Psalm 100 Commentary: Seven Commands and Two Motivations of Our Praise
Shout. Worship. Come. Know.
Enter. Give thanks. Praise him.
These seven commands form the backbone of one of the most instructive psalms on giving grateful praise to the Lord: Psalm 100. W. Dennis Tucker and Jamie A. Grant provide insight into this psalm's meaning and composition in their new commentary Psalms, Volume 2 (NIV Application Commentary).
This Psalms commentary, which is part of the NIV Application Commentary Series, helps readers learn how the message of the Psalms can have the same powerful impact today that it did when they were first written. This commentary helps you achieve both halves of the interpretive task—understanding the Bible's original message and applying it powerfully today.
A good place to start is Tucker and Grant's observation that Psalm 100 is part of the Yahweh malak (“the Lord reigns”) collection of psalms (Pss 93–100). Tucker and Grant reveal:
Psalm 100 concludes this mini-collection of psalms focusing on the universal reign of God with a strong voice of doxological celebration. The psalm consists of seven commands addressed to the whole earth and two motivation clauses that give clear reasons justifying this resounding call to praise Yahweh! (450)
Explore these seven commands and the two motivation clauses of our praise below.
Seven Commands, Two Motivations of Psalm 100
Tucker and Grant argue that Psalm 100 typifies the tone of the group of Yahweh malak songs with a twofold theme: “Israel is reminded that their God reigns, despite all appearances to the contrary, and they are reminded of their missional responsibility (the whole earth needs to know of Yahweh’s rule)” (450). And the psalm describes its purpose as being “For giving grateful praise.” The content of the psalm clearly reflects the title.
Before exploring the meaning of this passage in detail, here is the whole passage for your consideration from the NIV, with the seven commands highlighted in bold, the two motivations in italics:
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Commentary on Psalm 100
Psalm 100 exemplifies the slightly unusual dynamic we find in the Yahweh malak ('the Lord reigns') collection of psalms (Pss 93–100). These songs are apparently addressed to the nations at large—for example, here in Psalm 100 'all the earth' is called to join in God’s praise. But apart from those proselytes who had converted to the Hebrew faith, it was the people of Israel who heard this call to worship rather than the nations. (450)
Delight in the King! (100:1–3)
We find the first four of the seven commands of praise in this first stanza: shout, worship, come, and know:
- Shout. “Israel is called to shout for joy to the God of the covenant (particular), and the whole earth is invited to join in that proclamation of praise (universal)” (450–451). Tucker and Grant note that the Hebrew verb here (hariy‘u) is strong, encouraging the worshiper to be vocal! “The worshiping community—Israel and the whole earth—is to hold nothing back in raising the roof in their praise of Yahweh” (451).
- Worship. The term used here (‘abad) is a combination of “worship” and “service.” As they explain, “Every act of worship is an act of service, and every act of service done for the Lord is an act of worship… There can be no separation of public worship practice from private character and worldview. For the former to be meaningful, the latter must be consistent with the words offered" (451).
- Come. The relational nature of worship is emphasized with this command. “It is an act of presence as praise and service are offered ‘before him’ (lit., ‘before his face’)” (451). And both Israel and the nations are invited to approach their Creator with “joyful songs,” rather than fear and trembling. This is made possible because the relationship with God is transformed, turning “the act of drawing near to him from terrifying to delightful. Accepting the kingship of Yahweh radically changes the essential experience of the worshiper’s approach to God’s throne” (451).
- Know. The psalm pivots around this final command. Tucker and Grant explain, “Three imperatives (shout, worship, come) precede this one and three more (enter, give thanks, praise) follow it, thus making the slightly unusual command, ‘know,’ the pivot around which the others revolve” (451–452). In other words, “Know that the Lord is God” is the structural and theological heart of Psalm 100. It implies more than merely mental acknowledgment. Rather, this "command requires a whole-life affirmation that stems from complete devotion to God and worship of him” (452).
The first set of commands ends with a reminder: “It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (v. 3). The authors note that this “provides the first rationale and motivation for the exuberant praise of these verses by celebrating the blessings and benefits of the covenant” (452). And it is this covenant that provides the limitless inclusion of the nations alongside Israel.
They quote Jörg Jeremias to explain the “mind-blowing” expansion of the covenantal relationship. It is worth quoting here:
Here there is, in fact, a universalizing of the “covenant formula.” Of course, this reshaping of the “covenant formula” is not carried out in such a way that the promise it contains for Israel (Pss 95:7; 79:13) is simply expanded; rather the nations are called to recognition. . . . The nations are called to recognize and acknowledge their own createdness and, as a consequence, their belonging to the one God and creator and this recognition opens for the nations the gate to an equal sharing in Israel’s worship [originally quoted in Hossfeld and Zenger, Psalms 2, 496]. (452)
“It is difficult for us to grasp,” conclude Tucker and Grant, “how these words would challenge the worldview paradigms of the Old Testament community of faith. Access into the presence of the Creator, the particular privilege of Israel, is opened up to people from every national and ethnic identity. All those who recognize Yahweh’s cosmic kingship are called to join in this song of praise as full members of the covenant community (the sheep of Yahweh’s flock)” (452–453).
Enter with Praise! (100:4–5)
Next we find the latter three commands.
In the previous stanza, the authors noted the staggering inclusiveness of verses 1–3. It is powerfully repeated in this second stanza.
“Verses 1–3 invite the nations to join the pasture of the covenantal flock and to sing songs of praise to Israel’s God. The nations’ new status as part of the worshiping community of faith is affirmed in the commands ‘to enter,’ ‘give thanks,’ and ‘praise’ (lit., ‘bless’ [v. 4]).” (453)
- Enter his gates . . . and his courts. The language here is the language of Temple access. The authors explain, how non-Israelites would have normally been excluded from the Temple inner court. However, the psalm encourages them to not only access the temple complex but also to enter the inner court with the Israelites. “For the nations, this call invites a privileged and unprecedented level of participation in the festal worship of Israel” (453).
- Give thanks . . . and praise. These final commands further imply an intimacy of relationship with Yahweh that previously would have been unimaginable. The authors draw attention to what John Eaton notes, mainly that “the command to bless Yahweh has ‘a note of grateful warmth, a consciousness of having received salvation from the Lord who is kind and gracious, committed in his love, faithful and true forever’” (453). Because the nations have come to realize that Yahweh alone is a truly good God, they offer thanksgiving and praise his very being.
These final commands are followed by three covenantal statements that voice the realization to which the whole earth has been drawn. They also explain the second motivation for praise:
- For the lord is good. This is a classic psalmic justifications for the worship of God. “Why bring praise? Quite simply, because God is good. This assertion is, in some sense, the most basic but also the most profound character claim that could be made of a deity in the ancient world” (453). The gods were seldom good, loving, or kind. So this claim “would have been as attractive as it was radical at the time when Psalm 100 was first sung” (454).
- His love endures forever. This love is hesed, the steadfast love of the covenanting God—a resolute, never-failing, and never-ending kind of love. The authors include Schaefer’s comment: “Hesed is part of God’s essence, and thus acts of grace are not the expression of some affection- ate whim. The people’s reliance on God is justified by God’s covenant loyalty” [Psalms, 247] (454)
- His faithfulness continues through all generations. The third rationale for praise is rooted in God’s faithfulness—a term (’emunah) that resonates strongly with the Old Testament idea of covenant. “God is always faithful to his covenantal promises, and here in Psalm 100 those covenantal promises are extended beyond Israel to all nations. They too will see, know, and experience the unshakable, resolute, and absolute commitment of Yahweh to his people” (454).
“God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness present people of every nation with good cause to sing his praises and to worship him. The first rationale is relational (v. 3), and the second here is ontological (v. 5). God is by definition deserving of human praise just because he is who he is” (454).
Bridging the Contexts
All passages within NIV Application Commentaries include a "Bridging the Contexts" section in order to build a bridge between the world of the Bible and the world of today by focusing on both the timely and timeless aspects of the text. Tucker and Grant identify two key aspects of Psalm 100: the kingship of God and the psalm’s connection with the New Testament.
First, the kingship of God. The authors note how Psalm 100 echoes the ideas, imagery, and theology of the other psalms in a collection known as the Yahweh malak grouping focusing on “the Lord’s reign.” They explain two interesting and important aspects of this inclusion, but here is one: the presentation of the act of worship as an approach to the High King. “The language used in Psalm 100 is clearly the language of access and approach, but it is also the terminology of deference to the monarch” (455). Psalm 100, then, presents worship in terms of approaching the King. Further, both Israel and the nations are summoned as a congregation “before the King with the expectation that this vibrant and varied community of adherents will ‘serve’ their Sovereign” (455).
Second, Psalm 100 has connection to the New Testament. Although there are no direct citations of Psalm 100 in the New Testament, the authors note, “Psalm 100 resonates strongly with the images of the nations at the heart of the community of faith seen worshiping at the throne of God in the book of Revelation (Rev 5:9–10; 7:9–10)” (456). And while “the primary intertext is the Song of Moses, Revelation 15 in particular evokes strong associations with the monarchic and worshipful images of this collection that are summed up so well for us in Psalm 100” (456).
All passages within NIV Application Commentaries conclude with a "Contemporary Significance" section. Here, in light of Psalm 100, it strikes the authors “that we are doing worship badly in the contemporary church” (456). They offer three particular ways Psalm 100 challenges how we practice worship:
- Worship has an outward focus. “We tend to think of worship as an internal act—one that is between God and his people… Psalms 93–100 make it clear that the attractive worship of the community of God is an act of proclamation that calls and invites others to join in the praise of the Shepherd King” (456–457). They encourage churches to consider their public praise of God as outreach: “Do we explain for those who visit our services why it is that we want to exalt our God as the King? And do the songs we sing declare his universal kingship in the same way the psalms do?” (457)
- Worship is a joyful act. “What does our sung praise communicate about the God we worship? Often our praise is far from exuberant, far from joyful, far from the vibrant, colorful, loud, and captivating image of praise we see in Psalm 100” (457). We often stand with hands in our pockets mumbling words with little thought or conviction—“and such behavior casts our love for God in a very poor light… There is something wrong with our hearts if our praise does not reflect the powerful, joy-filled, vivid, vibrant worship of Psalm 100. Psalm 100 stands as a challenge to us!” (457)
- In worship we approach the King. Yes, our lives should be a continual act of worship to the King. However, our public praise is an act of approaching the living King, who reigns over the cosmos. “In the rituals of the ancient Near Eastern political world, it would be common to direct shouts of acclamation and praise to the king. How much more appropriate is it to direct such shouts of praise to the High King over all the universe as we draw near to him?” (458)
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
“We are called to engage in loud and lively praise, but we are also called to listen to the voice of the King and to obey his decrees absolutely, as we are enabled to do so through his Son and by the work of his Spirit” (458).
Let Tucker and Grant show you how to praise—loudly and lively—through their careful exegetical work of Psalm 100, and every psalm, covered in this commentary. Add Psalms, Volume 2 to your library in order to grasp the original meaning, exegetical context, and contemporary significance of these precious Hebrew poems, hymns, and prayers.
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