A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Psalm 100 was likely written in the post-exilic period of Israel’s history.  Because Israel’s sins exceeded those of the Canaanite peoples God had driven out before them, He determined the nation would be overthrown and the people carried away captive to Babylon.  However, because the LORD is good and His mercy endures forever, He also decreed that after 70 years in Babylon a remnant would return to Jerusalem.  And Psalm 100, a psalm of thanksgiving, may well have been sung by that remnant of Israel back in the land on the day they dedicated the new temple and themselves to the LORD.

 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.  (Psalm 100: 1-5 New International Version)

Israel’s return to the land was an occasion to shout for joy (v.1).  Memories of home and country had tortured them while they labored in faraway Babylon:  By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion (Psalm 137:1 NIV).  Now they were in the land again – as God had promised and right on time.  Ezra the Scribe in his book recounts how, “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing” (Ezra 1:1 NIV).  Cyrus’s proclamation freed the Jews to return to their homeland for the specific purpose of building a temple to the LORD, the God of heaven . . . at Jerusalem in Judah (Ezra 1:2 NIV).  They first built the altar on which they made sacrifices to the LORD.  Then they laid the foundation for the new temple which they celebrated with great fanfare but tinged with sorrow:  Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid.

 But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy.  The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.  (Ezra 3:11b-13 New Living Translation)

Like that day in Israel’s history, our lives are a mix of joy and sorrow.  At times the sorrows and joys of life occur so close together as to be almost indistinguishable one from the other – like a noise (Psalm 101:1 KJV).  But even in the noise of our lives there is reason to shout to the LORDConsider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance . .  . Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2-4, 12 NIV)

God’s wants everyone to worship Him (v.1).  The joy of the LORD is intended for all the earth.  God does not respect or prefer or desire one person or group of people above others (1 Peter 1:17).  In a Charlie Brown animated feature it shows Charlie Brown receive an invitation to a Halloween party in the mail.  He is elated and promptly shares the news with others.  A little girl hearing the news says, “There are always two lists for invitations; one “do invite” and the other “don’t invite”.  If you got an invitation, Charlie Brown, somebody made a mistake.”  But God makes no mistakes in His invitation.  Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Dress yourself in PRAISE and come on in to His presence (v.2).  How should we dress for church?  In PRAISE!  God gives to all who love and worship Him a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3).  Nehemiah encouraged the congregation of returnees to Jerusalem by reminding them the joy of the LORD is your strength (Nehemiah 8:7 KJV).  Paul wrote to the Philippians, a congregation that faced much opposition and persecution – “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV)

Science is proving happiness (the substance of praise) is good for your health.  In an article for Greater Good Magazine dated July 28, 2015, journalist Kira M. Newman writes:  “. . . scientific studies have been finding that happiness can make our hearts healthier, our immune systems stronger, and our lives longer.”  She goes on to list six ways happiness has been linked to good health:

  • “Happiness protects your heart” by lowering heart rate and blood pressure.
  • “Happiness strengthens your immune system.”  Persons with positive emotions show higher levels of antibodies which are vital to defense against ailments.
  • “Happiness combats stress.”  Science has known for years that stress is detrimental to good health.  One research study found “the happiest participants had 23 percent lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than the least happy.”
  • “Happy people have fewer aches and pains.”  Studies demonstrate happiness actually reduces pain levels in people.
  • “Happiness combats disease and disability.”  An Australian study reported “participants who reported being happy and satisfied with life most or all of the time were about 1.5 times less likely to have long-term health conditions.”
  • “Happiness lengthens our lives.”  Multiple studies suggest this.

Psalm 16:11 says, “In thy presence is fullness of joy.”

Remember, we are his (v.3).  Belonging to God means we have:

  • PROTECTION –  A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all (Psalm 34:19 NIV)
  • PROVISIONThe lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10 NIV)
  • PROMISE – God has given unto us exceeding great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4 KJV)
  • PURPOSEFor we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

Now we boldly go where men could not go before (v.4).  In biblical times, the way to God was barred by temple walls (the courts) and by a huge veil (the gate).  These served as no trespassing signs to ancient worshipers.  The temple itself divided people from God and subdivided them from each other.  Only the high priest could enter into the presence of God in the holy of holies and that just once a year.  The people outside were allowed within a certain distance depending on their nationality and their gender, but they were never allowed into His presence.

Jesus removed all the things that divide:

  • He opened the veil that separated men from God (Matthew 27:51).
  • He demolished the walls that divided people from each other (Ephesians 2:14-15).
  • Now we can go straight to God for help:  So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need. (Heb 4:16 TLB)

Also remember, what God honors with His presence we ought not to dishonor with our absence. (Hebrews 10:25)

We come with THANKSGIVING (v.4).  Gratitude never expressed is worse than ingratitude.  The will of God is that we give Him thanks:  Always be joyful.  Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT)

Thankfulness blesses me!  Even when you don’t feel particularly grateful, living as though you are can make a big difference in your overall well-being.  Professor Robert A. Emmons (University of California) says that “even pretending to be thankful raises levels of the chemicals associated with pleasure and contentment:  serotonin and dopamine.  Live as if you feel gratitude, he said, and soon the real thing will come.”[1]

Three reasons we should be THANKFUL (v.5). 

  • GOD IS GOOD!  He is the measure of all things good.  To say that good and evil do not exist is to say that God Himself does not exist for GOD IS GOOD!  He deals with us according to His goodness.  Israel was in captivity because they deserved to be.  In fact they deserved a lot worse, but God preserved them and brought them back home (Ezra 9:13).
  • HIS MERCY (LOVE) IS EVERLASTING!  Peter asked how often we should forgive someone.  Jesus said seventy times seven or unending!  God’s mercy and forgiveness toward us is EVERLASTING!  If we confess our sins – He will forgive us our sins (1 John 1:9).
  • HIS TRUTH IS THE SAME FOR ALL GENERATIONS!  Someone said:  “The only thing you can be certain of is that there is nothing you can be certain of.”  NOT SO!  “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.” (Luke 21:33 KJV)

This was a new generation of Israel coming home to Jerusalem, but HE WAS THE SAME GOD!  And He was fulfilling a promise He’d made to their forefathers, i.e. after 70 years He would bring them home (Jeremiah 29:10).

God keeps His promises!  We have much to thank Him for!

[1] Reader’s Digest November, 2009, p.164.

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