Psalm 100:1–5 comment (0)
November 21, 2013
By James Riley Strange
Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor of Religion, Samford University
Thank You, Lord
Every generation of believers has to be taught, and then reminded often, to give thanks to God.
This can cause problems when we don’t want to claim that the good things of our lives are signs of God’s special favor, for then it seems logical that bad things, whether in other people’s lives or our own, are signs of God’s displeasure or at least of God’s indifference.
Before tackling the issue of how to thank God for the good without assigning blame for the bad, it will help to review three reasons why we forget to thank God at all.
1. We think we deserve the good that happens to us. Billboards tell us that we deserve money if we have been in an accident. The world’s most popular fast food chain used to sing that we deserve a break today. Nothing could send a stronger message of entitlement.
2. We think our possessions and money belong to us, by virtue of our hard work or some other transaction, and they are ours to do with as we please. The truth is, during the course of our earthly lives we own nothing, we only borrow it. God has already given us what is of infinite value, and not for anything we did.
3. We think that all good things — jobs, family, money, friendships, health, security, life itself — are permanent. They are not. In fact, they could all be gone tomorrow.
It also will help to take a look at one of the Bible’s Psalms of Thanksgiving. In the verses of Psalm 100, look for examples of “parallelism,” in which two lines of poetry reinforce one another by stating similar ideas. Every verse except for 1 contains an example.
The psalmist instructs the very earth to give thanks to God. Many psalms give thanks to God for God’s deeds, and the first deed was creation itself. Verse 3 picks up on the idea.
Verse 2 uses the metaphor of king for God, as does verse 4.
The reference to God’s “presence” here, and the references to “gates” and “courts” in verse 4, is probably an allusion to the temple. It gives us a clue that the congregation might have sung the psalm as a hymn in temple worship. The Hebrew title of the Book of Psalms is simply “Hymns” (Tehillim). This reminds us that it is important for God’s people to thank God in worship together. Corporate thanksgiving helps us to take our minds off ourselves and to remember that God has many children.
Verse 3 continues the metaphor of creation. One of God’s greatest gifts is life itself. We certainly did not earn the right to be born, just as the earth did not deserve to be spoken into existence.
The metaphor of God as shepherd in the second half of the verse tells us that God does not merely create and send us on our way but abides with us continually to guide us — if we submit to being guided, that is.
Verse 4 is the first that mentions thanking God.
The second half of verse 4 through verse 5 is very similar to the openings of other psalms of thanksgiving (see 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136:1; see also 2 Chron. 5:13; 7:3, 6; 20:21; Ezra 3:10–11).
How then do we thank God for the good without making the three mistakes mentioned above? There also are three corrections:
1. We thank God for the temporary, unmerited good things in our lives, including life itself.
2. We admit that as much as we cherish them they are not ours to keep.
3. We confess that, in the end, all we need is God.
Thanks be to God.