“All people that on earth do dwell
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice
Him serve with mirth, his praise forthtell,
Come ye before him and rejoice.”
It was sung at the Coronation of the Queen and again last week at her Jubilee. It is the text that any Christian Reformed church will begin every single service with. It is what was played even as the Titanic was being overwhelmed by icy black seas.
My personal translation of the Hebrew words goes like this:
Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth;
Serve Yahweh with mirth
Enter His presence with joyous shouts.
Know that Yahweh is god;
He made us and his we are;
His people and the flock he pastures.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
His courts enter with praise;
Thank him, bless his name.
For Yahweh is good,
His loyalty is everlasting,
And his faithfulness lasts from generation to generation.
This psalm is a triumphal entry psalm. It would have been used in Jesus’ day as the psalm used like we use the processional hymn. It is a thank-offering hymn and it points to the truth of the Gospel which calls for all people to know that God is good as Jesus calls his disciples to go to the ends of the earth to proclaim the gospel of the good news of the Kingdom of God.
In five little verses, the Name Yahweh is sung four times and of pronouns representing His name, there are an astounding eleven. This song is all about Yahweh – God. And what about God? Well, the verbs tell that story: “Acclaim,” ‘serve,” “enter his presence,” “know.” So these verbs are calls to action. There is no wavering. No questioning. No lack of surety. In other words, the psalmist is speaking truth. The psalmist is sure, beyond any shadow of doubt that this God, “Yahweh” is THE God. The psalmist knows the TRUTH and he or she is acclaiming it and calling the entire population of the earth to worship in thanksgiving. “Know that Yahweh is God” and we are His people. Knowing that God is God and that we are His – no matter how much we do precisely what God asks us not to do – knowing that we are His is one of our chief jobs of life.
And why? Why should we do what the psalmist says. Not because we will be zapped by a bolt of lightening. Not because He is powerful enough to obliterate the earth. Not because we are evil little beings on the edge of eternal damnation by an angry God who plays with the earth like some puffy child, too old to reasonably play in a celestial sandbox. No. The psalmist comes to his climax with a word we usually consider flaccid and cold, like some old sponge. Yahweh is “Good.” Hardly a word which I imagine being sung at doors to a temple which are five stories high, four feet thick, and covered in gold and ivory.
But is must be “good” that is used. The formula “serve” comes from the Exodus and Deuteronomic traditions of scripture in which serving Yahweh is clearly the alternative to being enslaved by Egypt. So service here is freedom. So it is God who takes the initiative with us- we whom God is crazy in love with! God invites us to acclaim, serve, enter and know not as some demanding monarch but as a wooing lover – a God who – as the psalmist describes him in the last verse – a God who is loyal and faithful.
In the formulae of the psalms, God is praised and then we are reminded why God is to be praised. Here, in Psalm 100, God is praised because the truth is God is Good. And why is God Good? God is good because God is loyal to us and God is faithful to us.
A good God. In the busyness of life, do not miss the business of life.