At one time in church history, ordinary Christians didn’t sing. Instead, they listened while sacred music was performed by professionals. But thanks to the Reformation and the invention of the printing press, congregational singing made a comeback. The first hymnal was printed in 1532. Simple, singable tunes and sturdy theological lyrics helped believers worship and learn about their faith at the same time.
Singing has long been a part of how we worship God. The first song recorded in Scripture is the one sung by Moses and Miriam after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea (Ex. 15:1–21). Many refer to the Psalms as “the Bible’s hymnbook,” and Psalm 100 is an excellent example why.
This psalm opens with a call for “all the earth” to praise the Lord and to “come before him with joyful songs” (vv. 1–2). “Shout for joy” is elsewhere translated “Make a joyful noise,” a phrase beloved by those of us who cannot sing. Why should we praise the Lord? Because God is God (v. 3). Furthermore, He has a special relationship with His people. He made us His own, and we belong to Him. “We are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (v. 3).
Therefore, we should “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (v. 4). The previous verse pictured us as sheep and implied that God is our shepherd (see also Ps. 23; John 10:11–15), so it may be that the psalmist has a sheep- gate in mind here. But the main reference is likely the temple gates. It’s easy to picture this psalm being sung by a joy-filled procession of worshipers entering the temple! The blessing of worship is God Himself—being in God’s presence is good because God Himself is good, loving, and faithful (v. 5).
>> If you love to study hymns or use them in your devotional time, you might enjoy the recently published anthology of classic hymns (plus notes), 40 Favorite Hymns on the Christian Life: A Closer Look at Their Spiritual and Poetic Meaning, by Leland Ryken.