Psalm 100 – The Lord is Good

Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving by Canadian painter Melani Pyke

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come into his presence with singing.

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.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him, bless his name.

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations. (NRSV)

The way we approach God is significant.  No matter the circumstances, entering the presence of God by means of thanksgiving and praise helps us to rightly acknowledge that God is good.  And God will continue to be good because love is intrinsic to the Lord’s character. 

Perhaps there are days or extended periods of time we do not feel like God is good.  Chronic world and national problems such as COVID-19, poverty, and injustice; continued personal, family, or communal bouts of physical or emotional pain; out of control situations with no resolution in sight – these and many more realities may cause us to question God’s goodness, much less give us reason to praise the name of the Lord.

Yet, here is where this psalm needs to be as familiar and common to us as putting on our shoes in the morning.  Saying the psalm aloud repeatedly, despite how we feel, is the kind of spiritual medicine we need to alter our sour dispositions and change the face of our anxious attitudes. 

Declaring the psalm multiple times in the day – not in a legalistic or magical sense as if it were some rabbit’s foot to ward off evil – will allow biblical truth and solid theology to slowly and deliberately sink down deep in our souls.

I believe psalm reading (and singing) ought to be a noisy affair. Tepid narrations and mumbled song bring out a mere milquetoast form of spirituality. Say it and sing it with some flavor! When we have a reason to praise, this is not difficult. Fully internalizing our worship of the Lord will seep us in praise. To know God is to experience God – and when we experience the divine, oh, what rapture it is!

The psalms enable us to put words and emotions to our confession – that the Lord is reliable, worthy of all our worship and praise, and fully able to bear our burdens and our faith. God reigns, and because God is good, there is a benevolent rule over all creation. God cares.

It is this theological view of God as a good, caring, and benevolent ruler which elicits joy from worshipers. Exuberance and enthusiasm organically rise from a heart that knows God experientially.

Lord God Almighty, I praise your glorious Name!  You are always good, and your love endures forever!  May my character and my life reflect your grace operating within me.  Help me to have an attitude of thanksgiving in all circumstances.  To the glory of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Psalm 100 – Knowing God

scenic photo of castle during dawn
Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Pexels.com

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
     Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
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.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations. (NIV)

The original use of this psalm was for the ancient Israelites approaching the temple to worship God.  Before worshipers ever came into the presence of the Lord, they were preparing themselves to encounter God through giving him thanks, using this very psalm.

When David and other Hebrew writers penned their poetic songs, they would center what they most wanted to draw attention to in the middle, so that what came before it and after it pointed to that central message. The center of Psalm 100 is verse 3: Know that the LORD is God.

There are three imperatives (commands) that come before this phrase; and, three imperatives that come after it.  All six imperatives are meant to help us know God better. “Shout” for joy to the LORD. “Worship” the LORD with gladness. “Come” before him with joyful songs are the three that lead us up to knowing the LORD.  “Enter” his gates with thanksgiving; “give thanks” to him; and, “praise” his name all come after the central command to “know that the LORD is God.” We belong to God. As God’s people we celebrate this tremendous knowledge with actions meant to impress God’s gracious inclusiveness firmly into us.

There perhaps is no better biblical way to experience God than through these six words: shout; worship; come; enter; give thanks; and praise. Declaring loudly of God’s character and works; kneeling and prostrating before God; approaching God’s throne with boldness; immersing oneself into the presence of God; voicing aloud gratitude to God; and, praising God’s holy name are all heartfelt actions of the faithful. These pious activities are to happen here on earth as they are always done in heaven. It’s what folks with a settled sense of belonging do.

To “know” God is to experience him through close relationship. It means we have a place and a purpose. It is a knowing and belonging which exists deep down in our gut. We get to know God by how he has worked in people’s lives, as well as our own. So, gatherings of believers (whether physical or virtual) are an opportunity to engage in the six imperatives of today’s psalm. Faithful worshipers deeply desire to focus on who God is and what he has done, remembering and rehearsing his qualities and deeds. Through this activity, we help one another know the Lord.  And knowing God is what real life is all about.  He is worthy of all the praise, adoration, and worship we can give to him.  So, let us praise God with heartfelt thanksgiving.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible has to do with knowing God. The Apostle Paul said, “I want to know (to experience with his entire being and not just with his mind) Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” (Philippians 3:10, NIV)

Everything in our lives, whether good or bad, is designed to help us know God better.  Shared experiences with each other encourage us to keep living for Jesus.  So, let us express gratitude today for all the gracious ways God has revealed himself and reached out to save such ones as us.

Almighty God, who works on my behalf, give me grace to put away the rootless existence of one who has no place; and, help me to experience and know your radical acceptance and inclusion into the dance of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Click Psalm 100 (Enter In) for a time of praise and thanksgiving to God.

Faith, Hope, and Love

            God is real.  The Christian life works.  Those are the bedrock presuppositions and assumptions I work from each and every day of my life and ministry.  If I did not believe those statements I would be knee-deep in the muck of church work with little to offer people.  Because I believe that Christianity works for people, I also confidently hold that the correct response to the reality of God is faith, hope, and love.  Any response to God less than this will result in an inability to function well in the Christian life. 
 
The path to maturity for any local church is to bring all thinking, desires, attitudes, aspirations, and actions in harmony with trusting God, loving God, and making Him the object of our hope.
 
            At first glance this might sound difficult.  But this is really not rocket science.  It is only confusing if we have not been taught correctly according to the Word of God.  If we have lived in error when it comes to how the Christian life works, then there are established patterns of thinking and behavior which are neither easy to identify and evaluate, nor to defeat.
 
            Therefore, the very first step in solving this kind of problem is to get back to the bedrock belief of God.  We cannot effectively respond in faith, hope, and love to a God we do not know much of. 
 
Knowing God, then, is an absolute necessity to the Christian life in order to experience spiritual freedom and be fruitful in ministry.
 
            God is a Person.  He is the infinite God, the Creator of all things and is thus worthy of all our trust and affection (e.g. 1 Samuel 17:20-51; Daniel 6:1-28; 2 Chronicles 14-16).  God is absolute truth, love, and holiness.  God will always remain true to himself in all of his relationships and actions with us.  He does not act out of harmony with his basic character.  Therefore, God can be trusted.
 
            God has revealed himself through the Christian Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.  The Bible is God’s Word to us.  The Word of God cannot fail because God cannot fail.  God is always true to himself and to his Word (e.g. Psalm 119:49-50; 146:5-6; Jeremiah 32:1-44; Romans 4:21; Hebrews 2:1-3).  The Word of God is living and is therefore powerful. 
 
To the degree that we know and practice the Word of God, we have the experience of the grace of God and therefore have the power of God.
 
            It is a wonderful and tremendous privilege to possess the Word of God with all of its potential to effect change in our lives; its certainty concerning who God is; and, its assurance of pardon through faith.  So, then, each and every believer has a sacred responsibility:
 
We must be aggressive in knowing the Word of God; we must be confident in believing God; we must be active in claiming the promises of God; and, we must be intentional about living according to what God has revealed about himself and his creatures.
 

 

            Church ministry, then, has a sacred trust to help people know God better.  No matter what the ministries, programs, or activities, our greatest aim is to connect people with the God who is real and who has given us guidance by means of his powerful Word.  Faith, hope, and love are the logical and heartfelt responses to knowing God.  The promise we have is that when we seek God will all our heart, we will find him.  Amen and amen.