This is, above all, a song of worship.
It starts out with a call to worship, as the psalmist sings,
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. (1-2)
It then gives us the basis for our worship, reflecting on who God is, who we are, and what our relationship with him is.
Who is God? He is the LORD. Or more literally “Yahweh.” Or perhaps even more literally, “I AM.” The one who is, who was, and who is to come. The everlasting one. And this God is our creator.
Who are we? What’s our relationship with him? We are His. We belong to him. Why? As the NASB puts it, it is God who made us, and not we ourselves. Because God is our creator, we rightfully belong to him. So we are his people. And we are his sheep.
As his sheep, what should we do?
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. (4)
Jim Elliot, in the book Shadow of the Almighty, said something about this passage that really struck me. He said,
What are sheep doing going into the gate? What is their purpose inside those courts? To bleat melodies and enjoy the company of the flock? No. Those sheep were destined for the altar. Their pasture feeding had been for one purpose, to test them and fatten them for bloody sacrifice. Give Him thanks, then, that you have been counted worthy of His altars. Enter into the work with praise…Father, take my life, yea, my blood if Thou wilt, and consume it with Thine enveloping fire. I would not save it, for it is not mine to save. Have it, Lord, have it all. Pour out my life as an oblation for the world. Blood is only of value as it flows before Thine altar.
I think Eliott grasped what the apostle Paul was saying, when Paul wrote,
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)
Indeed, he did offer his very blood for the sake of Christ and his gospel, spilling it that the Auca Indians might be saved.
You see worship is much more than just singing songs to God. It’s being a living sacrifice for him. It’s being set apart for his purposes, and not your own. It’s making your purpose in life to please him. That is true worship.
It can be costly. But there is a joy that comes from offering your all to him. For as the psalmist wrote,
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (5)
If we do not believe these things, then it becomes difficult to lay down our lives for Him. But if we do believe that he truly is good, that he’s looking out for our best, that he loves us, and that he is faithful, then it become only natural to lay down our lives for him.
How about you? Do you believe these things? If so, are you living a life of true worship?