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.
Every parent knows the importance of teaching children to be mannerly. They all know that their children are going to do things that they should not and that when they do they need to express true sorrow for what they have done. So, here is little Brandon who has just slugged his little sister with his fist. She has gone bellowing to mom and now he is being encouraged to apologize.
“Say you’re sorry”.
“Say you’re sorry!!”
“I’m NOT sorry”
Is mom teaching her little criminal to lie? Is she encouraging him to be dishonest about the way that he feels? Will he grow up thinking that as long as he says the right words it doesn’t matter if he really means them or not? Not at all. She is teaching him how he should feel when he hurts people. She is teaching him that the proper response to others when we have hurt them is repentance and reconciliation. She is teaching him, among a host of other things, what he should be feeling and that even if he does not feel that way he had better learn to bring the right feelings along.
Can we be commanded to feel? Does God merely require that our actions be right regardless of what our motives are or how much we hate doing what He has said? God is eminently concerned about our motives. The Scriptures are full of commandments and principles and stories and teachings which have the point of telling us that mere form is not what God wants. He wants our hearts. Jesus’ greatest criticism of the religious leaders who opposed Him was the hypocrisy that obeyed in form but not in heart.
Quoting Isaiah Jesus said of the Pharisees:
Matthew 15:8-9 – ” ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
The fact that He was quoting from Isaiah means that God had the same issue with the people of Israel 700 years before. David writes that God does not delight in sacrifices, but rather a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:16-17). Amos scathingly tells the people he is sent to prophesy to that God hates their religious celebrations (Amos 5:21-24). One can hardly read the Bible and come away thinking that all that matters is form. But people do.
Where does all this take us? Psalm 100 begins with a call, a command from God to worship God with joy, to serve Him with gladness. Don’t just sing – sing with joy. Don’t just be there. Be there with all your heart. How can God command us to feel? How can we be called upon to worship with joy and gladness? Must not the pain stop first? Must not the money flow in, the children get in line, the community be safer, the world be less polluted, the neighbours be less obnoxious? Don’t we, like little Brandon, have the right to say “But I’m NOT joyful!”?
The world in which Psalm 100 was written was much harsher and much more difficult than the one we live in, in 21st century Canada. The Psalmist was not ignorant of the hardships of life when he wrote those words. But he knew that no matter what happens to him, or around him, or even in him, God is good and there is nothing that could separate him from his God.
If we need our circumstance to improve before we can worship God with our hearts then we will never worship God at all. And the problem would not be the problems we have. The problem would be that we do not know God. The world is commanded to worship God with joy. Those who have been brought, by grace, to God through faith in Jesus Christ, have had their hearts so changed that they are able to come into the presence of God in worship, with great joy. The only people who can truthfully say that they cannot worship God with joy, are those whose hearts have not been changed by grace.
The Psalm tells us what the problem is if we have difficulty worshipping God with our feelings. Verse 3 says “Know that the Lord, He is God”. There you go.
Finding it hard to bring your emotions into your worship? You don’t know God well enough. You need to know God better. You need to understand what He has done for you. You need to see yourself as He saw you before He saved you and loved you anyway. You need to come to grips with an unimaginable love that put the eternal Son of God on a cross to take punishment for your sin so that you could worship God. You need to see the goodness of God to you (verse 5) even in the midst of all the yuckiness of life. Chase after Him. Find Him. Know Him better. Then you will worship Him with great joy.