Joyful Thanksgiving

Joyful Thanksgiving

TEXT: Psalm 100; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Thursday is Thanksgiving Day, and I suspect that sometime during the week each of us will give some thought to what we are thankful for.  Some people have family traditions of sharing these thanksgivings around the dinner table; some people spend a little extra time offering God prayers of thanks; still others have an increased awareness of God’s many blessings in our lives. To prepare us for this week and as a reminder that we should be thankful all year long, I chose Psalm 100 as our sermon text.  It is known as a Psalm of Thanksgiving.  It is more than that, it is a beautiful piece of poetry that invites the reader and the hearer to know God, respond to God’s goodness, and worship God with a thankful heart.

It is made up of a series of seven imperatives, or challenges.  And they are arranged kind of like a bull’s-eye target.  At the center of the Psalm is the invitation in verse 3 to KNOW God.  Surrounding that are the calls or invitations to COME into God’s presence in worship.  One more “ring” out are the challenges to SERVE and GIVE thankful offering.  And finally, we find the commands to SHOUT publicly and joyfully and to BLESS the name of God.  This arrangement helped people to memorize the Psalm and to picture God’s invitation, challenges, and commandments for his people.

We’ll look at those same invitations, challenges, and commandments today as God speaks them to us through his Word.

Knowing God (v.3)

We aren’t used to starting at the middle of something to find out the main point, but poetry is different.  The layout makes a difference.  And Psalm 100 invites us into its “heart” to invite us to know God in a personal way.  None of the other challenging words of Psalm 100 make much sense unless we know the Lord God.

And so, in verse 3, we are not only invited to KNOW God; we are also told who God is.  He is the one who has made us.  God is our creator.  And we are His people – we belong to him and respond to the covenant-making God of promise and hope.  And we are the sheep of His pasture – he is our Good Shepherd, caring for us, tending us, and defending us.

That is the central question for each of us.  We can come to church, sing and pray, serve and give, and all the rest; but if we do not know the God who has made us, who leads us, and who shepherds us, we’ve missed it the meaning behind it all.

Do you know God?  It is THE central question to ask – and if so, the central reason to be thankful.

Come and Enter (v.2b, 4a)

The Good News in the Bible is that God doesn’t leave us on our own to find and know Him.  Rather, He invites us to come to Him and meet Him face to face.  Look at the end of verse 2 and the beginning of verse 4 – one “ring” out from the center bull’s eye of knowing God.  The same word is translated two ways: COME and ENTER.  God bids us to come before Him – literally, before His face, not in fear or terror, but with joyful singing.  And God invites us to enter God’s gates and courts – His very presence – with thanksgiving and praise.

It’s that same message Jesus spoke to his disciples and so many he met: “Come and see; come and know; come and believe.”  And to do so leads us into God’s presence with joy, thanks, and praise.

Responding through Serving and Offering to God (v.2a, 4b)

It is natural then, if God has invited us into His presence so that we may know Him for who He is, that we would want to respond to God’s goodness in some way.  The next “ring” of the bull’s-eye is that of responding to God in service and offering.  Verse 2 says “SERVE the Lord with gladness.”  This is one of the Old Testament words for “worship” – an act or action given to the Lord, and in this case, with gladness!  And the second part of verse 4 has the corresponding challenge: “GIVE thanks to Him.”  And interestingly, this particular word for “giving thanks” specifically means “speak it out loud.”  We are to give thanks in a public way.

Having come to know God and having come near to Him with joy, thanks, and praise, we are challenged to serve and give to God.  This is our offering – our response – to the Good News and salvation of God.  It corresponds to Jesus’ own words.  After inviting those he met to “come and see,” he would challenge them with the words “follow me.”  That’s what this Psalm is saying – if you have come to know God as your creator, Father, and Shepherd, now give yourself to Him.  Give your thanks and give your life in service and worship.

Worshiping through Bearing Witness to God (v.1, 4b)

The outermost “ring” of verses have to do with bearing witness to God: saying and demonstrating “this is God!.”  Verse one commands us to SHOUT joyfully to the Lord – we and all the earth.  The end of verse 4 has the command to BLESS God’s name.  Both of these words are about public (as well as private) declaration of God.  The first “shout” described a trumpet signal for an army, or in the context of worship, a loud shout to the Lord signaling all within hearing range that worship was about to begin.  For the whole earth to shout in this way is to signal to the whole world that God is Lord of Heaven and earth, and coming near.  One of our core values at Good Shepherd is “joyful worship” – and here it is commanded – shout with joy, for the Lord is near and worthy of worship and service.

When we bless God’s name, we are speaking God’s name and praises in such a way that we are clearly aligning ourselves with God – on God’s side.  It’s like a love-struck young man not only declaring his love in many beautiful ways, but naming the one he loves so all may know the one toward whom his love is directed.  “Blessing God’s name” is heart-felt and Spirit-filled worship – prayer, songs, and hearts full of adoration and praise, with clarity and outspokenness about the identity of the Lord we adore.

Verse 5 goes on to do just that – to “bless His name.”  It gives praise to God, first naming him as “the Lord.”  And here are the words of praise:

            The Lord is good;
            His lovingkindness is everlasting,
            And His faithfulness (is) to all generations.

Application: Who is God?

That concern with worship that is personal is the heart of Psalm 100, and indeed is the heart of Christian worship and of our worship here. It would be enough to declare God as God and to command all of the earth to worship and serve Him.  But this Psalm, God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, and our Christian testimony is that God has come near so that we might “see His face” (v. 2).  When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he wanted to see them face to face to finish telling them and teaching them about God, so they could know God and have “complete faith.” (1 Thess. 3:10)  We see God’s face in Jesus Christ and we are brought into God’s holy presence through faith in Christ.

Psalm 100 centers around the invitation to know God as Creator, covenant Lord, and Good Shepherd.  It concludes with more personal declaration of who God is – the Lord is good, eternally loving, and perpetually faithful.

There are a number of applications of this Psalm.  One is that a personal knowledge of and RELATIONSHIP with God must be at the center of Christian faith.  And God has invited us into that personal knowledge and relationship through trusting in his Son, Jesus Christ.

Second, our personal knowledge of, relationship with, and experience of God should call forth an active response or OFFERING of obedience, service, and thankfulness. Said another say, it makes a tangible difference in our life!  And this response bears witness back to God.  It is not public for the sake of “showing off” – at least not showing ourselves off.  But it is public for the sake of showing forth God in Christ.

Third and related to that, our personal encounter with God through Jesus Christ not only produces a response of obedience and service in us, it also leads us to bearing WITNESS to God’s faithfulness in our worship and words. As the songwriter declares, “How can I keep from singing?” If God matters, our faith won’t be a secret.

None of this is new – in fact, it’s the basic flow of the Christian life, demonstrated most tangibly by our participation in and response to Sunday worship.  Like Psalm 100, we come to Sunday worship to be drawn into the heart of God – the encounter of God through faith in Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.  We respond with offerings and thanks and go forth with the Word of Christ on our lips and lives.

That’s why we fling open the doors and desire to bring people in.  That’s why we send you forth with God’s blessing and the Holy Spirit’s boldness.  May God give you boldness, motivation, and JOY this week as you serve Him.  Amen.

Some Music Used

  • Preludes
    • Build My Life
    • I Will Offer Up My Life
    • Now Thank We All Our God/Give Thanks
    • (Handbells) Come, Ye Thankful People Come
  • Forever (Give Thanks to the Lord)
  • Goodness of God
  • ASSURANCE OF GRACE (Choir): Jesus Paid it All
  • OFFERTORY (Handbells): Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
  • Great is Thy Faithfulness