Psalm 100 | How to Live with Thanksgiving

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.

 

Introduction

Well, we’ve just finished thanksgiving, and we’re at the end of our 30 days of thanks series here at Refuge. And if you’re like me, you wish thanksgiving arose in your heart more often.

There’s this great quote from, A.A. Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh. “Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.”

My heart is relatively bigger than Piglet’s, and yet I wonder how much gratitude it can hold. So, what a great thing it is to have a day set aside to give thanks. But for the Christian, giving thanks should be a way of life.

Today I want to show us from Psalm 100 how we can make thanksgiving a way of life. But since the Psalms are poems, we need to do a little bit of work to understand the structure to see the whole. We have a slide for this.

Here’s the structure. Look at it in stanzas - verses 3 and 5 are supporting statements underneath verses 1, 2, and 4. Verses 3 and 5 are like pillars of truth holding up the commands of this psalm.

We can break it down into three points.

  1. To live with thanksgiving, we need truth to support it (vv. 3, 5).
  2. To live with thanksgiving, we need feelings to spur it (v. 4).
  3. To live with thanksgiving, we need actions to complete it (vv. 1, 2).

The order here is important. It’s what makes Christianity unique. We receive truth first, then feelings of thanksgiving start to burn, then we express those feelings through actions. What makes Christianity unique is that we receive everything by grace. We don’t work to earn it. We receive salvation by faith alone through Christ alone. Then once we’ve received that, we realize how thankful we are and we respond in good works. That’s how thanksgiving works. It’s a response to something given. So, our first point.

To live with thanksgiving, we need truth to support it (vv. 3, 5).

                3       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.

                5       For the Lord is good;

his steadfast love endures forever,

and his faithfulness to all generations.

Oxford Dictionary has a new word of the year for 2016. Know what it is? “Post-truth.” Definition: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Doesn’t that sum up 2016?

But our feelings will change. They’ll let us down if it’s all we have. Christians don’t live post-truth lives. Our feelings don’t drive truth and action; truth drives feelings and action. Francis Schaeffer said that Christianity is true truth – it’s absolute truth. If you drill all the way down to the bedrock bottom of the universe what you find is the truth of who God is and what he says.

Notice the first word in verse 3, know. That word indicates certainty. If there is a word in this Psalm that supports all the others, it’s this word know. Knowing is the prerequisite for everything else in the Psalm. To live with thanksgiving, we need truth to support it.

So, what should we know? As if he’s preparing the Thanksgiving feast, the Psalmist lists seven things to know about God, so let’s get a little helping of each.  

1.     He is God (v. 3)

This is the main dish – the turkey in the center of the table, if you will. It’s the first thing we must know – that God is God.

In 1 Kings 18 God was put to the test by the prophets of Baal, a pagan god. Elijah, God’s prophet, came to the people of Israel and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

Elijah and the prophets of Baal then have a showdown. All 450 of the prophets of Baal pray and wait for Baal to send fire down upon the alter. Nothing comes. Then Elijah asks for the alter to be flooded with water. If the fire comes, it’ll have to be a miracle. Elijah prays. “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

He’s not one god among many. He’s the only true God. If we get this right everything else falls into place.

2.     He made us (v. 3)

We are not accidents. We have divine intention. We were made by God, in his image. David expresses this in Psalm 139 when he says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.”

Humanity is not formed by throwing a group of molecules into a stretch of time and a bundle of chance. We are knitted with careful attention to detail. The you that you are is no accident. You were created by God. You were thought of before the foundation of the world. You have significance, even glory, because God made you!

3.     We are his people (v. 3)

He not only made us but wants us. We’ve done enough sinning to be eternally separated from God. But he still calls us his. He wants us. He wants you.

How can we know that? Because he came for us. In sin, we turned our back on him, but in grace, he turned his face toward us. Jesus left his home in heaven, pushed out, as it were, by his great love for us. He accomplished the work of salvation because his heart beat for his people. He couldn’t have it any other way. He wouldn’t abandon us. The Bible says His people are the apple of his eye (Ps. 17:8).

4.     We are the sheep of his pasture (v. 3)

He’s not a benevolent but distant father. No, he’s in the field with us. He shepherds us. This imagery shows God’s loving care. He leads. He protects. He disciplines. He guides. We’re not left to ourselves. We’re under the kind watch of the Good Shepherd. If we stray, he comes to get us!

Psalm 23 comes to mind. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

5.     He is good (v. 5)

For the Lord is good. Who is good but God alone? (Luke 18:19) He is good and does good (Ps. 119:68). The Lord is good to all, and his mercies are over all his works (Ps. 145:9). For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon you (Ps. 86:5). But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:11-12).

Who secures an eternal redemption for his people except for the one who is good? He’s not just good to some; he’s good to you.

6.     His steadfast love endures forever (v. 5)

The Hebrew word used for steadfast love is chesed. This is God’s loyal love. It’s the love that he bound himself to by his covenant promises. It’s a never-ending, ever-present, eternally-increasing, constantly-shaping, fiercely-protective love. It’s the love that kept a remnant of Israel throughout their sinful life. It’s the love that pushed Jesus down into our world. It’s the love that bound him to human skin. It’s the love that empowered him to fight temptation and remain sinless. It’s the love that compelled him to endure the cross for the joy set before him. (Hebrews 12:2) And we are that joy! If he was willing to endure all of that, how can we doubt his steadfast love now? He won’t give up on you!

7.     His faithfulness endures to all generations (v. 5)

When we are unfaithful, he remains faithful (2 Tim. 2:13). He never runs out of faithfulness. He didn’t for Israel and he won’t for you. You fit inside the “all generations” of this verse. Micah 2:5 says, “My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.” And one day, Christ will return. “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4).

So, the table has been set with the knowledge of God and his heart toward us. To live with thanksgiving, we need truth to support it. We also need feelings to spur it (v. 4)

To live with thanksgiving, we need feelings to spur it (v. 4).

4    Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!

Give thanks to him; bless his name!

Feelings matter. They aren’t all that matter, but they certainly matter. The Christian life is not emotionless and anyone who says so doesn’t understand it. But the emotions are based on truth and therefore have a foundation to really exist – they can last.

Years ago, I was serving with my church at the Nashville Rescue Mission. It was a cold Friday night. I had finished serving food and sat down by one man. By God’s providence, he wanted to talk about God. “This is great!” I thought. No need to find a way to bring God into the conversation. He just jumped right in!

“How do you enter the gates of God?” He asked. I searched my mind and found what I thought was a reasonable answer. “With joy,” I said. “Nope,” he replied. “With praise?” I shot back. “Wrong!” he shouted. We went back and forth like this for what felt like forever. He finally said, “Aha! I’ve caught you not reading your Bible!”

Psalm 100, verse 4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving.” He was waiting for the word thanksgiving.

Here was a homeless man, receiving food he didn’t buy from a man he didn’t know, in a room full of other homeless men escaping the winter weather. And he had treasure I didn’t know about. Of all the things he could have brought up, he wanted to talk about thankfulness to God.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you.” He had learned how to give thanks in all circumstances. He understood that he was among the people of God. He was in. And when we realize we’re counted as one among the people of God, we respond the same way. We can’t contain our thanksgiving.

The gates and courts of God here in this verse refer to the temple where Israel worshiped. To enter his gates and courts was to enter God’s presence. The temple had a structure. It had rules and degrees of separation based on the kind of person you were. For example, there was a place called the Most Holy Place. It was separated from the other sections by a big, thick curtain. Only the High Priest could enter that room once a year, the Day of Atonement, because it was the earthly dwelling place of God. But no matter who you were or where you could go, the command stood – enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Why? Because they have access to the God of the universe! He dwells with his people!

Do we realize how much more access to God we have than these Israelites? When Jesus died on the cross, that big, thick curtain was ripped in two – from top to bottom! The Bible says, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

God tore that curtain because Jesus’ sacrifice was perfect for all time. No more separation! We’ve been made clean, washed by the blood of Christ! We’re no longer hoping for salvation. It has come fully and perfectly in Jesus Christ! By the power of the purifying gospel of Jesus Christ we sinners can come to God. Every need you have you can take fully and openly to the King of the universe. God doesn’t just dwell with us in a temple somewhere. He now dwells inside of us by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are never without God’s presence!

When we have rock-solid truth that shows us who God is and what he’s done it creates overwhelming feelings of thanksgiving. He has come to us and made us his! That we, sinful as we are, would be made clean by this holy God, oh the wonder!

The degree to which you see the truth of the gospel is the degree to which feelings of thanksgiving will arise in your heart.

When we see how loved we really are, how utterly saved and redeemed we really are, how great God’s love and care for us really is, feelings of thanksgiving well up and spur us on.

You know, I think a heart filled with thanksgiving is the most restful a heart can be. It’s not trying to prove anything. It’s not trying to earn anything. It’s just happy to be in the presence of the one who gave it all.

So, we have the solid food of truth that fills us to create feelings of thanksgiving that spur us, and lead, finally, to actions to complete it (vv. 1-2).

To live with thanksgiving, we need actions to complete it (vv. 1, 2).

Notice the inscription right under the heading of this Psalm, “A Psalm for Giving Thanks.” The Hebrew word that we translate “giving thanks” means to praise or to give public acknowledgment. It indicates that we are to tell others what God has done. The thanksgiving this Psalm is speaking of is a public thanksgiving. That’s why we did our 30 days of thanks series of videos and photos. We wanted to publicly praise and acknowledge God. We give thanks to God through the action of praise. Praise reveals who we’re thankful to.

Biblical thanksgiving looks like this, verses 1-2.

1       Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.

2       Serve the Lord with gladness!

Come into his presence with singing!

 

We have three public actions here:

  1. Make a joyful noise
  2. Serve the Lord
  3. Come into his presence

Let’s look briefly at each.

1.     Make a joyful noise

College football is the best example I can think of. An underdog team at home against a big-name rival. The underdog wins, and the crowd goes wild. The band plays. The fans storm the field. It’s impossible not to smile. That’s a joyful noise.

A joyful noise is never aimless. There’s always a direction. Notice the direction of the joyful noise here. Make a joyful noise to the Lord. That phrase “Make a joyful noise” in verse one is a cry of celebration as one would give to a king.

This Psalm instructs us to parade into church as if we’re celebrating the exaltation of a great King. It’s an invitation to get rowdy in the presence of the Lord. The big game has been won. The underdog claimed victory upon the cross. His resurrection proved it. Now, we’re in that in-between of the afterglow before the big party later on where we can’t stop talking about that final play that sealed the game. We can’t seem to replay it enough or tell enough people about it.

2.     Serve the Lord

So, we make a joyful noise to the Lord. Second, we “Serve the Lord.” But how do we serve the Lord? Serve the Lord with gladness. The word, “serve,” indicates we are doing work, accomplishing things for God. But there are two primary ways we can do that. One is to do it begrudgingly. The other is to do it with gladness. How are you serving God? Do you see it as a chore or as a joy? Thankful hearts serve the Lord with gladness out of response to his goodness. There is a settled-ness to it. It’s not an anxious serving. It’s restful.

Serving with gladness is serving loved, not serving to be loved.

3.     Come into his presence

How do we come into his presence? With singing. The best illustration I can think of is the way my middle child, Luke, comes into the room when his baby brother, Andy, is already there. He will often look at him, smile, and sing out his full name Andrew David McLemore! He comes into the presence of his brother with singing. Why? Because he delights in him. And for my three-year-old, that’s expressed best with singing. We sing about what we delight in. Do we come into God’s presence the same way?

To live with thanksgiving, we need actions to complete it. Praising God is the final step in the giving of thanks.

 

Conclusion

Let me close with C.S. Lewis. He puts it this way in his book Reflections on the Psalms. 

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with…The catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

And so it is with thanksgiving. When we give thanks, we complete the joy.

When we see what God has done, we respond in thanksgiving and praise. We enter his gates with thanksgiving not because we’ve worked up enough gratitude to do so, but because we’ve seen enough of God that we can’t help but do so. Thanksgiving is all about responding. 

Our hearts may be very small but they can hold a large amount of gratitude.