Summary: For 3000 years, the 100th Psalm has inspired people to sing praise to the Lord
Make a Joyful Noise
A Sermon Based on the 100th Psalm
November 20, 2011
Rev Mark A, Barber
The psalm we read this morning is one of the 150 (or 151) psalms recorded in the Book of Psalms which functions in much the same way our United Methodist Hymnal functions for us today. These Psalms were written over hundreds of years from various authors. Many of them were written by King David himself some three thousand years ago. Others were attributed to Asaph, the sons of Korah, Moses, Solomon, and like this one by that famous writer, Sine Nomine, or Anonymous. Some of the psalms contain instructions on how they were to be performed and on what instruments to play them. We find similar materials in our own hymnal. If you would look at one of them we sang this morning: “All People that on Earth Do Dwell”, you will notice many of these instructions. You will see something at the bottom of the page that says OLD HUNDREDTH. Above the words you will see notes which tell us what notes are to be sung. There are a series of numbers at the bottom of the page called the “metrical index”. In this case the index is “LM” (which is 18.104.22.168). This means that any other tune with the same or compatible index can be substituted for the OLD HUNDREDTH tune.
Let me give you an example. Can anyone identify this hymn? (Start humming the Lyra Davidica, the tune used with “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” until someone identifies it). (Then sing the words to “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” to that tune.) You see, the hymns can be sung to different tunes. We think of all the beloved hymns that Charles Wesley wrote, including both “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”. Yet most of the ones we sing today have different tunes from the original. And before that famous Christmas carol was adapted by George Whitfield and the tune we know as “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” was put to it, it was sung to a tune which Wesley wanted to be slow and meditative. The hymn that Wesley wrote in 1739 is sung today to a secular tune written by Felix Mendelsohn one hundred years later, a tune to commemorate Gutenberg’s printing press.
In a like matter, the Hebrew hymnal reflects different means of performing them which changed over the centuries. What was important is that the messages remained the same. Like our hymnbook, the Hebrews had different psalms for different holidays in the calendar. Some like this one are expressions of thanksgiving to God, although this psalm is the only one which is expressly titled “A Song of Thanksgiving”. Others are calls for Israel to repent, others for worship in the temple, what we would call those “High Church” songs. There are prayers for deliverance, psalms for teaching the people their history and of God’s mighty acts. We have hymns and responsive readings in our hymnal for the same things.
Now let us look in particular to today’s text. The Psalm begins with the call to “Make a Joyful noise, all ye lands”. What stands out here is the word “all”. It cannot be determined from the Hebrew text whether this is a call for all the people of the land of Israel or for all the nations on the earth to enter into the worship of Jehovah. There are other psalms which state more explicitly that God wants people of all nations to join in His worship. And the end of the psalm tells us that God’s “mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures unto all generations.” Taken together the Psalm cries out for people of all nations and of all ages to enter into worship of God. This is a poetic call of the Great Commission to “go into the world and make disciples of all people” so that they might enter into the true worship of the true God. And as John Wesley cried out, we are called to do this by offering “them Christ.”
Those who will hear this call are commanded to put their all into worship. The children of Israel were reminded every day when they recited the text in Deuteronomy 6 “Hear O Israel!” Jehovah is your God, Jehovah alone!” Reminded of what? – That they were called to worship “Jehovah your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Here in this psalm this call to worship is expressed with the command “Make a joyful noise!” This text has been used for a long time to justify bad, loud singing done with a good heart as being better than skillful music done by rote. And I do know that most of us here aren’t likely to make an appearance on American Idol anytime soon, although I am not sure how a Christian could be comfortable about appearing on a show by that name anyway. I am still waiting for our famous trio of Bill, Reggie, and Norman to sing a special for us. However, what is being said here is not to make an unskilled noise, but rather to make one’s worship like the blast of a trumpet. Worship is a testimony of the reality of God in our lives. If one were to mumble out jis/her praise, would it not sound rather grudging? The Call to Action plan encourages us to have enthusiastic worship services that are relevant. And although I would be careful to remind us that this enthusiasm must truly come from a heart transformed by God’s grace and not be worked up for the sake of enthusiasm, and that it is God and not the world which determines what is ultimately “relevant”, there is indeed a call for us to examine ourselves. What kind of witness is our worship to the world? Does it have substance? Is it real? Can we shout from our hearts our thanks for God’s transforming grace in Jesus Christ?