Now thank we all our God! – Psalm 100
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 20, 2011 AM
For some people being thankful is kind of like the story told about a 4-year-old daughter and her mother who were strolling through an open-air market. As the little girl stared at a large pile of oranges, a generous vendor took one from the pile and handed it to the little girl. “What do you say to the nice man?” the mother asked her daughter. The little girl looked at the orange, then thrust it toward the man and said, “Peel it!” Often, thankfulness is something we learn and grow into. How easy it is for us to respond to God’s graciousness like that 4-year-old. An attitude of being thankful is a mark of a maturing faith.
The early Pilgrims understood this. In fact, after surviving the first years in the American wilderness, they deliberately set out to print a song book of praise taken from the Psalms. The Bay Psalm Book is an important piece of our nation’s history. It was the first book entirely written and printed in the Colonies. When one considers the difficulties of mere survival during this time, accounting for the short time of 20 years after the first arrivals in Plymouth in 1620, the magnitude of the effort and accomplishment is even more impressive. The first printing press in New England was purchased and imported specifically to print this book in order to give God praise and thanksgiving! Why would our forefathers make such a big deal out of praising and thanking God? Let’s find out…
Music in worship by the Pilgrims was done without musical accompaniment, by the whole congregation, with men on one side and women on the other. Calling themselves “Separatists”, they believed in separating themselves from ungodly influences of the world and the Anglican Church even in singing! They had sailed to America from England for freedom of worship. Scripture was taught both literally and historically. This Psalm reminded them to be thankful for God’s provision. Why? Because…
I. An attitude of gratitude honors the Lord and changes our life! (Vv. 1-2)
1. Joy is the best proof of having the presence of God in our life!
1) Notice how the Psalmist sings in these first two verses – he relates, “shout for joy,” “worship… with gladness,” and “come… with joyful songs!” The focus of this glad, joyful singing and shouting is “the Lord.” A rejoicing believer is one of the best advertisements for God. It is a fact that when you are joyfully singing to the Lord, you forget about the cares of life. David would sing, “Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; let all the upright in heart praise him!” (Psalm 64:10 NIV) Paul would write the persecuted church, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV) Paul knew that a believer who joyful encourages others refreshes those around them. He wrote to Philemon, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” (Philemon 1:7 NIV) There are three things that are the enemies of a joyful heart: 1) boredom, 2) worry, and 3) self-centerness. However, when our focus is on the Lord and encouraging others to “come before Him with joyful song,” we honor God with the happiness of our hearts. A joy is multiplied when it is divided with others! Today if you are downcast, sad-faced, or wallowing in disappointment, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” An attitude of gratitude honors the Lord, and it can change your life!
EXAMPLE: The Pilgrims knew that joy is a decision of the human heart and a determination of our will. We decide whether to rejoice and be glad in each day that God has made or not. And in doing so, we bring the joy of the Lord to others around us. You cannot fake it, nor manufacture it. It is something that grows out of the happy heart of the believer, boils over in their soul, and splashes out on others. It is infectious, vibrant, lovely, and wonderful. Contrary to popular folk myth, the early Pilgrims were neither grim nor straight-laced folk. In fact they were some of the most happy, joyous, and loving people on earth. Pilgrims did not wear dire black clothing or big buckles on their boots and belts. Quite the contrary they loved colorful clothing, telling stories, dancing, and singing songs that remembered an attitude of gratitude which honored the Lord. They knew their attitude could change their whole outlook on life!
This attitude would serve them well the first few years of their settling on America’s shores. Most would die that first year from disease, cold, and the weather. Ill-prepared, they were resilient folk who loved God wholeheartedly. They left England for America in order to practice their faith the way God desired them to. This Psalm was one of their favorites. Why? They understood…
II. Gratitude should always be the keynote of our worship of God! (v. 3)
1. He who puts God first, will be happy at last!
1) Notice what David states: “Know that the Lord is God.” He calls the people to recognize and “know” God’s words, works, and character. When we “know” intrinsically who God is in our lives, our humble obedience is the only fitting reaction. We also understand that God is the one “who made us, and we are his.” When we recognize God’s authority and kingship in our lives, we become “his people, the sheep of his pasture.” This is why David could sing, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” (Psalm 23:1 NIV) David did not need to worry about anything. His Creator and Shepherd would provide. Later, the Psalmist would say, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” (Psalm 95:6-7 NIV) Paul would relate, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV) Our care is to be founded in the Shepherd of our souls Jesus Christ. “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me,” Jesus related. (John 10:14) Our gratitude should always be the keynote of our worship of God, who is our good shepherd!
EXAMPLE: After the Pilgrims survived the first year and began to see some sort of success, they paused to thank God for His love and care. They declared several days of thanksgiving and praise. Edward Winslow, one of the early pilgrims, wrote a small book in 1624 where he thanked God for the “hope of converting the Heathen of their evil ways, and convincing them to the true knowledge and worship of the living God, and so consequently the salvation of their souls by the merits of Jesus Christ….” He saw “the good providence of God working” in the “preservation from so many dangerous plots and treacheries, as have been intended against us; as also in giving his blessing so powerfully upon the weak means we had… they might easily have swallowed us up…. Blessed therefore be his name, that hath done so great things for us, and hath wrought so great a change amongst us.” He could not help himself; he just had to thank God for all his care! Gratitude should always be the keynote of our worship of God.
The religious practices of the pilgrims, as I stated earlier, included the unaccompanied singing of metered and rhymed versions of the psalms. To sing the hymns, many rural congregations practiced what was known as “lining out”, a technique that involved their own memory and the leadership of someone with a powerful voice; the leader would sing one line at a time, and the congregation would sing it back. Again, this Psalm was a favorite to sing. Why? Because…
III. God is worthy of our thanks and praise! (Vv. 4-5)
1. Thankfulness is a duty before it is a feeling!
1) Notice that David commands his listeners to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving.” It is a call to worship God with thankful hearts. God is found in two places – at home in heaven and a thankful human heart. This is why Scripture reminds us to “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever…. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1-3, 26) Thanksgiving proceeds from a heart that has been redeemed by God. However, also notice that we are called to “enter… his courts with praise.” In fact, Psalm 107:31-32 commands us to “give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men,” and to “exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.” God teaches us that “the people I formed for myself” were specifically created to “proclaim my praise.” (Isaiah 43:20 NIV) The reason we thank and praise God is because he “is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations!” (v. 5) God is steadfast towards those who love him. Every generation, from David down to now, is reminded God is worthy of our thanks and praise!
EXAMPLE: Pastor John Robinson ended his farewell letter to the Pilgrims onboard the Mayflower, before they left England by encouraging them to praise God’s “name all the days of your and our lives.” Pastor Robinson could not go but wanted them to remember God who took care of them no matter what happened. It was good advice, because most would perish within the first year of landing in Massachusetts. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast to acknowledge God’s providence. It lasted three days and was interspersed with praise and prayer. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November. The proclamation was written by Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward. It began, “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.” Whether surviving severe conditions or a “civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity,” our forefathers understood that God is worthy of our thanks and praise!
What are some of the discouragements in our lives? They are not always the big difficulties, but often the petty annoyances, the little trials from which we cannot escape. If you are looking for a way to increase your thanks, why not this week memorize Psalm 100. These five short verses containing less than a hundred words could launch you into a new adventure of thanksgiving. Put it into your mind and heart today. Repeat it to a friend. Offer it as a silent prayer before each meal every day. Say it aloud and allow the Lord to change your focus from problems to praise.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.