O Be Joyful

Psalm 100 invites us to find joy in serving God. One way to read it is as four statements: an invitation followed by a rationale, and then another invitation followed by another rationale. Here’s what that looks like:

Invitation #1: Be happy as you worship God.

  1. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.”
  2. “Serve the Lord with gladness.”
  3. “Come before his presence with singing.”

Rationale #1:because we belong to Him.

  1. “Know ye that the Lord he is God.”
  2. “It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves.”
  3. “We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”

Invitation #2: Thank Him and praise Him

  1. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving,”
  2. “And into his courts with praise.”
  3. “Be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”

Rationale #2: …because He will always love us.

  1. “For the Lord is good.”
  2. “His mercy is everlasting.”
  3. “And his truth endureth to all generations.”

I hope that grouping helps you to sense the energy and enthusiasm in this psalm. To me, the author’s excitement is palpable and contagious.

I don’t know if this psalm was included in the brass plates, but this sense of pure joy was exemplified by Lehi and by two of his sons: Nephi and Jacob.

  • In the very first chapter, Lehi offers a prayer after an overwhelming spiritual experience. Nephi writes, “After this manner was the language of my father in the praising of his God; for his soul did rejoice, and his whole heart was filled” (1 Nephi 1:15).
  • Lehi taught Jacob that God’s purpose was to help us find joy (2 Nephi 2:25). Jacob later opened a sermon by telling his people, “I speak unto you these things that ye may rejoice, and lift up your heads forever, because of the blessings which the Lord God shall bestow upon your children” (2 Nephi 9:3).
  • Nephi introduces fourteen chapters from the book of Isaiah by saying that he hopes “whoso of my people shall see these words may lift up their hearts and rejoice for all men” (2 Nephi 11:8).

This is a frequent theme in the general conference talks of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf: the gospel can bring happiness into our lives if we get out of our own way and let it happen. (See, for example, “Have We Not Reason to Rejoice?” October 2007, “Living the Gospel Joyful,” October 2014, and “It Works Wonderfully!” October 2015.)

I first became familiar with John Rutter’s setting of Psalm 100 when I sang it with a choir in college. He divides the text differently than I do above, but I think he captures the jubilant energy of the psalm beautifully. I particularly like the contemplative and peaceful section in the middle as he introduces the words, “Be thankful unto Him, and speak good of His name.” I hope you enjoy this performance by the Cambridge Singers and the City of London Sinfonia:

Today, I will find joy in serving God. I will remember that we all belong to God and that He loves us eternally. I will express gratitude to Him and appreciate the joy the gospel brings into my life.

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