Life: Thank you, Lord

 • The Bible Studies for Life lesson for Nov. 24 focuses on Psalm 100.

We all enter the sanctuary in our own way. Teenagers crowd into their row in back, girls flipping their hair and trading texts. The critic takes his seat, folds his arms and starts running through his mental checklist. A harried mother herds her children into the pew, passes out coloring books and crayons, and sits between them to prevent a wrestling match. Maybe she’ll actually be able to listen to the sermon this morning.

The businessman checks his watch as he enters. He’d rather be at the golf course, but there’s that city council seat open next fall, and it’s important to be seen. Another woman slips into her seat at the last moment. After church she has to drop the older kids off at home before getting the youngest to his soccer game. Lunch will be from the drive-through again. Hopefully the pastor won’t be too long-winded.

Why do we come to church?

We all come. Sometimes we come out of habit or because church is another item on our to-do list. Sometimes we come because we crave the social connection; sometimes because it’s what our mothers always told us to. Sometimes we come because we’re simply desperate.

The Bible calls us to come celebrating our living God.

Psalm 100 paints a picture of a joyful congregation preparing to enter the temple courts in praise. They come with joy, singing songs of gladness. Thankful hearts overflow into shouts of joy. They have come to enter the presence of the Lord and celebrate God’s faithful love.

Worship flows out of a proper understanding of who God is. Psalm 100 doesn’t just call the faithful in Jerusalem. “All the earth” is summoned to praise the Lord (v. 1). Nothing else will do. The Lord reigns over all the earth, and all creation should join the celebration.

The morning stars sing for joy over our God; the mountains tell of his majesty, and even the trees of the field clap their hands in celebration of God’s redemptive work. When we come to worship, we join a chorus of praise lifted up by all creation. Our God is the Lord of all the earth, who founded the world with a word and for whom earth is but a footstool. Worship is more than an imposition or interruption in our week; it is the fulfillment of what we were meant for from the beginning. We were created to praise him.

Rejoicing and celebration

In worship, we rejoice and celebrate because we belong to the Lord. In biblical times, kings often were viewed as the shepherds of their people. It was the king’s responsibility to protect, defend and ensure the safety and security of his people. God is our sovereign king. He is our shepherd, and we are “the sheep of his pasture” (v. 3). We don’t belong to some inferior king who may sacrifice his people to secure his own power. We belong to the God who sacrificed himself for us. God is our provider, defender, redeemer and friend. We stand secure, because God has claimed us as his own. The only proper response is thankful celebration.

We celebrate because the Lord is good. “Good” doesn’t have much of a punch in English. We often say something is “good” when we really mean “it’s OK” or “it didn’t blow me away.” In Hebrew, “good” is much more powerful. The Hebrew word for “good,” tob, has a range of semantic meanings.“Good” can mean it fulfills the function it was designed for, as when God declared the world good on the first day of creation. It can mean happiness or well-being (Psalm 45:1; 2 Chronicles 7:10). “Good” can describe something beautiful or pleasing to the eye (Genesis 2:9; 24:16). It can mean superior quality or noble character (Isaiah 41:7; Exodus 2:2). “Good” is the opposite of “evil” (Psalm 34:14).

God is good

In a sense, God’s goodness encapsulates all of these. Saying God is good declares the beauty, perfection and nobility of the Lord. In his goodness, God gives life to his people. All that is good and excellent comes from God (James 1:17). God’s goodness toward his people is expressed in his faithful covenant love (Psalm 100:5).

Our response to God’s covenant love is worship. Worship aligns us to the purpose for which we were created—the praise of our good and faithful creator. The word translated as “worship” in Psalm 100:2 has the underlying meaning of “serve.” It carries the connotation of serving a king or master. In worship, we offer our service to God. We don’t serve God under compulsion. Instead, we joyfully and gratefully offer our praise to the God who has made us, loved us, shepherded us and cares for us with his faithful goodness.

As we come to worship, we come to celebrate the Lord of all the earth. Let us enter his gates with thanksgiving and praise.

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