How would you describe God? For example, if someone said, “I understand God to be angry and wrathful.” If someone said, “I think God is a perfectionist. Perfect is never enough for Him.” What if somebody said, “I would describe God as being happy.” How would that strike you? One writer said, “Our happy God should be worshipped by a happy people.” If happy is not your word, how about joyful? Do you think of God as joyful? God is a God of joy. Joy and the God of joy fills this Psalm. It is a call to praise and worship.
There is way to come to church and worship the God of all joy. There is an attitude of heart that is essential. This Psalm is powerful and forms the basis for a hymn, “All people that on earth do dwell.” This Psalm speaks to the way we need to worship and the worship we need to offer this great, joyful God. This Psalm calls us to be a happy people serving a happy God. This is a hymn or Psalm of thanksgiving, a call to praise God. God is not addressed in the Psalm. This Psalm addresses the worshipper. It addresses how we should worship. It addresses how we should enter His presence. Praise toward God produces edification. This Psalm is so beautiful and powerful that its message is timeless.
Worship joyfully- vs. 1-3
There is a call to worship God with a joyful shout (vs. 1). It is an invitation to all people; “lands.” Everyone comes and shouts as the King goes by. Come into the court and shout joyfully to the King with praise and adoration. This is a global invitation. The thought is people come out with a response full of joy and gratitude to worship God.
Worship is tied to service (vs. 2). If we do not serve the Lord Monday through Saturday, our worship will become stale and artificial. Worship is a service, and it calls us to serve the Lord in every way possible. Come to the Lord with singing. Remember the sacrifice of our lips goes up before the Lord (Heb. 13:15).
When we do this there are three things we can know. First, we can know who God is (vs. 3). That is the language of Jehovah. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He is God. Second, we know where we came from: “It is he who made us and not ourselves.” We are created beings. Third, we can know who we are. “We are His people.” We belong to God. We are given a favored position. We are sheep in His pasture. We belong to the good and great Shepherd.
Worship Thankfully- vs. 4-5
How do we bless the name of the Lord? To bless the name of God means to speak well of Him. “Name” of God stands for all God is. When I say His name, I say good things about Him. I ascribe glory and majesty. He is our Creator. We come before God and we say good things. We are thankful to Him. We praise and adore Him.
Notice three things said about God (vs. 5): The Lord is good, His mercy is everlasting, His truth endures to all generations. Mercy is the word of steadfast love of the covenant. That is, God’s willingness to perform the covenant out of great love.
Worship should be a joyful experience. The invitation to worship here is not melancholy, as though worship were a funeral. It is a cheery and glad exhortation, as though we were invited to a marriage feast. This is serious, yes, but at the same time worship must not be performed in the slavery of fear. There should be an element of joy and gladness and the thrill that our God is our God. This is not a reference to style. For example, the kind of songs we sing. “If we could only sing different songs, then we can really be joyful.” That focuses attention on us and what we are doing. If style produces joy, we will always have to change the style. Worship is an acknowledgement and celebration of the centrality of God in all our lives.
Worship is an acknowledgement and delighting of the center of everything we are. I may not be able to tell you how joy ought to work itself out in your life. I may not be able to tell you how to express your emotions. That is, if you do not cry when I cry or smile when I smile, your worship is vain. We are different. Having said that if worship is joyful there are some things that fit joy universally. Joyful experience dispels apathy. I have never known a young woman who has just become engaged to be apathetic. “I am getting married and it is no big deal.” Have you ever seen an apathetic new parent? Have you ever seen an apathetic new grandparent?
Joy comes to our lives because good things happen that we care about intensely. If I do not feel joyful in my worship, I do not need to look to others to blame. If I am apathetic about God, then the hole in worship where joy is leaking out, is a hole in my heart. Joy and half-heartedness do not go together. Joy calls forth from us the best we can do. It moves us and energizes us. If we are intensely concerned about God, care deeply about the Lord and His word, then our worship can never be a case of “Whatever.”
It is up to me to bring my whole heart to this effort. It is up to me to assemble with an attitude that I am ready to serve the Lord. As I do that, worshipping the Lord ought to be an experience of thanksgiving (vs. 4). Thanksgiving runs all through this Psalm, Our God is good, be thankful (vs. 5). We are His people and the sheep of His pasture (vs. 3). Many have never been around sheep and do not know much about shepherding. Sheep love their shepherd. They look to their shepherd and know that they are lost without Him.
Maybe one problem with our worship is we do not see ourselves as sheep and do not realize how lost we are without our Shepherd. The Psalmist did not say we are grizzly bears or tiger sharks. They can get along on their own. We are sheep. What are sheep without a shepherd? Dead. Every wolf and coyote will show up and take advantage of sheep without a shepherd. Even if there is no predator, sheep will wonder off, get lost, and lose their way. They will not be able to find water.
We are sheep and we need a shepherd. How thankful we ought to be to have Jesus as our chief Shepherd. We do dumb things, and we cannot find our way. We need the Shepherd’s help, guidance, and concern. Being in a flock that is pastured by the Good Shepherd brings enormous benefits to us, the sheep (vs. 3). We must not miss that. Too often we look at what the shepherd has set up for our protection and say, “We do not want to follow those rules. You are stopping us from having a good time.” Remember we did not make ourselves and we need the Shepherd’s guidance (vs. 3).
Unfortunately, some do not even want to be in the shepherd’s flock. Yet, the Psalmist celebrates how good it is to be one of the Lord’s sheep.
So how do we “come to church?” Maybe the answer comes once we settle how we describe God. This Psalm will say the Lord is a joyful Shepherd who blesses and cares for His sheep. A Shepherd that is pleased by our worship. Who we can come before and adore and praise with hearts full of gladness and thanksgiving?
How do I “come to church?” With a heart joyfully ready to praise the Lord, Who is so good to us!
Let this Psalm help you get your heart ready to be a joyful worshipper.
by Rickie Jenkins