The 4th book of Psalms
In churches we hear a lot about confession, and rightly so. The General Confession in the Book of Common Prayer is a bit grovelling, containing the phrase, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Why be miserable when forgiveness is assured?
The 4th book of Psalms, those 17 religious songs between psalms 90 and 106, have a theme, God is above us.
The layout is like this:
Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.
Book 4 answers the questions of Books 1-3 with the message that God is king.
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!Psalm 100 ESV UK
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
This is a psalm of praise at the end of a section of songs of congregational praise to God the king. The Hebrew title His Steadfast Love Endures For Ever is, according to Rabbinic sources a confession of gratitude. The Babylonian Talmud, stating it to be sung “with harps and cymbals and music on every corner and every large boulder in Jerusalem”.
This is a famous psalm that has long been used in Christian praise and in liturgy as well. In the Book of Common Prayer it is called the Jubilate, and is the basis of the traditional hymn All people that on Earth do dwell and a modern worship song by Chris Tomlin simply called Psalm 100.
The introduction to this post I mentioned confession of sins. This Psalm is a different sort of confession, a confession of gratitude. There is no grovelling here. Not that the psalm falls into the opposite trap of being too friendly with God. the whole of the fourth book of psalms is concerned with God being above us, much greater than us, and this psalm is in a subsection about God as King. God is totally other than us, great in awesomeness. But God loves us, his creation, great is the awesome love of God.
It is good to praise God in our churches and Christian conferences, as the Jubilate, All people that on Earth and Tomlin’s Psalm 100 are generally sung, and it is very good to praise God in that way, but the tradition of this psalm is one of outdoor praise, to be sung on every street corner, to stand on every large rock and to confess our thankfulness to God and praise God’s awesome love there, where people can see us. How is the world to know about the love of God if we hide away in churches and cathedrals to praise him?
Some churches have started praising by singing outside the buildings at the end of services because of restrictions due to the pandemic lockdown. I pray that this will continue, not only by the church door, but move further out.
Let us praise outside. Doesn’t the world need to know this:
For God is sheer beauty,Psalm 100:5 The Message
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever,