With Hearts and Heads
What happens in your mind and heart when you hear words like the ones we find in Psalm 100? Words that call us to praise God, like “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” (Psalm 100:1).
The Psalms are full of statements like this. And I could be wrong, but it’s my suspicion that it’s all to easy for us to read words like this and not take them as seriously as we should.
They’re great words when we’re feeling in the mood to praise God. Or, they’re good words for other people, maybe the people back in the Bible who didn’t have the kinds of lives that we have today. But they’re not words that we’re expected to take too seriously.
It reminds me of when I worked at a K-12 school a number of years ago, and one of the jobs I did there one fall was parking enforcement. I just walked around, reminding parents that those “no parking” signs were for them, too.
And it just amazed me how many good parents would park right in front of a sign that said “no stopping.” And I’d just point at it, and they’d say “Ya, but I just need to run in and get my kid.” As if those words were for everybody else, but not them. As if they were the exception. Their situation was unique, see, and we surely didn’t expect them, with their busy day, to take the sign seriously?
Do you think we ever do this with the Bible? Do we ever read instructions or commands in God’s word, especially these commands to praise God, and treat them like a no parking sign? Good for other people, but nothing that we need to take too seriously? Good material for worship songs, but we’re free to ignore it, especially if we’re having a rough day and don’t really feel like praising God?
Or maybe you think you’re a permanent exception. I’ve talked to guys who thought this way before. “I’m a man. I don’t do this singing stuff. I don’t do this joyful worship stuff.” And they just think they’ve got a hall pass on worshipping their creator.
Here’s where we’re starting this morning: Psalm 100, like the many other Psalms of praise, is not just a bunch of nice sounding words that we can can ignore when we don’t feel like it. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
These are God’s words and God doesn’t throw away any words. When He tells the world to worship Him joyfully, He means it.
But one of the reasons that I love Psalm 100 is that it doesn’t just tell us to worship God and then end. It goes on to show us why. You can see that right in the structure of Psalm 100. There’s a call to worship in verse 1 and 2, and then verse 3 gives us reasons for why we should do this. Another call to worship is found in verse 4, and then more reasons in verse 5.
And this back-and-forth between calls to worship and reasons for worship really help us understand how biblical worship works and how we are to respond to the Bible’s calls to worship even when we might not particularly feel like it.
So what we’re going to do next here is look at these calls to worship in verses 1 and 2 and 4, and consider three big aspects of what and how they say about worship.
Then we’re going to look at the reasons for this worship found in verses 3 and 5, and we’ll see what these verses teach us about where worship comes from and how worship and thanksgiving should work in the lives of God’s people.
Let’s begin with the first call to worship in verses 1-2. It contains three separate statements. The first is right there in verse 1: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!”
The Psalms were Israel’s hymnbook. But like so many of the Psalms, Psalm 100 speaks to more than just Israel. Verse 1 looks beyond Israel to address the nations of the world, calling them to come and worship God with a joyful sound.
Verse 2 gives a second, parallel statement in this unfolding call to worship: “Serve the Lord with gladness.”
The nations of the earth are still being addressed here. And they are being called to turn aside from their false gods and instead serve Israel’s God, Yahweh, the Lord. But not just to serve Israel’s God in any old way—rather, they are to serve Him with gladness.
This call to worship is rounded out with the final phrase in verse 2: “Come into his presence with singing!” Where is God’s presence? Today, God is present wherever His people are.
When this Psalm was first written, God’s presence was manifested in the temple in Jerusalem. So this Psalm pictures the whole earth joining the Israelites as they come into the temple in Jerusalem with joyful singing.
As we’ve seen, the second half of the Psalm also opens with a call to worship that is very similar to verses 1-2. We see it there in verse 4, which contains not three, but four short phrases: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!” That’s the first two phrases, and once again, they are describing coming to worship in the temple. That’s what the gates and courts are all about. God’s people are coming to the temple to worship Him and they are doing so with thanksgiving and praise.
The final two phrases in verse 4 fill out this call to worship: “Give thanks to him; bless his name.” The worship of the people is focused on God and God alone.
So let’s just sum up what we’ve seen here: this Psalm is calling the people of the earth, and especially the people of God, to come to the temple where they will participate in joyful worship of God.
That’s the big idea. But there’s three aspects to these calls to worship that we should make sure we really notice before we move on. The first, we’ve touched on already: this is for the whole earth. This is not just for Israel. Israel’s God is the Lord of the earth and He deserves the praise of the whole planet.
This verse would have reminded Israel of their mission to be a light and a blessing to all of the nations. Just like those words “May the Peoples Praise You!” that we sung earlier. And these words should do the same for us.
We should never be content to worship God alone. True, Biblical worship longs for the world to join us in order that God might receive the worship that He deserves from His creation. And our worship should spill over into mission as we give our lives to the great commission of making worshipping disciples/
The second aspect we need to notice has to do with this whole idea of “thanks” or “thanksgiving.” Psalm 100 is titled “A Psalm for giving thanks.” And verse 4, in English, mentions thanks or thanksgiving twice.
And what we need to understand is that the Hebrews did not have the same idea of thankfulness or thanksgiving as we do. I discovered this a number of years ago when I was preparing a thanksgiving sermon and did a word study on the word “thanks” in the Old Testament.
And what I found is that there is not a single word in the language of the Old Testament that just means “thanks” or “thanksgiving.” Instead, their word for “thanks” or “thanksgiving” is a part of a bigger word, a bigger idea, that basically means praise. Thanking God was just one part of praising God.
This is important, because in English, we can thank someone without praising them. When the restaurant server brings you your food, you say “thank you” for the food, but you’re not necessarily praising them. Maybe they’re actually not a great server and they didn’t do a very good job but you still say thank you because at least they brought you your food.
In English, “thanks” is very often about the gift more than it is the giver.
But the Old Testament literally doesn’t even have the language for this idea. In the Bible, thankfulness is all about praising the giver of the gift.
And there’s a whole sermon in that idea, isn’t there? But we can sum it up and say that when Psalm 100 calls God’s people to come and thank him, it’s not asking for a quick little “thanks for all the good stuff, God.” Rather, it’s calling us to come and praise the person who has given us every good and perfect gift. And ultimately to be way more interested in Him than anything He’s given us.
The third aspect to these calls to worship has to do with the emotional component here. We have to see this—it’s so important: Psalm 100 is not just telling us to do stuff. “Make a noise to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord. Come into his presence. Enter his gates and his courts.” That’s not what it says. It is not just calling us to show up.
Rather, it is calling us to come worship God, and to do so in an active and emotionally engaged way. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord… serve the Lord with gladness… come into his presence with singing.”
God demands that we worship Him and that we do so happily. With joy and gladness.
And why is that? Isn’t that kind of strange? How can you command an emotion? Why can’t God be satisfied with us just showing up? Why does He require our happy worship?
The answer is that if there is never any joy and gladness in our worship, then it’s not actually worship. If we’re just doing what we’re supposed to do because it’s what we’re supposed to do, then God is not honoured by this.
Think about it this way. Every Monday evening I spend an hour or so with one of my kids, and they take turns each week. Lately we’ve been spending that time riding our bikes down to Abraham’s for ice cream. And they really look forward to this time with me. It makes them happy. And what does their joy do for me? It honours me.
Can you imagine if they were just sort of dry about it? “Okay dad, I guess it’s my turn to go for ice cream with you tonight. If I have to.” That would not honour me.
And imagine if I was like that with them. We pull into our driveway and I wipe the ice cream off of their chin and say “There. I have done my duty as a father by spending some quality time with you. I trust you’re satisfied until we do this again in a few weeks.” How would they feel? Would they feel loved and honoured and valued? Would I be telling them that they are worth something to me?
Not a bit. You know what tells them that they are loved? When I scoop them up and say “I so enjoyed spending time with you tonight. I love being with you and I can’t wait until we do this again.” After that, they’ll go to bed feeling valued.
And it’s the same way with our worship of God. Just showing up, just coming and doing our duty, does not give God the honour that He deserves. God deserves our joyful noise. God is honoured when He is served with gladness, by people who come into His presence singing, with praise and thanksgiving coming to bless his name.
That’s the kind of worship that God deserves because that’s real worship.
And this is the kind of praise and worship that is commanded all over the Psalms and, beyond that, the Bible. Verse 11 from Psalm 2 last week said, “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11). Those aren’t throwaway words.
Neither are thee words from Psalm 98:4: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” (Psalm 98:4). When the Bible talks that way it means what it says.
Same thing goes for New Testament passages like Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” That is not just a verse for that person you know who can’t stop smiling. That’s a verse for you. God commands you to be happy in Him. That’s just what the Bible says over and over again.
And when you really consider this truth for one of the first times, it can feel really wonderful. God wants us to be happy! God is honoured when we are happy in Him. In fact, nothing honours God more. That’s a wonderful truth to wake up to.
But it’s also a difficult truth, isn’t it? If God commands me to be joyful in Him, then what do I do on the days when that’s hard? On the days when I don’t feel like it?
I mean, I can show up. We can do the things we’re supposed to do. We can even sing in church even when we don’t feel like it. But joy? How is that possible some days, or maybe even most days?
Is Psalm 100 realistic? Or even fair?
And the answer to that question is that we need to look carefully again at how Psalm 100 is written. Because it does not just tell us to rejoice in God and then walk away. Rather, it calls us to joyful worship, and then it tells us why. It gives us reasons.
“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” (Psalm 100:1–5).
This Psalm is telling us to use our brains to know things about God. To remember truths about God. Because when we know those things about God, our hearts will respond to God in joyful worship.
The truth about God, which we know with our brains, should produce heart-felt worship. Theology—knowledge of God—creates doxology—the worship of God.
And so what we’re going to do now is look at the specific truths about God that Psalm 100 tells us to know. The specific truths about God that should produce joyful worship in our hearts. Between verses 3 and 5, there are four truths to consider.
Then we’ll spend a bit of time talking about this big idea—how truth and knowledge leads to worship.
Let’s start with verse 3 and this first truth that should lead to worship. “Know that the Lord, he is God!” If you have a Bible in front of you, you can see how the word “Lord” is in all caps. That means this is a translation of the name “Yahweh.” That’s God’s personal name. Yahweh.
And joyful worship comes from knowing that Yahweh, he is God. Not anybody else. The God of Israel is God, and not any of the Gods of the nations.
You may remember the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel in his showdown with the prophets of Baal. And after praying all day, the prophets of Baal received no answer. But when Elijah prayed for mere seconds, fire fell from heaven and burned up the altar. And 1 Kings 18:39 says that “when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God” (1 Kings 18:39).
Yahweh is God, and not Baal. Yahweh is God, and not any of the other gods of the nations.
And if you want to remember why this is profoundly good news, just imagine for a moment if this wasn’t true. What if the God who called Abraham and led his people out of Egypt was not the most high God but was a lesser deity? What if Baal or some other monster was the most powerful deity? What if Yahweh was less powerful than other spirits, and was constantly having his plans threatened or challenged by others?
What if His people were always afraid that He wouldn’t be able to keep His promises because some other force in the universe was tying Him up or sapping His strength or distracting His attention?
That’s worse than a nightmare, isn’t it? But what a relief to know that Yahweh, the covenant-keeping God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He is God and no other. He has no rivals. He cannot be threatened. He cannot be challenged. He cannot be outwitted.
Remember that Yahweh, He is God, and rejoice.
There’s a second truth in verse 3: “It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
God made us. This is true for everybody, and it was especially true for Israel who, as a nation, had been made by God. And because they had been made by God, they belonged to him. They were not just a people; they were His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Yahweh, the most high God, made them and cared for them like a shepherd.
If you want a reason to praise God, remember this same truth. You didn’t make yourself. Someone else made you. And if you know Christ, you have been doubly made by God: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
On Friday night we were interviewing some elder candidates and it was so encouraging to hear their stories and see the fingerprints of God all over their lives. None of those men made themselves. Each of them were made by God both in their bodies but also their gifts and abilities and life stories.
And knowing that He made us, we can rejoice that we belong to Him and He protects us and cares for us like a shepherd. What did Jesus tell us? “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:11, 27–28).
Whatever you are going through right now, whether it’s something great or something painful, there is joy to be found in knowing that if you know Christ, you belong to Him, and He takes really good care of those who belong to Him. Your good shepherd is watching over you with the same love that led Him to lay down His very life for you on the cross.
Let that truth fuel your worship today. Down in verse 5 we see a fourth truth that should inspire our worship: “For the Lord is good.”
Once again, a way to see how this should inspire worship is to imagine for a moment if this wasn’t true. What if Yahweh, the most high God and the creator of Israel, was not fundamentally good? What if He had traits of badness? What if he made mistakes or messed up or had passions that were sinful?
Can you imagine how much trouble we’d be in? How much uncertainly we’d live with?
That’s what the other nations lived with Baal, Ashtoroth and Moloch were not good. They were dominated by pride and passions. They demanded human sacrifice. They were unreliable.
But Yahweh is good. The ruler of this world, the shepherd of His people, is unable to do anything wrong. Isn’t that a reason to worship him?
Fourth and finally is the truth, also in verse 5, that “his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
This is one of those examples of parallelism—saying the same thing twice. And both of these statements tell us that God’s faithful, covenant-keeping love never runs out.
And once again, imagine if we didn’t know this to be true. We’d read the stories in the Bible and rejoice at what God did, and we’d say “But today? We can only hope. We hope he hasn’t changed. We hope he’s still the same. But we don’t know for sure. What if His steadfast love ran out 500 years ago and He didn’t bother to tell us? What if His faithfulness only put up with a few generations, and now we’re on our own?”
Life, let alone joyful worship, would be really hard if that were true. But we can worship because we know that His steadfast, covenant-keeping love endures forever; His faithfulness to all generations, including this one.
Everything that God was, He is for you right now, and everything He is, He will be every day of your future.
And these truths are the fuel for our joyful worship. These truths about God—theology—lead us to worship God—doxology.
With Hearts and Heads
And that’s really the big idea I want us to take away from this Psalm today: God calls us to be joyful worshippers whose praise is fuelled by our knowledge.
Some of you know what it’s like to try to worship God without knowledge of God. When I was growing up I spent a few years in churches which really emphasized joyful worship but didn’t teach us almost anything substantial about God.
And it was so hard. Because week after week they would try to whip people into a lather to have this amazing worship experience, but there was very little truth that went along with it. And after a while it just became impossible and I watched so many people get completely burnt out.
But what I have found since then is that the people who are truly the most joyful worshippers, which is not just singing on Sunday but includes a whole life of joyful praise, are those who know God best—whose hearts and minds are devoted to God.
Psalm 100 shows us this. It shows us that we need to use our brains to know things about God if we want our hearts to feel things about God. If you want to serve the Lord with gladness, you need to know that Yahweh, he is God.
And by the way, this isn’t just Psalm 100. This is all over the entire Bible. Joyful worship of God—which is really a way of describing life as a Christian—is only possible when it is fuelled by true knowledge of God.
That’s why Paul prayed for the Ephesians that God would give them “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph 1:17). Because knowing God is the key to everything else.
This is one reason, by the way, that we’ve just moved a bunch of the library books out into the foyer and have just put a few dozen new books into those shelves. Those are tools there to help you do what Psalm 100 describes.
We’re not finished out there, so you can’t check any of those books in the foyer out yet, but there’s a section that’s going to be labelled “theology.” Don’t let that word scare you. Theology just means the knowledge of God. And according to Psalm 100, we could pretty much rename that second “joy” or “worship.” Because theology leads to doxology. Knowing God leads to worshipping God.
I think of a book like R.C. Sproul’s “The Holiness of God,” which is one of the new books in there. Those of you who have read that book, or a book like it, know how much joy and worship you discover as you grow in your knowledge of God.
C.S. Lewis once talked about this idea when he wrote: “For my own part, I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.” (“On the Reading of Old Books.”)
Now we’re Baptists, so skip the part about the pipe, but embrace the part about working through a tough bit of theology.
We read and we study and we learn in order that we might know and love and worship and live for the God of Psalm 100.
And good books are just tools and conversation partners to help us better understand the book—the Bible, God’s word. This is where we encounter the true and full knowledge of God.
And that’s an obvious way we can all put Psalm 100 into practice this week: spend time in God’s word. And as we do that, one of the questions we can be asking of every passage we read is: “What is this telling me about God? What is this revealing about God? How is this helping me know him better?”
We don’t read the Bible just for information. We read the Bible to know a person so that we might worship that person with our songs on Sunday morning and with our lives at all times.
So as we close, let’s hear these words again. These are words for us. And then let’s respond to these words with a song and then with our lives in the week that God has prepared for us:
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! [Including us here at Emmanuel.] 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” (Psalm 100:1–5).