The last Sunday of the Christian Year is titled Reign of Christ the King in the Revised Common Lectionary. In terms of Christ’s Church, this is recent history having been created in 1925 on the last Sunday in October. Then in 1970, it was moved to the last Sunday of the year. In his November 26, 2017 sermon titled, “Reign of Christ the King,” Dan Carmichael explains: Psalms 93-100 comprise a small collection of psalms called the Homage Psalms.[i] They refer to the reign and rule of Yahweh over his people. Of course, those people were the Israelites in the Old Testament and is the Church from the Pentecost going forward.
J.J.S. Perowne terms these the Jehovah is King psalms with Psalm 100 being the doxology of the series.[ii] How apropos! What most Christians today sing as The Doxology is based on this psalm, as well as William Kethe’s All People That on Earth Do Dwell. It first appeared in the 1650 Scottish Metrical Psalter[iii] and is known as simply the Old Hundredth since it mirrors Psalm 100. Both songs share the music composed by Louis Bourgeois. His familiar tune was first published in 1655.[iv]
Psalm 100 was first used by Israel in a thanksgiving service. As the people took their Thank Offerings to sacrifice in the Temple, they sang this thanksgiving song. Leviticus stipulates the meat of the Thank Offering must be eaten on the same day it is offered. I find it difficult to read about the Old Testament sacrificial system without thinking about the smell of tailgating. And I live in Kansas City where we do not simply eat barbeque, we brag on barbeque.
In verse 1, the New Living Translation (NLT) urges us to ‘Shout with joy’ and to ‘sing with joy.’ It invites us to enter worship ‘with thanksgiving’ and to ‘Give thanks’ to Our King. Ben Patterson gives us something to ponder and the act on:
If gratitude and joy are spontaneous, why are they commanded? Shouldn’t they just spring up in people who are awake to the goodness of God? The truth is, gratitude and joy are often what wake us up. They are choices. Remember: Gratitude and joy are organs of perception; we don’t see in order to give thanks and rejoice, we give thanks and rejoice in order to see. Do you see no reason to be joyful and grateful? Rejoice and give thanks so you will![v]
For poetry aficionados, Psalm 100 is constructed of four poetic lines of three measures each. The first three lines are a call to praise (vv. 1-4). Verse 5 is the fourth line. It presents the basis and content for our praise.[vi]
The psalmist constructed this song with seven imperative verbs. An imperative is not a recommendation, a suggestion, or open for debate. An imperative is a command or order. An imperative is given by someone in authority; someone who has the right to command or order. When the relationship is respectful, even intimate, the command or order is easy to fulfill. Consider the seven imperatives of the New International Version (NIV):
Shout – v. 1
Worship – v. 2
Come – v. 2
Know – v. 3
Enter – v. 4
Give thanks – v. 4
Praise – v. 4
James Limburg notes the use of the number seven for perfection: “After the string of six hymns celebrating the kingship of the Lord (Psalms 93, 95-99), this seventh psalm concludes the series of hymns with seven invitations to join in activities aimed at praising God.”[vii]
Alec Motyer neatly outlines Psalm 100 as follows:
A. Come in because he is God Verses 1-2 – The threefold call Verse 3 – Explanation
B. Come in because he is good Verse 4 – The threefold call Verse 5 – Explanation
Don Williams observes, “The thought moves from praise in God’s presence (vv. 1-3) to praise in God’s palace (vv. 4-5).”[viii]
We are summoned into God’s presence. And not just we Christians. The entire earth is summoned. Derek Kidner explains, “This verse claims the world for God: it should be thought-provoking to sing.”[ix] The older King James Version urges us to ‘Make a joyful noise.’ Kidner calls this an homage-shout or fanfare to a king. (98:6; 66:1).[x] Williams pictures it boldly, “The expression joyful shout includes a shout of triumph or a battle cry (see Ps. 98:4–6).”[xi] Have you ever been near an outdoor stadium when the home team scores. It’s raucous, celebratory and joyful. If we yell like that, even in the church parking lot, people will worry about us. But, find a good way to express your joyfulness as you go to worship.
While 12 versions begin this verse with the word ‘Serve,’ 40 versions prefer the word ‘Worship.’[xii] As Christians, we both ‘serve’ and ‘worship’ God. However, our entertainment driven culture handicaps our worship. Many of us expect the worship service to somehow entertain us as we fill the role of observer, rather than participant. And like the Jewish worshipers in the Temple, we too bring our offerings to the King. This is more than our tithes and offerings. This includes the work of the pastors, musicians, ushers and especially the nursery workers as all offer their gifting to God during worship. Those in the congregation offer their prayers, praise, and especially themselves as ‘living sacrifices’ to the Lord (Romans 12:1).
Verse 3 answers the questions, “Why worship?” and “Why worship this God?”
“The Lord is God!” When Elijah confronted the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah and won, the Israelites joyfully shouted: “The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God!” (1 Kings 18:39).
The Lord is our Creator. We may think we are self-made and self-sufficient, but our very breath and lives depend on God. “For in him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28).
“We are his people.” Because of Christ’s sacrifice for all of humanity on the cross, we Gentiles can now be included with the Lord’s Jewish sheep as those who are chosen.
We are commanded to ‘Know that the Lord is God.” The other six imperatives deal with actions; this one concerns our intellectual activity. We are commanded to know this self-revealing Yahweh. He is our Lord. He is the “one and only God…of the entire universe”[xiii]
I memorized this verse as a boy back in the late 1950’s:
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves… (KJV)
In the late 1970’s, the NIV surprised with:
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his..
The reason for the variant readings depend on which Hebrew manuscripts the translators follow. Kidner clears up any confusion, “The ambiguity arises from the Hebrew words for “not” and “his” which sound alike (lō’ and lô). Either of them would be appropriate here.”[xiv]
Having identified Yahweh as our Creator, the psalmist then identifies us in relational terms. God is Creator, we are the created. He is King, we are his subjects. He is Shepherd, we are his, the sheep of his flock. Now we ‘know’ who we are as well. We are “…a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession…” (1 Peter 2:9)
‘Thanksgiving’ and ‘praise’ are really two sides of the same coin. If we are ungrateful, our praise is inauthentic. If we are thankful, it’s difficult to be critical rather than gracious.
Take not of Eugene Peterson’s cleaver paraphrase: Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
Verse 5 gives us three reasons for our worship. First, our King is ‘good.’ God’s goodness is something anyone can experience. Psalm 34:8 invites us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Second, he loves us with an ‘unfailing love.’ In Hebrew, the word is hesed. This is ‘covenant love,’ ‘loyal love’; think of it as ‘steadfast love.’ Limburg calls this, “love that loves us no matter what.”[xv] Third, he is eternally ‘faithful’ to us and our descendants. God is trustworthy. We can depend on him to do what he has promised to do. The Hebrew root for ‘faithfulness’ is also used for the sturdy Temple pillars that supported the roof. God’s faithfulness is our sure support. Tate note, this is the only place in the Old Testament where these three aspects of God are brought together.[xvi]
Finally, our Good King requires his people to be good. Isaiah writes:
Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. Isaiah 1:17
As God’s good people, let’s gladly shout out his praise in thanksgiving and joy.
[i] Carmichael, web
[ii] Tate, P. 535
[iii] Tennant, web
[iv] The Cyber Hymnal, web
[v] Patterson, P. 238
[vi] Mays, P. 317
[vii] Limburg, P. 337
[viii] Williams, P. 208
[ix] Kidner, P. 356
[xi] Williams, P. 208
[xiii] Limburg, P. 337
[xiv] Ibid, PP. 356-357
[xv] Ibid, P. 538