Psalm 100 is used in some churches as a call to worship. There have been a number of songs that have pulled their chorus and even the lyrics from this Psalm. It sounds so straightforward, but is it really?
We are God’s people and his sheep. While we really don’t like being compared to sheep, this is the imagery that the people of the time understood. By being his sheep, there is the implication of belonging and being cared for. In this context, however, the next verse has some implications that we often miss.
The “gate” of the sheepfold (where the sheep slept protected at night) was often the shepherd himself. So much so that the shepherd would often sleep in the entrance of the sheepfold to keep the sheep gathered, and to protect them from predators. As part of their entrance into the sheepfold, the shepherd would check them over.
First, of course, confirm that the sheep entering are his. While the sheep knew the voice of “their” shepherd, it didn’t stop the wayward sheep (as they do wander) from joining the flock, especially if it got lost. Second, the shepherd would look for wounds or other signs of poor health. Lastly, the shepherd counted to make sure that all the sheep were there.
Entering the gates, therefore, is not so simple.
The sheep have to hear, recognize, and follow the voice of the shepherd. This can be quite difficult, especially in our day and age of so much noise. Definitely through prayer, worship, and God’s word (the Bible) we can hear the voice of the shepherd. Sometimes it can be something else. Regardless, if we are struggling hearing the voice of the shepherd, we need to work on that.
The sheep also enter the gates with praise. Now, some artistic license may be here, but I imagine the sheep being not much different than cattle. Most cattle will low as they approach “home”. I imaging the sheep are bleating as the approach the sheepfold and as they enter. They are glad and relieved to be home and secure.
In his translation of the Scriptures, The Message, Eugene Peterson phrases it this way, “Enter with the password: ‘Thank you!’ Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank him. Worship him.” (Psalm 100:4, The Message)
The concept of “Thank You” as a password through the gates is intriguing. It may imply that if we enter the gates without thanks, maybe we didn’t really enter in at all. Physically, maybe, but not in our hearts, where it truly matters.
As much as it might seem wrong for there to be a password, at the same time we have all experienced a time of lackluster praise and/or worship because our hearts just weren’t there. Peterson’s words may not be so wrong.
- How often do you enter the “gates of praise” (whether church, car, home, wherever) with “Thank you”? Why does “thank you” matter for your heart’s orientation?
- How do you think God “checks” you as you enter the gates of praise? What report was God’s last check on you? How about last month?
- What is your Godly health like? What are you doing to improve it?
Be our shepherd, O Lord, and bless us with all good things that we may be refreshed with your overflowing cup and dwell in your house forever; through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Amen]Ludolph of Saxony, d. 1378