Song of joy
Like today, most people in ancient times lived independent of God. This psalm calls the whole world to enter into Israel’s covenant relationship with God, as a matter of not religious drudgery, but over-the-top joy.
1 Shout for joy to YHWH
all the earth!
2 Serve YHWH joyfully.
Enter his presence with songs of joy.
3 Know that YHWH alone is God!
He’s the one who made us—
we belong to him.
We’re his people
the flock he shepherds.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him
and praise his name
5 because YHWH is infinitely good.
His unfailing loving endures forever
his faithfulness for all time to come.
Viewing worship and joy as virtual opposites, many today associate serving God with constant slogging to save their souls, threatened by hellfire if they ever let up. Deeply wounded by leaders in toxic churches, some equate pleasing God with false humility, plastic smiles, phony love. Life can be so unfair, religion so distorted. Seeing all the pain and evil around them, some people give up on joy altogether—to seek mere happiness instead.
Biblically, God is the source of all true joy. Our good shepherd’s love and faithfulness never fail. He will yet realize his vision for our race—of a fully renewed cosmos, where loving community, meaning, flow and playfulness are forever one. That’s why he made us and made us his own. He wants us to share his endless joy with him. He’s not indifferent to this world’s evil or injustice. In fact, our Shepherd-king confronted their full force, head-on, and overcame them.[a] That’s the main reason we rejoice.
This psalm focuses on knowing God, who deserves our unqualified submission as both Creator and Good Shepherd.[b] Even life’s darkest, most desperate situations can’t bar us from experiencing joy in our gracious and faithful God. Adding our voices to heaven’s unreservedly joyful worship, we’re lifted above our pain, into the God who is joy itself.
Lord, as the Good Shepherd who laid down your life for your sheep, you overcame evil to redeem me. Since I belong to you, how can I not join the redeemed in bringing you the worship you so richly deserve? Help me to see you as the beautiful God you are and enter in with songs of joy. Amen.
During your free moments today, meditate on these words:
Know that YHWH alone is God!
He’s the one who made us—we belong to him.
We’re his people, the flock he shepherds.
[a] YHWH’s defeat of Egypt’s gods in the exodus was a precursor to his ultimate battle with evil in Christ’s passion.
[b] Together, this psalm’s content and structure make the command to “know that YHWH alone is God” its focal point. The psalm gives us three worship commands flanking its central command to know (shout, serve, enter, KNOW, enter, thank, praise). This sets knowing God apart as the command everything else hinges on.