A Psalm for giving thanks.
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
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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.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Authentic Worship: vv. 1-3
This psalm is often used as a call to worship. In the first three verses, the psalmist shows us that authentic worship is driven by right knowledge of God.
Authentic worship is done with a willing heart; verse 2 says “with gladness!” Any beautiful way in which the worshiper expresses him or herself comes naturally from a heart driven by divine emotion. True worship is primarily oriented toward service: verse 2 calls us to “serve the Lord.” True worship occurs when the worshiper fills up interprets and fills the word with practical actions of loving God and people. This worship is done in daily life, and according to divine law. Finally, true worship includes song: “come into his presence with singing!” (v. 2) Because their heart is filled with joy, the worshiper’s mouth will also be filled with joy.
This worship, which flows from heart to life to liturgy, is based on correct knowledge of God. True worship begins and continues because of this true knowledge. Because we know he is the reason for our existence and we are his creation, we worship him: “the Lord, he is God!” (v. 3) Because we know he is our God and we belong to him instead of to ourselves, we worship him: “we are his.” (v. 3) Because we know we live by his salvation and provision, we worship him: “the sheep of his pasture.” (v. 3)
Enter His Courts: vv. 4-5
The reason we ought to worship the Lord is because he “is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (v. 5) The psalmist calls us to enter into God’s “gates” and “courts” and to praise him based on the beauty and goodness of the Lord’s nature.
However, to really understand what we are called to do, we must remember that, from the moment of Adam’s sin, the heavenly gates and courtyard were closed to humans. In fact, they were guarded by “cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” This demonstrates the insurmountable barrier between God and man.
God is good, and true goodness cannot allow evil to dwell with him. Therefore, for those who are not beautiful themselves, God’s goodness leads to rejection, not acceptance.
Then why on earth does the psalmist call us to approach God in this way? In the New Testament, we read that something monumental happened in the temple when Jesus Christ was broken on the cross. In that moment, the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was rent in half: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.” This was highly symbolic. In that moment, Christ broke the barrier between God and humans. From that day on, the “gates” and “courts” to God’s house became open for all those who are found in Christ. This is the true basis of the psalmist’s cry.
In faith, the psalmist looked forward with prophetic vision to see what would be accomplished long after his day. In faith, the psalmist called God’s people to enter God’s presence and praise the Lord. Only those who are in Christ can walk through the open “gates” and “courts” of God’s house. And God’s goodness is revealed as mercy only to those who are in Christ.
Lee Haggai is a pseudonym for a house church pastor in Beijing. He and his wife have two children.
Keep me from neglecting any knowledge contained in the Bible. Each of your revelations is the foundation on which I can rightfully minister. Make me understand that my life, actions, and existence depend on you. (Scripture says, “In him we live and move and have our being.”) You are the only reason I exist, live, and am human. May I always remember your creation and salvation, which drive me to offer my body to you as a living sacrifice, pleasing to you. Only when I remember these may I worship you as a whole person.
Lord Jesus, you told us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We who are called by your name “have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus.” Coming into your presence to praise you each week is a costly and hard-won grace. No matter how many worship services I attend, may your Holy Spirit move me to devote myself to you in each of them with a grateful, enthusiastic heart.