The Heart of Worship
Songs shape and reflect culture.
Songs reflect culture by capturing the mood, the thoughts and values of the day. Songs shape culture by influencing the mood, the thoughts and values of the day.
We as Christians have our own songs and culture.
God has provided us with a unique songbook. We know it as the book of Psalms. It is included in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament because it has a unique ability to shape our hearts and transform our lives. These songs can capture our mood, thoughts and values on any given day. They also have the ability to influence our mood thoughts and values.
Today we are going to look at just one of these Psalms, Psalm 100.
Psalm 100 is a song of thanksgiving and praise. Over the millennia, it has been a favorite of God's people as an expression of our worship. This Psalm calls us to praise the Lord. This call to worship includes two things. It includes delighting ourselves in the Lord, and it includes entering into his presence with thanksgiving.
Psalm 100 opens with, “Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy.”
This is both an exhortation and a prophecy.
It is a prophecy because a day is coming when the whole earth will worship God. Romans 14:11 says, "'As surely as I live,' says the LORD, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.'" The implication here is that in the end, when God judges the hearts and motives of all people, everyone will acknowledge that the Lord is God.
However, we are blessed to be able to do this now. We can willingly, from the heart, acknowledge that the Lord is God. This Psalm commands or exhorts us to do just this. At this point, God is not saying, “Do this or else!” He is saying do this because it is the source of joy and rejoicing.
Taken from this Psalm, worship can be a shout or song. We do not have to feel joyful to begin singing the praises of our God. Worship can be the source of our joy. The Psalms are full of the praises of the Lord. These praises give us joy and strength. Psalm 28:7 says, “The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”
This joy and this thanksgiving start with acknowledging that the Lord is God. Psalm 100:3 says:
Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Acknowledging that the Lord is God is exactly what the world does not want to do. Humanity has dreamed up the theory of evolution so that there is no need to acknowledge God. Romans chapter 1 verses 18 -19 tell us:
But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.
The principle thing that keeps them from acknowledging God is self. We know that all that the world offers is summed up in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. (1 John 2:15-16) Philippians 3:19 says of these people, “They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.”
Although the things this world has to offer are very attractive, they lead to destruction. This is more obvious with the destruction that comes with the unrestrained pursuit of appetites. Alcoholism, drug abuse, sexually related social problems and diseases cost our world more economically, emotionally and in terms of lost human life than any of us can imagine.
If we talk just in terms of alcohol consumption, the United States Centers for Disease Control estimates that in 2006 excessive drinking cost the United States $223.5 billion, or about a $1.90 per drink.[ii] Mind you, this is talking only about the United States, not the problem worldwide, and it is talking about only one problem.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, there are about 2.5 million alcohol-related deaths annually worldwide.[iii] To give you an idea of how huge this problem is, this amounts to 4.5 out of every 100 deaths worldwide.[iv] Again, this is only one problem and it is only the loss of human lives, and does not include the economic impact.
The book of Ecclesiastes explores the emptiness of pursuing all that the world has to offer. However, not only is there misery and destruction in this life, there are eternal consequences as well. Jesus asked a question we all need to face. “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” (Mark 8:36)
We see in our culture, on our televisions, in our schools, and on our streets the promotion of the unrestrained exercise of our appetites. Correspondingly, all around us, we see the consequences of destruction that comes as a result. The answer, the solution is right here before us today. It starts with acknowledging God. It starts with finding our joy, our satisfaction, our fulfillment in the God who created us. We are his people the sheep of his pasture. Until we humbly acknowledge this, all other pursuits will only lead to destruction.
This call to worship that we find in Psalm 100 resonates with the hearts of God's people because we know that this is our very life. However, the Psalm does not end here; there is a second part to this call to worship. The first part of this call to worship was to delight ourselves in God. The second part is to enter into his presence with thanksgiving.
Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.”
Before we talk about thanksgiving, let us consider that this is an invitation to enter into the presence of God.
Psalm 24:3-4 asks a question. It says, “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.”
Although not one of us fits this description perfectly, we are each and every one invited to come into the presence of the Lord. This is made possible through what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Romans 3:21-22 says:
“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”
Psalm 100 invites us all into the presence of God, and we are instructed to come with thanksgiving. These instructions come with an explanation.
There are those among us who like to ask why. In this case, we are given the why. Why should we come with thanksgiving? Psalm 100:5 says, “For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”
Our thanksgiving is in response to God’s goodness.
This is describing God’s character. Goodness is one of God’s attributes. It is something that is true about God.
God is infinite. He has no limits and no boundaries. When we say He is Holy or loving, His holiness and love know no limits or bounds. They are measureless and perfect. The same is true of God’s goodness. Everything He does is good, perfect and pure.
It is important for us to understand this because the world asks us questions. Why does God allow evil? If He could stop a crime from happening, why would He not? In the face of such questions, we assume the answer still rests in the goodness of God. God is good and He does not do anything that is not good.
Psalm 37:7-9 says:
Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land.
While we are instructed to wait patiently for the Lord and trust in His goodness, in Psalm 100, the Psalmist points out two truths about God’s goodness. First, “His unfailing love continues forever.” Second, “His faithfulness continues to each generation.”
The phrase, “His unfailing love,” is speaking of God’s kindness or mercy. It is because of the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed. (Lamentations 3:22) All we like sheep have gone astray and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6) This mercy is part of what we mean when we say that God is good. It is great cause for thanksgiving and praise.
God has not and will not let one evil act go unpunished. His justice is absolute. However, for the one who accepts Jesus, He tells us that He has laid our iniquities on Him. Jesus accepted our punishment for us. This is God’s goodness at work.
As if this is not enough cause for thanksgiving, the truth of God’s mercy is coupled with the truth of His faithfulness. Psalm 100 says, “His faithfulness continues to each generation.”
The word translated “faithfulness” here, is translated, “steadfastness,” “firm,” “truth,” and “stability” in other places. It refers to the fact that God never changes. His promises never fail. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
The same God that parted the Red Sea before the children of Israel is watching over you today. The same God that was with David when he faced Goliath is with you today. The same God that raised Jesus from the dead is a God that we worship today.
Psalm 100 calls upon us to praise the Lord. We do this by acknowledging him, and we do this by thanking him.
The Psalms are a great source of songs to praise, thank and worship the Lord. These songs will influence our thoughts, our mood and our ideas about God. This is exactly what Romans 12:2 is talking about when it tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Don't let this culture, this evil day, squeeze you into its mold. Rather, let God transform you by the renewing of your mind and heart. Start with the Psalms. Read them. Find one that expresses your heart to God and use it as your own prayer before him. Soon you will find the blessing of entering into his Gates with thanksgiving in your heart and into his courts with praise.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[iv] Worldwide annual death statistics taken from: www.ecology.com/birth-death-rates/