Entering His Presence
(H) A psalm for giving thanks. (1) Raise a shout of joy to Yahweh, all the earth! (2) Serve Yahweh with gladness! Enter his presence with exultation! (3) Know that Yahweh himself is God. He made us and, in fact, we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. (4) Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with songs of praise! Give thanks to him and bless his name, (5) for Yahweh (is) good. His steadfast love (is) everlasting, and his faithfulness (endures) to all generations.
Seven verbs in this psalm are commands in the imperative mood: “raise” (vs. 1), “serve” (vs. 2), “enter” (twice in vss. 2 & 4), “know” (vs. 3), “give thanks” and “bless” (vs. 4). In the first verse, the author calls the whole earth to praise Yahweh. Beginning in verse 2, it is Israel, “his people and the sheep of his pasture” (vs. 3), who are to praise God for his goodness, his steadfast love, and his unending faithfulness (vss. 4 & 5).
In the third verse we encounter an interpretational problem. Two readings are found in existing Hebrew manuscripts which lead to two possible translations of the verse. One group, represented by the KJV, reads, “It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves” (vs. 3). The other group, represented by the NIV, reads, “It is he who made us, and we are his.” One way to resolve this difficulty is to view the phrase in question as the psalmist’s way of giving emphasis to the second part of the sentence. This is reflected in the translation above: “He made us and, in fact (i.e. since he made us), we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.”
I. What the whole earth is to do: praise Yahweh. (1)
II. What Israel is to do: worship Yahweh because we are his flock. (2-5)
While everyone should praise Yahweh, we who are his flock have a special obligation to worship him as our good shepherd.
Twice in the psalm the author encourages his readers to approach Yahweh, to draw near to him with exultation and thanksgiving. Our natural inclination, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they had sinned, is to shrink back, hide, and avoid facing God in his glory and grandeur. We feel unworthy, ashamed, even terrified at his presence. However, Yahweh desires that we enter into ever closer communion with him. He loves it when we approach him, seeking his fellowship. However, we cannot come near him with unconfessed sin, riddled with shame and guilt.
The writer of Hebrews addresses this issue with the following extended sentence: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:19-22). That is why Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice, not only to pay the penalty for our sins, but to open up the way for us to enter into the very throne room of God so that we may worship in his presence with joy and delight. Because his blood has cleansed us from our sin and shame, we can draw near to God with clear consciences and purified bodies and enjoy forever the delights of unhindered fellowship with him.