True worship comes from true hearts, and true hearts are filled to overflowing with gladness. This gladness can be solemn, as it is at a wedding (solempne), or this gladness can be jubilant, as it is after a victorious battle. But the thing it must never be is sullen or surly or sulky. Who needs that kind of worship? Who needs that kind of service? Not the Lord.
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations” (Ps. 100:1-5).
Summary of the Text:
This is a psalm of thanksgiving, praise and joy. All the tribes, all lands, are invited to join in on the task of making a joyful noise (v. 1). True service rendered to God is, of necessity, glad service rendered to God. We are supposed to come into His presence with singing, which is the indicator that we are supposed to do it with gladness (v. 2). We begin this service of worship with knowledge—know that the Lord is God (v. 3). He is the one who has made us, and not we ourselves (v. 3). We are the sheep of His pasture (v. 3). As we come into His presence, we should do it with thanksgiving and praise (v. 4). We must be thankful to Him, and bless His name (v. 4). The Lord is truly good. His mercy is everlasting. His truth endures to all generations (v. 5).
Worship in Gladness:
The word rendered as “serve” here in v. 1 has the sense of worship, which is what worship is. Worship is service; worship is doing what God has required of us. We are accustomed to those who treat praise and worship as synonyms, but they are not. Praise is a subset of worship, but worship is not a subset of praise. Worship is when we make ourselves available to God to do whatever He requires of us. Worship is service. Worship is to appear before the Lord in an obedient frame of mind. “Present your bodies a living sacrifice . . . which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1-2). When Isaiah catches a glimpse of the Lord, high and lifted up in the Temple, and his response is “Here am I, Lord, send me,” this is his worship.
We come to worship the Lord because He tells us to, but we must also worship the Lord in the way He tells us to. It is not enough simply to show up. And here He summons us to come before His presence with thanksgiving, and with praise, and with singing, and with all gladness.
For He Has Made Us (Again):
We are to do so because we know that the Lord God is the one who has made us. It would be natural (and not wrong) to interpret this as gladness in the mere fact of our creation. We are creatures, and did not fashion ourselves. We did not make ourselves, or create ourselves. Of course not. But John Calvin interestingly interprets this place as talking about our re-creation in God’s regeneration of us. Because the psalmist follows it up immediately with the observation that we are the “sheep of his pasture,” Calvin assumes that this is talking about the gift of the new birth, God making us His sheep in a world where there are many goats.
Thanksgiving Based on Knowledge:
Because we know that the Lord is God, because we know that He is the one who has made us (or remade us), therefore what follows? What follows is a joyful noise, singing, gladness, thanksgiving, praise, and a blessing of His name. This knowledge is not a knowledge that simply uses the name God as a placeholder, but rather understands the Godness of God.
We are not Stoics or fatalists. We know that God is ultimately and absolutely God, and that He is in utter control of all events. This includes the events that we naturally and spontaneously thank Him for, obviously, but it also includes those hard providences that we have difficulty processing.
When you enter His courts with gladness, all of you are carrying something. Each one of you brings something here with you to present to the Lord. If that is a bountiful thing, a good harvest thing, a great promotion thing, it is our delight to fulfill our duty in this. But a number of you are dealing with (or reeling under) what can only be understood as hard circumstances. It may be a difficult diagnosis, or a straying loved one, or financial pressures, or end-of-life decisions, or hard duties, or an impossible person in your life, or a difficult boss, or any number of other possibilities. When you come into God’s courts, that is what you must carry in with you to present to Him, and you must do it with gladness.
“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess. 5:16–18).
“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20).
Gladness, Not Maneuvering:
Gladness in all things, and for all things, is not maneuvering, or waffling, or noodling. It is growing up into a real maturity. Let me take a common stressor (finances) to illustrate what I mean.
Let us say that you consistently have too much month left at the end of your money. Financial pressure is a constant reality in your life. The temptation (when you are not leaning in the gladness direction) is to want, desire, and pray for extra money in order that the pressure might be relieved or lifted. Fourth grade is too much for you, and so you pray that a miracle might happen that will get you back into third grade. But more money would actually put you in seventh grade.
More money is additional weight, more responsibility. Our problem is that we ignore that part of it when we pray for more. We actually ask for more responsibility so that we might be allowed to be less responsible—which is absurd. It doesn’t work that way. Gladness grows you up. Mature Christians are the glad Christians. And poutiness is never a mature look.
Hesed Never Runs Out:
We are Christians; we are followers of Christ. And Christ is Lord, and the Lord is good. For His mercy (hesed, lovingkindness) is everlasting. Everlasting means lasting forever. This is His truth, and His truth never runs out either. It endures to all generations. That was true when these words were written, and now thousands of years later, we are not ever close to the end of “all generations.” Christ is yesterday, today, and forever.