“ENTER into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise. Be thankful to him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4).
The Psalmist in Psalm 100:4 paints a vivid picture of how we should approach God. It starts with a command to ‘enter into his gates’ The command is ‘enter’, not ‘wait’ or ‘stand’ at the gate. Some are ‘waiting’ and others are ‘standing’ at the gate and they refuse to ‘enter.’ May we ‘enter’ today. Also, note that there are many gates which we have to go through. Not only one gate but several ‘gates.’
We are commanded to enter the gates ‘with thanksgiving’. Don’t just enter any how, but with thanksgiving. What is thanksgiving? The word ‘thanksgiving’ is the Hebrew word ‘towday’, which means appreciation or gratitude to God for all he has done. For instance, if God has delivered and blessed you in several ways this year, you have to thank him. Looking back, we all have countless things to thank God for that he has done for us. List them one by one and thank Him for each one of them as you approach his gates.
After you have entered the gate of thanksgiving, you will then move to the court, called ‘praise’. To ‘praise’ means to honour, to glorify and attribute perfection to a being. You praise God for who he is. The word ‘praise’ is derived from two Hebrew words, ‘Yadah’ or ‘tehillah’. The word, ‘tehillah’ means loud praise. Once more, we have to praise God for who he is, for his uncommon attributes.
Though not stated in this text, from the court of praise you then proceed to worship. To worship means to reverence, to bow down, to prostrate, or pay homage to a superior being. You worship God so as to establish intimacy with him. The word ‘worship’ is derived from the Hebrew word, ‘Shachah.’ The believer is called to worship God alone. We do not worship angels or any spiritual being or human, but God alone.
We can relate the imagery which the Psalmist has painted in Psalm 100:4 to the structure of the tabernacle in the temple. Thanksgiving takes place in the outer court; praise brings us into the inner court, while worship takes place in the holy of Holies, the place of intimacy. It is important to point out that in everyday usage, we use these three words, thanksgiving, praise and worship interchangeably. Again, in practice, we combine prayer, thanksgiving, praise and worship all at once in the presence of God (See 2 Chronicles 5:13,14; 7:1-3; Ezra 3:10,11).
Our emphasis today is on thanksgiving. First, thanksgiving is a command for every believer. Secondly, thanksgiving is a debt we all owe God and thirdly, thanksgiving is a sacrifice we have to constantly bring before him. Psalm 95:2 commands us thus: “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to him with Psalms.” We are expected to sing the Psalms to God.
Thanksgivings is also a mandatory debt we owe God. Whatever we are, and everything we own belongs to God; we owe him gratitude for giving us life and blessing us with all the possessions we have no matter how little. Therefore, thanksgiving is like paying a vow. As Psalm 50:14 puts it, “Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.” Thanksgiving is God’s due because like the Psalmist wrote, he created us and we are his creatures. A created being lives for the purpose for which he was created. “Know that the LORD, he is God; it is he who has made us; and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3,4).
THANK GOD ‘ALWAYS’ AND ‘IN’ ALL THINGS
Paul says we are to thank God in whatever situation we find ourselves, whether good or bad. “Giving thank always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). The key word in the verse is ‘always.’ We are to thank God ‘always.’
Paul also says we have to thank God ‘in’ all things, that is his will for us. In the midst of every situation, whether pleasant or unpleasant, we are expected to give thanks to God. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Again, created beings live according to the will of their Master.
If we have to praise God only when things are convenient for us then our loyalty and love become questionable. Proactive thanksgivings in times of difficulty precipitate miracles. Paul and Silas thanked and praised God when they were in prison and God responded with an amazing miracle.
A MANDATORY SACRIFICE
Thanksgiving is also a sacrifice we bring before God. There are many kinds of sacrifices we bring before God, thanksgiving is just one of them. “Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving. And declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:22).
Finally, let us bear in mind that thanksgiving is a command to us as God’s children, it is a debt we owe God for all he has done for us and it is one of the sacrifices we have to constantly bring before God.