Engage Bible Study Psalm 100 April 27 29, 2015

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From this document you will learn the answers to the following questions:

  • What did the psalm give voice to?

  • What is the psalmist's point in Psalm 100?

  • What is the main trait of God's worship?

Transcription

1 1 Engage Bible Study Psalm 100 April 27 29, 2015 Welcome back to Engage. Next week will be our final session of this semester. We ll have a little fun, review core themes from our work in the psalms and give you a little summer homework. Our next semester will begin in the week of September 14. As I mentioned last week we re going to do something a little different in the fall. We re going to take the preaching text for the upcoming weekend and we re going to dive in much more deeply than we are able to in a 15 minute sermon. We re going to put special emphasis on spiritual formation, connecting God s story to our own story and what that means for who we are and how we live. I think that Engage will also really enrich your engagement with worship. So mark your calendars and be sure to invite others to join you. If you get something out of this time, they will to! Last week we unpacked Psalm 137, a psalm written during the Israelites 70 years of captivity in Babylon. The psalm gave voice to the nation s despair that their homeland, including the Temple that housed God s presence, had been destroyed. God s people saw no reason for hope, no indication that they would ever be rescued from their exile, no hope for ever returning to their homeland. And not only did the psalmist express his despair, he also expressed his rage. The psalmist cried out for revenge against the Edomites who betrayed them, and against the Babylonians who had conquered them. In perhaps one of the most shocking verses in the entire bible the psalmist cried out in bitter rage, Blessed are those who bash the heads of Babylonians infants on the rocks. Psalm 137 challenged us to consider how we deal with our own anger. How do we keep anger from turning into bitterness? How do we transform the energy of anger into something beautiful and productive? And the answer is, we can t. Only God can do that. Only God can change our hearts and set us free from our anger, but that doesn t mean that there isn t anything for us to do. There are spiritual practices that open us to the transformational power of God. Remember this definition of a spiritual practice: A spiritual practice is an intentionally directed action by which we do what we can do in order to receive from God the ability (or power) to do what we cannot do by direct effort. Only God can change hearts. That s God s work. According to Jesus our work is to pray for our enemies, to pray that God would heal the wounds we do not know and cannot see, to bless them with all they need to be whole and well. That is a spiritual practice that opens us to God s transforming power. Praying for our enemies isn t easy, and it certainly isn t natural. When we start it feels awkward and disingenuous. But that s why we practice, and practice wears a

2 2 groove in our soul just as swinging a golf club or a tennis racquet over and over again wears a groove in our musculature that eventually makes it natural. So, how did it go this past week? What was your experience of praying for an enemy? This week we re going to explore Psalm 100, one of the best known Psalms of praise. While it gives us no historical context it s reasonable to assume that this song was sung by worshipers as they made their way to the Temple in Jerusalem. Let s read the psalm together [READ]. Just a little different in tone than last week s psalm, isn t it? That s part of the beauty of the psalms; they cover such a wide range of human experience and emotion. But make no mistake; this psalm is likely to make you uncomfortable as well, challenging us on a number of fronts. And that challenge begins in the very first verse, Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. (v. 1) Notice to whom this psalm is addressed? All the earth! All of creation is commanded to make a joyful noise to the Lord. This is a theme we ve heard before in the psalms. Remember these word from Psalm 19: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made. (Psalm 19:1) All of creation declares the glory of God by reflecting the nature of the Creator, but here in Psalm 100 creation is commanded to make a joyful noise. And that includes us. And let s be clear the psalmist is commanding us to make a joyful noise, heavy emphasis on both words! This is no meek Lutheran amen at the end of a prayer. This is no quiet and uninspired singing of a hymn. This is a JOYFUL NOISE! It s a shout of praise intended to reflect the inner joy and passion of a worshiper of God. Later in the psalm the psalmist will tell us why we should do this, but for now I just want you to wrestle with the command itself. How did we ever get to the point where we would think someone odd or even inappropriate for being exuberant in their worship on a Saturday night or a Sunday morning? How did we ever get to the point of thinking that the appropriate way to worship is to be quiet? That certainly isn t what the psalmist calls us to do! When is the last time you made a joyful noise to the Lord in the sanctuary? For most of us the answer might just be never! And if that s true, ask yourself why? Psalm 100 doesn t start with a mild suggestion. It begins with a bold and unequivocal command, Make a joyful noise! Can you pause for a moment and imagine yourself doing that? Uncomfortable yet? Ready to go back to the rivers of Babylon instead? Many of us would rather sit in worship seething with anger than make a joyful noise! Who among us wouldn t cry with joy at the birth of a child or grandchild? Then why aren t we making a joyful noise when we worship the God who is giving new birth to all of creation every moment of every day? Just a thought.

3 3 Verse 2 continues the same theme, Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. (v. 2) Does anyone s bible translate that verse differently? Serve the Lord with gladness is another common translation, and that s because in Hebrew the notions of worship and service are closely related. When we gather in worship we come together to serve the Lord with our offering of praise, and we re called to do so gladly and with singing. That verse alone, I think, challenges us in three ways. First, what s our attitude when we come into worship? Do we even consider our attitude before we come to worship? Gladness, thanksgiving and joy are the words the psalmist uses to describe the attitude of worship. That doesn t mean we can t come to worship when we re grieving or hurting. We bring that to our worship too. But even in grief, even in hardship, there is always reason to joyfully give God our thanks and praise. We ve heard the psalmist do that many times throughout this semester. Second, we re commanded to sing. Isn t it interesting that from the earliest roots of our Jewish faith singing has been an important part of worship? So, how s your singing at worship? I m not asking if you sing in tune or if you have a good singing voice. God could care less about that. Notice that the psalmist didn t command us to give a beautiful and in tune vocal performance! We re commanded to make a joyful noise. To sing out in a way that reflects our inner gladness and gratitude for God s goodness in our lives. There are few things more beautiful and inspiring than when a congregation of God s people really join their hearts and voices in song. I love it when I sit in the front row in worship and clearly hear the congregation singing! Think about it this way. Imagine one of the children s choirs comes to sing in a worship service. Does anyone care if they sing on key? Of course not! What makes our hearts glad is when they belt it out with real joy. The only time we d be disappointed is if they didn t sing out with enthusiasm. We take great joy at their joyful noise. And I think that God is the same when it comes to our singing in worship. Third, consider the implications of the connection between our of worship and our service to God. It s a stark reminder that the recipient of worship is God. God is the audience and we are the performers when it comes to worship. Worship is our work, our joyful labor, together. The word liturgy means the work of the people. That s an important reminder in a consumer culture that has made worship all about us...what we got out of the experience and whether it lived up to our expectations and personal preferences. We are indeed supposed to get something out of worship, but worship fills us up most when we empty ourselves out with joyful praise to the Lord.

4 4 I warned you that this would be a challenging psalm! Let s continue with verse 3, Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Here the psalmists addresses God s identity, our identity and the relationship between the two. To know that the Lord is God isn t just an intellectual exercise. It means to acknowledge God at the level of our heart, to claim God as our highest reality. Let s remember that the Israelites were surrounded by cultures that worshiped many gods, so this verse is call to recognize that Yahweh alone is Lord and God. When the psalmist says, It is he that made us he is not referring to the act of creation. He is talking about God s choice of the Hebrews as his chosen people. That s why the psalmist continues,...we are his; we are his people. The Israelites took great joy in being chosen and called by God as his own precious possession. And notice how the psalmist describes the relationship between God and his chosen people, the sheep of his pasture. Other gods in surrounding cultures were capricious, vengeful and demanding...demanding even the blood of human sacrifice to appease them. But Yahweh, the true God of all creation, isn t like that. Yahweh is like a shepherd who lovingly provides both food and protection for his flock. As Christians, when we worship, we would say all the same things about Jesus. Jesus is God and the Lord of all creation. And we are his chosen people...not to the exclusion of others but as a part of God s movement to redeem all things, all of creation, to God. We are his people. We, too, are the sheep of the Good Shepherd s pasture. Let s continue with verse 4, Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. This verse reflects the architecture of the temple and movement of the worshipers into it. The temple was built in something like concentric circles. People entered the entire complex through a gate. There was an outer court where worshipers gathered, and inner court where the priests did their work and offered sacrifice, and the Holy of Holies where God s glory dwelled. The psalmist commands all people to enter the temple gates to worship God and when they do the attitude of their hearts is to be one of thanksgiving. While thanksgiving is something we can and should do each and every day, at the heart of it thanksgiving is a corporate activity. We are called to gather and give God our thanks and praise in community. This is at the very heart of our worship. And not only thanksgiving but praise. That s the deeper meaning of blessing the name of the Lord. In the Hebrew mind God s name represented God himself, and all worshipers are called to praise God, to proclaim the greatness of God, which is the proper way to address the Lord of all creation who has so richly blessed us! This thanksgiving and praise would have included the

5 5 people s singing, their prayers and various sacrifices. So where s the sermon? I m not aware of any preaching that was part of ancient Israelite worship. Later, in Jesus day, when people gathered in the synagogues someone would read scripture and then offer some commentary, and the Rabbis certainly did that kind of teaching, but I m not aware of it happening in ancient Israelite worship. Finally, verse 5, For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Here is where the psalmist gives the reasons for worship, for praise and thanksgiving, and there are three of them. First, the Lord is good. The nature of God was not a given in ancient culture. In fact the nature of God that the Hebrews proclaimed was quite different than the gods of Babylon and Assyria, of Canaan and Egypt. Yahweh was a good God, a God of mercy. A God who is for his people, not against them. As Christians we know that even more clearly because we believe that the nature of God, the heart of God, is fully revealed in Jesus life, death and resurrection. God is good indeed! Second, God s love endures forever. God s nature does not change so God s love can be counted on. Remember last week I said that the prophets revealed that the Babylonian exile was the work of God. That might seem harsh. That might not seem like something a loving God would do. But the prophets proclaimed that God did it to discipline his people, discipline, not punish them, to purify them to do the work for which he had chosen and called them. They were to reveal the goodness of God to the world. They were blessed to be a blessing. And that s the very same call for which we ve been chosen! Finally, God is faithful to all generations. This refers to God s covenant promise. God would never break his promise to his people to be their God. They, and we, can count on God s faithfulness. Good, loving and faithful. That s the nature of the God that the Israelites worshiped. No wonder the psalmist calls them to give God their heartfelt praise and thanksgiving as they gathered for worship! Questions about Psalm 100? Let s spend some time in conversation around the tables. Homework

6 6 It s easy to read Psalm 100 and miss the challenges that it holds, challenges that I think Christians need to hear. I know that I do! So here are some things to consider as we think about putting this psalm into practice. First, check your attitude as you pull into the parking lot for worship. Just pause for a moment and set aside whatever might distract you from coming into worship with a grateful heart. You might even want to pull out your I love you because list and let it serve as a reminder of God s goodness and all that you have to be thankful for. Second, remember that worship is a community activity. It isn t like the movies in which a bunch of disconnected individuals sit, watch and go home. We worship as one community, one called people. We are the one body of Christ. So...what are your thoughts on how we can better reflect that reality in worship? What are your ideas? Here are a few of mine: Introduce yourself to those whom you don t know. If you see someone sitting alone, go out of your way to connect with them. Invite them to sit with you. Provide hospitality...greeting and ushering. Third, I challenge you to worship in the spirit of Psalm 100. To be more fully present, to engage more deeply. When you walk into worship, remind yourself that it isn t about what you ll get out of it; it s about what we re bringing to God. When the worship assistant is praying...pray! When we do a call to worship...respond from the heart. And when we sing...blow your lungs out. Shout to the Lord. Make a joyful noise to the Lord. All it takes a few people to get it started. All it takes is a few people to start a movement, to develop a new culture. And it could start with you, but only if you re less concerned with what others think, and more concerned with giving God what God deserves. Want to see what that looks like? Watch this: So go ahead. Start a movement!

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