There are many reasons for praising God. Further, there are many aspects of praise that we can offer. On the first day of another year, I want to mention some details from Psalm 100 that may help us have a fruitful 2015. This well-known psalm, which we have sung hundreds of times, is about praising God.
What were the aspects that the author of Psalm 100 mentions in his statement of praise? In verse 1, we can see that his praise had a global perspective. This is surprising in a sense because when the psalm was composed the kingdom of God was located within the nation of Israel. Yet the psalmist was looking forward to times of universal blessing.
In doing this, he was a good model for us to follow in the year that is beginning today. Why should we have a global perspective? The answer is obvious. We serve a God who is concerned about the nations, who has made many promises about the nations coming to serve him. We can mention two examples. One is the covenant he made with Abraham in which the patriarch was informed that through his seed all the nations of the world would be blessed. The other is the great commission given by Jesus when he told his apostles to go into all the world and make disciples.
How do we participate in the global activities of God? One obvious way is by prayer in which we remind God of his glorious intentions and interact with him in divine energy supplied by the Spirit concerning the spread of the message of his kingdom. One good resolution would be to pray for five countries every day and ask God to bless his church in those places.
A second detail emphasized in the psalm is gathering together with the people of God. In verse 4, the psalmist encourages his fellow believers to attend the worship of God in the temple, and to attend in a spirit of suitable praise. What are acceptable features of such praise? The psalmist mentions several in the psalm and three of them are gladness, gratitude and gathering.
When the monarch of a country is crowned it is a time of national celebration. Sometimes the country then has the opportunity of celebrating significant milestones of the reign, whether with regard to periods of time or by noting significant events that have occurred during it. Yet with regard to those milestones we know that they also indicate that the reign is coming closer to its end. When a king has reigned for fifty years, we know that he will not reign for another fifty.
It is very different with the King we worship today. Jesus, our great Saviour, began to reign two thousand years ago and his reign will never end. The milestones that we pass in the history of his kingdom don’t reduce the number of years in which he will reign in the future. The reality that we rejoice in is that he will reign for ever and ever. Each time we meet, we come to celebrate that great fact. We look back on 2014 and see a year in which Jesus reigned and as we look ahead to 2015 we anticipate a year in which Jesus will reign. Therefore we are glad.
Our worship is also marked by gratitude. There are many reasons why we should be grateful. We have received much from him in his common grace – food and clothing, homes and other features of a comfortable life. We also have his great and precious promises that assure us that he will work all things together for our good. And we have the amazing salvation that he has provided for sinners. Today, having believed in Jesus, we are justified and adopted, we are being sanctified, and we are heading to a better world.
How does Jesus want us to express our gratitude? He wants us to do so together, by gathering together with him and in a corporate way to respond to him with intelligent and warm exuberance. The fact that he wants us to gather together is a sufficient reason for doing so. Not to do so is a snub to Jesus and a failure to grasp an opportunity to gather with others and join them in grateful worship.
The third and final feature we can observe is that as we worship we are surrounded by grace. We can see aspects of God’s grace in verse 5: his goodness, his steadfast love and his faithfulness. In other words, the Lord is completely reliable. No good thing will he withhold from any of his people. He will be good in time and he will be good in eternity. We gather in worship to contemplate the grace of God and to remind ourselves of the wonderful fact that the God of all grace is our God forever.
The description of God’s people as sheep in verse 3 shows us that we are the recipients of his grace. At one time, we were lost sheep heading for destruction. Then we became liberated sheep as the Good Shepherd came and found us as we wandered in the ways of sin. He had to go to some strange places in order to find us, but he did. And then we became led sheep, and that is where we are today if we are Christians, being led to the refreshing pastures. In the future, we will be lavished sheep as Jesus bestows on us an endless and full supply of riches from the storehouse of glory.