Christianity 201

October 13, 2016

Psalm 100: A Call to All to Give Thanks

As we mentioned on Saturday, this was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Since Clarke Dixon’s regular contributions here are based on his sermons of the previous week, we have Thanksgiving as today’s theme, which for most of readers, comes a few weeks early.

by Clarke Dixon

Around the table at Thanksgiving many people have a tradition of saying what they are thankful for. I am always thankful that my son, who arrived on a Thanksgiving weekend twelve years ago, arrived safely. Especially so since he arrived at the hospital before the doctor who was on call and methinks sitting down to a Turkey dinner at the time. But while it may be easy coming up with things to be thankful for, how many have really thought about whom they are giving thanks to? The what of Thanksgiving happens naturally. The to whom and why gets a bit muddy for some. It is not muddy for the Psalmist in Psalm 100 who has a clear sense of gratitude; what for, to whom, and why. This will become clear to us as we take a look:

1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100)

Some things to note about the Psalmist’s call to Thanksgiving:

The call to thanksgiving is a call to know the LORD. 

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. (Psalm 100:1 emphasis mine)

The Psalm begins with a call to make a joyful noise, not to just any lord, but the LORD. Many of our translations use LORD all in capitals in place of the actual name of God. There is a long story about this but suffice it to say here that we have a call to give thanks to The One Creator God Who has revealed Himself as recorded in the Bible. Here we have not some nebulous concept of a god that can never be known, but a very specific and personal God who can be known and has made Himself known. The Psalmist is very clear on to whom thanksgiving is due, the One God Who has made Himself known.

Further, the Psalmist is clear on some specifics that we can know about the LORD:

Know that the LORD is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalms 100:3)

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalms 100:5)

The call to thanksgiving is a call to experience joy in the LORD.

1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come into his presence with singing. (Psalms 100:1-2 emphasis mine)

These should not be taken as commands so much as an affirmation of what comes naturally. People naturally respond to really good news with joy, noise, and singing. Even those who cannot carry a tune cannot contain their enthusiasm. When we know the LORD properly, we will understand that the opportunity of being in relationship with Him is a fantastic opportunity. We will understand how amazing a thing it is to enjoy God’s presence. A church I once pastored could joyfully claim that a former Prime Minister of our nation was once a regular attender. Yet that fact pales in comparison to having the King of Glory in attendance. If there is joy lacking in the church services across our nation, perhaps it has less to do with getting a handle on worship style and more to do with getting a handle on how utterly fantastic a thing it is to be in the presence of the LORD.

Since I brought up worship style let us recognize too, that the call to thanksgiving is a call to experience joy in the Lord rather than a call to enjoy ourselves. When we put the emphasis of church worship on making sure people enjoy themselves, we begin to emphasize perfection in performance. If the church I pastor suddenly put an emphasis on excellence in performance I would soon find myself out of work. When worship is more about joy in the Lord than enjoyment of oneself, our experience of worship will be decided long before the church service begins.

The call to thanksgiving is a call to praise the LORD.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name. (Psalms 100:4 emphasis mine)

Sometimes a skeptic will ask if the Lord is so insecure that he needs our praise. This is to completely misunderstand praise. Praise is not something God needs, nor is it something that must be commanded, but is something we do quite naturally. Does the mother or father of a child need to be instructed to praise him or her when they take their first steps? Momentous occasions call for momentous praise. To give thanks to the Lord for all His goodness is a momentous occasion.

The call to thanksgiving is a call that goes out to everyone, everywhere.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. (Psalms 100:1 emphasis mine)

We don’t normally think of God’s people in the Old Testament as being a missionary people. But the Psalmist is, calling everyone, everywhere to give thanks to the LORD. People sometimes mistakingly think that God changes direction between the Old and New Testaments. He does not change directions, but goes further along the same direction, revealing Himself and His goodness more fully and driving the point home that He is love. We know from the Old Testament that all people, everywhere owe a debt of thanks to the LORD for life itself. We know from the New Testament that all people, everywhere have the opportunity to experience eternal life in Christ.

Do we have the confidence as Christians to know that calling everyone, everywhere  to thanksgiving is the right thing to do? Or do we hide behind a philosophy of faith as a private and personal thing? God did not keep the fact that He is Creator private. He has not hidden His goodness. He did not hide behind a tree, but bore the cross publicly. He did not roll the stone back across the tomb to hide the fact of a missing body. Either God is to be thanked or not. Either by everyone, if it is true, or by no one, if it is not. The Psalmist knew what was what and was not shy about issuing a call to thanksgiving. Are we?


All scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Originally posted at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

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