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Make a Joyful Noise

Make a Joyful Noise

Do you realize we are just a week-and-a-half away from Thanksgiving Day? Remember the saying that time flies when you’re having fun?  I am apparently having loads of fun. It is probably the same for you.

With Thanksgiving so close, the message today and the one next Sunday will be centered on the giving of thanks. Each week - today and next Sunday - there will be three Bible passages featured, two from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. For today, the first passage is an Old Testament one. It is Psalm 100. It is a short Psalm that most definitely addresses the topic of giving thanks.

Psalm 100 begins with the call to “make a joyful noise to the LORD.”

In last week’s message, the point was made to praise God. We are to praise Him, even in difficult times. That same point will come up again later in this message. We are to praise God. Another way of expressing that idea is to make a joyful noise to the LORD.

I am struck by the word “joyful.” There are days in each of our lives that are not happy. The instruction in verse 1 of Psalm 100 does not suggest we are to put on a fake happy face. But remember the meaning of joy, which is not the same as the meaning of happy. Happiness depends on things going well. Joy is based on a good, solid relationship with God. A trust that God loves and empowers and guides and strengthens His people, even in times of difficulty.

No matter what, we are to be joyful, which leads to another word that strikes me. The word “noise,” which I think is an inclusive word. While some sing a whole lot better than others, everyone can make some sound. And it does not have to be even attempts at singing. It can be speaking. And, I might add, what is communicated in our appearance.

I found an interesting thought that fits here. It has a bit of a negative feel, but the challenge is positive.

Christians should be leading hopeful, joy-filled lives. However, there are some Christians on whose faces there is anything but hope and joy. Do you know what is being referred to? People who profess a belief in Jesus who rarely smile or have a kind word for others.

I do not know if it is still the case, but a few years ago, I noticed so many Christian rock groups were pictured with scowls on their faces, them looking angry.

That may have been on purpose, maybe trying to attract the attention of the disgruntled young people of the world, but I remember wondering if they really are that unhappy. Where is their joy in the Lord? Where is their hope in the Lord? Where is their expression of thanksgiving for all the Lord has done, is doing, and will do for those who accept Him as Savior. Things like changing situations and answering prayers and using us for His glory and guiding us in right directions and forgiving us when we sin and meeting our daily needs and always loving us. And yes, the promise of Heaven.

God is so good. Let’s express that, even in how we look. Let’s express our joy to Him.

In one way or another, by singing or speaking, each of us is to make a joyful noise to the LORD - to God - not only this Thanksgiving season, but all the time. And not just here in this place. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, “all the lands.” All His people, wherever they happen to be, are to make joyful noises to God. Everyone everywhere is to express thanks to God.

Verse 2 gives two additional ways to express our joy. In addition to making noise, we are to serve God, which we are to do with gladness, and enter His presence.

Notice that phrase is an invitation to come. “Come into His presence.”

Remember the hope of Heaven just mentioned. We of course know we deserve Hell. That is the penalty for sins. Hell is what we would face except for Jesus, who died on a cross, which was the sacrifice for our sins. 

Hell is what we deserve. Despite that, God invites us to be with Him. Come into His presence. What a privileged invitation that is. Enter into His presence. How? “With singing.” With joyful singing.

Verse 3. “Know that the LORD is God. It is He that made us, and not we ourselves. It is He that made us, and we are His.” We are His people. And listen. We are “the sheep of His pasture.” Wow. What a wonderful description of why we should be joyful.

Sheep did not and do not have an easy time of it. They have lots of enemies that try to kill them or steal them. There are lots of bugs and parasites that can cause problems for sheep with their skin, eyes, ears, and noses. With their thick wool, any moving water is a threat to water log them and wash them away. Sheep would be lost - they could not survive - without the care of a shepherd.

We also have enemies, physical and spiritual, trying to kill or steal us. We also have pests with which we deal. The rush of life can threaten us. We would be lost. We at least can have our survival threatened without the care of God.

How good to be under God’s care. That truly is a reason to be joyful, no matter what happens in our lives. So - verse 4 - another invitation. “Enter His gates.” Enter into His presence. How? “With thanksgiving. Enter His courts with praise. Bless His name.”

Verse 5. Do that because the LORD is good. And yes, give thanks to Him, not only now and between now and Thanksgiving Day. Do that always because “the steadfast [the firm, constant, never-changing] love of God endures.” How long? “Forever. His faithfulness endures to all generations.” Even to this, our generation.

Now and always, let’s be thankful, remembering the challenges and the promises in Psalm 100. And remember the plight of sheep mentioned. The threats and dangers sheep face, and the point our lives can be dangerous. Still the call is to give thanks, which is the point of today’s second Bible reference, this one in the New Testament. I Thessalonians 5, specifically verses 16 through 18.

To put these verses in perspective, let’s think of some of the other teachings around them. 

For instance, we are to respect and highly esteem church leaders. That is because the work of church leaders is important. 

We are to be at peace among ourselves. As that happens, church leaders are more likely to be happy.

We are to encourage each other, especially if any of us become idlers, fearful, or weak in our spiritual resolve.

We are to test everything we hear and/or read of a spiritual nature to make sure we are not led astray from the truth of the Bible.

We are to cling to all that is good - all that is of God. That will make it easier for us to abstain from anything and everything that is evil.

In the midst of all those teachings are three quick statements. 

“Rejoice always.”

Rejoice. Express joy, which we are challenged to do in Psalm 100. Let the Lord and let other people know that we rely on God, even in difficult times. Rejoice always, which includes when we might not be happy, but are still relying on the Lord.

Speaking of which, remember back to your childhood? Your life back then or your life now? Did you or do you worry about money or food or shelter or clothes? I did not. I trusted my parents would provide what was needed. So deep was the trust that I never really thought about any of the things of life, as in whether or not I would have them.

That is the attitude we who are Christians should have toward God. A question. Is there something you - or I - worry about? Another question. Why are you - why am I - worried? 

The answer? Do not worry. Remember the words in Psalm 100. We are the sheep of God’s pasture. Let’s trust Him to provide all we need. Such trust will allow us to rejoice always.

Rejoice always. Then this. “Pray constantly.” Including for the things we need, which is not for the purpose of clueing God in to knowledge He does not already have. He knows our needs. Such praying is for the purpose of opening our hearts to His blessings, thereby giving Him permission to provide our needs. Praying also helps us remember that God is the source of all the good things we have in life.

Rejoice always, pray constantly, and - this is relevant for this season, but should be done all the time - “give thanks.” When? “In all circumstances.” Again, that encompasses good times and bad times. Times we feel happy and times we feel sad. When things are easy and everyone likes us and when relationships are strained.

Rejoice, pray, give thanks, always, constantly, in all circumstances, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Will we give thanks on these days leading up to Thanksgiving? Will we do so after Thanksgiving Day? It is what the Lord wants. It is what He expects. It is what will please Him. And yes, giving thanks is to be given even in difficult times, which brings us to today’s third Bible passage. It returns us to the Old Testament, this time the Book of Jonah.

I think most people know about Jonah, but very briefly, Jonah was told by God to go to the city of Nineveh. A city filled with very evil people. Jonah was to go and cry out against the city, which means he was to condemn the people for their sins, announcing God’s judgment against them.

Jonah heard what God told him to do, but he refused to do it, probably for two reasons. 

One reason was fear. Jonah knew that most visitors to Nineveh were tortured and/or killed. He did not want to be mistreated or die at the hands of the Ninevites.

The other reason was spiritual in nature. Jonah imagined that if he were to somehow be able to give God’s warning, the people of Nineveh might repent and renounce their sins. Jonah did not think they were worthy of God’s forgiveness.

Instead of going to Nineveh, which was to the east of where he was, Jonah found a ship sailing to the west, the opposite direction of where he was supposed to go. Jonah boarded the ship and sailed away from God’s command.

Everything seemed to be fine for Jonah until the ship sailed into a huge storm.

The ship was about to be lost, and would have been, except for Jonah telling the crew the storm was God’s way of punishing him. Jonah suggested the ship and crew could be saved if they would throw him overboard, which they did.

The prospect was that Jonah would drown. However, God caused Jonah to be swallowed by a huge fish. That was certainly not a pleasant thing for Jonah, but he did survive until the fish vomited Jonah upon dry land. I think that happened right where Jonah had earlier heard from God.

For the second time, God told Jonah to go cry out against the people of Nineveh. This time, Jonah obeyed. Again very briefly, the Ninevites not only heard Jonah. They did respond to what they heard, doing so by mourning and repenting of their sins.

As Jonah had earlier feared, God did forgive the people of Nineveh, which displeased Jonah exceedingly, which God questioned. But there is one verse that especially needs to be highlighted during this season of giving thanks. It is something Jonah said when he was in the belly of the fish.

Chapter 2 is a record of all Jonah said there. As uncomfortable as his condition was - inside a fish, dark and smelly, gastric juices all around him, but none of them affecting his health - he praised God for hearing his cries and for saving him up to that point despite being thrown into the ocean and all the threats an ocean brings.

Listen to verse 9. Again remember the setting. Jonah had been thrown overboard. He was inside a fish. He knew he had disobeyed God, which gave him a spiritual problem as well as what he was facing physically. Listen to verse 9. Recognizing God’s saving power, Jonah said, “But I, with the voice of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to You, God. What I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the LORD.”

With the voice of thanksgiving.

Let me ask. None of us, as far as I know, has ever been inside the belly of a fish .I doubt we ever will be. But there are times, are there not, when we feel surrounded by all sorts of bad, uncomfortable, ugly, smelly things? Whether or not we ourselves are the cause of such surroundings, as was the case with Jonah, will we - will you - will I - still have the voice of thanksgiving? If Jonah could accomplish that, we should be able to. Will we?

May we enter God’s presence with thanksgiving, doing so in all circumstances. Even dirty, smelly times.

Today’s closing song is based on today’s first passage, which was Psalm 100. I Will Enter His Gates. Let’s sing with a determination to give thanks at all times.

I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart;

I will enter His courts with praise.

I will say this is the day that the Lord hath made;

I will rejoice, for He has made me glad.

He has made my glad, He has made me glad;

I will rejoice, for He has made me glad.

He has made me glad, He has made me glad;

I will rejoice, for He has made me glad.

A recap of the devotional last Tuesday in Our Daily Bread - that and the benediction - will close today’s service.

Here is the devotional.

Knowing that God made us, which is proclaimed in Psalm 100, is proof how valuable we are to Him.

That value was shown in how God helped His people early in the Old Testament, doing so over and over again, including facilitating their escape from slavery in Egypt, getting them through a wilderness, then helping them inhabit the Promised Land.

In another Psalm, after each of those episodes is recalled, there is the phrase, “His love endures forever.” That fact means that what happened to those early Old Testament people were not random historical events. Each moment had been orchestrated by God.

It can be easy for us to allow moments that show God’s love for us to simply pass by. It can be easy to fail to recognize that every good gift, including the strength to survive difficult times, comes from our Heavenly Father,  who made and does love each of us.

This season and beyond, let’s recognize displays of God’s love in our lives. And let’s be thankful.

Lord, what a wonderful privilege to enter into Your presence. What a responsibility to enter with thanksgiving. Help us to be thankful, no matter what, which can be easy when times are happy and pleasant. But You challenge us to be thankful even on the difficult days. Help us to be that way. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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