The Priestly Ministry of Thanksgiving
Passage: Psalm 100:1–100:5
The Priestly Ministry of Thanksgiving
Do you consider yourself a joyful and thankful person? Would those who live and work with you say that you are a joyful and thankful person? I am the first one to admit that joy and thanksgiving are not the first two words that come to mind when I think about my own life and ministry.
But even a more important question for us this morning is this, are we a joyful and thankful church? Are we a people whose lives and worship are characterized by joyful faith and thanksgiving to God for what he has done for us in Christ?
This question matters. It matters because that is the kind of church we want to be. We want to be a people who glorify God as we treasure the glory of Christ in the gospel. And you cannot treasure that in which you find no joy. There is no such thing as joyless or thankless treasuring.
God’s Word this morning calls us to joyful worship that rooted in the character and work of God. Psalm 100 is a song of thanksgiving, as the title in v1 says, is “A Psalm for giving thanks.”
Before we jump to the text I will like to attempt to give you a working definition of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is faith at work. What does faith do? Faith looks to God and his faithful provision both in the past and in the present and trusts that his provision is indeed good. Faith then leads to an expression of love towards God based on his character and provision, and love says, “thank you, God, you are my only portion in this life.” And finally, faith in God and love for God lead to giving witness to God’s glory and provision by saying, “look at what God has done.” Thanksgiving is faith working through love and proclamation. It is a three-dimensional reality based on God’s revelation of himself and his faithfulness towards us.
Whit that definition of thanksgiving, then, we will look at three truths about God that I pray will encourage our hearts to rejoice in God and to give thanks to him. First, in vv1-2 we will see that The Lord is the Creator of the World. Second, in vv3-4 that the Lord is the Redeemer of His People. And third in v5 that the Lord is the Keeper of the Covenant. Creator, Redeemer, and Covenant-Keeper. Three reasons why we ought to give thanks to God.
The Lord Our God is the Creator
We begin first in vv1-2 with the first truth about God: the Lord is the Creator of the World. To be sure, there is nothing in the text that explicitly talks about God as Creator. There is no mention of creation in Psalm 100. What is explicit, however, is that God demands the worship of all the earth. Look there in v1, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” The question is, why does God command the whole earth to worship him? Does he even have the right to make such a demand? And the answer is, absolutely, he does. The point is settled in the book of Psalms. In Psalm 102, reflecting on Genesis 1:1, the psalmist writes, “Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.” And Psalm 33 says, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” The theological framework of the book of Psalms works like this: God made all things and owns all things, and therefore he calls all the inhabitants of the world to worship him.
Notice also, what kind of worship God commands from us. God commands worship issuing from the heart. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness!” True worship engages the entire person, including the affections of your heart. True worship is more than knowing things about God. Knowing God truly is essential for true worship of God, for you cannot love truly, what you do not know rightly. However, it is possible to have knowledge about God without love for God. You can have a robust theology and still lack the kind of affection of the heart that is the proper and fitting response to the glory of God.
God made the world for his own glory, and he is most glorified when his creatures come to him in whole-hearted worship.
And that means that whether you are a Christian or not, the God of the Bible demands your allegiance. You owe your very life to the Creator who made you, and the proper response is to worship him, not unwillingly, but with gladness of heart.
The psalmist goes on to describe worship as a sacrificial offering. As others have pointed out, the title of the Psalm could be referring to a song that was written specifically for the occasion of a thanksgiving offering. The thanksgiving offering was one of many sacrifices and offerings instituted by God for the worship of Israel in the book of Leviticus. The title of Psalm 100 makes this psalm a song fitting for that occasion.
But more importantly, notice how worship is described in v2 as serving the Lord and as coming into his presence. This is typical language used for worship at the temple. Under the Old Testament, the people of Israel would come before the Lord as they entered the courts of the temple to present their offering to the priest. But what is amazing here in Psalm 100 is that this sacrificial giving of thanks is not limited to those under the Levitical system of worship. Rather, God summons the whole earth to offer him the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
Remember that from the very beginning, the whole creation was meant to be the place where God’s presence dwelt among his people. God made Adam and Eve in his own image as his representatives, and as image bearers, they were supposed to spread the image of God throughout the earth and to expand its dominion to the whole earth. From the beginning humanity was meant to serve God in a priestly manner, mediating the glory of God to the rest of creation. And here in v1 we have an echo of that plan as the whole earth is summoned to come into his presence with singing.
However, because of Adam’s disobedience, sin entered the world and humanity failed in their priestly ministry to the creation. The book of Psalms again picks up this theme of sin and rebellion. Right at the start, in Psalm 2, we find the nations raging against God and plotting to remove him from his rightful throne. And Psalm 14 is categorical when it says that we “have all turned aside, [and] together have become corrupt.” Rather than propagating the image of God and extending its dominion to the ends of the earth, the image of God in man and woman has been marred by sin. As Paul says in Romans 1, although we knew God we did not honor him as God nor did we give thanks to him. The priest-like image bearer commits treason. We rejected God and turned to worship other things, so that we deserve the wrath and judgment of God which will come swiftly upon the world on the last day.
How, then, will God restore true worship on the earth? If those he created to fill the earth with his glory failed to do the work, what will God do to restore it?
The answer to that question brings us to our second truth in vv3-4. God is not only the creator of the world, but he is also The Redeemer of His People.
The Lord our God is the Redeemer
God’s solution to the problem of sin is to redeem from the world a people for his own possession and through them to restore the worship of God on earth. Notice how the psalmist transitions from addressing the whole earth in v1, and now he speaks to a particular people in v3. “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.” The psalmist is now addressing the covenant people of God and he includes himself among them.
And the emphasis here, what distinguishes this people from the rest of the world, is that that they belong to God. Notice the structure of the second part of v3, it is like a sandwich. You have four phrases, and the first and the last are like the bread: it is God who made us and we are the sheep of his pasture. The two middle phrases next to each other are the meat in the middle of the sandwich, and that is where our attention should be: we are his, we are his people. So, the emphasis is that Israel, among all other nations, is the people of God. He is not concerned with leading sheep from another fold, but cares for his own. They are made by God, and known by God, and called to know him as their covenant Lord as in v3, “Know that the Lord, he is God!”
And it is God’s people now who in v4 are called to offer thanksgiving to him. Just as in vv1-2, God’s people are also called to enter the courts of the temple with praise. But notice the last part of verse 4, the giving of thanks and the blessing of God’s name are unique to God’s covenant people.
It is the people of God who know the name of God. And it is his covenant name, the Lord, that they are called to bless. Thanksgiving is what sets the people of God apart from the rest of the world because thanksgiving is rooted in knowing God as the Lord of the covenant. So that now, it is God’s people who are called to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and to bless God’s name.
That is God’s purpose in redeeming a people for himself, to make them a priesthood to serve him and to mediate his glory to the world. That is God’s purpose for Israel in Exodus 19, where he calls them his treasured possession among all peoples, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
And here is the bridge between Psalm 100 and us today, brothers and sisters. The apostle Peter makes the connection for us in 1 Peter chapter 2, which we read earlier. Speaking to the church, he says in v9, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” The church is identified as the new covenant people of God and are given the priestly task to make the glory of God known on the earth.
But there is a way to bridge Psalm 100 to our own day too quickly that misses the culmination of God’s redemptive plan in the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is to make the connection between God’s covenant people under the Old Testament directly to us. Doing so misses how Adam and Israel, as God’s representatives in the world, pointed forward not to us, but to Christ himself.
God’s redemptive plan is fulfilled not in the church directly but in Jesus, and then applied to the church through him. That is why the doctrine of union with Christ is essential to understanding not only your own identity as a believer but also the nature and mission of the church, as a people united to Christ by faith.
Jesus himself is the yes and amen of all of God’s promises and the fulfillment of all of God’s purposes. That is Pauls’ point in Ephesians 1 when he says that God makes known his hidden will according to his purpose set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time. Christ is the appointed one who comes to fulfill everything that Adam and Israel failed to do. Jesus is the new Adam, the new covenant head of the people of God in whom we are made to be partakers of God’s blessing, Romans chapter 5. Jesus is the true Israel, the obedient Son of God, called out of Egypt, tempted in the wilderness, and found faithful to the Word of God, Matthew chapters 2 and 4. The entire New Testament reveals that Jesus is the One in whom God has revealed and accomplished his salvation for the world, he reveals the Father’s glory and fulfill the Father’s Word. And it is only in our union with Christ, the promised seed of Abraham, that we share in the promise that connects us to the people of God under the Old Covenant.
This is why we want to be a Christ-centered church with a Christ-centered ministry to the world. Because Jesus is the foundation, the center, the climax, and the ultimate end of all of God’s purposes. We have nothing to offer the world except Christ. God has accomplished salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, and our task is to proclaim him, crucified, risen, and reigning forevermore.
This is how God has dealt with the problem of sin. By reconciling a people to himself through the obedience, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in him, calling us to live as a holy people, a priesthood to the world as we proclaim the excellencies of him who called us from darkness into his marvelous light. It is by proclaiming the gospel that the church now extends and propagates the glory of God to the ends of the earth, as sinners hear the message of God’s salvation, repent from sin, and turn to God by faith in Christ. This Christ-centered proclamation is our thanksgiving and boasting in God, our sacrificial offering of thanksgiving and our priest-like ministry to the world.
And this brings us to the third and final truth this morning.
Our call to joyful thanksgiving is ultimately rooted in who God is, in his character and faithfulness to his people fully displayed in the gospel. Look there in the last verse where we see that the Lord is the faithful covenant-keeper.
The Faithful Covenant-Keeper
In v5 the psalmist gives us his main reason for thanking God. Why should God’s people come into his presence with thanksgiving? “For [or because] the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Our thanksgiving to God is rooted in the truth of who he is. He is the good and faithful Lord. The one who keeps steadfast love and covenant faithfulness to all generations.
The steadfast love of the Lord is the thread that holds the Scriptures together. His faithfulness in keeping covenant with his people is the way in which his salvation unfolds and is revealed throughout the Bible. It is the heartbeat of the book of Psalms and the theological trajectory that connects us from Psalm 100 to the life, death and resurrection of Christ, where we see God’s faithfulness and steadfast love fully displayed.
In other words, how can we know that God is faithful and that his steadfast love for his people will never run short? We look to Christ by faith. We look to Jesus hanging on the cross, paying the penalty for sin that we deserved. We look to Jesus and the empty tomb, as the Lord of life takes his life back up from the dead, forever defeating sin and death, and confirming his work of salvation. We look to Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession who has gone before us and has tread the path to eternal life. The steadfast love of God is fully revealed and confirmed in the person and work of Christ. And it is by walking by faith and rejoicing in him that we offer our thanksgiving to God, as Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through [Christ] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” The church offers thanksgiving to God as we bless and acknowledge the name of God through our confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I began this morning by asking the question, are we a joyful and thankful people? This is one of the most important questions the church can ask today. It was an important issue for Martyn-Lloyd Jones in the mid-1950s. In his introduction to his series of sermons on what he calls spiritual depression, Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “that the greatest need of the hour is a revived and joyful Church… Unhappy Christians are, to say the least, a poor recommendation for the Christian faith; and there can be little doubt but that the exuberant joy of the early Christians was one of the most potent factors in the spread of Christianity.” I think Lloyd-Jones’ words are as true today as they were then, and perhaps even more applicable to our situation today.
Now, before I explain why, I want you to hear me well, brothers and sisters. As one of your pastors I am well aware that many of us in this room this morning, and many of those listening in have a daily battle of faith against hopelessness, and sadness, and guilt, and unbelief, and a whole host of other afflictions of the heart that require the faithful care of your soul. I know that is the daily battle for many us, including myself. That is not what I am referring to in quoting these words from Lloyd-Jones. Those who fight for faith and joy in Christ under the dark clouds of despair are not a poor recommendation of the gospel. Rather, you are a trophy to God’s grace in Christ who keeps us steadfastly by his power in our struggle. The fact that you are actively seeking to walk by faith in Christ as you experience the anguish of your soul is an evidence of God’s grace at work in your life.
That is not what I have in mind here. What I am referring to is the prevailing cultural idea of our day, which has infiltrated the church, of what some call “being real about life” or being “authentic.” And I’m putting these in quotations. It is the idea that unless you publicly admit that you have a hard life, you are insincere and irrelevant. It is the idea that being hopeful in the midst of hardship in inauthentic and offensive to others. We go the extra mile to really show that our lives are as hard, if not harder than others, and that we have as much reason to be unhappy as they are. It is a race to see who can boast the more about being unhappy.
Now, to be sure, of all people, we, Christians, want to be and ought to be truthful about the reality of our own sinful brokenness and the brokenness of the world we live in. Recognizing brokenness is part of your gospel witness. And the Scriptures are not silent either, the Bible give us categories for understand and explaining what has gone wrong with the world. The Bible never paints a romantic picture of life in a fallen world.
But the Bible is not pessimistic about our situation either. Rather, the Scriptures are hopeful about what God has done to redeem our broken lives and our broken world. And therefore, the Scriptures call us to confident joy and thanksgiving in God. There is nothing more real and authentic, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, than to point people to the good news of the gospel and to give testimony the grace of God at work in our lives.
As Christians, we need to be careful with the testimony we give to the world about our lives. We need to be careful because our testimony will either magnify the grace of God in Christ or it will diminish it. The idea that on one hand the gospel is enough and on the other hand that your life is miserable is inconsistent and a poor recommendation of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love for his people.
The fact that the faithful Christian life is unimaginably hard, doesn’t mean that your life has no ground for confident hope and joy in God. Brothers and sisters, we have been given ten-thousand blessings in Jesus Christ. You have been given forgiveness of sin through the precious blood of Jesus, you have been given an imperishable and abiding word of promise in the Word of God, and you have been given a living hope that awaits you at the revelation of our Savior. You have been redeemed by Christ, united to Christ by faith, and are being kept by the power of God through faith in him. Everything you need for life and godliness has been granted to you freely in Jesus. There is nothing that you need for today that God has not given you and there is nothing you will need tomorrow that he has not promised to provide. Psalm 100, especially v5, is clear this morning. We have a reason for joyful thanksgiving because the Lord our God is good and his steadfast love endures to all generations.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord is the creator of the world; he is the Redeemer of his people, and the faithful covenant-keeping God who’s faithfulness in Christ never ends.
May God be glorified in us and through us as we treasure the glory of God in Christ. It is our task, as his holy people and royal priesthood, to tell the world of God’s salvation, and to testify to his grace as we raise our song of praise to him through Jesus Christ. Amen.
I would like to end by reading a hymn based on Psalm 100 as we transition now to sing our last song:
All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the LORD with cheerful voice.
Serve him with joy, his praises tell,
come now before him and rejoice!
Know that the LORD is God indeed;
he formed us all without our aid.
We are the flock he surely feeds,
the sheep who by his hand were made.
O enter then his gates with joy,
within his courts his praise proclaim!
Let thankful songs your tongues employ.
O bless and magnify his name!
Because the LORD our God is good,
his mercy is forever sure.
His faithfulness at all times stood
and shall from age to age endure.