Enter His Gates (Psalm 100)
1. “Enter His gates.” That’s YHWH’s wish. He wants you to enter His courts and bring everyone with you. Look at Creation. YHWH would walk with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden during the cool of the day. Paradise was the loving relationship of YHWH with our first parents. But Adam and Eve threw that relationship away. They had full access to God, but they were deceived into believing that there was a better way. Welcome to that better way. They were banished from the Garden of Eden. Not only that, God put a cherubim and a flaming sword at the only entrance to the garden, forever barring the entrance to Paradise. Adam and Eve were no longer able to enter YHWH’s gates.
2. Adam and Eve and all their descendants wander this world like sheep without a shepherd. With no one to guide us, there is no way to even find YHWH’s gates. That’s why God revealed His Word to us. To guide us to knowing how to find His gates. Unfortunately, His Word isn’t always a clear guide to His gates. How many people do you know that think they can enter YHWH’s gates by simply being a good person—or, at least, “good enough”? Why do they think this? They read the Bible and see the Ten Commandments. They see Jesus speaking to different people about the kingdom of Heaven. They rationalize that they can simply apply various principles to their lives and they’ll come out just fine. They give generously to the poor. They donate to this charity and that. They make sure that they are always seen in the right place at the right time with the right people. They think they’re on the path to YHWH’s gates, but they’re still wandering around like lost sheep. Sheep that need a shepherd. Fortunately, YHWH’s Word gives us a Shepherd. A Shepherd that knows exactly how to get to YHWH’s gates. People read the Bible and see Him all over the place. Unfortunately, we’d much rather see Him as a moral teacher or an example to try and follow, but He presents Himself as the Shepherd. By nature, we’re all just dumb sheep going in one direction until we hit an obstacle that forces us to change direction. That’s why shepherds carry staves and rods—to comfort the sheep by keeping them from harm and danger. That’s what the Shepherd of the Bible does. Sometimes, He has to pound us over our thick heads until we stop and say, “Alright, alright, we’ll do it your way.” Sometimes, He has to hook us by our necks and nearly strangle us because a little discomfort and choking is much better than the alternative—just as Job. By His rod and His staff, the Shepherd guides us to YHWH’s gates. He guides us by the only true path—a path that leads to life. As He says in His Sermon on the Mount, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13). He says the gate is narrow, but how narrow is it? Only one person fits in it—the Shepherd. He’s the only one who can fit, because He’s the only one who has been “good enough”. In fact, He was perfect—perfect in life and death.
3. But if the Shepherd’s the only one who can fit in the gate, how can the psalmist—and we in particular—ever enter? How can we “raise a shout to YHWH” if we can’t get in? After all, the Hebrew here means not only a shout, but a shout of gladness. We’re to be glad and excited, but we can’t get in. Why would we be excited about being excluded? Because the Shepherd has already given you the answer. He tells the story of a shepherd who went out after a lost sheep. When He found it, He placed it on His shoulders and brought it joyfully into His gates (Luke 15:3-7). That’s how you enter the gate—on the Shepherd’s shoulders. Why are you on His shoulders? He came out and found you. You were lost and wandering through the world, bouncing off walls hoping to find some meaning for your life. He came to you and He showed you the meaning. He showed you His hands and feet where the nails had held Him to Cross. He showed you His side that was pierced to make sure that He really died. He said, “I did this all for you. I conquered your aimless wandering through this life. Now, I give you the joy of entering My Father’s gates.” With a message like that, who wouldn’t get excited? Who wouldn’t be glad at the prospect of riding on His Shepherd’s shoulders to see YHWH once again—just like Adam and Eve did in Paradise? This should make your heart swell with gladness and joy.
4. This gladness for entering YHWH’s gates and serving Him as His faithful son or daughter has both a religious and a festive aspect to it. We enter His gates to worship Him as our Creator and Shepherd as He is due, but we also worship Him because He is the one who redeemed us through His Son. He had no reason to do that other than He wants the relationship back. He wants Paradise with His creatures being able to walk side-by-side with Him through a lush, perfect world that hasn’t got a single thorn, snare, drought—nothing that would give us any discomfort. Perfect bliss comes only through the worship of God. Now, there’s also a festive side to this gladness. Believe it or not, worship can be festive. We can—and we SHOULD—be glad that we’re here. That we have the opportunity to worship God. Yes, we’ve used the same liturgy for as long as most can remember, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring and drab. It doesn’t have to be somber and grave. It should be festive. We should be glad to be here and receiving the gifts that we get here. When we come to this altar, we receive the Body and Blood that has carried us into YHWH’s gates. Without it, we have no right to be here or call upon YHWH. But how many times have you seen people come back from the communion rail looking like they’ve just knowingly swallowed poison. I’m not saying you should have a cheesy grin on your face when coming back from communion, but you should exude the cheer of what you have gotten. Not poison, but life-giving medicine for your soul. Christ’s Body and Blood nourishes your soul and prepares you for everlasting life within YHWH’s gates. So be glad. Be joyful. Worshipping our Lord isn’t a sad affair. It is a very glad affair.
5. Serving God is man’s highest joy. The psalmist says, “Come into His presence with singing.” The word here is more than “singing”. It’s more than “joy”. It’s “exultation”. What’s “exultation”? I can’t explain it. Nothing quite measures up to “exultation.” The best possible explanation may be “EXTREME joy”. What’s “EXTREME joy”? More joy than we can possibly imagine. “EXTREME joy” would be even more than winning the Powerball® jackpot, the Twins winning the World Series, the Vikings winning the Super Bowl, the Wild winning the Stanley Cup, the Timberwolves winning the NBA champion and the birth of your first child all wrapped into one single moment. It’s unfathomable, but that’s what we have. That’s what brings us to this place to worship the God who saved us from our sins through the Blood of His Son. It’s the basis for us coming through His gates. This we have. Our souls do this through faith. Faith that believes “the promise that all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed in the seed of Abraham, and in the prophecies in which this promise is unfolded” (Keil-Delitzsch V:636). Our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus gives us this exultation.
6. We should feel free to express that exultation when it bubbles up inside of us, but we sometimes feel ashamed. It can seem so flashy and distracting, but it’s still proper worship of God. It is still His gift to you. Although we may not feel comfortable letting our exultation show now, we will have no choice once we enter the gates of Heaven on our Last Day. There, it will be nothing but “exultation” as it takes over all forms of worship in pure adoration of our God. The exultation brings us to the marriage feast of the Lamb as the focal point of our lives. This marriage feast that we get a glimpse of as we approach His altar and receive His Body and Blood. This “exultation” gives us salvation, as it is our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If we cannot be filled with joy over the fact that we have everlasting life with Him through His sacrifice, why should He bring His gifts to us? Why should He give us anything we’re not thankful to receive?
7. And we should be thankful for everything He has given us. After all, we wouldn’t be alive today if He hadn’t graced us with the gift of life this morning. His gifts we shouldn’t take for granted, but we should thank Him at all times for them. Look at our Gospel reading. Jesus tells us the Parable of the Rich Fool. He was so blessed by God that his fields increased so much that he didn’t have room to store everything. So he tore down his barns and built even bigger barns to store everything that God had blessed him with. But what does he say about it? “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19). “Alright! I don’t have to work any more! I can just sit back and take it easy because I grew such a great crop this year.” He’s taking the credit for the plentiful blessings from God’s hand. What does God say about it? “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (v20). “Your life ends tonight. You won’t wake up tomorrow. What happens to everything then?” It’s as Solomon writes in our Old Testament lesson: “I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19). You can’t take it with you! But that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it while you are alive. Sure, everything we have will go to someone else after we die, but Solomon continues: “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (vv24-25). The rich fool wasn’t thankful for everything that God had given him and he lost everything he thought he had.
8. Through God’s mercy, we’re to “enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise” (v4). His gates we’ve talked about already, but where are His courts? Everywhere else. Everything we have and do in this life are part of God’s courts. As Charles Spurgeon said in his commentary on this psalm, “Into whatever court of the Lord you may enter, let your admission be the subject of praise—thanks be to God, the innermost court is now open to believers, and we enter into that which is within the veil; it is incumbent upon us that we acknowledge the high privilege by our songs” (v4). Wherever you go in life, you should be thankful that you have that opportunity because it is a great privilege to be there—whether it’s a farmer, office worker, teacher or student. You have the privilege because His gates have been opened to you and He has invited you to enter His gates. May you always see this as the privilege that it is—a privilege from the merciful hand of God your Savior. In the name of Jesus. Amen.