As we draw to the end of this Advent series, Christmas Day is nearly upon us and the rejoicing will soon commence. In the midst of a bustling season we have quieted our hearts and come to celebrate our Savior who was born into a world so desperate for saving. Through the emotional writings of the Psalms, we have pondered thanksgiving, salvation history, lament, and trust. Lifting our eyes, we have remembered. And today—today, we praise!
Psalm 100 is a short and well-known song of praise (as well as thanksgiving). In Hebrew, the complete book of Psalms is entitled “Praises.” Even when we are lamenting and pondering the harsh realities of life and the clamor around us, if we are humbling ourselves before our God, it is praise. Instead of using rhyme and meter as in Western poetry, Hebrew poetry uses a construct of parallelism, often stating a thought and then repeating it in a different way. This hymn calls us to give thanks and celebrate and then again, give thanks and celebrate.
“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come before his presence with singing!” (100:1–2 NKJV)
There is no room for timidity here. The Psalm starts with a joyful “shout!” like one would do for a king arriving in an assembly. The shout mentioned is one of exhilaration and the truest form of happiness. This hymn of praise was possibly sung during a religious festival, notes Frank E. Gaebelein. When we come before our God who invites us into his family, it can be the sweetest of parties, and we celebrate. Charles Spurgeon writes, “Our happy God should be worshipped by a happy people; a cheerful spirit is in keeping with his nature….” We enter the presence of our great King, and we sing. While we know that praise involves more than just singing, David Guzik notes that “[singing] is an important and chief way to praise him.”
“Know that the Lord, He is God! It is he who made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.” (v. 3 NKJV)
According to John MacArthur, this “know” is experiential, and it is an acknowledgement that “Israel’s covenant God, Jehovah, is the only true God.” In a culture that praises the concept of making ourselves into whatever we might desire, the phrase “not we ourselves” is a poignant reminder of our position before our Creator. He made us for his purposes (Is. 64:8) and he will lead us as does a good shepherd (Ps. 23). Throughout Scripture we see the comparison of the Lord being our shepherd who cares for us in a way that is both individual and communal (Luke 15), and we are the sheep who need plenty of guiding.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise! Be thankful to Him, and bless his name!” (v. 4 NKJV)
Thanksgiving and praise are closely entwined in the fabric of a life lifted up to God, full of gratitude for what he has done, recognition of who he is, and the declaration that he is the sovereign and completely powerful one. Praise is the natural outgrowth of thanksgiving—a celebration of a truly marvelous God. In this verse we see the beautiful reality of being able to come near this God. The gates and courts mentioned are indicative of the Old Testament temple, but through Jesus’ death and resurrection we now know that we, as his followers, are where God dwells (1 Cor. 6:19). Our hearts and lips are to give him thanks and praise.
“For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (v. 5 NKJV)
Through recounting the character of God, we fix our hearts on him and are reminded that not only is he good, but that he is the one who defines what is good. In this verse, mercy can also be described as “loyal love,” which is never ending. What an amazing concept! “His truth endures” is reminding us of God’s faithfulness. Centuries come and go, but he remains the same (James 1:17).
So, what might be a picture of praise? It can be that blissful, crack-of-dawn Christmas moment when ecstatic children come running down the hallway, slipping and sliding to enter the living room. In their pajamas they wiggle and nearly trip, hands waving in the air when they spot the vast array of gifts. And ultimately they leap and smile, not merely for flashy presents under trees, but for parents who love them. Our praise to God is similar. Every day is a day to wave our hands and make a joyful noise before our God. For we are his children, and that is worth celebrating far more than all the treasures one might find under tinsel.
To conclude this Advent series, we give thanks and celebrate who God is, how he has delivered us, and that he is faithful to his word. Praise him! In the Old Testament we see praise being a way God’s people push back against the enemy (2 Chron. 20, Josh. 6). Whether loss, anxiety, or anything else beckons you to draw inward with despair this season, turn on some praise music, lift your voice, and make a shout of victory! Remember that God is the Creator. His plans are perfect, and he deserves our praise. Oh, that we would give it happily.
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