Thank You, Lord November 24, 2013 Commentary
We live in a day of ingratitude and presumption. The world, our own sinful flesh, and the devil, have
motivated and captivated many of us to be in persistent hot pursuit of perishable products. These all have
―temporary‖ stamped on them. This spirit of ingratitude is robbing us of the spirit of generosity and humility.
Many this week are wrapped up in Thanksgiving Day parades, football games, and turkey with all the
trimmings but never stop to give thanks to Almighty God for all His many blessings.
Psalm 100 can restore unto us a spirit of thanksgiving and joyful gratitude to our Lord and everyone in our
concentric circle of contact. It is with good reason that many sing this psalm very frequently in their
religious assemblies, for it is very proper both to express and to excite pious and devout affections towards
God in our approach to him in holy ordinances; and, if our hearts go along with the words, we shall make
melody in it to the Lord.
The Jews say it was penned to be sung with their thank-offerings; perhaps it was; but we say that, as there is
nothing in it peculiar to their economy so its beginning with a call to all lands to praise God plainly extends
it to the gospel-church. Here, I. We are called upon to praise God and rejoice in him (v. 1, 2, and 4). II. We
are furnished with matter for praise; we must praise him, considering his being and relation to us (v. 3) and
his mercy and truth (v. 5). These are plain and common things, and therefore the more fit to be the matter of
The Passage: Psalm 100:1 through 5
The Setting: This is the only psalm that bears the title ―A psalm of praise,‖ and throughout this short psalm,
the congregation is called to praise God with both their words and actions. What does e say?
Psalm 100:1 through 5 (NIV)
1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all
Psalm – A psalm is a song of praise accompanied by a stringed instrument. Unlike other songs or poems, a
psalm is a divinely inspired meditation on God’s will and prescribed way designed for personal and
His courts (v 4) – Only priests could enter the holy place in the Jerusalem temple. For the general
worshiping public, the temple had several courts or courtyards in which worshipers were allowed to gather
for prayer, to watch their sacrifices being offered, and to sing psalms.
Psalm 100:1 through 2 Commentary
The Hebrew Psalter (collection of worship psalms, our Book of Psalms) was divided into five divisions.
Psalm 100 belongs to the fourth division (Psalms 90–106) and to the hymns of praise category. One
suggestion is this psalm was sung in gathered worship in the temple, perhaps as an opening hymn that would
be followed by other expressions of worship. A second view is it was a hymn of procession sung by pilgrims
entering the temple courts for worship. In this scenario, the worshipers would sing verses 1 through 3 and a
choir inside would chant verses 4 through 5. The psalm’s title, ―A Psalm." For giving grateful praise,‖ could
refer to a general, verbal expression of gratitude or to a song that accompanied thank offerings. Most likely,
the title indicates an exuberant song of gathered worshipers’ gratitude, which in itself was an offering. The
unnamed psalmist began his glad song with a strong exhortation for all the earth to shout for joy to the Lord.
The loud shout was similar to the victors’ shout following triumph over their enemies or a horn’s clarion
blast. The exhortation also presented the image of a king’s loyal subjects greeting his appearance with joyous
shouts proclaiming praise and devotion to the monarch.
The psalmist exhorted worshipers to worship the Lord. The word worship could refer to participation in
collective worship or to ministry for God to others. In Joshua, 24:14 through 15, Joshua confronted the
Israelites with their choice concerning the object of their ultimate allegiance. Joshua emphatically declared
his— and his families—loyalty to God. In his challenge, Joshua used the Hebrew term that means to work,
to serve, and to present offerings to God in worship. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translators chose
to translate the Hebrew word ―worship‖ in Joshua’s speech and ―serve‖ in Psalm 100:2, reflecting the term’s
shades of meaning. The New International Version reverses the English words, while the English Standard
Version and the King James Version consistently render the word as ―serve‖ in both contexts. The writer of
Hebrews stressed believers’ doing good and sharing were sacrifices (acts of worship) that pleased God (v
Thus, Christians’ acts of ministry constitute genuine worship. Such joyful service expresses thanks to God.
In Psalm 100:2, the writer chose a word from his language that conveyed a double emphasis. With that
double emphasis, he challenged people gathered in the temple courts to worship God, who was worthy of
their devotion, and to work for or serve Him as His loyal subjects.
The psalmist also declared the people’s worship/service was to be characterized by gladness. They were to
rejoice in their privilege of coming before him and of being God’s servants. In Psalm 2:11, the psalmist
called his people to ―serve the Lord with fear.‖ Both attitudes are essential. God’s people consistently were
to express exuberant joy and deep reverence as they approached Him. The psalmist urged worshipers to
come before him with joyful songs. They were to give a ringing cry of joy to celebrate the privilege of
entering the King’s presence.
Psalm 100:3 through 4 Commentary
Confession of God’s absolute lordship is to be an integral part of our worship. Believers are to know
(recognize, confess) that the Lord is God. The psalmist had much more in mind than intellectual agreement
that Israel’s covenant God was the true God. Such acknowledgment that Yahweh alone was God and that no
other god existed committed the worshipers to personal involvement in the expectations or requirements
stemming from God. The psalmist’s emphatic assertion, he who made us, could convey the idea of God’s
creating all human beings, a certain truth without question. However, it more likely specifically refers to His
making the Israelites His people. Some ancient manuscripts and versions of the Hebrew Scriptures have the
disclaimer ―and not we ourselves‖ to stress God’s sovereign initiative and to negate any hint of human
achievement. In the Hebrew text, the words he who made us convey the sense of ―He, even He‖ (He alone).
The expression we are his; we are his people reinforces the foundational tenant of the Israelites’ faith: they
belonged to God as His special possession. The phrase ―his people‖ stressed the Israelites’ covenant
relationship with God. Then the psalmist used a familiar and highly suggestive figure to expand on God’s
relationship with His people: they were the sheep of his pasture. Not many of us today are familiar with
sheep through raising, but the people of the psalmist’s time would have understood the implications of his
analogy. God was His people’s Shepherd, providing nurture, protection, and tender attentiveness for His
flock. They were His valued sheep, and they were to follow Him, trusting His leadership. Implied in the
psalmist’s figure are God’s great patience, love, protection, and care for His people (see Ps. 23:1 through 4).
Today, we can be grateful that Christ characterized Himself as the Good Shepherd who gave His life and
arose from death on His sheep’s behalf (John 10:14 through 18). He deserves our wholehearted devotion.
The psalmist exhorted worshiping pilgrims to enter his gates with thanksgiving, expressing gratitude to God
as they entered the temple courts. The Hebrew word translated thanksgiving has the sense of giving thanks
in songs of worship. It also can convey the idea of confession. Likely, the psalmist had both meanings in
mind. The faithful were to express gratitude to God for the privilege of worshiping in the temple courts and
for God’s blessings on them. They also were to echo the psalmist’s preceding confession: they were God’s
covenant people because of His gracious initiative. He is their beneficent, caring Shepherd. They were to
enter … his courts with praise (a song of praise, adoration, and thanks) as they came into God’s presence.
The psalmist called for the worshipers to give thanks to him and praise his name. The Hebrew term rendered
praise also can be translated bless. It had the sense of expressing adoration for God from a kneeling position.
The word ―name‖ stood for God’s person. The exhortation could faithfully be phrased: ―Give thanks to Him and
bow in worship before Him.‖
Psalm 100:5 Commentary
In synonymous parallelism, the psalmist celebrated God’s revealed character as the motivation for genuine,
heartfelt worship. The writer proclaimed the truth of God’s continuing love and then restated his emphasis in
different words, indicating God has sole and unique claim on His people’s praise and thanksgiving. In His
gracious dealings with the Israelites through the years, time and time again God had demonstrated that He
is good. Repeatedly, God had shown His kindness in His dealings with His people.
God also had displayed continuing steadfast love for His people. The word the psalmist used for that love is
almost beyond defining. The Hebrew term has been translated fidelity, mercy, kindness, loving kindness,
affection, and faithful love. It may be the closest Old Testament equivalent of the New Testament concept of
grace. The term expressed God’s unwavering faithfulness to the covenant obligations He willingly took on
Himself when He chose to make the Israelites His people. The psalmist described God’s love as eternal or
enduring forever; it is a love that is endless and limitless.
The psalmist restated the basis of God’s worthiness of His people’s joyous worship: His faithfulness
continues through all generations. He is unchanging. As generations come and go, the Lord remains the
same. The Hebrew word rendered faithfulness also can be translated ―truth‖ in the senses of firmness,
steadfastness, and stability. It conveys the various concepts of wholeness, completeness, and reliability. The
psalmist reminded worshipers that they could count on God’s inexhaustible attentiveness to them. That truth
should draw their glad, genuine thanksgiving and worship. They were to celebrate God’s work in their lives.
What encouragement the psalmist offered to God’s faithful people long ago and to us today! God is
dependable. Although we never can take His mercy for granted, as though we somehow deserve it, we can
be sure that in the midst of inevitable change we can rely on God’s changeless nature and unwavering love.
In the language of his day, the psalmist celebrated God’s consistent care for His people. Centuries later, the
writer of Hebrews assured believers that ―Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever‖ (Heb.
13:8). God’s people often let Him down, yet He never deserts or disappoints us through all generations.
In the mid through 1800s the English scholar, Henry Alford, wrote the hymn, ―Come, ye thankful people,
come.‖ It has become a Thanksgiving standard of all Christian denominations.
1. Come, ye thankful people, come, Raise the song of harvest home!
All is safely gathered in, Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God's own temple, come; Raise the song of harvest home!
2. We ourselves are God's own field, Fruit unto his praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown Unto joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade and then the ear, Then the full corn shall appear;
Grant, O harvest Lord, that we Wholesome grain and pure may be.
3. For the Lord our God shall come, And shall take the harvest home;
From His field shall in that day All offences purge away,
Giving angels charge at last In the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store, In the garner evermore.
4. Then, thou Church triumphant come, Raise the song of harvest home!
All be safely gathered in, Free from sorrow, free from sin,
there, forever purified, In God's garner to abide;
Come, ten thousand angels, come, Raise the glorious harvest home!
His courts (v. 4)—Only priests could enter the holy place in the Jerusalem temple. Only the high priest
could enter the holy of holies, and he could do so once a year on the Day of Atonement. For the general
worshiping public, the temple had several courts or courtyards in which worshipers were allowed to gather
for prayer, to watch their sacrifices being offered, and to sing psalms.
His courts—The phrase His courts in verse 4 refers to the area around the central sanctuary in the life of
ancient Israel. The sanctuary is also called ―the holy of holies,‖ the innermost part of the tabernacle, and
later the temple, where God’s presence dwelled among His people. Yahweh’s presence among them is
what set Israel apart from all other nations. Therefore, they had to come before Him in awe as before the
God and King of the universe who had condescended to be in covenant relationship with them. God was
on His throne in the holy of holies, dwelling above the winged cherubs on the mercy seat, and to approach
His courts was a very solemn thing. The courts referred to the areas in closest proximity to the holy of
holies. After the temple was built during the reign of Solomon, the temple courts took on specific
parameters, and later Judaism assigned limits determining how close worshipers could approach the
sanctuary. For example, there was the court of the people, the court of the Gentiles, and the court of
Psalm—The Hebrew word translated psalm in the superscription is mizmor, which occurs 57 times in the
Old Testament—but only in superscriptions to various psalms. The term itself refers to a poem sung with
musical accompaniment since it is derived from the verb zamar, ―to sing with musical instruments.‖ This
means that if there are no musical instruments involved (that is, if the song was sung a cappella), then the
song is not a mizmor. The same can be said of the Greek equivalent term psalmos, which is the basis for
our word psalm. This term occurs seven times in the New Testament (four times as the name of the Book
of Psalms, Luke 20:42; 24:44; Acts 1:20; 13:33; and three times as a term for Christian songs, 1 Cor.
14:26; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) and the related verb psallo occurs four times (Rom. 15:9; 1 Cor. 14:15; Eph.
5:19; Jas. 5:13), showing that musical instruments as accompaniment for Christian poems were an integral
part of worship in the early church.
The Book of Psalms is a collection of psalms, poems accompanied by music that played an important role
in the life of God’s people in Old Testament times. These psalms were written by numerous people and
collected over a period of about 1,000 years, from Moses to the end of the Old Testament era. This
collection served as the hymnal for the Hebrew people during that time. David wrote about half of them,
and Moses, Solomon, and Asaph contributed to the collection as well. Many of them were written
However, regardless of authorship, these psalms celebrate the greatness of Yahweh, Israel’s God, and the
many great events in Israel’s covenant life with Him.
The Book of Psalms contains 150 psalms of various lengths and with a great variety of emphases. Each
psalm can be placed in one or more categories that are related to the purpose of the psalm and the style the
author used in writing it. For example, there are psalms of praise, lament, imprecation, confession, ascent,
covenant history, enthronement, and several other types. Messianic psalms, which are psalms that in
whole or in part refer to the coming of Christ, can be found in the Psalms. Psalm 100 is a psalm of praise,
which calls on God’s people to acknowledge and celebrate His greatness as our God and His goodness as
Know: 1. Be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information. Have knowledge or information
concerning. Be sure of something. 2. be familiar or friendly with. Have a good command of (a subject or
language). Have personal experience of. (usu. be known as) regard as having a specified characteristic or
SOURCE: Concise Oxford Dictionary; Tenth Edition; Oxford University Press
Acknowledge: 1. accept or admit the existence or truth of. 2. confirm receipt of or gratitude for. 3. greet
with words or gestures. ME verb knowledge, influenced by obs. acknowledge, confess’.
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:
. . . FOR HE IS GOOD The Psalms of Thanksgiving
By Thomas H. Goodman, pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas.
―WE CAN BE LIKE HOGS IN AN APPLE ORCHARD,‖ a country preacher told his congregation. ―We
can enjoy all the fruit of this life without ever looking up to see where it came from.‖
The thanksgiving songs in the Book of Psalms guide us to look up. In these songs the poet thanked the
God who ―upheld my right and my cause‖ (Ps. 9:4), ―rescued me‖ (18:17), ―healed me‖ (30:2), ―forgave
the guilt of my sin‖ (32:5), ―answered me‖ (34:4), and ―brought us to a place of abundance‖ after a time of
severe testing (66:12).1
Categorizing the Psalms
Such songs of relieved thanksgiving fall into what Old Testament scholar and author Walter Brueggemann
categorizes as ―psalms of reorientation.‖ The 150 psalms are not organized,2 so with each new psalm the
reader may move from praise, to lament, to wisdom teaching, and so on—much like listening to an
apparently random selection of songs on a radio program. As a result, various writers have suggested
ways to organize the psalms into groups based on certain characteristics.3 Brueggemann’s categorization
is particularly helpful; each psalm, he says, describes life in a state of orientation, disorientation, or
Psalms of orientation sprang out of the times when life was anxiety-free and thus the worshiper could look
away from himself and meditate on the phenomena of the world around him. In these poems ―the heavens
declare the glory of God‖ (19:1); the Lord is the believer’s shepherd (23:1); the Enthroned One laughs at
those who oppose Him (2:4); glorious things are said of Jerusalem (Ps. 87); brothers live in unity (Ps.
Poems from times of disorientation comprise the bulk of the Book of Psalms. In these complaints, the
poet desired to restored joy of God like a deer pants for water (42:1). He describes how God had rejected
and humbled His people (44:9); the poet cried out until his throat was parched (69:3), but God did not
answer (22:2); the Lord had exalted the right hand of the king’s foe and cast the king’s throne to the
ground (89:42,44); and the poet asked, ―Will you forget me forever?‖ (13:1). At times, the psalmist
confessed that the hardships had resulted from his own sins (Ps. 38) or from the sins of the nation (Ps. 60).
At other times, he cried for God to rescue him from a difficulty that did not come from his sinfulness (Ps.
142) or from the nation’s unfaithfulness (Ps. 44).
Surprised by the inbreaking of grace and deliverance, the believer experienced what Brueggemann called
re-orientation. A psalm from this phase gives words or the excitement of God’s intervention in a personal
or national crisis. In these poems God stoops down to make the king great (18:35); God lifts the believer
out of the depths so that his enemies can no longer gloat over him (30:1); God breaks the chains of his
nation’s exile (107:14); and God covers the repentant man’s sins (32:1).
A thanksgiving psalm celebrates God’s ―reorientation‖ of the believer’s life. Leslie Allen, professor of Old
The song . . . gives voice to the excited beginnings of new life rising from the ruins of personal
crisis. The phase is destined to give way to a more settled one that will be both like and unlike the
phase of old orientation. Like, in that it will be marked by the stability, steady progress, and
appreciation of life enjoyed before. Unlike, in that it will reflect a mature faith that has found in
tragedy and survival schooling in wisdom, and wrested out of them a deeper relationship with God.
Defining a Thanksgiving Psalm
What characteristics mark a psalm as one of thanksgiving? Old Testament professor R. P. Belcher
suggests four. First, the poet expressed ―a declaration of intent to give thanks . . . followed by the account
of the distress and the change that has come to the psalmist’s life because of the deliverance.‖ Second, the
reader finds ―confession directed to others that Yahweh was the one who delivered from the distress (Ps.
18:27-28; 34:6-9).‖ Third, the poet mentioned, or called for, a thanksgiving sacrifice (66:13-15). In fact,
the most commonly recorded setting for thanksgiving psalms was the temple in Jerusalem where
worshipers lifted up thank offerings. Finally, ―the psalm might end with further affirmations of
thanksgiving or exhortations for others to give thanks (Ps. 118:28-29).‖ Belcher acknowledges ―the
aforementioned order is flexible.‖6
Hymns that praise God for His worthy characteristics are closely related to the psalms of thanksgiving.
―The difference is that the thanksgiving song is crisis-oriented,‖ explains Allen. ―It is a response to what
God has just done in the experience of the believing person or community. . . . The hymn, on the other
hand, lacks such immediacy. It surveys the character and work of God in a general fashion and from
further afield.‖7 So, for example, in both Psalm 96 (v. 4) and Psalm 48 (v. 1) the poet exclaimed, ―Great
is the Lord and most worthy of praise,‖ but the motivation was different in each song. Psalm 96 is a hymn
of praise in which the songwriter called on the heavens, the earth, the sea, the fields, and all creation to
rejoice in God. Psalm 48, however, is a song of thanksgiving where the songwriter called on the relieved
citizens of Jerusalem to reflect on a recent divine deliverance from their enemies.
Offering Up Thanksgiving Psalms
While some thanksgiving psalms give expressions of an entire grateful community, most are
pronouncements of gratitude from an individual whom God had saved or rescued. The individual may
have called on others to amplify his praise to God, but clearly, the testimony was uniquely his. So, in
Psalm 66:20 the poet exclaimed, ―Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love
from me!‖ (emphasis added), whereas in Psalm 124:6 the entire community, following a divine rescue
from their enemies, was led to sing, ―Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth‖
In this regard, Psalm 107 is unique as a thanksgiving psalm because it is both communal and individual.
The poet called the entire community to find their own individual reasons to thank God. Four imaginative
scenarios encourage the people of God to reflect on the various instances in which God can demonstrate
His mercy: when His people are lost in the wilderness (vv. 4-9), imprisoned (vv. 10-16), and sick (vv. 1722), and caught in a frightening sea storm (vv. 23-32). The instances of imprisonment and sickness are
particularly noteworthy, because the poet indicated those predicaments occurred as a result of sin (vv.
11,17). So the psalm encouraged the people to thank a merciful God who rescued them even when rescue
God demonstrated His undeserved rescue supremely in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ
for the salvation of sinners. And we today serve a God who, having given His own Son for our salvation,
will ―also, along with him, graciously give us all things‖ (Rom. 8:32). Therefore, believers are to give
thanks to God ―for everything‖ (Eph. 5:20) and ―in all circumstances‖ (1 Thess. 5:18). The psalms of
thanksgiving can show us the way.
By Steven Andrews, assistant professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Southwestern Baptist Theological
Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina.
HOW DO YOU SAY THANK-YOU IN HEBREW? Most tourists who visit Israel easily learn to say tôdâ
to express their appreciation for kindness or good service. Modern Hebrew borrowed tôdâ , which means
―thanks,‖ from biblical Hebrew. Biblical Hebrew, however, uses tôdâ and its verbal root yådâ in a
The verb yådâ occurs about 100 times in the Old Testament with almost two-thirds of these found in the
Book of Psalms. English Bibles translate yådâ in several ways. For example, the New International
Version renders the verb in the majority of cases as ―praise,‖ ―give thanks,‖ and ―confess.‖
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The original meaning of yådâ may be ―acknowledge‖ (compare Job 40:14).1 Scholars of a previous
generation suggested that yådâ developed from yåd, ―hand,‖ and presupposed the idea of raising the hands
in confession or praise.2 However, most scholars today suggest the fundamental meaning of the verb is
―confess.‖3 For them, yådâ conveys two ranges of meaning: (1) to confess God’s character or works, and
(2) to confess sins.
Confessing God’s Character and Works
Yådâ is primarily employed in the Old Testament to confess God’s character and His marvelous works.4
To acknowledge who God is and what He does involves praise, and this moves one to be thankful. Not
surprisingly then yådâ occurs in Hebrew poetry in parallel with other praise verbs: ―to praise‖ (Ps.
109:30), to praise with music (Ps. 7:17 [Heb. v. 18]; 92:`), to remember (Ps. 45:17 [Heb. v.18]), to glorify‖
(Ps. 86:12), and to declare (Ps. 30:9 [Heb. v. 10]). Therefore, yådâ functions as one of the key praise
terms in the Old Testament.5
Yådâ normally has God as its object (Ps. 136:1-3). Righteous individuals (Ps. 140:13, [Heb. V. 14]), the
people of Israel (Ps. 45:17 [Heb. V. 18]; 106:47), the kings of the earth (Ps. 138:4), the heavens (Ps. 89:5
[Heb. V. 6]), and even the wrath of men (Ps. 76:10 [Heb. V.11]) praised God and His wondrous works.
Praise requires a whole heart (Ps. 86:12; 111:1) and an uprightness of heart (Ps. 119:7). Praise also
responds to the righteousness of the Lord (Ps. 7:17). Praise was to last forever (Ps. 30:12 [Heb. V. 13];
52:9 [Heb. V. 11]), but apparently only the living and not the dead could praise God (Isa. 38:18-19).
Although God’s praise could be heard among the nations (2 Sam. 22:50), it was especially found in the
worship of the great assembly of the people of Israel (Ps. 35:18). Praise occurred in the temple, the house
of the Lord (Ps. 100:4; 122:1-4). David appointed the Levites to stand every morning and evening to
direct the giving of thanks (1 Chron. 16:4; 23:30). Praise could be given orally by word or song (Ps.
109:30; 28:7), and music often accompanied it (Ps. 33:2).
Yådâ also conveys the idea of confession of sin. This includes individual and corporate confession. In
worship, a personal confession of sin preceded the trespass offering (Lev. 5:5-6).
On the Day of Atonement the high priest placed his hands upon the scapegoat and confessed over it the
sins of Israel (Lev. 16:21). Furthermore, God promised that if the Israelites would confess their sins with
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humble hearts, He would remember His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Lev. 26:40,42). Daniel
confessed his people’s sin (Dan. 9:4-5) as did Ezra (Ezra 10:1), Nehemiah (Neh. 1:6). The people of Israel
themselves also make a public declaration of sin during the great revival under Ezra (Neh. 9:2-3).
The noun tôdâ has broader meaning than the verb yada. It can refer to the declaration of God’s character
and works (Ps. 26:7; 69:30 [Heb. V. 32]), as well as the confession of sin (Josh. 7:19; Ezra 10:11).
As part of the sacrificial system, the tôdâ ―thank offering‖ is one type of ―peace‖ or ―friendship
offering.‖6 In the Old Testament, The presentation of a tôdâ or ―thank offering‖ was considered a time of
joy.7 This type of sacrifice was often accompanied by a song of thanksgiving (also called a tôdâ ), a
joyful song of gratitude for God’s mercy and deliverance (Ps. 147:7). Tôdâ additionally referred to
Levitical choirs who sang these songs (Neh. 12:31,38,40).
Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving
Tôdâ and yådâ occur three times in Psalm 100. First, the Hebrew superscription labels the psalm as ―a
song for a thank offering (tôdâ).‖ Here tôdâ refers to the sacrifice, the apparatus of worship. As His
people, as the sheep of His pasture, we are called to bring a sacrifice of thanks to Him.
Second, in the first half of verse 4, this great missionary hymn enjoins the whole earth (v. 1) to enter the
temple with thanksgiving (tôdâ). This stresses the attitude of worship. Tôdâ here may also refer to a
―song of thanksgiving.‖ In either case, the emphasis is placed on our joyous and grateful response to
God’s merciful character and redemptive works.
Finally, verse 4 ends with the imperative of yådâ ―give thinks.‖ Consequently, it refers to the action of
worship. The worshiper must publicly acknowledge who God is and confess His wondrous works. We
are called to declare that God’s covenant love and faithfulness endure forever (v. 5).
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Music In David’s Time
By Becky Lombard, assistant professor of music theory and organ, New Orleans Baptist Theological
Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana.
DAVID SERVED MANY ROLES in his lifetime. He was shepherd, king, soldier, poet, and musician.
His instrumental music soothed Saul’s spirit. He sang and danced in worship and celebration before the
ark. He authored many of the psalms and took part in their musical performance of worship. He even
created an organization of music leadership for service in the temple.
Throughout history, people have believed that music affects human behavior. The same was true for
Hebrews in the centuries before Christ. Music was a vehicle for the worshiper to experience supernatural
moments with God.
After that, you will go to Gibeah of God, . . . As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of
prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes, and harps being played before
them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will
prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person (1 Sam. 10:5-6). Whenever the spirit
from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he
would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him (1 Sam. 16:23, NIV).
Elisha said, ― . . . bring me a harpist.‖ While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came upon
Elisha and he said, ―This is what the Lord says:‖ (2 Kings 3:14-16a, NIV).
There were two worship traditions in the Old Testament. First, worship was spontaneous and ecstatic,
exemplified in the above passages. Much religious poetry and music was improvised in response to
events in the lives of worshipers. After the Israelites were delivered from the Egyptians, Moses and
Miriam led in celebration that was poetic, vocal, and instrumental (Ex. 15:1-21). The song they sang was
repetitive, involving much physical movement and rhythm. It conceivably induced an ecstatic state.
Worship could also be professional and formal.1 David led in the organization of worship leader teams
who were trained and well skilled at leading and performing music in the temple. They were responsible
for prophesying, playing instruments, and singing before the ark (1 Chron. 15:16-22; 16:4-6,39-42; 25:131). The opening ceremony for the temple was a musical spectacular. All the Levites who were musicians
. . . stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They
were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets.
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The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord.
Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord
and sang: ―He is good; his love endures forever.‖ Then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud (2
Chron. 5:12-13, NIV).
What exactly was this music? Though we don’t really know, knowledge has grown through
archaeological study, comparative studies of early Eastern cultures, and the study of Scripture. Still, much
of what we think about music of that day is conjecture.
In Hebrew worship of the 10th century, Scripture was not spoken. It was chanted or sung to melody. This
was to honor the sanctity of Scripture, setting it apart from the conversations of daily life. Harmony was
not used. Voices and instruments performed the same melody, with each performer adding their own
embellishments. There are some indications that drones under the melody might have been common. The
spirit was exuberant and most scholars believe it to have been quite loud. The instruments used to
accompany and help create this heterophonic sound included string (harp, lyre), wind (ram’s horn,
trumpet), and percussion (tambourine, cymbals, rattles).
Some implications concerning performance style can be drawn from poetry texts. Many psalms have
heading designations that indicate who was to perform the poetry. Several are delineated as repertoire for
specific musician guilds that David established (Psalm of Asaph). Some headings identify the occasion
for which the psalm was intended while others suggest melodic formulas and instruments that were to be
part of the performance.3 Others denote instruments for music leadership and style of performance. The
term selah occurs throughout the Psalms. Several meanings of this term have been conjectured. The
most commonly accepted theory is that it indicated some sort of pause, probably a musical interlude
between verses of the text.
One musicological scholar has asserted that the various symbols and marks that appear over and under
letters throughout Hebrew Scriptures are a form of musical notation. (Scholars have generally considered
these marks to be accent marks or punctuation.) Using the musical interpretation of these marks, a system
of notation has been devised and some transcription and recording of melodies accomplished.4
The structure of the poetry is also important in understanding how Israelites worshiped through music.
Psalms were written with textual parallelism in which a statement was followed by a restatement of the
same idea using different words: for example, ―The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim
the work of his hands‖ (NIV).
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This textual style was conductive to musical performance. It allowed for responsorial performance where
the worship leader sang the first statement and a group of singers responded with the reiteration. Style of
writing also allowed antiphonal performance where two groups alternated singing the text.
Several psalms use a repeated refrain that allowed for a litany in which the congregation could respond
with each repetition. In Psalm 136 the people would interject praise into the story of God’s love with the
repeated declamation ―His love endures forever‖ (repeated 26 times in the psalm).
There was no rhyme scheme to Hebrew poetry. The syllable accents within a line were inconsistent and
did not allow an even meter as does our music today. There were strong and weak accents within the lines
of poetry, and the rhythm of these textual inflections probably guided the rhythm of the music as opposed
to any kind of steady beat. The melodic formulas would also have accommodated these irregular poetry
The music of Davidic worship was oral in tradition and spontaneous in nature. It was created in response
to God’s work in the lives of David and the other writers. It was not ritualistic as was the sacrificial
system of Israelite worship, and for this reason was not always passed to succeeding generations. During
decades of spiritual decline, the worship and praise established by David died out. The people followed
evil and idolatrous leaders.
But as godly kings came into power, a return to the worship of Yahweh occurred. Each of these leaders
would seek to restore the music of Davidic worship. Hezekiah and Josiah cleansed the temple, removed
the idols, and reestablished temple worship music ―in the way prescribed by David‖ (2 Chron. 29:25;
35:15). After the Babylonian captivity Zerubbabel led in rebuilding the temple and Nehemiah oversaw
reconstruction of the wall. Each of the culminating celebrations featured music of worship and praise
performed as ―prescribed by David‖ (Ezra 3:10,11; Neb. 12:24,36).6
The importance of music in David’s time cannot be overstated. It was natural, inspired, powerful, and
God-focused, drawing the worshiper to a supernatural encounter with Yahweh. Scholars continue to seek
evidence of the style and makeup of this music. As worshiping believers we should continually seek to
worship with the passion and fervor of the Israelites. ―Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord‖ (Ps. 150:6).
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Bless this House
Words and Music by Helen Taylor
and May H. Morgan ( a.k.a. Brahe ), 1927
Bless this house, O Lord we pray,
Make it safe by night and day . . .
Bless these walls so firm and stout,
Keeping want and trouble out . . .
Bless the roof and chimneys tall,
Let thy peace lie overall . . .
Bless this door that it may prove,
To joy and love . . .
Bless these windows shining bright,
Letting in God's Heavenly light,
Bless the hearth, ablazing there,
With smoke ascending like a prayer!
Bless the people here within,
Keep them pure and free from sin . . .
Bless us all that we may be,
Fit O Lord to dwell with thee . . .
Bless us all that we one day may dwell,
O Lord! With Thee!
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