When getting a sports team ready for a game, a good coach will often try to inspire them to do their best. While the specific words and phrases may vary depending on the sport, players might hear phrases like “Remember what we learned in practice”, “Give it all that you’ve got!”, “Leave it all on the field”, or “Get out there and win”. When you think about it, though, aren’t these are all part of the same process? Being a successful team starts with training; it is cultivated through effective practice; it requires effort during the game; and, it is often rewarded with a victory. The inspirational coach expresses these points in different ways, but they are all different means highlighting key parts of the overall path to the team’s goal of winning.
The next few articles in this series on the Psalms focus on Psalm 100. At just 5 verses, it’s a great chapter of the Bible to memorize in its entirety.
Let’s start by taking a quick look at the superscription of this Psalm: It is a psalm for “giving grateful praise” (according to the NIV) or “for Thanksgiving” or a “thank offering” (according to the NASB). Other translations that include the superscription tend to express similar thoughts.
I think that these different possible translations help us see certain kinds of actions from several different perspectives.
We are – or at least we should be – grateful to God. Hopefully, we tend to be grateful to others as a culture (both within and outside of the church), including both general opportunities for gratitude and specific times of the year when we are especially grateful to particular groups. However, I think of gratitude as only being part of the process. Looking at definitions online, gratitude can mean (among other things) an appreciation for something that we have received or having a willingness to show appreciation, but that doesn’t necessarily always include doing something with our feelings of gratitude. I think that it is best not to keep our gratitude bottled up, though, but rather to express it.
In the same way that we are grateful to others at certain times, we should be pretty good at thanking others for gifts that they give us, whether those gifts come in a wrapped box, or are gifts of kindness, consideration, and courtesy. Being thankful is one outward way of showing our gratitude. However, when we share our thankfulness with people other than the person who we are thankful to, the person we’re thankful to might not get the chance to appreciate our gratitude. (How many budding relationships of youth are starved out because the participants talk about their feelings only with third parties, and not with each other?)
When we are thankful to God in particular, we tend to offer Him praise. This is a specific expression of gratitude and thankfulness, directed to God or being clearly about Him. I think that there are other reasons for which we can praise God, including His character, His power, His love, and other aspects of His nature. However, a lot of praise to God is related to thanksgiving: that is, we aren’t just grateful to God; we say (or sing) something to show it!
In addition, the footnote in the NASB talks about this psalm possibly being for a “thank offering”. In the days of the tabernacle and temple, we might think about this as formal offerings that were given. Leviticus 7:12-15 talks about both thin unleavened loaves with oil on them and thick loaves with oil inside, as parts of an offering given with thanksgiving. In a society like the Israelites’, not only would food have come at a cost, but – as bakers know – the work to make the two kinds of loaves would also require giving up some time and effort. In the same way, whether we share with people and groups that God asks us to (out of gratitude to Him), or if we pause in our schedules to worship Him, or if we give our time and our skills according to His will and His direction, we are making sacrifices. We might say that we – and anything that we “own” – belongs to God anyway, but when we give up an opportunity to be selfish in exchange for something that honors God, this is an opportunity to show our thankfulness to Him.
So, may this psalm help us remember to be grateful to God, and to show that through thanksgiving to Him, resulting in our praise, which is an offering that we give to Him. I encourage you to practice these activities today (as part of an integrated, overall pattern of behavior), and see if you can’t commit all of Psalm 100 to memory this week.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for November 27, 2022
- The Lookout, November 27, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
- The College Press NIV Commentary, Psalms, Volume 2, Walter D. Zorn, © 2004, College Press Publishing Co., Joplin, MO.