Sunday, October 28, 2018

A Psalm of Praise

Psalm 100 is designated in the scriptures as A Psalm of Praise. This is the only time those precise words are used to identify a psalm. It is a brief psalm (only 5 verses), and—unusual among the psalms—overwhelmingly positive from beginning to end. Any metaphors found in this psalm are quickly identified and easily understood. It is easy for me to imagine why it is so frequently used in worship, and why the most frequently sung tune in any church I have ever served is called Old Hundredth—a centuries-old piece of music written to embrace this psalm's message of grateful joy.*

I have to admit that I take this psalm for granted. But there's something in these first two verses that I should give serious thought to:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. 
 
✙ Ps 100:1-2 

The psalmist is looking ahead here to something that was not possible at the moment this psalm was first sung. In calling upon all the earth to worship what I see in my English Bible as the Lord, I must never forget that the Hebrew from which it's translated calls upon not Israel, but all the earth, to make a joyful noise to יהוה, a God that only Israel worshiped.

This is actually quite remarkable. The nations are not being called upon to cower before the One God whom they don't even acknowledge. They are being called to a joyful celebration of this God. They are then asked to worship יהוה not with fear but with gladness, and not to enter God's presence as slaves to be punished, but with a happy song on their lips.

Perhaps it really is God's intention that the gospel be presented to non-believers as good news, so that those who did not previously know God might enter into belief not in sackcloth and ashes, but wearing the garments of joy.

Place a song of joy on my lips, Lord. And give me both the words and the attitude to invite others to join me in singing; in the Name of the One who taught me to pray...

*Or maybe not. I have since learned that Old Hundredth might originally have been written for Psalm 134.