Theme: Three Things We Can Do
In this week’s lessons we are reminded of the many reasons for which to thank God.
Scripture: Psalm 100:1-5
Occasionally, when someone has done something special for us, we find ourselves asking, “What can I do for so-and-so to show my appreciation?” It is a valid question and not always an easy one to answer. But think that if it is hard to know how to show appreciation to another human being, how much more difficult must it be to show appreciation to God? How should we show appreciation to God? We cannot thank God by giving him something. He needs nothing from us. What can we do? The opening verses suggest three things.
1. We can “shout.” That seems a strange place to begin, particularly since the psalmist envisions the people of God giving thanks together in God’s house. Is that really what we are to do? Are we to come to church in order to shout? It is helpful to know that the Hebrew word originally meant a glad shout, such as loyal subjects might utter when the king appears among them, the emphasis being on the gladness. This should be clear from the first verse since the idea of joy appears there three times: “joy,” “gladness,” “joyful.” Still the text does say “shout.” It would be accurate to express this idea by saying that the people of God are to praise God loudly because they are happy with him.
Spurgeon said of this verse, “Our happy God should be worshipped by a happy people; a cheerful spirit is in keeping with his nature, his acts, and the gratitude which we should cherish for his mercies.”1
2. We can “serve.” The next verse says, “Serve the LORD with gladness.” How do we do that? The psalm suggests that we do it chiefly by coming to church and serving God by our worship: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” Yet we need to remember the words of Jesus toward the end of Matthew, in which the righteous are praised in the day of judgment because, when the Lord was hungry they gave him something to eat, when he was thirsty they gave him something to drink, when he was a stranger they invited him in, when he needed clothes they clothed him, when he was sick they looked after him, and when he was in prison they visited him (Matt. 26:35, 36).
When the righteous protest, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, and needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” (vv. 37-39), the Lord replies, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (v. 40). How can we give thanks? Jesus said that we give thanks when we meet the needs of others.
We thank God by feeding the hungry. We do this at Tenth Presbyterian Church through our ACTS community dinner programs. We can also do it by inviting those who are alone or impoverished to have dinner with us.
We thank God by welcoming strangers. There are many people who are utterly alone. They need to be included in family times by church people. The Bible says, “God sets the lonely in families” (Ps. 68:6). How? By having his families include them, of course. That is something nearly every family can do.
We thank God by clothing those who lack adequate clothing and by caring for those who are sick and lack adequate care. Christians should not only care for but even stay with those who are sick or dying. We do this through our ministry to people who have AIDS. The work is called HOPE. Others do it simply by visiting the ill or dying and by various hospital and nursing home visitation programs.
We thank God by visiting those who are in prison. In recent years, thanks to the work of Prison Fellowship, many Christians have rediscovered this important ministry.
3. We can “come.” The third imperative at the beginning of Psalm 100 is “come.” This refers to formal worship, since the psalm describes the coming of the people of God to Jerusalem and its temple enclosure. Are we to thank God by serving others? Yes, but we are to worship God, too. In other words, faith and works go together. A social gospel alone is not enough. In fact, silent belief is not enough. I am struck by the well-rounded nature of these terms—shout, serve and come—for they embrace our verbal witness, our humanitarian activity, and our worship, three necessary parts of Christianity.
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 2b, Psalms 88-110 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1966), p. 233.
What attitudes are behind giving thanks?
What did the Hebrews mean by shouting?
Why should we show a cheerful spirit?
How are the ideas of giving thanks and serving connected?
Define social gospel. Why is it inadequate by itself?
Reflection: How do you try to meet the practical needs of others?
Application: What opportunities does your church give you to serve God? List ways you personally serve.