A Psalm for Giving Thanks
“All People That on Earth Do Dwell”
Idea from Ligon Duncan - 1st Pres - Jackson, Miss
Amen. If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Psalm 100. We’ve been working our way through the Fourth Book of the Psalms, and for the last several weeks we’ve been in Psalms 95-99, and now to Psalm 100—all of which treat the subject of worship, and Psalm 100 brings us to the summit of that discussion.
As I mentioned before the service, this is the Psalm on which is based the very famous paraphrase of Isaac Watts’ Before Jehovah’s Awesome Throne. It’s also the Psalm on which the Scottish Metrical Psalter’s All People That On Earth Do Dwell is sung. I imagine that that Psalm has been sung in this congregation ever since 1837. It’s beloved by Presbyterians worldwide; and not only by Presbyterians, our favorite Baptist preacher, C. H. Spurgeon, over a hundred years ago said this:
“Nothing can be more sublime this side of heaven than the singing of this noble song by a vast congregation.”
And I would add a hearty “amen” to C. H. Spurgeon’s words. They are so true. It’s interesting that the reforming ministers in England in the 1560’s said that one of the marks that the Reformation had taken hold of the hearts of the people of God is that they loved to sing the Psalms, and they would gather by the thousands and sing them near St. Paul’s Cross in London. And they viewed this as an indication of the reformation of the people’s hearts.
Well, as we prepare to read this great Psalm, Psalm 100, I want to draw your attention to six things to be on the lookout for as we read through. It’s a very short Psalm; it’s only five verses. But in order to enrich your hearing of the word and your study of the word, just be on the lookout for these six things.
The first thing I want you to see is the six imperatives that you will meet in this Psalm. They are: Make; Serve; Come; Know; Enter; and, Give. In verse 1, “Make a joyful noise.” Verse 2: “Serve the Lord with gladness.” Verse 3: “Come before His presence.” Verse 3 again: “Know the Lord is God.” Verse 4: “Enter into His gates.” Verse 4 again: “Give thanks to Him.” So, six imperatives give you the thrust of the exhortation in this Psalm.
Second, notice how this Psalm, like the ones that we’ve studied before it, gives us reasons why we ought to worship God. In verse 5, the psalmist just stops, and he asks, “For what reason should we worship the Lord?” And he gives you three reasons in verse 5 why we ought to worship the Lord. And really, he’s already done that in verse 3, as well, so in verse 5 explicitly and in verse 3 implicitly he’s told you why you ought to worship God…because God always wants you to know why it is that you’re doing what you’re doing.
Then, third, notice how this Psalm doesn’t simply exhort us to worship, but it instructs our heart attitude and talks to us about what the proper focus of our worship is.
Fourth, when we come to the phrase “Shout for joy” or “Shout joyfully to the Lord,” it’s important for you to note that that exhortation to shout for joy or shout joyfully, or make a joyful noise, is an homage shout to a king—the sort that you would give to a great military victor who had just come back from winning a great battle, or a shout that would be given to a king or a dignitary at some great national celebration. It’s a spontaneous outburst of cries and shouts of joy. And perhaps you’ve remembered occasions like that; I’ll draw your attention to one in the course of the message.
Fifth, there is a play on words with the word worship or serve. To worship God refers both to public acts of worship where we gather to praise Him, and we sing and pray and read God’s word and hear it preached, and it refers to deeds of obedience to God. So you can worship God two ways, either gathering with His people to sing His praises and hear His word or by worshiping Him in all life by doing His will, which includes loving your neighbor. Both of these things are worshiping God. Derek Kidner says,
“In Hebrew as in English, worship or service is indivisible. It is a word which leads no gap or choice between worship and work.”
And then, finally, look at the end of verse 1. As we read through the Psalm together, notice the interesting phrase all the earth. This is a call to worship to all the earth. I love what Derek Kidner says about this: “This verse claims the world for God, and so it should be thought-provoking for us to sing.” Well, be aware of that when you start singing, “All people that on earth do dwell” at the end of this service. You’re going to be drawing attention to that very truth.
Now let’s pray before we read God’s word.
Heavenly Father, this is Your word. We ask that by Your Holy Spirit You would open our eyes and our hearts to see and receive it. May we believe Your word and respond in faith to Your word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hear the word of God:
“A PSALM FOR GIVING THANKS.
“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.”
Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
Did you know that God cares how we worship? There are a lot of Christians who think that it’s important that we worship, but it doesn’t matter how we worship. But God cares about how we worship, and we know that because He spends so much time in the Bible telling us how He wants us to worship Him. This Psalm is not so much an exhortation to worship God as it is an exhortation as to how we ought to worship God, and the ways in which we ought to worship God. How we worship God matters.
And yet, in our own day and age we oftentimes spend more thought or give more attention to our preferences in worship than we do with God’s preferences in worship. We have our own opinions about how public worship ought to be conducted – the things that ought to be sung, the type of music that ought to be employed, what the substance of that worship service ought to look and feel like. But so often it boils down to our own preferences, and we spend more time thinking about that sometimes than we think about what God wants us to do and how He wants us to do it.
I was talking to a friend not many months ago and I was discussing the whole issue of ‘the worship wars.’ He is a musician in a church that uses a very different style of music than we use, but I trust his judgment and his theological outlook on things, and we were talking about this. I said, “You know, it’s interesting that in your setting and in my setting there are people that don’t like the style of what [we’re] doing, but when you ask them why it is, the fundamental reason gets down to their preferences. There’s no theological point at stake; it’s often just preferences.”
Well, that’s upside down, isn’t it? We ought to spend more time thinking about what God wants us to do than thinking about our preferences, and that’s exactly what God does in this Psalm. You can tell from the introduction that there’s so much in this Psalm that we can’t do justice to it at all, but I do want to draw your attention to three things that God teaches us about how we ought to worship Him.
I. God exhorts everyone to worship Him.
The first thing I want you to see, and you’ll see it in the very first two verses of the Psalm, is simply this: God cares about how we worship, in that He wants us to worship Him joyfully, gladly, and willingly. God doesn’t want us to come to worship grudgingly—“Oh, no. I’ve got to go to church again…oh, no. I’ve got to go to Sunday evening services. Oh….” He doesn’t want a grudging worshiper! He wants us to worship with joy and gladness and willingness, and that’s what we learn here in Psalm 100. Because of the gospel, our worship is to be joyful and glad and willing. Listen to the psalmist in verses 1 and 2: “Make a…” [What?] “…a joyful noise to the Lord…. Serve the Lord with… [What?]…Serve the Lord with gladness…Come into His presence with singing.” Now it’s very obvious that the Lord wants His people to come into His presence not with some onerous sense of wretched burden (Do I really have to go worship God? Couldn’t I fold socks instead?), but with a sense of “You couldn’t keep me away from God’s house!”
There was a beautiful moment. One of the joys the elders have had over the last few weeks is listening to the testimonies of the men, some of whom are going to be your new elders and deacons. And at one point – and I trust that we’ve listened to so many of these that none of the elders will remember who I’m referring to! – but at one point as those testimonies were being shared, the elders were asking, “Are you committed to attending Sunday morning and Sunday evening worship?” One of the brothers that was answering that question said, “Let me tell you, I need to be in worship Sunday morning and Sunday evening because I’m a sinner, and I need God’s gospel and God’s grace, and I need to fellowship with His people.” And then he went on to say that he loved to be in worship. It wasn’t a burden for him, it was something that he loved to do.
Well, that’s exactly what God is getting at here! He’s saying, ‘Look, if you don’t want to be here, just stay home! Because I want people here who want to be here more than life itself. There’s no place on earth that they’d want to be more than they’d want to be here.’ They come into His courts with gladness; they come into His courts with praise; they come into His courts shouting for joy.
Now let me tell you why Christians are gladly and joyful and sing when they come into the presence of the Lord. It’s because the Lord has shown them grace. If you really realize that you’re a sinner, and you really realize that you deserve condemnation and eternal separation from God, and suddenly you realize that God has forgiven you and accepted you and adopted you and changed you, and is transforming you into the image of His Son, you cannot help but be glad about that! And you cannot help expressing that gladness, that joy, that thanksgiving to God. And so when the people of God gather on the Lord’s Day morning and evening, there’s no place in the world that you’d rather be! And the Lord says, ‘I don’t want people here who think it’s drudgery to come into the presence of their Father and commune with Him and to receive His blessing, and to hear His word, and to be built up in His grace. I want people who come into My presence with joy and gladness, willingly.’ So that when a friend says, “Do you have to go to church?” the response is, “Have to? I get to!”
And my friends, if that’s not where you are, if there’s no delight for you in worship, if there’s no desire in you to be with God’s people and to meet with Him in worship, then I want to tell you this today: that is a sure and certain sign that something’s wrong. It may be, of course, that you’re going through a trial that is so deep and burdensome that it has left you almost without joy and hope in this world. And so it’s very hard for you to come into the presence of the Lord with joy and gladness in your heart. But, my friend, even Job could say, “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Or, the problem may be that you’re cherishing some sin. And very frankly, you adore that sin more than you adore God. But Jesus told you you can’t serve two masters; you’ll hate the one, and you’ll love the other. You can’t serve God and your sin. And it may well be that your cherishing that sin, even if you’re a believer today, has robbed you of the joy that you ought to have in God.
Or it may be that the reason that you have no delight in gathering with the people of God for worship is that you’ve never tasted of God’s grace. And so there’s nothing deep in your heart to be excited about, because you haven’t known personally the mercy of the Lord. And if that’s where you are today, then the first order of business is for you to respond to the gospel of God by acknowledging that you’re a sinner, by trusting in Jesus as your Savior, and then responding to Him in joy for the forgiveness that He has given to you at the cost of His own shed blood.
No, the spirit of all of us ought to be with regard to public worship, the very words of the psalmist: “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’” That ought to be our spirit. And it’s a good question to ask yourself: “Self, I’m here on Sunday morning. It’s 8:30…it’s 11:00. I’m here on Sunday evening at 6:00. Am I glad to be here, Self? Am I joyful to be here? Do I want to be here? Do I delight in being here?” And if your answer is, “Well, Self, frankly no,” then you need to do some heart exploration and ask why. Because the Lord is very particular about how He wants us to come and worship, and one of the things that He wants us to do is He wants us to come with joy and gladness and willingness. We want to be with Him, we’re glad to be with Him, we’re joyful in our hearts because we’re with Him.
That’s the first thing that we learn in this Psalm about our worship.
II. God cares about the content and motive of our worship.
But there’s a second thing, too. You’ll see this in verses 1, 3, and 5, and it’s simply this. Our worship is focused on God’s person and deeds, and especially on His gospel. The focus of our worship is on God and what He has done. This is huge. Our worship of God ought to center on the celebration of His person and deeds, and especially on the gospel. Worship is first and foremost about God. Worship is first and foremost about what God has done to redeem us from our sins, and so the focus is on His person and works.
See how it works out in the Psalm? “Make a joyful noise to the Lord.” I said what before the service started? That’s a homage shout to God. It’s either the shout that you would give at a national celebration when the people of God are acknowledging that God is King – shouting to the Lord with joy that He’s King; or, it’s a shout that you give to the victorious King after He’s won the victory that’s protected you, and it’s a spontaneous shout of joy that comes from everyone that’s acknowledging what? What the King has done.
Some of you remember the State of the Union address that was delivered by the first President Bush after the end of the first Gulf War. And I think our nation was awash in a sense of gratitude that this war had gone so well and had ended so quickly with the loss of so few lives. Not one American soldier perished. And if you remember, in the State of the Union, Democrats and Republicans just as Americans spontaneously stood up and gave this long standing ovation to President Bush in thanksgiving to him for the work that he had done in the preparation of the union with the allies and the prosecution of the war. It was a profound sense of national gratitude that crossed party lines, and there was this ovation to the President who symbolized all of our government and military services as the Commander in Chief for his leadership in that work.
Well, this is what’s happening here. The people of God are spontaneously applauding God… who is Lord, who has redeemed us by the blood of His own dear Son. So though they’re shouting joyfully, they’re shouting joyfully about God and about something He’s done. He’s the focus of their worship.
And then more explicitly, look at verse 3: “Know that the Lord, He is God! …He made us…we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.” So God’s our pastor; God’s made us to be His people; He’s made us, period, in the first place! He created us. We wouldn’t be alive apart from Him, and He is God and we are not. And this is the substance of our worship. We’re compelled to acknowledge and confess these things.
And then again in verse 5, “The Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever; and His faithfulness lasts throughout all generations.” So He’s good, He’s loving, He’s faithful. Our worship centers on the celebration of God and His deeds. Now that’s so important for us to remember, because in this Psalm there are six imperatives spoken to us. There are six things that we’re told to do. Do you remember? We’re to make a joyful noise, and we’re to serve the Lord with gladness, and we’re to come into His presence with singing, and we’re to know that He is God. And we’re to enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and we’re to give thanks to Him. So there are six things that we’re supposed to do. But understand this: in worship, whether the word of God read instructs us about things that we’re supposed to do, or whether the preacher (as I am doing now) gives you exhortation in what you’re supposed to do, even those imperatives in how we’re to respond to God’s word in our lives and services, even those imperatives are set in the context of what God has already done for us! We gather for worship because of what God has done for us. When He then tells us now do this, and do this, and do this, these imperatives are set in the context of what God has already done in the gospel, and so they are not words to us where He says, ‘Do this and I’ll give you life,’ but rather, ‘I have given you life by My work. Now, therefore, do this.’ The order is not do this and live; it’s I’ve given you life, now do this. And that changes the way we look at all of the commands of God in Scripture. They are not burdens being laid on our backs to resent, but they are God kindly speaking to us what the way of life is, in light of the life that He has already accomplished for us in the person and work of His Son. And if we remember this…if we remember this…then every exhortation that is brought to us will not be a word condemning us and burdening us, but it will be a word of life to us because of the gospel of our Lord and Savior. And so our worship ought to center on the celebration of His person and deeds, and especially on His gospel; and, therefore, all the imperatives of His service are set in that context.
III. We worship God by serving Him.
One last thing. You see this throughout the Psalm, but especially in verse 2, in the phrase serve the Lord. There are lots of ways that this Psalm tells you that you can worship God. You can worship God by joyfully shouting about His victory. You can worship God by being glad when you come to worship. You can worship God by being thankful when you come to worship. You can worship God by knowing God, and by spending the time to know God. But in this phrase serve the Lord, we’re reminded that worshiping or serving the Lord not only happens when we are gathered to praise Him on Sunday morning and evening, but it happens in all of life. We can show our worship of the Lord by the way we love one another, by the way we serve one another, and by the way we love and serve our neighbor. So we can serve the Lord… Young people, you can serve the Lord when you’re at school or in a youth fellowship and you reach out to a young person who’s not a part of the popular crowd, and you love them because you love the Lord. You can serve the Lord in serving others. You can serve the Lord and worship the Lord in feeding the hungry, or in welcoming strangers, or in clothing the naked, or caring for the sick, or visiting those in prison, or being a witness to Christ at work.
We worship God by serving Him not only when we gather with His people, but in all of life. And God cares that we do that. In fact, one of the great charges that Isaiah brought against the people of Israel in his own day is that they made much ado about coming to worship God on the Sabbath Day, but the other six days of the week they worshiped themselves. And consequently God said this about their worship services on the Sabbath Day: “I hate your worship.”
Oh, my friends! God cares how we worship. He wants us to worship gladly and joyfully and willingly. God wants us to worship with a focus upon Him and upon His gospel, and our heavenly Father wants us to worship in all of life as well as together on the Lord’s Day. May God bless that truth to our hearts.