A Homily on Psalm 100
"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who 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."
We come to a text like Psalm 100 and it seems innocent. It is a praise text and we like praise. Worship services are consistently filled with praise and thanksgiving. Rarely will you find a song of lament or prayer of confession. This has more to say about ourselves than it does God.
We want to come to worship and feel uplifted. We want to get a little pick-me-up as we begin our week. We want to sing songs like “He Has Made Me Glad,” a song based off our text, a song that repeats the phrase “he has made me glad” over and over within its chorus. The focus is on the good feeling we get from praising God. It’s a feel-good song and we like to feel good.
A Superficial Approach Towards Worship?
Now, there is nothing wrong with feeling good about worship or being uplifted by the praise we give God, but there is something wrong with taking a superficial approach towards worship or Scripture. It’s easy to look at Psalm 100 and see nothing more than “He Has Made Me Glad,” but if that’s all we see, then we are only skimming the top of what has been given to us by God. Psalm 100 is praise, but it is much more.
It is a radical call to worship Yahweh, the Creator of the universe, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who released his Spirit upon his people and began a new community in Acts 2.
James L. Mays says that Psalm 100 initiates worship, but also sets forth a theology of worship. He says this psalm is theopolitical in nature. It uses language like “come into his presence” and “enter his gates and courts,” which is language used of a king. The subjects are to “serve” the king and devote their loyalty to him. This same sentiment is expressed in verse 2, where we are commanded to “Serve the Lord with gladness!”
We are the servants of God. God is our King, our supreme Ruler, and we swear our allegiance to him.
This is what the psalm is about, but it does not mean it is easy to carry out. Although Israel was supposed to rely on God as their King, they often failed and put their trust in earthly leaders. They rejected the prophets who were a mouthpiece for God. They sang psalm 100, but they did not take it to heart. Perhaps, they sang it only to make themselves feel good. They sang it as they entered the gates of the temple, but then they went back out into the streets and did not apply it to their lives.
Worshipping God as King and Ruler
Psalm 100 is praise, but it is much more. It is something to be taken seriously. It is something to be lived out in our lives. We come to worship to praise God. We acknowledge him as our King and Ruler, but then this should begin to change our behavior. It should begin to change the way we think about the world. We are God’s people. We belong to him. We are the sheep of his pasture, and because of this we are called to be a different community.
Many of the early Christians lived this out. They came together in worship and proclaimed Jesus as Lord. They did this in a political environment that said you must say, “Caesar is lord.” Each first day of the week they gathered around a table and they ignored the politics that said Jews and Gentiles must eat separately. Around the Lord’s table slaves and masters were equals. They lived out a different politic, one unlike what was being lived out in the Roman empire, or even by many Jews. This politic took seriously Jesus as King and sought to incorporate it into every area of their life. Sometimes this led to persecution and even death, but they knew and understood that this is what they were called to do. They knew and understood that texts like psalm 100 are more than just praise. They are a radical call to live out the politics of God.
Today we still struggle with how much we should trust in human governments. We live in a country that is very different from the nation of Israel and the Roman empire. Our country allows us to have a say in who our leaders will be. We are allowed to vote and voice our opinion about what we do and don’t like. If we’re really passionate we can campaign to help a candidate get elected. We have it much better than our brothers and sisters who lived under Roman rule, but we still face many dangers. Our political system can be seductive. Politicians promise they have the answers and that they can solve our problems. If we’re not careful we will start to trust in politicians more than we ought to. If we’re not careful, the politics of this great country will become more important than the politics we display around the Lord’s table. We must look to Psalm 100 for guidance as we navigate the waters of this troubled world. Psalm 100 will guide us straight. It will guide us home.
Yahweh is God Alone
Psalm 100 not only presents us with something to read or sing in worship, but it also gives us an example to follow. When we come to worship we confess that “the Lord, He is God.” Again, that may not seem radical, but it is. The nation of Israel existed in a time when polytheism was the norm. When Israel sang this song, they were announcing that Yahweh is God alone.
I think we have a tendency to look down upon ancient cultures. We see ourselves as being advanced compared to people who lived 3,000 years ago. We look back and think there is no way we would make those same mistakes. There is no way we would try and serve other gods while we were serving Yahweh. The truth is, ancient peoples often served other gods because they were trying to make sense of their world. Their crops weren’t growing or they were being threatened by another nation, so they made a treaty or covenant with a stronger nation and their gods.
Although we have advanced much as a society, human nature has not changed. There is still a temptation to bow down to idols and serve other gods. The only thing that has changed is that our idols and gods look much different than they did 3,000 years ago. We worship Yahweh, but we hang on to other things just in case we might need them. We profess God as King, but then look to human institutions to solve all our problems. We claim God is all we need, but then we go out and buy a bigger car or bigger house just to make ourselves feel better. Because human nature has not changed in 3,000 years, we need Psalm 100. We need to be reminded every week that “the Lord, He is God.” This helps us to put everything else in perspective. This helps to keep our life in balance by solely relying on God.
Psalm 100 not only reminds us that this is what we should do, but it reminds us why. It is because “God is good; His mercy is everlasting, and his truth endures to all generations.” It is because of this we come together and praise God for who he is and what he has done. We know we can trust God and him alone.
So I ask, what do you see when you come to Psalm 100? Do you see “He Has Made Me Glad” as a song based on the truth of psalm 100, but one that does not do enough to mine the depths of this marvelous text and explain what God would have us to do? Or do you look at Psalm 100 and see a radical call to worship God and live out these principles by fulling trusting in him?
Sometimes, how we see Scripture makes all the difference in the world.
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