A Psalm for Giving Thanks (Psalm 100)

This sermon was originally preached in 2015.

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 ESV

Though our present journey through the Psalms has been a short one, we have explored some of the most important psalms and their themes. For Psalm 1, we learned that there are only two types of people: the righteous and wicked, and for the righteous, everything is worship. Psalm 19 taught us that creation begs us to worship the Creator, and God’s Word reveals to us His great love and mercy. The 23rd Psalm urged us to place our absolute faith in the Good Shepherd. In Psalm 51, David gave to us an example of truly repenting to God in prayer. Lastly, Psalm 84 declared the joy of longing to be with God.

We finish our current study with the theme which most people associate most with worshiping God: praise. This psalm is quite popular for its brief, but potent, call for us to worship the LORD with joy and thanksgiving. With emphatic commands the psalmist cries for God’s people to praise Him and to serve Him with gladness.

Indeed, as much as the psalm is about praise, it is also about thankfulness to the LORD. The psalm is composed of two rounds of commands and statements. Verses 1-2 command us to worship God, and verse 3 tells us why we should do so with gladness. Verse 4 orders us to give thanks to the LORD, while verse 5 reminds us to do so because of God’s goodness. There is never a demand to worship God out of forced requirement; rather, the psalmist urges us to praise God out of overflowing thankfulness to Him!


Beginning the first set of the psalmist’s commands, he calls us to make a joyful noise to the LORD. As we will see in verses 3 and 5, there is entirely sufficient reasons for us to be commanded to praise God because He is absolutely worthy of our praise. Therefore, within this verse, I will not spend time discussing that subject; rather, I will address the final clause of verse 1: “all the earth.” Many commentators and pastors have seen within this verse a prophetic command that all the nations of the earth will one day praise the LORD. This seems to me accurate as to the psalmist’s intention. We understand that one day every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.[1] However, we could also understand it to mean that God would one day have worshipers from among all the earth, or we could say it like this: the Gentiles will join in worship of God. It is important for us to always remember that God is the God of the whole earth, and He will be worshiped in every language.

It is important that service to and for God comes from a glad heart. God does not desire for us to come before Him out of unpleasant obligation; He wants our joyful obedience. In fact, I would go so far as to say that forced worship is not worship. To be fair, there is a distinction between not feeling joyful in the moment and habitually not finding delight in the LORD. In the moments that we do not feel glad in worshiping God, we can cry out with the Psalm 103:1, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” There often come times when we must preach to our hearts to feel what our minds know that they should feel. However, repeatedly forcing ourselves into the service of the LORD without gladness reveals a heart that likely is still unconverted.

Delight in divine service is a token of acceptance. Those who worship God with a sad countenance, because they do what is unpleasant to them, aren’t worshiping Him at all; they bring the form of homage, but the life is absent. Our God requires no slave to grace His throne. His is the Lord of the empire of love and would have His servants dressed in the livery of joy. The angels of God worship Him with songs, not with groans; a murmur or a sigh would be a mutiny in their ranks. That obedience which isn’t voluntary is disobedience, for the Lord looks at the heart, and if He sees that we worship Him from force, and not because we love Him, He will reject our offering. Worship coupled with cheerfulness is heart worship, and therefore true. Take away joyful willingness from the Christian, and you have removed the test of his sincerity.[2]

I have heard it said that Martin Luther called music, second only to Scripture, the greatest gift that God gave humanity. I find that statement quite true. Music is marvelously powerful upon the soul of all people. Whether we are singing love songs or break up songs, joyous ode or woeful laments, music gives expression to the heart’s inner groanings. It is no wonder then that Paul urged the Colossians to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”[3] From the beginning, Christianity has worshiped the beauty of Christ with singing. Dr. Bruce Shelley notes that, “The most treasured hymns of the church have always treated Christ as an Object of Worship. We find the beating heart of Christian experience not in the church’s creed but in its music.”[4] It should come as no surprise then that two of most marvelous Christological passages (Col. 1:15-20 & Phil. 2:5-11) are thought to have been hymns of the early church.


Following the commands to praise the LORD, we now receive our reason for praising Him: He is God! What a magnificent statement! We should praise God because He is God. In his book, Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis remarks that after becoming a Christian, he had much difficulty with the idea of being commanded to praise God. It seemed to him that God was acting like a megalomaniac, demanding praise to fuel His ego. However, read how he came to understand the nature of praise:

The miserable idea that God should in any sense need, or crave for, our worship like a vain woman wanting compliments, or a vain author presenting his new books to people who never met or heard of him, is implicitly answered by the words “If I be hungry I will not tell thee” (50,12). Even if such an absurd Deity could be conceived, He would hardly come to us, the lowest of rational creatures, to gratify His appetite. I don’t want my dog to bark approval of my books. Now that I come to think of it, there are some humans whose enthusiastically favourable criticism would not much gratify me.

But the most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game—praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praise least. The good critics found something to praise in many imperfect works; the bad ones continually narrowed the list of books we might be allowed to read… Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible… I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.[5]

Notice the two primary points Lewis makes there: enjoyment overflows into praise and all men urge others to praise what they care about. If we truly believe that the LORD is God, will we not do exactly what this psalmist is doing? Will we not beckon others to join us in praising the glories of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ?

I will not now dive into the thought of being God’s sheep because we have already discussed that notion in Psalm 23. I want, instead, to remind us of balance in worship. Within this psalm and Psalm 84, we have seen an urging to be joyful and exuberant in our worship of God; however, we must also note that Christianity bears a solemnity that Judaism did not possess. The Jews of the Old Testament rejoiced that they were God’s people, and we are commanded to do the same, that is true. Yet within the Old Testament, they did not fully understand the depth of how we became God’s people. To quote Shelley again, he opens up his book on church history with this statement: “Christianity is the only major religion to have as its central event the humiliation of its God.” We know now that God died to make us His people. That places a heaviness upon Christianity that Judaism simply could not understand. How then do we worship? Christian worship, I believe, ought to be a paradox of sorts. We should worship God “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet make many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”[6]


The Christian’s heart ought to be marked by thankfulness. Even during the most adverse circumstances, we understand that God has spared us nothing in Christ because He has given to us Himself! Since we are then in possession of so great a gift, how can we not be thankful! However, consider still the commands of Paul for us to give thanks. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”[7] “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”[8] “Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[9] “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”[10]

I have discussed elsewhere the biblical notions of being blessed or blessings. To be blessed by God is to have the unequivocal favor of God. We are blessed when we know that God’s faithfulness and steadfast love are for us. However, that definition does not work for this usage. The psalmist is not declaring that God has given favor to His name. What then can we say this statement means? The concept of blessing has its root in the idea of kneeling; therefore, at its core, the psalmist is declaring that he kneels before God’s name. Kneeling has long been a custom for giving honor to another person. By humbling ourselves down before someone, we are exalting them; we give to them a privileged status. This is precisely the psalmist’s intent. He is prostrating himself before God, acknowledging that the LORD’s name is far greater than His own. By humbling ourselves similarly, we exalt and, therefore, worship God.


The psalmist concludes this psalm of thanksgiving with another declaration concerning God. Not only is the LORD God; He is also good. How often do we take this knowledge for granted! It is simply not enough to know that God is God. It is not enough to understand the enormity, power, and glory of God. Such knowledge will only lead to us fear and hide from the awesome might of Him. We also need to know that God is good. We need to know that our God is steadfast in His love and enduring in His faithfulness. It is right and proper for us to fear the LORD’s holiness and greatness, but we also must come to marvel at the grace and mercy that He shows to us. Indeed, proper knowledge of God should always lead to worship of God. We cannot truly understand the justice and mercy of God without falling down before Him in thankful praise.

[1] Phil. 2:11

[2] Spurgeon, Jan. 9e

[3] Col. 3:16

[4] 109

[5] 93-95

[6] 1 Cor. 6:10

[7] Col. 4:2

[8] Phil. 4:6

[9] Eph. 5:20

[10] 1 Thess. 5:18


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