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October 3 lesson: Praise God with Joy

September 16, 2021
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Praise God with Joy

Fall Quarter: Celebrating God
Unit 2: Called to Praise God

Sunday school lesson for the week of October 3, 2021
By Dr. D. Craig Rikard


Background Scripture: Psalm 100

Key Scripture (NIV): “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:3

Lesson Aims
  1. To understand whom we worship.
  2. To understand how we worship.
  3. To understand why we worship.
Preparation for Lesson

Who wrote the Psalm?

Tradition claims Moses as author. However, the mention of worship in the Temple indicates it was written after its construction by Solomon. Both most likely are true. The psalm could have been created by Moses. It was probably sung through the years and was slightly altered to allow the audience to better relate to its message. Most importantly, the meaning of the original psalm remained intact.

To Whom is it Written?

The original audience was the Israelites who were saved through the Exodus. The experiences of this psalm were also the experiences of later Israelites. Psalm 100 has spoken to every generation from the Exodus until today.
When was it written:

It was written between 9th and 5th century B.C.

What type of literature is it?

This is a psalm, one of many; thus, it is poetry. The book of Psalms represents the hymnbook for the Hebrew/Jewish people. The book of Psalms is divided into five sections, and Psalm 100 lies in the third section. It is important to understand the great role poetry and prose play in the sacred writings of the Hebrew people. More than 8,600 verses in the Bible are poetry and prose. In other words, 27 percent of the Bible is written in prose and poetry. This was not uncommon in ancient literature. Only Esther in the Old Testament contains no poetry or prose. The Old Testament was not an era in which written documents were readily available. Poetry and prose could be shared orally and musically as well. Poetic words more easily capture the human ear. Just as importantly, prose and poetry were more easily remembered, especially when music was also involved. Today, most of us can remember the words and messages of songs better than what we have read in paragraphs and pages from a book. Poetry and prose possessed an aesthetic beauty. This aesthetic was welcomed in the violent Old Testament world. Rhythm and rhyme existed in this literature, allowing the listener and reader to more deeply experience the content. In Ephesians 2 Paul described us the workmanship of God. The Greek word employed by Paul was poema, from where we get our words “poem or poetry.” We are God’s poetry. Each of us possess the rhythm and rhyme of God’s will. When the poema of God experiences the prose and poetry of scripture, a beautiful spiritual transaction occurs. It is much like beautiful music finding its perfect lyric. Poetic scripture can resonate in the soul. The Book of Psalms allows us to experience the emotion experienced by that author. We can sense David’s serenity in Psalm 23 and his doubt in Psalm 51. Psalm 100 allows us to experience the awe and joy of the author after experiencing the Exodus. We can also sense the emotion of the faith community singing these songs of praise.

Psalm 100 was inspired by God. This does not mean God dictated each word. Poets write out of inner inspiration. They can be moved by something seen, heard, and experienced, and, using their words and images they write. Their inspired writing allows us, as closely as possible, to share the experience. In the Psalms, the authors are moved by God’s Spirit. This can occur when the author is overwhelmed by what God has done and revealed. God’s Spirit moved upon the author, and this inner stirring and illumination prompted the author to pen this song/poem. Therefore, though the authorship remains unknown, we are blessed because we know God inspired all involved.

Most Hebrew poets in the Psalms write with parallelism. Parallelism involves two lines of the poem or song. The two lines are intended to complement each other. Sometimes the two lines contrast and on other occasions they say the same thing, only with different wording. For example, Psalm 100 contains the parallel lines: 1. “It is he who made us.” It is followed by the parallel 2. “We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” We have the same truth in two different wordings. God made us and we are his! Repeating the same truth in poetry and psalms helps the listener grasp that truth. In God’s eternal wisdom, the Lord reveals himself through the power of music, poetry and prose.

The Text

Introduction

Psalm 100 opens with a line pointing to the major theme of the entire psalm. It is often called the title of the psalm. The phrase is: “For giving grateful praise. Shout for joy unto the Lord, all the earth.” The psalmist declares that this psalm is to call forth all the earth to praise the Lord. Shouting in the psalm most likely means a literal shout. However, as the years passed, shouting is not the way many worship. Still, it is important to examine the motivation for shouting. Shouting means to emote the overwhelming remarkable joy that dwells within the heart. We do not have to shout. But, it is important to express the abounding joy and gratitude we feel in relation to God. The hymns and songs of worship offer us a vehicle for expressing our heart. When I am full of joy I tend to sing with gusto. Whatever the vehicle, let our expression emerge from a genuine, grateful heart.

Can you recall a moment when you felt you needed to sing? Have you ever wanted to just shout? What do you think occurs within us when we stifle praise unto God? What do you believe is the great effect within us when we express praise fully? What hymn do you most like to sing when overcome with joy?

Notice, the psalmist calls to shout unto the Lord! God alone is worthy of our praise. This does not infer that we cannot praise individuals who have done something remarkable for us. I believe it is important to express praise in our home, among our friends, and in the Church. The U.S.A. has fallen in love with Olympic wrestler Tamyra Mensah. We were touched that she immediately offered gratitude for country, for people, and above all, for God. The people and institutions in our life are gifts from God. The foundation of our praise is and should be God. As a minister, people on occasion praise me for something I’ve said or done. However, I exercise extreme care to take that praise and point it toward God. Everything I do and say emerges from the life God has given me, which includes all experiences and people. The same is true for everyone. All things have been working toward the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

What do you believe happens spiritually within us when we praise everyone but God? What do you believe spiritually happens within us when we receive praise and do not point toward God? Have you witnessed someone, who, after doing something heroic or awe-inspiring, offered praise to God? Who was it, and what did their praise mean to you the onlooker?

The Parallels

The most effective manner in which to study this psalm is to examine its structure. First, let us explore the parallels in the poem. The intended complimenting words or thoughts are:

A. Worship the Lord
a. Come before him.
B. Gladness
b. Joyful songs
C. He made us
c. We are the sheep of his pasture
D. Enter the temple with praise
d. Give thanks and praise his name.
  1. The first parallel we read involves worshipping the Lord, and come before him. The most literal meaning of the Hebrew word for worship means to bow before. Naturally, as a person of faith, we bow before God. Bowing is one of the more humbling acts we can do. Bowing is recognizing the person before you is greater. They are the one to whom you are indebted. They are the one most respected. People for centuries always bowed before kings and queens. It is a touching posture. For one to drop to their knees implies the belief we are not worthy to stand before another. Not one of us can truly stand before the Lord in our own righteousness. Realize what we are saying when we bow at the altar of the church. We are praying to God in humility and reverence. We bow our head and close our eyes as though we would be blinded by the brilliance of God’s light. The good news for us is that God has chosen and made us worthy to accept his love. God knows us, and we are important to the Lord. The Lord knows “the number of hairs upon our heads.” We kneel as deeply grateful people for what God has done for us in Christ. We kneel as blessed people who are intimately known by God.
In the following line, we are called to “Come before him.” The Old Testament people would have understood this call to be incredible, and for some unbelievable. Remember, the great divide of the eternal from the finite. Israelites were not allowed to see, touch, or hear God without invitation. Remember, they were not allowed to speak God’s name. Standing before God was a frightening thought. Most, I am certain, would think, “Am I worthy to stand before God?” Notice Isaiah’s response upon seeing the vision of God in the temple in Isa. 6. He exclaimed, “Woe is me!” However, in our text the invitation has been given. The invitation is always one of grace. In actuality, no one is worthy before God. Only God could declare them worthy, or overlook their sins. As a New Testament people, this call should fill us with joy and gratitude. The temple Holy of Holies is perhaps our best imagery of what it means to come before the Lord. The Holy of Holies was set apart from the remainder of the temple courts by a curtain or veil. No person could enter this sacred place, other than the high priest on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). However, upon Jesus’ death the curtain ripped apart, opening the Holy of Holies for all to see. It was the eternal invitation for all who sought God and were justified by faith. Many of the hymns capture what we feel about his once-and-for all invitation. The hymn “And Can It Be” proclaims:

And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused him pain?
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That thou my God should die for me!
We have received the divine invitation through Christ! Come before him!

Have you ever felt disconnected or separated from God through your sinful actions? Were you reluctant, for fear of being unworthy, to serve or even attend church? Can you recall a moment when you sensed the divide existed no more through Christ? (This could have happened gradually, or in a moment.). Do you have a favorite hymn or song that proclaims the invitation of God for us to come before him unafraid? Can you share why this hymn is dear to you?
  1. Next, let us explore the parallel of gladness and joyful songs. The inspired author of the psalm connects these terms as repetition. That is, joyful songs is a further expression of gladness. The Hebrew word for glad has as part of its definition, to be filled with ultimate joy. We all fall short of ultimate joy. In our fallen humanity we still miss so much in life. On occasion we fail to recognize God’s goodness in a day. Our spiritual eyes are still not seeing as clearly as possible. If we could recognize every redeeming and loving act by God in our lives we would become so overwhelmed we would express our joy without restraint! We experience beautiful touches of God throughout life; thus, we possess many experiences of gladness. However, we are on a journey to live in a state of gladness.
What do you believe is the closest you’ve ever come to experiencing ultimate joy? When you have felt such joy, how did you express it? How can we experience joy when life is difficult? How can we, in relation to God, enrich our joy and our walk toward ultimate gladness?

Notice the next line in the psalm equates gladness with songs of joy. Once again, we encounter the power of music in our faith. Many a person has broken out in song upon realizing the love of God in their life. As a young man attending a church revival, I listened to a man sing. He was not a good singer. However, I heard every note and word. I was mesmerized. Later I discovered the man could not read books or music. He met Christ as an adult and felt he just had to sing about it. Yes, sometimes our great gladness must burst into song whether we can sing or not. Henry Van Dyke expressed his joy with a poem to be sung to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Beethoven wrote the unforgettable “Ode to Joy” as music to lift the human heart toward peace and brother/sisterhood. Against the backdrop of human conflict this music soars. When Van Dyke was full of praise and gratitude he wrote his poem. As quoted in an earlier lesson, “Music is love in search of a word” (Sidney Lanier). The love of Beethoven in “Ode to Joy” had found its word through Van Dyke. The music and lyrics were born in the human heart, inspired by the love of God. This great hymn of joy allows us to sing a song of joy over the goodness and love of God. The next opportunity to sing this great hymn, allow your joy and gladness to burst from your heart.

Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory Lord of love.
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee, opening to the sun above!
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

Of the hymns, which one best expresses your joy? Can you share why you chose this one? In the words of the poet, your love is searching for its word. Your love has found its word in the divine Logos, the Word make flesh. What hymn best conveys for you the thought of “being found?” Can you remember when this hymn first spoke to you, and for you? Can you share this moment?
  1. The third parallel consists of “It is he who made us” and “We are the sheep of his pasture.” Genesis opens with a mighty declaration. God made us! We are responsible to our creator. This is not only a mighty declaration, it is also a remarkable thought. Frequently I walk beneath the night sky. As I gaze into the cosmos, I try to consider where it all began. I contemplate the preexistence of God and struggle to do so. My mind cannot grasp the thought of someone who was not created, who has always been. Then, I think, “Yet I am here, staring into the night and asking that question.” On every occasion I become overwhelmed and awestruck that the creator of all made me. Since God made us, God knows us. Psalm 139 recognizes and proclaims this grand truth. “You have searched me Lord and know me.” Thus, there exists an eternal connection between God and us. It is a precious connection, held together through the unfailing love of God. Since we did not make ourselves, we are responsible to the One who did. Consequently, no person can escape the Lord’s love. They may neglect it, avoid it, run from it, etc. Yet, the connection is eternal. This is not a joyless relationship. In God we find all meaning and purpose. We experience the greatest of loves. This is the relationship that gives life, and gives it abundantly!
Do you often contemplate why you are here? Do you contemplate “Who” made us? What helps you most in recognizing we are God’s creation? Read Psalm 139. What does this grand psalm say about God? About us? What helps you to live daily, aware you and others are God’s creation?

The second line again enriches the first. “We are the sheep of his pasture.” In this beautiful psalm, the author uses the metaphor of sheep and shepherd in describing our relationship with God. The shepherd cares for the sheep with great care. After all, sheep were directionless and defenseless. They will never survive without the shepherd’s care in their hostile world of predators. Though our world is full of more light than darkness, we still encounter predators and risks to our way of life. Yet, as David beautifully stated in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Let us offer praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord! We are being led through life even when we are unaware. A truly dedicated shepherd would risk his life for his sheep. Our shepherd gave his life, allowing to us to experience his abundant life.

What does the metaphor of shepherd and sheep say to you? About the shepherd and about you? In what ways are we directionless? In what ways are we defenseless? How does God, in Christ, provide for our need of direction and protection?
  1. The final parallel is only fitting to follow all the previous parallels. “Give thanks/ praise his name!” We will treat them as a single line in closing. After all, after being reminded of our Creator’s knowledge, love, and redemption of us, it is only natural to give thanks and praise to the Lord. How can we not be grateful? How can we remain silent? God is over all, and knows all!
Prayer

Almighty God, we bow our head and kneel, recognizing you alone are God. You alone are our creator. We are filled with thanksgiving that you chose to know us, and above all, love us in Christ. Enlighten our often-weakened vision to see you in all the places we would otherwise never look. Teach us to sing with joy and praise with all our heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Dr. D. Craig Rikard is a South Georgia pastor. Email him at craigrikard169@yahoo.com.

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