There is a story in the gospel of Luke about ten lepers who are gathered outside a village. And, seeing Jesus, they cry out for mercy. Having compassion for the lepers, Jesus heals them and sends them to be received back into the community, but one of them comes to Jesus and worships with thanksgiving. Jesus says, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well” (Lk. 17:11-19). Gratitude gave evidence of his faith.
The Lord commands all people to give Him thanks and to give Him thanks on all occasions. Paul wrote, “Give thanks in all circumstances … for this is the will of God” (1 Thess. 5:18). It is expected of all people. In Romans 1:21, the Lord judges the ungodly because they did not “give thanks to him.” So, gratitude is required from all people since all people have received some benefits from the Lord. The point to be made is that gratitude is a divine expectation. Gratitude is expected of all people.
Scripture also teaches us that gratitude is inseparable from the Holy Spirit. “Therefore,” Paul says, “as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him … abounding in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6-7). Later, in the same book, Paul says, “As you let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” you will “be thankful” (Col. 3:15). In other words, God commands us to give thanks, then enables us to give thanks. “Be filled with the Spirit,” Paul says, “giving thanks always” (Eph. 5:17-20). Gratitude is an expression of the Spirit of God who rules in your heart with peace, the kind of peace that exists in a saved soul, peace between God and man.
The Spirit of God indwells those born again, and the Spirit of God empowers them to give thanks. Psalm 140:13 says, “Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name.”
So, it is no surprise that a small sample of people turn to God with sincere gratitude. Of the ten lepers, only one gave thanks. When Psalm 100 was composed, a small sample of people gave thanks—the Israelites. Let’s read this psalm together.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
And his course with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;Psalm 100
His steadfast love endures forever,
And his faithfulness to all generations.
This psalm is divided into four stanzas, with three lines in each stanza. The first two stanzas contain three calls to give thanks through worship, followed by three reasons. The second two stanzas parallel the first.
This psalm was likely sung by the Israelites who were gathering for worship at the temple, possibly even during their journey to Jerusalem, as the psalm indicates. So, the first verse gives us a strong sense of how God used this psalm as an evangelistic tool. It says, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord,” who? “All the earth!” not just Israel (Ps. 100:1). It is, therefore, an invitation—more of a summons—to the sinner to sing the song of the saved.
The apostle Paul reminds us that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lod’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). This is true of sincere gratitude to the Lord. So, by inviting the sinner to sing the song of thanksgiving, you are practically summoning the sinner to join you in salvation. If nothing else, this ought to give you a sense of the power of your praise. When rightly done, your worship becomes a summons to the sinner to sing the song of salvation.
So the question is … How is it rightly done? How can I sing the song of salvation that summons the sinner? Or, as we harken back to the time and mode Israel sang this, we might ask: How should we come to church? Practically speaking, this psalm is a Sunday worship instruction guide.
How do we come to church on Sunday … let’s see how it responds.
You Need to be Noisy
First, you need to be noisy. “Make a joyful noise,” it says (Ps. 100:1). In the ancient mind, this kind of language would imply the sound of shouts and noises that would ring out when a new king was crowned. It was a moment of thrill and excitement. The townspeople would bang on pots, clap their hands, make sounds with their mouths, and scream cheers and whistles. The sound was not as important as the volume. They wanted to erupt with loud noise to make the ears ring. It was maximum volume. So, crank it up! Cause ears to ring! Make a noise of joy!
Two weeks ago, the Texas Rangers beat the Diamondbacks in the World Series, and the crowd erupted with noise. It wasn’t clear what anyone was saying. It wasn’t some planned, synchronous response. It was just the noise of excitement for their new champions. They yelled, blew horns, clapped, and did whatever else baseball fans do. It was noisy. It was a sound of celebration and joy. This is the idea—a joyful noise.
It’s worth mentioning here that the loud noise you are commanded to make is not necessarily good in the ears of others. Still, you are commanded to make a joyful noise “to the Lord” (Ps. 100:1). It might help if your noise was pleasing to hear or maybe if you could carry a tune, but the idea is the maximum volume that is unashamed and filled with delight and cheer. Your king is crowned! Your team has won! You need to be loud. So, you need to be noisy, but you also need to be active.
You Need to be Active
“Serve the Lord with gladness” (Ps. 100:2). Scripture often uses the words “serve” and “worship” interchangeably because they are two sides of the same coin. When you serve the Lord, you are participating in the worship of the Lord. The psalmist means that you must be active and participate. Worship is not a spectator sport. We don’t gather together to watch the people on stage sing. We gather to join in the song. We participate in the choir. We lift our voices along with theirs.
I think it’s funny sometimes how we treat Sunday services like an audition for some form of entertainment. I can be guilty of it myself. “How were services today?” It is like we are all meant to sit in the seat and rate how the band played, the singers sang, the preacher preached, and how many times the kid in the first row got out of her seat. This is not how you worship. You need to participate. Until you participate, you are not worshiping. The apostle Paul said, “Present yourself to the Lord as a living sacrifice,” that is, doing and participating as “your spiritual act of worship” (Rom. 12:1).
So, serving is worshiping, but listen … it is not lip service. “Serve the Lord with gladness” (Ps. 100:2). It is a privilege to serve the Lord. It is a blessing to be in the game. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t care what the Lord wants to do with me as long as I’m not on the bench sitting. We need to be active and active with gladness, not with complaint, not as a duty, not even mechanically. You could be lost in the world, but God saved you. You could be down in the dumps, but God delivered you. You could be without community, but God brought you here. So, be glad when you serve. Be glad when you worship.
You Need to be Present
You need to be noisy and active. Now, you need to be present. “Come into his presence” (Ps. 100:2). Let me help you get this. I’ve never been invited to the White House, and I’m not holding my breath either. But, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, it would be the opportunity of a lifetime to receive an invitation. For most people, the opportunity will never come. For a few people, it will only come once. The truth is, I’m not anyone special. Nothing about me would give the president any reason to call my phone and invite me in for a special meeting. But who cares! The God of all nations has called my number. Friends, He has called your number too. He says, “Come into my presence!” God wants me and you to come to fellowship, commune, rejoice, and sing. This is a great privilege, and there is no greater person in all the earth that could give such an invitation. God wants you next to Him! God invites you to visit! “Come,” He says, “come into my presence.”
However, there is one condition. He doesn’t want you coming the wrong way. He says, “Come singing!” He doesn’t say, “Come complaining,” or “Come questioning,” or even “Come silent.” He says, “Come into my presence singing!” Now, I want you to appreciate this a bit more. Notice that He doesn’t qualify your singing. There’s nothing about your ability to keep a note or hit a tune. He doesn’t require you to have the best voice or know how to sing. He just wants you to come singing.
Friends, we gather as the church each Sunday because the Lord is here. We gather because He tells us to come into His presence. We gather to sing when we come because He says so. And listen, don’t let the professional singers outsing you. Don’t be intimidated. Just come singing. Sunday is your day to come. Make sure you come. Make sure you are present. Be in God’s presence singing.
So, we must be noisy, active, present, and now …
We Need to be Thankful
Skipping down to Psalm 100:4. It says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving.” The psalmist is being imaginative here. He is thinking about the gates at the entrances of Jerusalem. The city, you might remember, is surrounded by defensive walls to keep out God’s adversaries and protect the people of God. The gates are meant to be entered by those who worship God. When someone was entering the gates, they were entering for the sake of worship. So, the psalmist says to enter “with thanksgiving.”
Now, to be sure we understand what the Lord is saying, let me mention what He is not saying. He is not saying, “Enter the gates and then be thankful.” He is not saying, “Come to the church property and wait for someone to give you a reason to be thankful.” No, he says, “enter with thanksgiving.” We ought to be thankful by the time we enter. We can’t wait for the first song to be sung. We can’t wait to be greeted by the hospitality team. We need to be thankful before we reach the gate.
Now, let’s get practical here for a moment. This means we might need to prepare ourselves before bedtime on Saturday night. We might need to wake up Sunday morning and think about how God has been good to us. How you prepare is on you, but you need to be prepared to be thankful by the time you enter the gates. Thanksgiving starts before you come. And, to be honest, as we read in Ephesians 5 earlier, we are commanded to be thankful all the time. So, be prepared to enter with a thankful heart.
You need to be noisy, active, present, thankful, and now …
You Need to be Praising
This is a parallel to the previous command. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise” (Ps. 100:4). The psalmist continues the imagery of the assembling of Israel in Jerusalem. Only, this time, it presses in on the analogy. The gates were outside the city, but the courts were inside the temple. In the temple, the people worshiped the Lord, and His presence was made known. It was here that sins were forgiven and mercy was shown. It was the most intimate place of worship. Think of it as being in the living room of God, inside His house, and in the throne room. The thankful heart gives itself to the proclamation of what God has done. This is what praise is—the telling of God’s goodness.
The Jews excluded the Gentiles from their inner courts of worship. They were allowed to worship on the outside and from a distance. But here, the Lord invites “all the earth” (Ps. 100:1) to enter the courts. Again, this psalm summons the sinner to sing the song of salvation. Forgiveness was provided to the sinner in the temple courts where God invited you to come. And, when you come, He says to enter with praises—telling the goodness of God. Psalm 105:2 says, “Sing to him; sing praises to him; tell all of his wonderful works.” One of the ways we encourage one another is to tell all of God’s wonderful works. And, in doing so, others will join in on the praises. So, enter the courts with praise.
You need to be noisy, active, present, thankful, praising, and finally …
You Need to be Grateful
The Lord commands all people to enter the gate, to enter the courts, to come into the presence of the Holy God, and, as we know from the Bible, to come through Jesus, who is called “the door,” according to John 10:7. By this, Jesus means that all who want to be in the presence of God the Father must come through the sacrifice of the Son. Jesus is how we give thanks. He is the door to salvation, the door to eternal life, the thanksgiving door. And, as you come through Christ, you enter with noise, gladness, singing, thanksgiving, praise, and … blessing. “Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Ps. 100:4).
This is the final command. And I can’t help but imagine that the psalmist, under the inspiration of God, had the Messiah in mind. A grateful heart is a gift of God given to those saved. When the psalmist says to “bless his name,” he means to honor God by showing Him the highest admiration and thanksgiving because He has been good to you. It is, if you will, the expression of a saved heart.
Now, these six commands to join in the chorus of thanksgiving to God are motivated by six reasons in verses 3 and 5. You see, God is fully aware that in your heart, you are thinking to yourself, “How can I give thanks?” As we read these commands to be noisy, active, present, thankful, praising, and grateful, there are some of you who are saying, “How can I be those things? You don’t know what I have had to deal with this week! You don’t know my troubles! You don’t know what I’ve done, where I’ve been, what I think or said or heard! It may be easy for you, pastor, but not for me!”
Listen, sometimes it is not easy for pastors either. This world is challenging. It comes with pain and suffering. It lures with temptations. But the Lord knows all about that. He still says to you, “Come.” He still says, “Enter.” And he provides six reasons to motivate you.
First, He is God. “Know that the Lord, he is God” (Ps. 100:3). He is not the president. He is not your favorite celebrity or singer. He is far greater, much higher, more powerful, and more worthy of your admiration. He is God, and He wants you to know Him. And listen, the more you know God, the more you will be motivated to give Him thanks. As your faith runs deeper, your worship goes higher. Knowing God will motivate your thanksgiving.
Second, He is Creator. “It is he who made us, and we are his” (Ps. 100:3). Most people say that this indicates that God deserves your thanksgiving, and that is true. In fact, He made you to give Him thanks. But consider the implications. As your creator, He knows what you need. He knows what will help you. He knows your greatest need. It is Him. He made you for the purpose of worshiping Him, and so your greatest joy will come to you when you worship God. So, remember that God is your creator. He made you for the purpose of finding joy in this.
Third, He is personal. “We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Ps. 100:3). The shepherd lives with his sheep. He cares for them. He provides for them. He rescues them. He protects them. He guides them. He keeps them. He loves them. He sacrifices for them. He corrects them. He cleans them. He heals them. He comforts them. Why? Because they belong to him. They are his responsibility. They dwell in his pasture, and he is the caretaker of their wellbeing. God is the shepherd of those who belong to Him. This ought to give you a reason to give thanks.
Fourth, He is good. “For the Lord is good” (Ps. 100:5). This means that all that He does is good. What He does for you is always good for you. He is for your good. His plan is good. His pardon is good. His providence is good. His protection is good. His provision is good.
Fifth, He is loving. “His steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 100:5). God is loving all the time. His love is steadfast, meaning that it cannot be shaken, it will not cave in or collapse, it will not let down or back up, it will not run out or be exhausted, and it will not depend upon your love in return. He loves you forever. His love is the kind of love that endures all things. There is nothing that can take you out of the love of God.
Sixth, He is faithful. “God’s faithfulness endures to all generations” (Ps. 100:5). He was faithful to Adam and Eve. He was faithful to Noah. He was faithful to Moses. He was faithful to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was faithful to the people of Israel—even when they were unfaithful. He was faithful to the disciples. And friends, he is faithful to His church today. He is faithful to all generations. He will be faithful in the future like He was faithful in the past.
So listen, what happened last week to you changes nothing. God is good. He is loving and faithful. He made you to find joy in worshiping Him, and He calls you personally to come into His presence and be thankful. Remember this next time you come to worship on Sunday.
One day, the Bible tells us, the Lord will establish a new earth that is made up of worshipers of Christ, and “all the earth,” as it says in this psalm, will “make a joyful noise to the Lord” (Ps. 100:1). Friend, you don’t have to wait for that day. You can give the Lord thanks now.
If you belong to Him, then what is your excuse? Why are you holding His praise back? What is stopping you from overflowing with thanksgiving? Do you need to know how to be saved from ingratitude? Do you want to come to God through Jesus and have your sins forgiven so that you can be reconciled with God and give thanks abundantly? Now is your time.