The goal of gathered worship is that every person would be able to fix their eyes on the glory of God and the gospel. Worship is more than participation in worship gatherings, but it’s not less than that. In this message on Psalm 100, Pastor Matt Mason teaches us how to rightly view corporate worship as Christians.
- We come together in gathered worship to “serve the Lord.”
- At the same time, we “serve the Lord” as we live every moment of our lives for his glory.
- There is no sacred/secular divide for the Christ-follower. All of life is sacred.
- Worship is more than participation in worship gatherings, but it’s not less than that.
Good morning, church. It’s great to see all of you this morning. If you would, turn in your Bible to Psalm 100. As we close out our Psalm-immersion experience, over these past six weeks, this is what we’re going to be studying this morning. This is one of the most loved Psalms in perhaps the past several hundred years of the church. It inspired a hymn that was written by a Scottish clergyman in the 16th century. Ever since that time, for the past nearly four hundred years, people all over the world have referred to this Psalm as “Old One-Hundredth.” We’re going to read Old One-Hundredth, and we’re going to study it together this morning.
If you would join and follow along with me as I read:
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.
O God, would you give us eyes to see what you’ve placed here in this passage for our edification, our building up, for our joy and our gladness? That we would live for the worship of the God who made us and the God who has redeemed us. Lord, open our eyes to see wonderful things in your Word. Help us, Lord, in days to come, to not leave this message aside, but to apply it in our lives, and in so doing bring you glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I was reading a couple of articles this week on communication, on effective communication. One was a Forbes Magazine article referencing a book that was written last year. The book was entitled, Shut Up and Say Something. You can probably tell the tone of the article wasn’t necessarily the most edifying or encouraging in terms of its nature and where it was going. Actually, both articles that I read had everything to do––and placed a high priority on––“word economy,” on what they call “the economy of attention.” So, it was about talking about things, like saying what is needed in as little time as possible and with as great of an impact as we could possibly bring forward in communication.
Meanwhile, as I’m reading these articles, I’m also reading and studying Psalm 100. It became abundantly clear that the writer of Psalm 100 didn’t need to read either one of those articles. Five verses! 81 words. You can almost tweet this chapter it’s so short, it gets so much done in such a short span of time. In the span of five brief verses, it has seven crisp commands, seven sort of rapid fire imperatives. Just look at them; just let your eyes gravitate to them: make, serve, come, know, enter, give, bless.
In five verses, in the span of five verses, we get brief but substantial insight into God’s character, into God’s saving work, into the nature of the Christian life, what Christians are like, and how Christians should worship our God when we gather. We’re going to study Psalm 100 under two brief headings, both formed in the form of a question. The first question we’re going to consider is: “What is this call to serve the Lord with gladness?” Second: “How does God make us glad?”
What is this Call to Serve the Lord with Gladness?
First, what is this call to serve the Lord with gladness? To answer that question, first we need to look at this word “serve”, and see what it means, and explore this word “serve” and when it occurs in other places in the Old Testament. When you look at the word that’s translated “serve”––it’s the Hebrew word ‘abad’––when you find that word in the rest of the Old Testament, you can find out that it’s used in a variety of different kinds of ways. It can be a synonym for worship—a word that used for giving reverence, or worship, or homage to a deity, to God. Or it can refer, actually, to everyday kind of work, service in the world.
For example, on that first one, this is kind of worship before God, a devotional reflex. In Exodus 4, for example, God tells Moses what to say when you face Pharaoh. God’s word to Pharaoh was not simply, “Let my people go.” He didn’t just say let the people go, He told them why He wanted them. He said, “Let my people go, that they may ‘abad me, that they may serve me.” Later on, it’s the same kind of devotional toward God, worship sort of context in Exodus 20. Moses says at the the giving of the law—“And God commanded the people neither to bow down to false gods nor to ‘abad them––nor to serve them, nor to pay homage, and worship, and respect, and esteem to false gods.” In both of those passages in Exodus, this word that’s translated “serve” in Psalm 100 has to do with the worship of our God.
But, in Genesis 2, the same word is used to just describe everyday, ordinary work. For example, in Genesis 2:5 it says, “…there was no man to work the ground.” It didn’t mean there was no man to worship the ground. It meant there was nobody with a rake, there was nobody with a shovel, to actually just do the everyday work. It’s the same word, ‘abad.’ This word is huge. It incorporates everything from the devotional orientation and posture towards God to the everyday ways in which we live our lives. It’s a massive word!
Commentator Derek Kidner says, “This is a word that leaves no gap or choice between worship and work. It all can be done in the presence of God as worship, as a service to God.” In other words, when we come together in a gathering like this, we come together to serve the Lord. We come together to worship Him through our songs, and our prayers, and our times of hearing His Word preached. You can see that that’s the context of Psalm 100 in a particular way.
Why? Because, look at verse two, “Serve the LORD with gladness!” is immediately linked to corporate singing. “Serve the LORD with gladness (and it goes on to say), Come into his presence with singing!” We’ll come back to corporate worship in just a moment, but at the same time we serve the Lord, as we live every moment of our lives for His glory. God is worshipped. Think about this. Call this to mind. God is worshipped as we steward our God-given gifts. Dads, happy Father’s Day! God is worshipped as we strive, by His grace, to serve our families, our wives, to care for our families, and to provide for them in practical ways, in spiritual ways. That counts as worship before our God!
So this word, “serve,” reminds us that biblical worship––it’s not just something that happens, it’s not just sacred activities, or things that we find being done in sacred places associated with the worship of God––worship is the lifestyle of the believer. All of life for the believer—if you’ve put your trust in Jesus—every moment of your life is meant to be service to the Lord. It is meant to be serving Him with gladness, from the heart.
Paul said in Colossians 3:
Whatever you do (what a comprehensive term)… Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
It doesn’t mean you’re not serving your neighbor, or serving your loved ones. It just means, in an ultimate way, when we do our service, we’re doing it as for the Lord, as unto Him. He says, “Fundamentally, underneath all of your service to one another, all of your acts of love and your labor of love, God is being worshiped. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
Doesn’t that change the way we head into this week? You think about that. So you’re driving into the office tomorrow. You’re facing your workday tomorrow. Does it change things for you to call to mind, “I don’t merely work in that retail store. I don’t merely work for that financial institution. I’m not merely working in the home. I’m not merely working toward my undergraduate degree. I am working for the Lord. I am serving the Lord.” All of this counts as worship before God.
Paul says in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed”—if your mouth is moving, let it be moving to the glory of God. If your body is in motion, “…in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “…whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
But what does that mean? It means there is no sacred/secular divide for the Christian. All of life is sacred. The Puritans would say that we live our lives coram Deo. That means, “before the face of God.” Everything that we do is under the eye of God. It is with a view to seeing God glorified in our lives. That’s why, so frequently, God comes to the prophets in the Old Testament and He rebukes the people. He rebukes them for their worship. It’s not so much that there was a problem with what they were doing in their worship gatherings. No, the problem was what they were doing everywhere else.
We get words, like from Micah 6:6-8. It says:
With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? (Well, yes you should, because that’s instructed throughout God’s Word, in the Old Testament. You’re supposed to bring the sacrifices, but he’s saying, “But is that all I’m supposed to do? Merely offer the sacrifice?” He goes on to say) Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams (the implication is, with merely the offering of rams) with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Now he’s going to clarify: “No, that’s superficial if this isn’t there.” He says,) He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
We get these flashes of insight throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. Like Psalm 51, for example, where David’s famous prayer of contrition. It’s almost like he has this fresh realization, “Oh yes, it was never about the blood of bulls and goats. ‘You delight in truth in the inward being… The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.’ You want humility! You want a heart that loves you! You want sacrifices that proceed from a heart that delights in you, in your Word, in your law; that delights to live for your praise and for your glory.”
The Apostle Paul talks about the same thing in the New Testament, in Romans 12. He says, “Here’s what God wants. He wants you ‘to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.’ Living sacrifices. He wants you sacrificing yourself, your life, to Him, in praise of Him, ‘holy and acceptable to God.’” Paul says, “You want to know what worship is?” In Romans 12:2 he says, “This is worship: When you’re not being ‘conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.’” It’s in every day. It’s a pervasive thing. All of life is to be permeated by a desire to bring honor to God in every word, every deed, every thought, every action. That’s the worship God desires. That’s what it is to serve the Lord wholeheartedly. That’s what it means to apply this text, and to serve the Lord with gladness. “2 Serve the LORD with gladness!” is a call, to be no mistake. It’s a call to worship God in every domain of your life. In all of life.
Having said that, worship is more than what we do when we gather in God’s name; it is not less than corporate gatherings. God calls us to these corporate gatherings. In fact, public worship seems to be the emphasis of Psalm 100. That’s why he goes on to say: “2 Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” In verse four it says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!” That’s temple language! That’s when you come together to sing to God—corporately come, serving Him with gladness—come worshipping Him from the heart.
It’s true that new covenant worship doesn’t need the temple. We don’t need the temple anymore. We don’t come through gates. We don’t come through outer courts, and then inner courts. We don’t praise God and come to a structure that we believe, “God resides in this structure in some kind of particular way.” So having said that––those qualifiers in place––does that mean that New Testament church worship doesn’t value the gathering, or doesn’t prioritize the gathering? The answer to that is absolutely not. I mean, in Hebrews 10, don’t forsake this: “…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…” So some thought, “The temple is gone. Why gather?” No, he’s saying, “Gather! You must gather. God commands us to gather for our good, for His glory.”
It’s pretty popular in church circles for people to refer to the church building as “God’s house.” I think that we don’t need to overreact to that, because probably most of the people who use that term don’t really think that God’s home address is 3145 Brook Highland. It’s not that they literally think that God dwells in this building all day, every day in the way that God’s presence was in the Ark of the Covenant, or God’s presence was in the temple. We don’t have to flip out about that, but it is good to make sure that we’re on the same page with the New Testament, and that is that God doesn’t live in this building. So, we’re all clear on that? God doesn’t live here. You turn the lights out, it’s not like God is just sort of hovering here. “See you guys next week. I mean, this is where I live.” That’s not what this building is all about. Church buildings today are not the equivalent of the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament. They’re not the equivalent of Solomon’s Temple.
When the psalmist says, in Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” that was him being glad and rejoicing in the fact that, “I’m going to meet with God in the place where He lives, at the temple!” That was temple-specific language. Now, on this side of the cross, we don’t feel cheated by the fact that we don’t have the Solomon’s Temple. We don’t feel cheated by the fact that there is no Ark of the Covenant. The reason for that is that those things were pointing to a better moment in redemptive history. They were pointing to when Christ would come, and He would tabernacle among us, and He would be the temple. He would say, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” That Jesus Christ is our access to God the Father—day and night, 24/7—we access the presence of the holy God in Jesus. That’s a better day. There is no outer court/inner court worship. It’s all Holy of Holies worship in the New Testament.
That’s a glorious reality. All believers are priests before God. The veil of the temple was torn for a reason. We would be insane to want to go back and build the old temple! Why would we ever want to do that? We have unfettered access to God, day and night, that we might approach His throne of grace with confidence, that we might obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. These are new covenant realities that are massive, and we need to remember them.
But, with those qualifiers in place, don’t those words in Psalm 122:1—“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’”—don’t they capture something of the spirit in which we should gather here, even as New Testament believers? Shouldn’t that be the attitude that we bring with us when we come to Sunday worship? This is the first thing that I loved as a Christian. Before I loved the Bible, before I had any kind of prayer life or devotional life, the first sign of God’s work of grace in my heart was Psalm 122:1 made perfect sense of my experience on Sunday. I woke up, and I was glad when they said to me, “Let’s go worship God. Let’s go gather with His people. Let’s sing God’s praises.” I stood next to Sister Melinda Taylor, and we were the second pew alto section of Calvary Temple in New Orleans. My voice hadn’t changed yet, so that’s why I was one of the altos. She and I would just sing that alto part, and we carried that alto part, and we smiled. Some of those songs that we sang were very repetitive, very repetitive, and we loved every minute of it. Singing with everything I had to the glory of God and experiencing His presence with His gathered people.
It’s an absolutely beautiful thing, and I hope you know what I’m talking about. I hope you’ve experienced this sense of the corporate gathering being something you delight in. It doesn’t mean it’s always awesome. It doesn’t mean every message inspires. It doesn’t mean every song is your favorite, or any of the songs are your favorite. But despite all the mundane things that we see and experience in this gathering, I hope that when you read words like Psalm 34:3—“Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!”—I hope there’s something in your heart that says “Amen. Yes. Let’s do that. Let’s exalt His name together. Let’s magnify His name in this gathering together with joy.” So to serve the Lord with gladness is to live all of life as an act of worship, and it’s to come into the gathering with joy.
How Does God Make Us Glad in Psalm 100?
But this Psalm doesn’t merely call for us to worship the Lord with gladness. The God who calls us to serve Him with gladness is the God who makes us glad. So point number two is: How does God make us glad? How does God make us glad? Look at verse three and verse five: “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.” Verse five—you have explanation, you have purpose language. Why should we give thanks and bless His name? Verse five—here’s why—“For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
You know, one of the things that would have been done when this building was constructed, is they would have done something of a sight-line evaluation. They would do that. They would draw all the seats in this room, and that would be done to scale, and the height and the rise of the building, and where everything is. Then they would set the height of the stage—before all this was built—the height of the stage, where the screens would be. Then all that stuff would be plugged in and factored in to make sure that every seat here can see everything that this building is about presenting. The goal is so that there’s no one here who’s sitting in a seat, trying to read words off of a screen as we worship God together, and only half the screen is in your field of view. That would be a problem. So, a sight-line evaluation.
So you see, in these sight-line schematic evaluations, you see all the seats, and then you see this average height person who’s sitting in all the chairs, and then you see lines from their eyes to here, to screens, to anywhere where stuff is happening that needs to be seen, so that they can guarantee that everyone in the room can view what needs to be viewed and participate in what participated in. There is a sight-line schematic; there is a sight-line evaluation in Psalm 100. There is a design scheme for gathered worship. The goal is that every person in the room would have sight-lines to see the glory of God, sight-lines to see the gospel. This text urges us to think in those two specific ways. Right there in verse three: “Know that He’s God.” Can you see it? He is God.
Then it points to two things. He is Creator—“It is he who made us, and we are his…” He is Redeemer—it uses covenant language: we’re “his people.” Can you see that He, “…we are his people…”? Can you see that we’re His sheep, “…the sheep of his pasture”?
Can you see that the Lord is good, verse five: that “…his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” This is something the Bible takes very seriously—and so do we. We take this very seriously. If Christ is only partially visible when we gather for worship, that’s a fail. If the gospel is sort of photo-bombing gathered worship, right—photo-bombing is sort of when it looks like there’s somebody in the picture who’s not supposed to be there; like the picture wasn’t about that person but there they are, kind of peeking their head in in the corner. If that’s the gospel, if it’s like “Oh, look! We can see the forgiving grace of God right there.” If that’s what gathered worship is, that’s a fail. It needs to be central. We need clear sight-lines to God’s glory, and to His gospel.
My normal role here in Sunday worship isn’t preaching and teaching on a weekly kind of basis. It’s usually here on the piano, leading in musical worship along with a team of musicians like we had this morning. But when our worship staff meets, we’re thinking sight-lines. We’re thinking, “Okay, can people from these songs see Him? Can they see from here, from these songs, can they see God’s holiness? Is it visible to everyone in the room? If they’re attentive, can they see the holiness of God? Can they see our sin in contrast to God’s holiness? Can they see Christ’s forgiving grace in the gospel? Is that viewable from every seat in the room?” If it’s not, it’s a fail. We clean the board. We start over. We say, “Wrong songs.” We need to have songs so that everyone here can see. See what? That He is God. That He made us. That we are His. That we are His people, the people of His pasture.
We need to see these truths, because they electrify the Christian life. They create joy and gladness in our hearts. This gospel changes us personally, changes our corporate gatherings, and it changes the tone and tenor of our gatherings. The psalmist says, “When you gather, gather looking at Him. Know that the Lord, He is God.” Then look where it takes you: It takes you to the doctrine of creation. He made us, and we are His. God owns it all. God is above all. He’s transcendent. He’s not like us. He’s not just a better version of you or me. He is high, and holy, and powerful. He’s the one and only God. He’s in a category all His own.
This text urges us to think big, big thoughts of God. It doesn’t begin by saying, “Know that the LORD, he is God!”—and then it talks about these small ways in which God is working in the world. You know, things like His still, small voice. Let’s just talk about that. No, it’s talking about a rather big way in which God has worked in the world: Namely, He made the world. You don’t get bigger than where this text goes when it says, “Know that the Lord is God. Watch this. Look! He made it! He made it without hands. He made it by speech! He spoke everything that we see into existence. That’s unique power.”
Now I can barely construct a barbecue pit, much less create a world. If you saw me a couple of months ago, trying to construct that barbecue pit, you would have thought I was in the backyard erecting a rocket for NASA. My family was not impressed, trust me. But we’re supposed to gather, singing about a God whose attributes make an impression on us, that we say, “That’s awesome. That’s power.” Before it was all over, in God’s act of creating the world, He made man, male and female, in His own image. We’re supposed to look at that, because it says, “Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his.” That’s where the text goes next; it’s to say, “We belong to this God who made the world and everything in it. You’ve been made in His image.”
I remember when our oldest son, Hunter, was really young. He was maybe six years old. He was so intense. He was so serious about life, and pensive. You could just see him over there, just thinking and lining up his toys. He would write on them, and he would order them, and he would arrange them. He loved to play with Play-Dough. He would make these little figures, little human figure Play-Dough things. At the end of making each one of them, he would take a toothpick, and carve an ‘H’––the first letter of his name––into their heads. So you would see all those cars lined up. And then you’d see all these Play-Dough figures, and you’d go up close enough, and you’d see ‘H’, ‘H’, ‘H’ and it was sort of a claiming right over his creation, right?
Well, then, Will comes along. His brother Will is three years younger, and Will was the absolute opposite of Hunter in every kind of way. Hunter was having a real hard time with this in the early years. Actually, they still have a hard time with this now. Hunter just could not understand how silly his brother was and why his brother wanted to be so goofy all the time. So one day, when there was a lot of frustration in the moment, I said, “Hunter, let’s go talk.” I was trying to get him to realize that it’s a good thing that God makes us different. God makes one person one way and another person another way—and that’s all good, and it brings Him glory. I said, “Hunter, it’s like God made you with Play-Dough. Once He finished making you, He wrote on your head, ‘caring, and serious, and intense.’ Then He made your brother, and He wrote”—now, okay, in fairness, He wrote all kinds of wonderful things about Will, but I’m contextualizing, I’m trying to reach my audience, so this is what I said: “Hunter, so then He made your brother and He wrote on his head, ‘funny and goofy.’”
I thought it was a brilliant parenting moment because, actually, as I was talking with him about how you make these different Play-Dough creatures, he was tracking. I mean we were bonding like we never had before. He was like, “This is my love language, Dad. You understand me.” But as soon as I said that He wrote “funny and goofy” in Will’s head, I found out it was not a brilliant parenting moment because Hunter yelled, “No!” I didn’t still understand. Even in that moment, he couldn’t articulate why he had such a problem with that. I thought about it later on, and I think it was this: That exercise failed to comfort Hunter because when Hunter wrote something on the forehead of one of his Play-Dough figures, that’s what it was. I mean, “It’s an ‘H’! I put it there. It’s that way forever, it’s my figure forever, and you just told me that the sovereign decree of God is that my brother will be goofy for all of his life. There is no hope! Because it was God’s claiming right on the boy. How can I recover from this? There’s no taking God’s etching letter off of his head. It’s a done deal. Dad, you just ended my life.”
Psalm 100 Reminds Us that We are God’s Creation
But God claims us in Psalm 100. It’s a claiming ritual. He made us. We are His. It’s the possessive pronoun. We belong to God. He wrote on your forehead. He gave you life, and gifts, and creativity, and personality. Your uniqueness testifies to the love and the artistry of God. Far from boasting in those gifts, it should cause us to turn and rejoice in them. This is a reason that we can serve the Lord with gladness. He made us. We are His. Everything that we possess has been given to us by Him.
But it’s deeper than this. It’s not just that God is known as creator here. This text has covenantal implications. We are His people, His sheep. This points, not just to Genesis 1, the creation account, but it points to Genesis 12, where God made a covenant with Abraham and with Abraham’s offspring. He would have a special relationship with Abraham and his offspring. You want to see that demonstrated? Jump from Genesis 12 to Exodus 12. God hears His people crying, and He goes, and He rescues them out of Egypt, because they’re His people. He remembered His covenant with Abraham, and He went and rescued them from Egypt.
This covenant relationship isn’t content with just bringing them out of the world. No, He won’t just bring them out. He’s going to bring them home. So the end of the story isn’t Exodus 12. It moves forward to Joshua 6, where the people go into the land. It’s dripping with milk and honey. How faithful God has been to perform all of His word and His promises to us. Here we are: Promised Land beneath our feet. God is faithful. We are His people.
You keep following that covenant strand from Joshua 6, and eventually you end up in Matthew 1. At this point, God’s people had strayed so far from Him. They were scattered everywhere like sheep scattered without a shepherd. Jesus, the Messiah, arrives on the scene, and He tells us He’s here looking for lost sheep. “That’s my purpose. I’m here to find lost sheep.” He goes to the cross as a lamb led to the slaughter, so that He might bring us to God. He says, “You know why I am here? ‘…the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’
He says in John 10, “I am the good shepherd.” He looks and sees the people scattered, His sheep without a shepherd. He says, “‘I am the good shepherd. I lay down my life for the sheep.” This is why we never want to gather without sight-lines to the gospel, reminding us of the way in which God claimed and reclaimed us as His own: in creation and in redemption. We’re twice claimed by God.
Look down and just see how God-centered this whole chapter is. Verse one: “…to the LORD…” Verse two: “Serve the LORD,” “…his presence…” Verse three: “ Know…the LORD,” “…he…made,” “…we are his,” “we are his,” Verse four: “…his gates,” “…his courts,” “…to him,” “…his name!” Verse five: “…LORD is good,” “his steadfast love,” “…his faithfulness…”
Five verses filled with “Lord,” “His,” “Him,” “He.” “Lord,” “His,” “Him,” “He.” God is the center of gathered worship. Throughout this Psalm, gathered worship is for God, gathered worship is because of God. Friends, He is the subject of the best verbs in this gathering. All morning, He is the object of the highest praise. All morning, He is the center of our worship. We’re here because we have known this God, not just as Creator, but as Redeemer. We are here to know Him more through His Word. I hope that’s why you could wake up this morning and say, “I was glad when they said, ‘Let’s go to the house of the Lord’, so that I could learn more of God, His glory, His character.”
Just a point of application: If this is the only opportunity that we’re taking in the week to know this God more, then you’ll probably lack joy and rejoicing when it comes time to sing. But if we are actively knowing Him––day in and day out digging into His Word, feeling His claiming right on our lives, thinking deeply about the implications of what it means to belong to God, to be in God’s forever family—then the odds are good that, when it comes time to sing, there will be some serious joyful noise coming from your area of the room. Why? Because you know that He is God, you know that He made you, you know that you are His. It changes the way we gather, changes the tone of our gatherings. This Psalm doesn’t just come and tell us to rejoice in God, to come and make noise. It tells us why that’s fitting, why that’s appropriate. It tells us where the engine of rejoicing is and where to pour the fuel for gladness. Know that He is God. He made us. We are His people, His sheep.
Jesus tells a story of a shepherd who lost one of his sheep. He had plenty of other ones. Ninety-nine, to be exact, which already tells us something about this shepherd: He counts the sheep. God doesn’t just shepherd a flock in general. He knows His sheep. He doesn’t just know their number—He knows their names. So it’s not surprising, now that we know He’s a sheep counter, He is a specific Father, a specific Shepherd. Now we know that when one sheep wanders off, we know exactly what He’s going to do. Of course. He’s going to go get him. He’s going to go out and track that sheep. He’ll walk for miles to bring one sheep back home. That may be your testimony. He walked for miles to chase you down when you were wandering, and He brought you back home. If that is your testimony, you had no trouble singing for joy to God this morning. It’s a glorious truth. The shepherd seeks his wandering sheep.
Let me just say, while we’re here: Those of you who may have friends or loved ones who are wandering away from God, can I just encourage you to never lose heart? To never stop praying. The Shepherd is a master tracker. He never tires of tracking His sheep down. He will climb over the fence. He will risk the elements. He will spare no pains to see to it that all His sheep are there when the day is done. In a word, “when we are faithless, He remains faithful.” What a word. “When we are faithless, he remains faithful.”
That’s the last motive Psalm 100 gives us. God is not just a creator who spoke the world into existence—He’s high and holy. No, He is good, and “his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Really, verse five is a fitting summary of all of Old Testament worship. If you go to 2 Chronicles, for example––you don’t have to turn there––but if you went to 2 Chronicles 5, you see this awesome moment where Solomon’s Temple is finally completed. It’s taken all these years to build it, and the Ark is set in its place, and the ribbon is clipped, and its time to worship God in the new temple, in Solomon’s Temple. Everything is there.
Second Chronicles 5 is one of the greatest outbursts of worship in the entire Old Testament. The sheep and the oxen that were sacrificed could not be numbered, it says. All the Levitical singers were there. This kind of worship A-team was there. Asaph was there. Heman, Jeduthun, their sons, all arrayed in fine linen, ready to do their work and render their worship to God. One hundred and twenty priests blew trumpets, cymbals, harps, lyres. It was loud; it was a raucous celebration of the faithfulness and the grace of God. When we come to 2 Chronicles 5:13, it tells us the thematic center of that worship gathering. You know what the thematic center, in a single sentence, is? It’ll sound familiar. “For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever.”
Psalm 106 and Psalm 107 are long Psalms. They tell the story of Israel. In one sense, they are history set to music. It tells the whole story of God’s people and the entire Old Testament. The first sentence explains everything about the story of God and His people. Look at the first sentence in both of these historical accounts of the Old Testament. Psalm 106:1, “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Then another storyteller comes on the scene in Psalm 107. He says, “I have a story to tell you. But first, let me explain everything that you’re going to read about.” This is the explanation: “O give thanks to the LORD”—Psalm 107:1—“for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” That topic sentence explains not only everything we read about in the Old Testament, but everything we read about in the New Testament. And not only everything we read about in the New Testament, but everything we’ve experienced from then until this very morning.
Think back through history. Why did God forbear with Abraham when Abraham took the promise into his own hands and had Ishmael with Hagar? Explanation: “…for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Why did God rescue the people out of Egypt, knowing that they would take the very gold that He gave them as they walked out, and then they would melt it down and offer it to a golden calf days later. “His steadfast love endures forever!” That explains everything. We could do this for hours in the Old Testament. Fast-forward to the New Testament. Why did God send His own Son to be rejected, and tortured, and beaten, and crucified? Why did the Lord lay on Him the iniquity of us all? The answer: “…his steadfast love endures forever!” It’s not a different theme. It’s the same theme for the worship of God.
Fast-forward one more time. Why did He come after you? Why did God save me? I had no righteousness in me to attract Him. Why did God come for me? This explains everything: “…the steadfast love of the LORD endures forever.” This is the one great explanation for it all. The Lord is good, and His steadfast love endures forever. There’s not a person here who isn’t familiar with the experience of hearing good news, but I don’t have to know everybody in this room to know that you’ve never heard better news than this. You’ve never heard better news than this. This news is good enough to make us glad. This is the best news the world could ever hear.
Let there be no mistake: God wants the world to hear this news. God wants this life of rejoicing that we’re encouraged to participate in, to impact the whole world. How do we know? Because of verse one, where our Psalm began. Psalm 100:1 is a global call to worship. “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!” Commentator Derek Kidner says verse one, “claims the world for God.” Don’t disconnect that from everything that’s come before
So when we worship God with joy, when we serve Him in our everyday lives, when we meditate on this gospel, it creates a kind of holy energy, a kind of outgoing energy—such that those who come and sing God’s praises don’t stop singing God’s praises when we leave. No, our praise of God just changes directions. For the believer, the Sunday gathering is “come and see the glory of God,” and for the believer, every other moment outside the Sunday gathering is “go and tell the glory of God.” Our praise just changes directions. We come and see it, and we go and tell about it. There’s a beautiful connection between gathered praise and worldwide worship, right here in Psalm 100.
There’s another one that’s found in Nehemiah. I’ll read it to you. This is such a thrilling verse. What a thrilling prospect it is and holds out before us because it links gathered worship and rejoicing to the impact in the worldwide worship of our God. Nehemiah 12:43: “And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced (Listen) and the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.” The joy of Jerusalem was heard far away. Oh, that this city would hear the joy of Jerusalem. Oh, that the nations would hear the joy of Jerusalem, the joy of God’s people. He has made us glad. Let’s fill the earth with songs about the God who has made His people glad.
Look, when we come together and we confess this glorious gospel, and then we’re slung out into a thousand different places in this community, what will a people filled with joy in God say to the world? I hope we’ll say exactly what we said when we gathered: “Know the Lord.”
“The Calling and Making of Joyful Worshipers” Psalm 100
- What is this call to serve the Lord with gladness? (V1-2, 4)
- We come together in gathered worship to “serve the Lord.”
- At the same time, we “serve the Lord” as we live every moment of our lives for his glory.
- Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)
- And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
- So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
- There is no sacred/secular divide for the Christ-follower. All of life is sacred.
- “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; andwhat does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8)
- Worship is more than participation in worship gatherings, but it’s not less than that.
- How does God make us glad? (V3, 5)
- The goal of gathered worship is that every person would be able to fix their eyes on the glory of God and the gospel.
- This text urges us to think of God as Creator: He made us. We are his.
- This text urges us to think of God as Redeemer: We are his people, his sheep.
- Gathered worship is, first and foremost, for God.
- Gathered worship is because of God.
- We’re here because we have known Him, and we’re here to know Him more through his Word.
- V5 explains everything we read not only in the OT, but the NT, and not only the NT, but it’s the story of God’s dealings with his people down to the present.
- God wants this life of rejoicing to impact the whole world. (V1)