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Have you ever been given a scriptural insight that has changed the way you read a passage? It happened to Laurie and me a few days ago. We considered, in a new light, this beautiful psalm which we have sung and read for decades.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!

Serve the LORD with gladness!

Come into his presence with singing!

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.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!

Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the LORD is good;

his steadfast love endures forever,

and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:1–5).1

The insight was delivered from the Lord via a martyred missionary, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. His name is Jim Elliot, murdered over a half-century ago in Ecuador. Jim wrote to the woman who would become his wife: “Dearest Betty, I charge you in the name of our Unfailing Friend, do away with all waverings, bewilderment, and wonder. You have bargained for a cross. Overcome anything in the confidence of your union with Him, so that contemplating trial, enduring persecution or loneliness, you may know the blessings of the ‘joy set before.’ ‘We are the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.’ And what are the 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.” 2

This changes the nature of how we read and sing this psalm. We Christians are on our way to sacrifice as we enter His gates.

What are we told to do on our way?

Make a joyful noise. The earth is joining you in this raucous rejoicing, which may be the reason it’s a bit noisy:

Praise the LORD from the earth,

you great sea creatures and all deeps,

fire and hail, snow and mist,

stormy wind fulfilling his word! (Psalm 148:7–8).

Serve the Lord with gladness—not sorrow. You will experience sacrificial suffering, but you are sharing Jesus’ sufferings. “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).

Come into His presence with singing, knowing that the One into whose presence you are entering is our Creator. He has made us—we didn’t. He has made us sheep destined for the altar, for slaughter. Paul told the Philippians, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…” (Philippians 1:29).

Thank our sovereign God and praise Him because He is good. His plans are good. He has the ability to make all things work together for good. He loves us steadfastly and will love us forever. Keep that in mind. Forever. The Lord will always love you. I’m sure you can recall this beautiful passage from Jeremiah in the great book of his lamentation for the suffering condition of God’s people.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him” (Lamentations 3:22–24).

The Lord is the believer’s portion. Our portion is not some possession on this earth. Not some happy-all-the-time living condition. Our portion is Him, simply, not land or wealth or fame or status or comfort.

When this song comes to mind now, I will try to remember to praise Him in the knowledge that I am a sheep being sacrificed, according to His good and loving will.

Lord, give us the strength in that journey to your courts to rejoice in You. That is our strength.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

2SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY: The Life & Testament Of Jim Elliot. Copyright ©1958 by Elizabeth Elliot. HarperCollins Publishers, 195 Broadway, New York, New York 10007.

Gif courtesy giphy.com

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