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 116:1-2, 12-19 – A Testimony of Deliverance

psalm 116.1-2 pic

I love the Lord because he hears
my requests for mercy.
I’ll call out to him as long as I live,
because he listens closely to me….

What can I give back to the Lord
for all the good things he has done for me?
I’ll lift up the cup of salvation.
I’ll call on the Lord’s name.
I’ll keep the promises I made to the Lord
in the presence of all God’s people.
The death of the Lord’s faithful
is a costly loss in his eyes.

Oh yes, Lord, I am definitely your servant!
I am your servant and the son of your female servant—
you’ve freed me from my chains.
So I’ll offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to you,
and I’ll call on the Lord’s name.
I’ll keep the promises I made to the Lord
in the presence of all God’s people,
     in the courtyards of the Lord’s house,
which is in the center of Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord! (CEB)

As the Church’s Prayer Book, the Psalms were originally crafted for public as well as personal use. The Psalter is meant to be prayed, sung, and spoken out loud. The Psalms address the human condition and encompass the full range of human emotion. There are times when we are so distressed that we are unable to form words – and the psalms help us say what is in our heart. There are also times when we are so elated that we have no words to express our joy. The psalms assist us with this, as well. Today’s psalm is such a response.

The psalmist is beside himself with appreciation and praise because of answered prayer. Although the he does not provide what that answer was, this psalm is a staple for the Jewish people at Passover to specifically thank the Lord for the deliverance from Egyptian slavery. The event appears less important than the reality that God listens.

The Lord hears the cry of the oppressed and bends his ear to catch our prayers.

Because of such mercy, the psalmist pledges fealty to the Lord and commits to following through with promises to God. “I love the Lord,” is the cry of his thankful heart. The psalmist gave public testimony that prayer does indeed change things. At times when our own prayers seem to just bounce off the ceiling, it is good to hear from another that the Lord still answers prayer – that life can be different than its present confusion.

When my dear wife had a spine surgery six years ago and awoke from it unable to move her legs, I prayed. I asked for mercy. I pleaded for grace. And I did it for hours at the foot of her hospital bed. I remember that I stubbornly would not accept the fact that she could not move her lower body.  And I decided to stand there and pray until I got an answer from God.

Eventually, I prayed myself asleep. My wife woke me up sometime in the early morning the next day. She told me to pull back the covers and look at her right big toe…. She could give it an ever-small twitch. We called the nurse, who was so excited that she called everyone she could get a hold of. With a dozen hospital staff huddled around the hospital bed, my wife proceeded to give that big toe a hearty move. The staff erupted with clapping, and I am not kidding when I say that we had a party with noise and shouts in a hospital room at 4am. Nobody cared we were going nuts. I certainly did not.

Yes, God is still in the business of answering prayer.

Through the hard times, the good times, and the confusing times, the Lord is our constant ballast for all seasons of life, whether good or bad. And I love God for that abiding presence. I can also give testimony that through all of the adverse situations my wife and I have faced, we have learned to stop, be still, and find that all we ever wanted we already have, even when everything changes.

Perhaps you are reading this today and feel some desperation, maybe some wondering, if God pays any attention to your plight. Yes, the Lord does. You are not alone. We all have times of needing freedom from whatever chains are keeping us in bondage. So, I offer this prayer for you….

O God, who in Jesus Christ called us out of the darkness and into your marvelous light; enable us always to declare your wonderful deeds, offer thanksgiving for your steadfast love, and eternally praise you with heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Eternal God, for the sake of Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to the person(s) praying along with me now who need healing of body and soul, or who seek deliverance from a difficult and debilitating situation. Be gracious to drive away all that is unjust and crippling and mercifully make whole that which is broken. Grant deliverance from the power of evil and provide true faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, who suffered on our behalf and rose from death so that we too can live with joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.

Merciful God, you are the source of all healing and wholeness. We give thanks to you for your love. As we wait in expectation for the coming of the day when Jesus shall return, when suffering and pain shall be no more, please reassure us by your Spirit of your mighty power and help us to trust in your great love.

May your unending compassion be poured out to these your people who long for your hope to explode within them – to the glory of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit live and reign together, one God, now and forever. 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.