Education for Exultation
A Psalm for Thanksgiving
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord himself is God; it is he who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord is good; his lovingkindness is everlasting and his faithfulness to all generations.
What "Education for Exultation" Means
The term Education for Exultation describes a vision behind a new building, and it describes the structure of Psalm 100. We didn't come up with that name two years ago because it sounded nice. We came up with it because it describes the way God means to be glorified in this world. He means to be known with the head (education); and he means to be sung from the heart (exultation). And he means for the singing to be based on the knowing. Otherwise the singing gives him no honor. Singing to God joyfully based on knowing God truthfully honors God. But singing passionately without knowing God truly simply exalts the singer and the passions.
Education for Exultation means we must know God truly, and we must respond with our affections duly. We must see him clearly, and we must savor him dearly. We must think biblical thoughts about God, and must feel biblical emotions for God. And the knowing must be the basis of the affections; and the seeing must be the basis of the savoring; and the thinking must be the basis of the feeling. That is why we say Education FOR exultation. Knowing FOR affections. Seeing FOR savoring. Thinking FOR feeling. This is not simply a nice sounding slogan to raise 6.5 million dollars to build a building debt free. It is the structure of reality in Christ. This is why we were created and redeemed: to know and enjoy God, with the knowing as the foundation of the enjoying.
If education does not lead to exultation in God, it fails. If seeing glory doesn't lead to savoring God, it fails. If thinking truth doesn't lead to feeling love, it fails. Education, knowledge, sight, thought – they are all for exultation in God. And if they don't produce it, they are not what they were created to be.
And the reverse is true, too. Exultation that does not flow from education, affections that do not flow from knowing, savoring that does not flow from seeing, feeling that does not flow from thinking – are hollow and rootless – noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. And God is not glorified by artificial and empty passions. True delight is rooted in true doctrine. God-centered Exultation is rooted in God-centered Education.
The Structure of Psalm 100
Tonight at 6:00 we will celebrate the faithfulness of God for 129 years of ministry in the old sanctuary, before it comes down to make room for another building dedicated to education for exultation. And so this morning we are sounding the note again: Education for Exultation is a vision of life and worship that defines our church. And we sound the note today by showing that this is the very structure of the Old One Hundredth, Psalm 100.
And the structure of the Psalm not only explains Education for Exultation; it also explains why the sermon is broken in two and preceded by two seasons of singing. Singing, sermon, singing, sermon – is not an accident. It is the structure of the psalm. And it is a drama of Education for Exultation.
Turn with me to Psalm 100. Let's get the overview first and then take it in parts. There are four stanzas. First an exultation stanza, then an education stanza, then another exultation stanza, then a final education stanza.
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
That's exultation: Shout joyfully! Serve with gladness! Come with joyful singing!
Know that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
That's education: Know something! Let the link between verse 2 and 3 sink in: "Come before Him with singing, know!" Singing, know! Serving with gladness, know! Shouting joyfully, know! In other words, if you are going to shout joyfully, know something to base it on. If you are going to serve with gladness, know something to base it on. If you are going to come to God with joyful singing, know something to base it on. In other words, the first two stanzas are exultation based on education. Singing based on knowing.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
Here is exultation again. Enter with thanksgiving! Enter with praise! Give thanks! Bless his name! In stanza one the exultation took the form of joy and gladness and singing. Here the exultation takes the form of thanksgiving and praise and blessing.
For the Lord is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
Finally, here is education again. We learn three things about the Lord: 1) He is good. 2) His lovingkindness is everlasting. 3) His faithfulness endures to all generations. And notice the little word at the beginning of verse 5: "For . . ." A whole philosophy of education hangs on this word. A whole vision for the new building hangs on it.
"For . . . the Lord is good." "For" means: the goodness of God is the reason, the basis, the foundation of the exultation in verse 4: Give thanks to him! Bless his name! FOR, BECAUSE, the Lord is good.
When we called the vision for the new building "Education for Exultation" we were not creating slogans out of air. We were digging reality out of scripture.
- Stanza one: exultation. "Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing."
- Stanza two: education. "Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture."
- Stanza three: exultation again. "Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name."
- Stanza four: education again. "For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations."
Feel and express joy and gratitude because you know something about God. Knowing is for feeling. Seeing is for savoring – and saying, and singing!
We will come back in a few moments with more on the knowing. But for now, know this: The Lord is God! He made you! You are his! He is your shepherd. He is good. His love lasts forever. His promise-keeping faithfulness to all generations. Know this! And sing with joy!
What Exulting Looks Like
What must we know of God to be a glad and joyful and singing and thanking and praising and blessing and overflowingly loving people? But you may ask, before you answer, where did you get that last phrase, "overflowingly loving"? You see "glad" and "joyful" and "singing" and "thanking" and "praising" and "blessing", but where is "overflowingly loving" in this psalm?
Look at verse 3, the last clause: "We are His people and the sheep of His pasture." The "we" there is the people of God. God is the good shepherd of his flock. These are the covenant people praising their faithful covenant God, their Savior and Deliverer and Keeper and Helper. These are the people who have trusted God and surrendered to him as his "servants" and submissive "sheep." So what then is the attitude of these people to the rest of the world?
Now look at verse 1. To whom are these people speaking when they cry out to rejoice? "Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth." Here are the covenant people crying out to the whole earth: join us in the joy of our Savior and our God and our King. This is what I mean by "overflowingly loving."
When you know your covenant-keeping "Lord" is the absolute God; and that he is the all-powerful creator of all things; and that he is like a shepherd who provides pasture for his weak and straying sheep; and that he is good; and that his lovingkindness (= free, and undeserved covenant-making mercy) is forever; and that he will keep his saving promises to all generations – when you know these things, and feel the infinite worth of them, you will not be a selfish person. You will overflow with love.
What Must We Know to Exult?
So I ask again (not just for our own sake but for the world): What must we know of God to be a glad and joyful and singing and thanking and praising and blessing and overflowingly loving people? As I answer this from the psalm I want us to sing the answer and the exultation built on it. So turn with me in The Worshiping Church to page 317, where we find the Old One Hundredth.
The answers are given in verse 3 and verse 5. First, verse 3. We need to know three things: 1) The Lord is our God. 2) He made us. 3) We are his people, like sheep in the pastures of a shepherd.
1) The Lord is God. "Lord," in all caps in our English Bibles, is a translation of the Hebrew name "Yahweh" or "Jehovah" and refers to the specific covenant-keeping God who brought the people of Israel out of Egypt and was faithful to them through the centuries and promised the Messiah. In other words, verse 3 says, Yahweh is the one true God. There are no true gods besides him. He is absolute over all powers and authorities in the universe.
2) He made us. We did not make ourselves. We are dependent on God for our very existence. The implication the psalmist draws out is not that we are vulnerable, but that we are cared for.
3) We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. In other words, since he made us, we belong to him. We are not our own. And the way he relates to us is as a shepherd relates to his sheep. He provides green pasture and still water and protection from wolves and guidance through dangerous valleys.
And now on this side of the cross of Christ we know even more surely and that we are not our own. Not only did God make us, but he bought us. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "You are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." And the amazing and wonderful thing is that this is good news. To be owned is good news. Because our owner has sworn by the blood of his Son to free us from sin and Satan and sickness and sadness forever and ever.
Therefore the psalmist says, "Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing." It is a happy thing to be made and to be bought and to be owned and to shepherded by God himself.
That's the point of the first two stanzas. So let's sing them together:
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice;
Him serve with joy, his praise forth tell,
Come ye before him and rejoice.
The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
Without our aid he did us make;
We are his folk, he doth us feed,
And for his sheep he doth us take.
What else must we know in order to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise, to give thanks to him and to bless his name? Three more things mentioned in verse 5: 1) The Lord is good; 2) His lovingkindness is everlasting. 3) His faithfulness endures to all generations.
Verse 3 stresses the authority and the power of God: he is God, he is the Creator, he owns us. Verse 5 underlines why all this authority and power is good news. He's good. He's loving. He's faithful. And all this lasts forever.
If they rejoiced and thanked and praised and blessed the Lord for his goodness and love and faithfulness in those days, how much more should we today after knowing the love of God in Jesus Christ.
While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
God is good. God is loving. God is faithful. He will be this forever, because Christ paid the price for an eternal salvation. This is the education we need and our children need and all the earth needs. And this is education for exultation. We will exult tonight over this faithfulness. And we close now with the last two verses of the Old One Hundredth, and then "O God Our Help in Ages Past" and Agnus Dei, Lamb of God.
O enter then his gates with praise,
Approach with joy his courts unto;
Praise, laud and bless his name always,
For it is seemly so to do.
For why? The Lord our God is good,
His mercy is forever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.