Who, what, when, where, why? Do you remember learning that in school? That string of questions was designed to help you to understand an article, book, or something that happened. That same string of questions can be helpful in understanding what a Bible passage is saying. This came to mind recently as I was reading Psalm 100.
As we read through the psalm, we will try to answer five of these questions.
- Who does this psalm address?
Your first reaction might be that this psalm is for God’s people. While that is true, notice what the first verse says.
a. All lands (1)
This joyful shout is not supposed to be limited to just the Israelites. It is something that should come from people all over the earth. When they come to know the Lord and recognize His goodness, they will shout along with believers in every nation.
“There is a time coming when the entire world will be able to sing, ‘Joy to the world, the Lord is come!'” (McGee 822). In fact, the Book of Revelation tells us of a time when a group from every tribe and language praises the Lord.
Revelation 7:9-10 – “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
Question: How is it that these people from various backgrounds learned to praise the Lord? The answer is found in the second people group mentioned in this psalm.
b. His people (3b)
The people who best sing God’s praises are those who are His people. Before you think that this psalm is only directed toward the Israelites, think again. Were Adam and Eve Israelites? How about Noah, Abraham, and Job? While the Israelites are God’s special people, being an Israelite did not guarantee that they would be His people. His people are made up of all those who truly believe and serve Him in every generation.
Remember the earlier question: How is it that these people from various backgrounds learned to praise the Lord? The people of the earth can only praise the Lord if they hear about Him and choose to love and serve Him.
Romans 10:14-15 – “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’”
This is why we need to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the many people in the world. When people near and far hear and believe, they, too, will join us in being God’s people. And then they will do what this psalm calls us to do.
- What does this psalm call us to do?
a. Shout (1)
When you watch a football game and your team scores, what do you do? We, typically, raise our arm in the air and shout. When the Ohio State University football team scored their first touchdown yesterday, there was a bit of shouting in our living room. We do that to show how happy we are.
While I do not want our church to become a “shouting” church, I would like us to express our joyfulness in our singing, in our conversations, and in our reaction to what we read in the Bible. This is what the psalmist calls us to do.
b. Serve (2a)
Along with a joyful shout, we are called to serve the Lord. I think that the order is important. It is easier to serve someone you are excited about. For example, it would be difficult to serve someone that you do not like. But if you love that person, it is easier to want to serve him.
How do we serve the Lord? I think that service begins with “present[ing our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). Then with the right attitude, we should choose to do the things that He has commanded us.
c. Sing (2b)
Singing is one of those things that the Lord enjoys and that we also enjoy. When we sing, we express the feelings of our hearts in melody and sometimes harmony. Think of some of the songs that you enjoy singing to the Lord: “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me”, “Come Christians join to sing, Alleluia, Amen,” and “O rejoice in the Lord, He makes no mistake.” God wants us to enter His presence with singing as an indication that we recognize His goodness and Who He is.
d. Know (3)
Verse three calls us to “know” something about God. What do you know about God? As you read through the Bible, you quickly learn that God is not some grandfatherly figure sitting on a cloud. He is God Almighty. He is the One who created us; we didn’t do that. And we see that He is in charge; we are just the sheep in His pasture.
When we recognize Who God is, we will have a completely different mindset about Him and about ourselves. We will no longer seek to run our lives. We will let Him be in charge. He is God and we are not.
e. Be thankful (4).
Thankfulness is something that comes from recognizing what someone has done for us. When your boss gives you a bonus, when your wife fixes a meal, when the mechanic figures out the problem with your vehicle, how do you respond? The right response is thankfulness.
When is the last time you thanked God for what He had done in your life? If you have trouble thinking of something to be thankful for, start with the basics. Thank God for saving you from your sin. Thank Him for Jesus. Thank him for giving you food to eat and a place to sleep. When you start thanking God for things, you will begin to see How good He has been to you in every area of your life.
Why do some Christians bow their head and thank God for their food? This is a recognition of God’s provision. And thankfulness in this area leads to thankfulness in other and all areas. God is good. Thank Him for that.
- Where should we do these things?
The psalm covers three locations for our praise and thanksgiving.
a. in all the earth (1)
Remember how verse one called on people from all parts of the world to shout joyfully to the Lord? This gives us the idea that these actions (shouting, serving, singing, knowing, and being thankful) should not be limited to a specific location. These are not limited to ancient Israel or to the United States. These are things that should be done everywhere.
Psalm 40:3 – He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.
When we are joyfully serving the Lord or thanking Him for what He has done, it makes a difference in the lives of others. When a college football player praises God for giving Him the ability to play well, it is an example to the whole world. I always like to see that.
b. in His presence (2)
The next place to do these things is in God’s presence. What exactly does this mean? When the Israelites saw the cloudy pillar over the tabernacle, it was an indication that God was with them. But is God only present when we can see something physical? No, He is with us no matter where we go. This is revealed in the Old and New Testaments.
Psalm 139:7 – “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
Matthew 28:20 – “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The Lord is always with His people. But let me ask you a question. In what location do you feel closest to God’s presence? Isn’t it when you are in a quiet place, away from the pressures of the world, that you feel closest to the Lord? The time that you take each day to read the Bible and to pray, this is where you are least distracted and most aware of God’s presence.
c. in His courts (4)
The final answer to where is in His courts. I think this best refers to when we are in God’s house. The Israelites would think of the tabernacle or temple. Christians think of being in the church building. This is where we collectively sing, praise, and express our thankfulness to God.
Do you realize how your singing and thankfulness are a blessing to God? He enjoys hearing your praise. But so do other believers. As we sing the hymns and talk about God’s goodness, we are encouraged and reminded that things aren’t quite as bad as we had thought.
An old preacher related this: “Someone told me the other day that he attended the services of one of the great churches of the past and had never witnessed a place that was so dead. Do you know what the problem was? People were not coming to church with praise in their hearts. They did not come to the service with thanksgiving in their hearts to God” (McGee 822).
How does God want us to sing to, praise, and serve Him? There are at least three ways found in this psalm.
a. with joy and gladness (1, 2)
In verse one, we are called to shout joyfully to the Lord and in verse two to serve with gladness. The dictionary defines joy as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness” (Oxford). If you are full of joy, that joy will eventually bubble out and be seen by others. How will it be seen?
You may know the hymn, “Jesus Loves Even Me.” The words go like this:
I am so glad that our Father in heav’n
Tells of His love in the Book He has giv’n
Wonderful things in the Bible I see
This is the dearest, that Jesus loves me.
I am so glad that Jesus loves me
Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me
I am so glad that Jesus loves me
Jesus loves even me.
Those words were written by someone who was filled with joy. But when we sing this song, how would you know if the singer was joyful. If there was a thoughtful smile on my face, you might gather that I was joyful. But if there was no expression on my face, you might wonder.
b. with thankfulness (4)
In verse four, we are told to “enter His gates with thanksgiving.” This should be understood as an attitude of gratefulness. When we are thankful/grateful, we are recognizing what God had done for us.
In Luke 17:11-19, we read about ten men who had leprosy. When they asked Jesus to have mercy on them, Jesus healed them. But only one of these men, a Samaritan, returned to thank the Lord for healing him of his terrible disease. Jesus noted this and asked why only one of the ten returned to thank Him.
How often does the Lord think this of us? He has done so much for us and yet we fail to thank Him for what he has done.
The final question to ask is probably the most important. Why should we be joyful? Why should we sing, shout, praise, and thank the Lord?
a. His goodness (5)
God is good. And it is a good thing that He is. If God were evil, we would not last long. But he is good and cares about us. Jesus told His disciples about God’s goodness by comparing our heavenly Father to our earthly fathers.
Matthew 7:9-11 – “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
God is good and has shown His kindness to His people over the years. This ought to motivate us to sing, serve, and thank Him on a regular basis.
b. His mercy (5)
God is not merely a good Father; He is also merciful. Mercy has been described as not giving us what we deserve. What do we deserve? According to God, our sin is so bad from His perspective that without His intervention we would die and spent eternity in the Lake of Fire.
Romans 6:23 – “…the wages of sin is death.”
Revelation 20:15 – “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
How often we forget we forget our sinfulness and God’s mercy. But when we remember our sinfulness and God’s mercy, this ought to lead us to sing with joy and to serve Him with thankfulness.
c. His truth (5)
The final reason for thanking God is His enduring truth. In recent political news, people have redefined what a woman is so that transgender people can be included. It is an example of the changing ideas put out by the world. God is not like that. The truth He has given us in the Bible does not change every generation. It remains the same.
The truth in the Bible that encouraged David, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Peter, and Paul have not changed. The truth about Jesus that changed the lives of the Philippian jailer, Martin Luther, and Andy Rupert is still true today. God’s truth doesn’t change according to the whims of each generation. And because of that, we can trust that God will continue to keep His promises and use His truth to change lives today.
I hope that you are encouraged by what we have seen in Psalm 100 today. As mentioned before, I am not hoping that someone will start shouting in our services or running around the auditorium. But I hope that what we have seen in this psalm will bring joy and thankfulness to your heart. I hope that you will have a fresh perspective about serving the Lord. And I hope that your joyfulness will spill over into your daily conversations with others.
Kidner, Derek, Psalms 73-150, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1975, pp. 355-57.
Shelton, W. A., “PSALMS LXXIII-CL” in The Abington Bible Commentary, USA: the Abington Press, 1929, p. 572.
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. II, Joshua through Psalms, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982, pp. 821-23.
Ross, Allen P., “Psalms” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, pp. 865-66.