What Does Psalm 100 Mean by 'Make a Joyful Noise Unto the Lord'?
- Jessica Udall Contributing Writer
- 2021 2 Jun
There’s a song for every occasion, isn’t there? The right songs enhance any event, imprint memories more deeply into our minds, and make even everyday moments more special. In the Bible, the book of Psalms serves as “the songbook of God’s people.”
There are several categories of psalms to fit every situation. Laments lift up hard things to God and ask for his intervention. Wisdom psalms echo ideas from the other Wisdom books (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon), and prophetic psalms are resonant with the messages of the prophets. Royal psalms “relate to the Messiah” who was foreshadowed by King David. Some psalms celebrate God’s Law, some express confidence in His help, and some relate the history of God’s people. And many, many psalms are centered around praise and thanksgiving. It is in this category that Psalm 100 falls.
Psalm 100 is the last of a grouping of eight psalms that share the phrase: “The LORD reigns.” This confident assertion addresses doubts and struggles that have been raised in other earlier psalms, and this truth makes thanksgiving possible (ESV.org).
Psalm 100 is brief and worth quoting in its entirety:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5)
What Is a Joyful Noise Unto the Lord?
When Psalm 100 invites “all the earth” to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” (Psalm 100:1), the word used for “make a joyful noise” connotes an exultant shout of victory. This word (rûa) is used often in the psalms in order to extend invitations to everyone to join in the exuberant praise (cross-reference Psalm 66:1, 81:1, 95:1, 98:6). The same word is used in the Prophetic books when God’s people are given Messianic hope for the future:
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9)
Why Are Christians Called to Be Joyful?
Seeing the Messianic connections included in this prophetic reference helps to put all the psalmic praising in context. Christians can sometimes wrongly perceive that the Bible instructs believers to be adamantly happy-clappy and always positive and cheery. But a closer look at the many Psalms of lament (not to mention the often-sad conduct of many exemplars such as David and Jesus Himself) gives a more nuanced picture.
Those who follow God can allow Him into all the circumstances of their lives, not only the happy ones. God is present and can be talked with, in overwhelming times (Psalm 88), in sorrow for sin (Psalm 51), interpersonal conflict (Psalm 41), depression (Psalm 42), doubt (Psalm 77), and more. Interestingly, all of these psalms, though they contain raw and painful emotions, have something in common: turning toward God and remembering his character and promises. And that remembrance leads to rejoicing, even if it is only a hushed and expectant flicker.
The joy of Christians is not based solely on changing emotions or on comfortable circumstances. While positive emotions and positive life happenings are wonderful blessings from God, they are not the basis of joy. Rather, God’s character and promises are unchanging and certain, a source of hope in the midst of the hardships of life. The author of Hebrews says: “We have this (God’s character and promises) as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope.”
The psalms teach us that no matter how dark our life circumstances are, there is joy to be found in the hope of an upward-focused heart in prayerful communion with God. The theme of joyful hope is carried on throughout the Bible, best summarized by Paul in Romans 12:12: “Rejoice in hope!” Later, he goes on to pray: “May the God of hope will you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13).
3 Ways We Can Express Thanksgiving to God Every Day
1. Meditate on God’s character.
God makes Himself known on the pages of Scripture, revealing Himself to be faithful, and generous, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Studying the character or the names (which reveal His character) of God with a formal study could be helpful, but simply reading the Bible with the question, “What does this passage tell me about who God is?” will also help us get to know Him better, and this will inevitably lead to joy that we are in an eternal relationship with such good father, faithful friend, and mighty God. As Psalm 100 and the psalms surrounding it focus on, “The LORD reigns.” This means that He is in charge and His will is going to come to pass! We can take comfort in the fact that we know this King, and He is good.
A few passages talking about who God is and what he is like (his character) include:
"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6-7)
"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable." (Isaiah 40:28)
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)
"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5)
"Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:8)
2. Meditate on God’s promises.
God always keeps His promises. We do not have to wonder about His faithfulness: it is as sure as His character: “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). Indeed, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” The answer to these rhetorical questions (also posed poignantly in Psalm 77:8), is “No.” Rather, “all the promises of God find their Yes in [Jesus Christ]” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
The promises of God are too numerous to name, and some have not yet been fulfilled, but our hope that they will be fulfilled is sure and steadfast as we wait for the fulfillment of all things according to the timing of the one who is ”not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
A passage that sums up the already-but-not-yet nature of God’s promises is 1 John 3:1-3: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
For 50+ verses reminding believers of God’s promises, visit Biblestudytools.com.
3. Sing songs of hope.
When we are already feeling joyful, songs of hope can enhance our joy. When we are feeling tempted to despair, songs of hope can refocus our eyes on the source of our hope and rekindle a flicker of rejoicing in our hearts. A few to start with are:
- Joy by Rend Collective
- Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee by Maverick City
- Waymaker by Leeland
- Faithful God by Laura Story
The psalms, including Psalm 100, encourage us to be joyful in the Lord and to express that joy in the form of praise and thanksgiving. This rejoicing does not have to be merely springing from our circumstances but is rooted and sustained in the enduring character and promises of God that give us hope even in our darkest days. Through meditating and singing about who God is and what He has promised, we can “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” because “the Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:4-5).
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Merlas
Jessica Udall holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Bible and a Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Studies. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Intercultural Studies and writes on the Christian life and intercultural communication at lovingthestrangerblog.com.
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