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, ver 1, 2, 4. II. We are furnished with matter for praise; we must praise him, considering his being and relation to us (ver 3) and his mercy and truth, ver 5. These are plain and common things, and therefore the more fit to be the matter of devotion.
Importunate Exhortations to Praise God; Motives for Praising God.
A psalm of praise.
1 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. 2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. 3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. 5 For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
Here, I. The exhortations to praise are very importunate. The psalm does indeed answer to the title, A psalm of praise; it begins with that call which of late we have several times met with (v. 1), Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all you lands, or all the earth, all the inhabitants of the earth. When all nations shall be discipled, and the gospel preached to every creature, then this summons will be fully answered to. But, if we take the foregoing psalm to be (as we have opened it) a call to the Jewish church to rejoice in the administration of God's kingdom, which they were under (as the four psalms before it were calculated for the days of the Messiah), this psalm, perhaps, was intended for proselytes, that came over out of all lands to the Jews' religion. However, we have here, 1. A strong invitation to worship God; not that God needs us, or any thing we have or can do, but it is his will that we should serve the Lord, should devote ourselves to his service and employ ourselves in it; and that we should not only serve him in all instances of obedience to his law, but that we should come before his presence in the ordinances which he has appointed and in which he has promised to manifest himself ( v. 2), that we should enter into his gates and into his courts (v. 4), that we should attend upon him among his servants, and keep there where he keeps court. In all acts of religious worship, whether in secret or in our families, we come into God's presence, and serve him; but it is in public worship especially that we enter into his gates and into his courts. The people were not permitted to enter into the holy place; there the priests only went in to minister. But let the people be thankful for their place in the courts of God's house, to which they were admitted and where they gave their attendance. 2. Great encouragement given us, in worshipping God, to do it cheerfully (v. 2): Serve the Lord with gladness. This intimates a prediction that in gospel-times there should be special occasion for joy; and it prescribes this as a rule of worship: Let God be served with gladness. By holy joy we do really serve God; it is an honour to him to rejoice in him; and we ought to serve him with holy joy. Gospel-worshippers should be joyful worshippers; if we serve God in uprightness, let us serve him with gladness. We must be willing and forward to it, glad when we are called to go up to the house of the Lord ( Ps 122 1), looking upon it as the comfort of our lives to have communion with God; and we must be pleasant and cheerful in it, must say, It is good to be here, approaching to God, in every duty, as to God our exceeding Joy, Ps 43 4. We must come before his presence with singing, not only songs of joy, but songs of praise. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, v. 4. We must not only comfort ourselves, but glorify God, with our joy, and let him have the praise of that which we have the pleasure of. Be thankful to him and bless his name; that is, (1.) We must take it as a favour to be admitted into his service, and give him thanks that we have liberty of access to him, that we have ordinances instituted and opportunity continued of waiting upon God in those ordinances. (2.) We must intermix praise and thanksgiving with all our services. This golden thread must run through every duty (Heb 13 15), for it is the work of angels. In every thing give thanks, in every ordinance, as well as in every providence.
II. The matter of praise, and motives to it, are very important, v. 3, 5. Know you what God is in himself and what he is to you. Note, Knowledge is the mother of devotion and of all obedience: blind sacrifices will never please a seeing God. "Know it; consider and apply it, and then you will be more close and constant, more inward and serious, in the worship of him." Let us know then these seven things concerning the Lord Jehovah, with whom we have to do in all the acts of religious worship:—1. That the Lord he is God, the only living and true God—that he is a Being infinitely perfect, self-existent, and self-sufficient, and the fountain of all being; he is God, and not a man as we are. He is an eternal Spirit, incomprehensible and independent, the first cause and last end. The heathen worshipped the creature of their own fancy; the workmen made it, therefore it is not God. We worship him that made us and all the world; he is God, and all other pretended deities are vanity and a lie, and such as he has triumphed over. 2. That he is our Creator: It is he that has made us, and not we ourselves. I find that I am, but cannot say, I am that I am, and therefore must ask, Whence am I? Who made me? Where is God my Maker? And it is the Lord Jehovah. He gave us being, he gave us this being; he is both the former of our bodies and the Father of our spirits. We did not, we could not, make ourselves. It is God's prerogative to be his own cause; our being is derived and depending. 3. That therefore he is our rightful owner. The Masorites, by altering one letter in the Hebrew, read it, He made us, and his we are, or to him we belong. Put both the readings together, and we learn that because God made us, and not we ourselves, therefore we are not our own, but his. He has an incontestable right to, and property in, us and all things. His we are, to be actuated by his power, disposed of by his will, and devoted to his honour and glory. 4. That he is our sovereign ruler: We are his people or subjects, and he is our prince, our rector or governor, that gives law to us as moral agents, and will call us to an account for what we do. The Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver. We are not at liberty to do what we will, but must always make conscience of doing as we are bidden. 5. That he is our bountiful benefactor. We are not only his sheep, whom he is entitled to, but the sheep of his pasture, whom he takes care of; the flock of his feeding (so it may be read); therefore the sheep of his hand; at his disposal because the sheep of his pasture, Ps 95 7. He that made us maintains us, and gives us all good things richly to enjoy. 6. That he is a God of infinite mercy and goodness (v. 5): The Lord is good, and therefore does good; his mercy is everlasting; it is a fountain that can never be drawn dry. The saints, who are now the sanctified vessels of mercy, will be, to eternity, the glorified monuments of mercy. 7. That he is a God of inviolable truth and faithfulness: His truth endures to all generations, and no word of his shall fall to the ground as antiquated or revoked. The promise is sure to all the seed, from age to age.