ENTER HIS GATES WITH THANKSGIVING
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (key verse: Ps 100:4)
Throughout most of scripture God gives humans his Word from heaven. However, the book of Psalms is the only one that lifts the voice of man up to the Lord in the heavens. In Psalms there are many genres such as prophecy, lamentation, messianic psalms, hymns and thanksgiving praise. Sometimes the psalmist pours out his despair, anger, and lamentation to the Lord at first but eventually praises God’s will and sovereignty, knowing his love and mercy. Other times the psalmist shouts his joy and praises to the Lord because of his victory in a war. Overall, we can see that the book of Psalm is our confessions of faith, hymn, worship, and prayer to the Lord.
Today’s passage is an entry hymn and thanksgiving praise to the Lord. The setting is assumed to be that of a company of worshipers summoned to enter the courts who are currently gathered in front of the gates to the sanctuary with shouts and songs of praise. Like them, we are also now standing in sanctuary for worshiping God and for giving thanks to God. May God bless us to learn the attitude of worship and to give thanks with great joy.
Look at vv. 1-2. “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” King David commands all the earth to shout for joy to the Lord. When we come to the Lord to worship him, we should not come to God habitually, reluctantly, or whispering silently. Rather, we shout for joy with Amen!! 2 Sam 6:12-15 shows how joyfully King David praised and worshipped God. When God blessed Israel and all Israel had brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with great praise, David, wearing a linen ephod, was dancing before the Lord with all his might. Scorning the shame as a king of Israel, he shouted and danced with all his might before the Lord.
In Matthew 2, Magi came to worship Jesus from the east. When they lost the star of the Messiah and found it again, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (NASB) According to one statistic, a normal senior citizen laughs less than 10 times a day, while children laugh more than two hundred times a day. It must have been a big occasion for the Magi to rejoice exceedingly with great joy and shout. When do we rejoice and shout with joy? When we watch the NFL, when our team win the game victory with dramatic touch-down, we shout with gladness! (shep. David’s house 2017 championship game). Whenever I come to the Master Caleb Kim’s TaeKwonDo class, I am shocked by the children’s shouts of gladness/discipline before him, while the same children have no shout/discipline in the Korean-language school. In Hallelujah night, children also shout with joy and gladness together, revealing their enthusiasm to worship before God.
What can we learn about our attitude of worship and praise to God from this? 1 Thess 5:16 says that “Rejoice always in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Westminster Confession # 1 is that [Question] What is the chief end of man? [Answer] Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. Adam and Eve were put into the best environment at the garden of Eden. But when they did not trust in God’s constant provision and grace completely, they fell into temptation. If we come before God in worship with sadness, bitterness, and mournfulness, we are not coming to him with the proper attitude. We should instead come before the Lord with joyful songs like children, shouting and chanting our praise to our Lord because of the honor to worship the mighty God.
Look at v. 3. “Know that the Lord (יְהוָה֮) is God (אֱלֹ֫הִ֥ים). It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Here, the verb “know” in Hebrew ‘yada’ meaning ‘to know personally with experience,’ which is also used in Gen 4:1. In this verse, there are many uses of verbs expressing possession such as ‘we are his,’ ‘his people,’ and most of all, we are his sheep in the pasture.
“Jehovah, He is Elohim.” It is our life-line to know closely Our God. Here, God is Elohim, the mighty God of Creation. God created human beings in his image as a spiritual being and as the representative of ruler over all things. The name of Elohim (God) shows his existence, while another name, Lord (Jehovah; shepherd), reveals his character. Our God is the shepherd Jehovah. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth with his mighty words. “Let there be light, let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds.” Whatever God said, became God’s creation. God cared about and provided all things for us human beings. The Lord, shepherd God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden, which provided all elements of happiness. The Lord God delivered his chosen people of Israel from the power of Pharaoh in Egypt and guided them to Canaan with the pillars of fires and of clouds. The shepherd God fed Israel with the heavenly bread, manna, for 40 years in the wilderness. The Lord God carried them on eagles’ wings and promised them, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Ex 19:4-6)
It is important to know what maintains our relationship with others. For example, if we are connected by money and benefits with someone, we are their business partner, boss, or worker. If we are engaged into others with same hobby such as tennis or golf, we become club members. If we are connected together with same school, we are alumni. However, God connected himself with Israel through the covenant of love. God did not simply create all things but also built a covenant relationship with his people. Heb 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Through his living words, our Lord Jesus nurtures and provides and sustains us. When I was wandering with doubts and fear during my dissertation writing, God sustained my spirit and heart with his living words, saying, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” The key verse of 2018 sustains each of us day by day and has guided us to where we stand, or sit, now.
How wonderful is grace that our God is the shepherd Lord. We are his possession and the sheep of the pasture. How terrible it is if our boss is the Satan, if we become the belonging to Satan! Satan tortures his people with threats of death and smash them with an iron hammer. Meanwhile, God cherishes his children and guides them like the sheep of the pasture. It is like how M. Joshua Kim cherishes his one daughter Gloria, always hugging her in his bosom. M. Joseph, when suffering in agony, Rebekah at every morning said to him, “I love you, Daddy.” M. Daniel Seo cherishes his only son Daniel jr.
Throughout the coming kingdom of Christ, people will be drawn to the Lord and will come to know Him better. Apostle Paul prays for the Ephesians, saying “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:18-19)
Now we stand on Thanksgiving worship nearing the end of 2018. We have always pressed on to accomplish tasks and obtain valuables our lives day by day. We have been so focused on today and for the future, rushing to finish our plans. Compared with other years, the year of 2018 passed by so fast. In 2018 we held many events and ministries among us. Especially, we had ISBC 2018 in KY, and served many guests from the world. Before ISBC, we also held the historic “Vision Camp” for the next generation. When beginning in the Fall semester, Harvest Festival came. For me, after finishing ISBC, and Vision Camp I got a full-time professor job at Seminary. Every weekday, from early morning to the late evening I must commute, riding my burgundy horse, and had to adjust to the new circumstances. I was constantly preoccupied with many things to resolve and lost my time of prayer.
But the psalmist commands us, “Know that the Lord is God.” Now, let us stop and take time to know that the Lord is God. What did God do for us? Who is the shepherd God to us? In the Psalm, there appears between stanzas a very unique technical word, Selah, indicating ‘to pause’ and ‘to meditate on God and to worship Him.’ The time of Selah gives us the time to have deep relationship with God and deepens our faith in Him. Selahn’s name came from this Psalm. May God bless us to know our Lord, shepherd God and to have a deep rest upon him!
Read vv. 4-5. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” The psalmist urges Israel to enter his gates and God’s temple with thanksgiving and with praise. The courts of the Temple is a holy place of God’s presence. At the temple courts they could come close to Him, and shout praise more personally and closely. In Psalm 27:4, King David earnestly aspired to enter God’s temple, saying “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” What is your earnest one hope and prayer to receive from God? King David earnestly longed for entering into God’s temple and for gazing upon the beauty of the Lord.
At best, the Old Testament Hebrews could do this only from a distance, and the Gentile from an even greater distance. People were given access to God, but only limited access. Between the sinners and our holy God, a number of barriers were erected. There was a gate to the tabernacle, giving entrance to the outer court. Once the gate had been passed, the seeking sinner was confronted with an altar and a laver to teach him that he needed a radical and a recurrent cleansing. Even when he had been accepted at the altar, unless he were a priest, he could approach no further. He remained in the outer court. If he were a priest, he could pass the door, enter the holy place, and enjoy the benefit of the table, the lampstand, and the golden altar. But he could go no further than that—unless he was the high priest. He alone, after an elaborate ritual preparation once a year, could lift the final veil, pass the last barrier, and come haltingly into the presence of God.
Without invitation we cannot enter the White House, because it is heavily guarded with security. There is a story to be told of a little boy who went up to London to visit the king. When he arrived at the palace gates, the gates were closed against him and a soldier stood on guard. Several policemen were walking up and down to move people along. “But I came to see the king!” the boy explained. “Can’t help that, boy!” said the policeman. “You’re not allowed in there.” About that time a well-dressed gentleman came along and overheard the conversation, “What’s the matter, boy?” he asked. “I want to see the king,” the little boy replied. “Well, you just come with me,” said the gentleman. He held out his hand and the boy took it. To his surprise the policeman made no attempt to stop him, nor did the guard. Indeed, the guard sprang to attention and presented arms while the policeman unlocked the gate. In they went, along the corridors and right into the presence of the king. The little boy had taken hold of the hand of the prince of Wales, the king’s own son. That gave him access.
Heb 4:14-16 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God…Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Jesus our Lord opened the gates to the presence of God once and for all through shedding his holy blood for us. Jesus is the new and living way opened for us through the curtain. Now we can have access to God freely and joyfully. (Heb 10)
Looking back the year of 2018, we thank God for his wonderful works among us. God established our church firmly through the leadership of P. Phillip Brown. God faithfully used our church as the important hub for the world mission, holding the ISBC and Vision Camp. In these days the word of God has been rare, but God used us to keep the lamp of God burning for the campus mission. (1Sam 3:3) With God’s grace the young generation’s leadership was consolidated step by step, inheriting the 1st generation’s spiritual heritage. Our mission team to Africa, P. Jacob, M. Esther, and M. Grace Park performed their selfless mission and returned safely. The new Shining Star Team emerged as the new hope for the kingdom ministry. M. Caleb Kim finally moved into College Park with the beautiful new house and Joe Park had his precious son, Enoch, who walked with God. Most of all, God protects us from all the dangers and sufferings and makes us to dwell in his courts forever. We really have many thanksgiving topics and ten thousand reasons to shout for joy for God’s mercy upon us. Therefore, do not be quiet before God, but instead give thanks to god with a shout of joy and praise!!
Look again at v. 5. “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Now the psalmist explains the reason why we enter God’s gates and his courts with thanksgiving and praise. The psalm begins with the word “all the earth” and ends with the word “all generations.” Our Elohim God is the shepherd Lord, Jehovah. (3, 5) Our God shepherds us with his goodness, because his character is good. When God created all the earth, he said “It was very good.” (Gen 1:31) Though Adam committed sin against God and was banished from the Eden, God did not forsake the world. Rather, God promised the restoration of all the world through his gospel.
Because of God’s goodness, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28) Because God is good, he controls our lives with his goodness and intercedes to work good for his children in all things. We can know God’s absolute goodness for his children from Joseph’s life in Genesis. When Joseph was sold from his brothers’ hands to Egypt and was even sent to jail, his life seemed to be fatalistic and tragic. But God was with him wherever he went and made him a source of life and blessings to others. When he knew God’s goodness in his life, he confessed, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:19-20)
LYRIC: “IN YOUR TIME”
When looking back at our lives in 2018, we can see that we experienced many things and God worked wonders among us. For me, the year of 2018 began with absolute solitude and despair towards myself. I felt that I was hard pressed on every side, and couldn’t find any hope to myself. I felt I became a dead dog. But when I knelt down before God and prayed and repented of my sins, God sustained and refreshed my soul with his words, “Love is patient and it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” Most of all, Psalm 23:6, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,” convinced me that God’s absolute goodness will follow me like a shadow in all circumstances. Looking back this year, God blessed me and my family in many ways despite my weakness and iniquities. My three children, Mary, Joanna, Ezra jr grew as precious children of God, and God provided me a full-time professor position as Seminary director. In his great mercy, God gave me a nest to dwell. Thank God for teaching me his absolute goodness to my life and for providing a grace of dwelling in the house of the Lord forever!
[God is good, all the time! All the time, God is good! ]
How can we have confidence about God’s goodness in our lives? Because his love and mercy endure forever. Our human love is conditional, limited, and temporal. But God’s love is unconditional and forever. How often are we disappointed when depending on human love? How often does Satan sting us with the doubt of God’s love and try to make us the slaves of fear and despair? In the time of suffering and tribulation, Satan volleys arrows of doubt against God’s love so that we may stumble into temptation to doubt God’s goodness. But let us trust in God that his love endures forever. Apostle Paul shouts and praises God’s enduring love, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons…nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:35-39)
At every corner of Scripture, God’s goodness and his enduring love has become the source of power of victory. In 2 Chronicle 20, a vast army of the Moabites and Ammonites came to wage war against King Jehoshaphat. King Jehoshaphat did not fight against them with his own power. Rather, King Jehoshaphat, standing before the temple of the Lord, praised God’s holiness and his mighty power. Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. Then Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab, and they were defeated. Let us praise and worship God’s enduring love toward us in any circumstance.
Because of his absolute goodness and his enduring love, we can believe in his faithfulness that will continue all generations. (5b) God is good! God is faithful! Our faithful God will bless our 2nd and 3rd generations for his name sake. This faithful God will lead all of us on our pilgrimage to our Father’s house!
May God bless us to praise and to shout to the Lord with thankful hearts!
May God bless us to worship the Lord with joyful songs! Amen!