Theme: “Old Hundredth”
In this week’s lessons we are reminded of the many reasons for which to thank God.
Scripture: Psalm 100:1-5
It is a striking fact about the one hundredth psalm that it is the only one in the Psalter explicitly identified as “a psalm for giving thanks.” The words occur in the heading with which the psalm starts.
This does not mean that the one hundredth psalm is the only psalm of the 150 in the Psalter that is to be used to give thanks, of course. Expressions of thanks and exhortations to give thanks occur in many places in the psalms, and there are other psalms of specific thanksgiving besides this one. Psalm 107 is one. It has been called the “Pilgrims’ Psalm” because it was cherished by our Puritan forebears as an appropriate and moving description of their experiences in coming to the New World. It describes their deliverance from homeless wanderings, imprisonment and persecutions, which they endured in Europe before coming to America, and then their perils at sea, starvation and the deaths of family and friends, which they experienced once they had departed. It concludes, “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD” (v. 43). The pilgrims undoubtedly read this psalm with tears both of sorrow and of joy on the first Thanksgiving.
Or again, there is Psalm 118. It uses the word “thanks” more than any other psalm, beginning and ending with the challenge: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (vv. 1, 29).
Yet, as I say, Psalm 100 is the only psalm that is explicitly identified as “a psalm for giving thanks.” And what a psalm it is! It is the very quintessence of thanksgiving. Christians have clearly felt this throughout many generations of church history, because numerous poets have rendered it in verse and it has been sung to several well-known tunes. We know Psalm 100 significantly as “Old Hundredth.” The words are by William Kethe (1561), and the tune is by Louis Bourgeois from the Genevan Psalter:
All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice;
Him serve with fear, his praise forthtell,
Come ye before him and rejoice.
Isaac Watts also wrote a hymn based on Psalm 100. It begins:
Before Jehovah’s awful throne,
Ye nations, bow with sacred joy;
Know that the Lord is God alone,
He can create, and he destroy.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher of the nineteenth century, declared, “Nothing can be more sublime this side of heaven than the singing of this noble Psalm by a vast congregation.”1
The psalm is not hard to analyze. It contains seven great imperatives, plus two explanations of why we should give thanks, the first halfway through the psalm and the other at the end. In other words, Psalm 100 contains: 1) a statement of how to give thanks; 2) an explanation of why God’s people must give thanks; 3) an invitation to give thanks; and 4) a final great expression of praise or thanksgiving.
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 2b, Psalms 88-110 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1966), p. 233.
What psalms other than this one express thanks? How do they help us to praise the Lord?
What four points does Psalm 100 contain?
Reflection: For what do you usually offer thanks to God? Do you often only praise him during good times, or also in the hard times? How often do you express thanks to him?
For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message from 1 Chronicles 16, “How to Give Thanks Well.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)