invitation
Notice the verbs. It is an invitation to
come before the Lord with joyful songs, v2
know that the Lord is God, v3
enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise, v4
give thanks, v4
praise his name, v4
A rich variety is suggested here. Now I know that this is Hebrew poetry and not to be taken too woodenly, but all this variety does prompt a question. And the question is this: In how many different ways is it appropriate for us as Christians to express our praise and thanksgiving?
Curiously, if we look to the NT for guidance, we find almost complete silence. Christ and the apostles do not specify what kinds of buildings we should meet in. They do not prescribe any kind of set liturgy for us to use. They do not list the sorts of musical instruments that are appropriate for public worship. What should we make of this? Well, either it means that God intends us to use no special meeting places, no set liturgy, and no musical insruments when we gather for praise and thanksgiving. Or it means that he has decided to give us considerable freedom in such matters. I believe that the latter is the case. Of course, the substance of the Christian faith is determined by the character and works of God, who does not change. But the forms by which the Christian faith is expressed are strongly influenced by human culture, which does change hugely over time and from place to place.
Over the past 10 years, a movement emerged within the Christian church which is seeking to develop lots of fresh approaches to doing church. Now, if there are some within this movement who wish to challenge the very substance of the Christian gospel, then I would want to view their proposals with considerable caution. However, insofar as emerging church people are urging us to re-think the ways in which we express and communicate the good news, then that is precisely what is implied in this psalm. Accordingly, I believe that we may and should use the generous amount of discretion that the Lord has given to us in this regard.
And this rich variety of expression must be good if, is this psalm teaches, peoples from all tribes and races and cultures are invited to come and worship the Lord.
Which brings us to our last point. The invitation to praise and thanksgiving that is offered by Psalm 100 is not only joyous, reasoned, and richly varied, it is also,
4. A Universal Invitation
‘Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,’ v1
This psalm claims the whole world for God. Surprised? The OT, after all, is focussed on God’s relationship with his people Israel. And, yet, when you think about it, the seeds were sown of a world-wide faith were being sown from the very beginning.
Ge 18:18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.
‘This Psalm contains a promise of Christianity, as winter at its close contains the promise of spring. The trees are ready to bud, the flowers are just hidden by the light soil, the clouds are heavy with rain, the sun shines in his strength; only a genial wind from the south is wanted to give a new life to all things.’
Col 1:20 [God was pleased through Christ] to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
So it is that we shall once again celebrate Holy Communion. Another name for that celebration is Eucharist – Thanksgiving. And what better reason do we have for thankgiving that to remember that it is in Christ and by virtue of his atoning death that God has blessed us in him with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies? And we shall be sent out with the familier words, “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.” And we go with an invitation to all the earth to shout for joy to the Lord, to worship him with gladness, to come before him with joyful songs, to know that he is God. For he is good, his love endures forever, and his faithfulness continues to all generations.