Situated in Book IV of the Psalter, Psalm 100 is one of the Bible’s most beloved hymns. The short composition is comprised of only five verses (Psalm 100:1-5). The psalm offers both an invitation (Psalm 100:1) and a reason to worship: God is worthy (Psalm 100:5).
The hymn, tailor made for a call to worship, is still in use. The standard hymn tune “Old 100th” is associated with this psalm due to a famous paraphrase by William Kethe (d. 1594) entitled “All People that on Earth do Dwell”. J. Clinton McCann, Jr. (b. 1951) calls this metrical version “the banner hymn of the Reformed tradition” (McCann, New Interpreter’s Bible: 1 & 2 Maccabees, Job, Psalms (Volume 4), 1079).
Beth LaNeel Tanner (b. 1959) lauds:
Psalm 100 is the best known psalm in the Christian church, especially in the form with words by Thomas Ken in the Doxology. While beautiful in its own way, the words of the song do not have the same powerful imagery of movement and praise as the psalm. (Tanner, The Psalms for Today, 83)Psalm 100 is the first of a series of four psalms with a superscription and the only psalm whose heading identifies it with the word “thanksgiving”. It famously begins by echoing Psalm 98:4’s universal summons to all the earth.
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. (Psalm 100:1 NASB)Unlike many psalms, there is no shift in mood. The hymn opens in jubilation and maintains its exultant tone throughout.
The short poem has two movements, featuring two calls to worship (Psalm 100:1-2, 4). John Eaton (b. 1927) explains:
As regards structure, the pattern is the same as that of Psalm 95:1-7: call to praise (Psalm 100:1-2) and reason (Psalm 100:3); further call to praise (Psalm 100:4) and reason (Psalm 100:5)...Our psalm will thus have belonged to the same context in the autumn festival as its immediate predecessors. (Eaton, Psalms: A Historical and Spiritual Commentary with an Introduction and New Translation (Continuum Biblical Studies), 349)Herbert W. Bateman IV (b. 1955) and D. Brent Sandy (b. 1947) concur:
The psalmist begins with a call to universal praise (Psalm 100:1-2), reasoning that God’s power alone has created the covenant community (Psalm 100:3). Second, he calls his readers to praise again (Psalm 100:4), reasoning that God’s covenant faithfulness is unending (Psalm 100:5). (Bateman and Sandy, Interpreting the Psalms for Teaching & Preaching, 41)Many have speculated that the song was originally used in a temple procession with some theorizing that the two calls to worship corresponded to two movements in the march. Samuel L. Terrien (1911-2002) posits:
The singing of praise and thanksgiving is to be intoned in the presence of the Lord, after the portals of the temple are opened. Presumably, the congregation is still marching up toward the sacred hill. (Terrien, The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary (Eerdmans Critical Commentary), 690)Though short, the song is replete with instruction concerning the nature of worship. James Luther Mays (b. 1921) informs:
Psalm 100 is an introductory hymn in two ways, liturgical and theological. Its liturgical subject is the movement into the presence of God, the first and fundamental human act that constitutes worship. Its theological purpose is to incorporate into a hymn to accompany that movement that the first and fundamental characteristics of the worship of the LORD. Psalm 100 initiates worship and sets forth a theology of worship. (Mays, Psalms (Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching), 317)Beth LaNeel Tanner (b. 1959) consents:
The psalm is dominated by the seven imperative verbs that call the congregation to shout, serve, come before, know, enter, give thanks, and bless. There are movement and voice and expression and learning, demonstrating how one can praise God will all one’s might. (Tanner, The Psalms for Today, 83-84)Psalm 100:2 instructs its audience to gladly serve/worship and to come into God’s presence in song.
Serve the LORD with gladness;The use of the Hebrew ‘abad is instructive. The word is translated as either “serve” (ASV, ESV, HCSB, KJV, NASB, NKJV, RSV) or “worship” (CEV, NIV, NLT, NRSV). It occurs only twice in the Psalter and it is fitting that it is embedded here, immediately following Psalms 93-99, a unit which proclaims God’s kingship.
Come before Him with joyful singing. (Psalm 100:2 NASB)
J. Clinton McCann, Jr. (b. 1951) explains:
Because both “worship” and “serve” are appropriate translations of the Hebrew that begins Psalm 100:2, it is fitting that many Protestants ordinarily designate an occasion for worship as a “worship service.” Strictly speaking, the phrase may be redundant; but it has the advantage of communicating the reality that worship is essentially a public profession of submission to God and God’s purposes for our lives and the life of the world. (Carol M. Bechtel [b. 1959], Touching the Altar: The Old Testament for Christian Worship (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies), 166)John Goldingay (b. 1942) concurs:
In English, talk about church services is a dead metaphor, and that is partly so when the Old Testament uses ‘ābad...Yet the verb does point to the fact that worshiping Yhwh involves a serious submission of the whole self. It involves the words of the mouth (Psalm 100:1a) and the feelings of the heart (“with joy”; it is a strange kind of servitude that is offered with joy). But it is not confined to words and feelings. The verb implies that worship is done for God’s sake and not for ours; servants serve their master; not themselves. And the fact that serving God mostly takes place outside worship also hints that there needs to be some coherence between what happens in worship and what happens outside. (Goldingay, Psalms (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms), 135)Richard J. Foster (b. 1942) concludes, “As worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience. If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it has not been worship (Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 173).”
The song next advocates entering God’s presence with singing. The Message paraphrases Psalm 100:2b, “Sing yourselves into his presence”. Worship leader Bob Kauflin (b. 1955) affirms, “The psalmists model numerous ways we can express our affections toward God to magnify his greatness, all of which can be reflected in our songs (Kauflin, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, 65).”
Robert Alter (b. 1935) specifies, “The Hebrew preposition...has the sense of “His presence.” The spatial reference is to the temple, where God’s presence is conceived to dwell, an idea that will be developed in Psalm 100:4 (Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary, 348).”
Walter D. Zorn (b. 1943) adds:
This is the first use of the word for “come” (Psalm 100:2b) or “enter (Psalm 100:4a) – same word in Hebrew...The language is taken from how people were given an audience with human kings (cf. I Samuel 10:24; II Samuel 14:3, 15, 15:2; Esther 4:11-16, 8:1). (Zorn, Psalms Volume 2 (The College Press NIV Commentary: Old Testament Series), 237)We are too approach God with at least the same reverence one would a human authority figure.
How do you approach God? Do you enter God’s presence with singing? Does your Sunday worship extend throughout the week? How should worship begin? What role does music play in worship? Is it a necessary component? With what attitude do you worship?
Artur Weiser (1893-1978) reminds:
The call to worship...in Psalm 100:2 is addressed to the congregation assembled in the Temple. It expresses the motive and the aim and at the same time the spirit of the ‘service’ rendered to God in worship, that is, enthusiastic joy in the presence of God. The note of a joy that is utterly devoted to God and leaves behind it every earthly sorrow that may burn the heart is not only reflected in the opening verses but resounds through the whole psalm. (Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary (The Old Testament Library), 646)Hans-Joachim Kraus (1918-2000) adds:
The worship of God at the festival began with the call, “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:2). Thus worship in Israel was characterized by joy. To serve God means in cultic terms to come before his face, to praise him, laud him, and honor him. (Kraus, Theology of the Psalms (Continental Commentaries), 91)Rick Warren (b. 1954) advises:
Because God wants our worship to be a celebration, we cultivate an atmosphere of gladness and joy. Too many church services resemble a funeral more than a festival...Worship is a delight, not a duty. (Warren, The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message & Mission, 271)What can you glean about worship from Psalm 100? Do you worship God joyfully? Do you joyfully serve the Lord?
“The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.” - C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), Reflections on the Psalms, p. 45