Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This psalm - so beautiful - so grand - so often sung in all lands and languages - completes this "group" of psalms respecting the reign of God, or the reasons for praise as derived from the fact that he reigns. In the previous psalms in this group Ps. 95-99 the call to praise had been in some respects local and particular; in this, it is universal. All lands are called on to praise him; all people to worship him as God. The "ground" of this, as stated in the psalm, is that he is their "Maker;" that he is the Creator of all. As all have derived their being from him, they are called on to praise him as their common Creator and Father. So far as the reason here referred to is a ground for praise and worship, it applies to all people now. The nations - the people of the earth - are one. However much they may differ in complexion, in language, in customs, in religion, they have all been formed by the same God; they are all of one family; they are all entitled to the same privileges; they may all have the same access to his throne. The races of people are one; and all should gather around the throne of their common Creator, and render him united praise. This psalm has been sung by million and hundreds of million; it will continue to be sung to the end of time.
The psalm is entitled "A Psalm of praise In the margin, "thanksgiving." The Septuagint is, "A Psalm of Confession" - εἰς ἐξομολόγησιν eis homologēsin. So the Latin Vulgate, and the Chaldee. The Syriac version is, "anonymous," or, without a name; "concerning Joshua the son of Nun, when he subdued the Ammonites." Luther: "A Psalm of Thanksgiving."
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord - See the notes at Psa 95:1.
All ye lands - Margin, as in Hebrew, "all the earth." The margin expresses the sense. The idea in the psalm is, that praise did not pertain to one nation only; that it was not appropriate for one people merely; that it should not be confined to the Hebrew people, but that there was a proper ground of praise for "all;" there was that in which all nations, of all languages and conditions, could unite. The ground of that was the fact that they had one Creator, Psa 100:3. The psalm is based on the unity of the human race; on the fact that there is one God and Father of all, and one great family on earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness - That is, In your worship, and in all your acts of obedience. Let there be joy in this service. Let it not be with the fear of slaves; not as a matter of compulsion and force; not with reluctance, moroseness, or gloom. Let it be a cheerful, happy service; let it be freely rendered, let it be an occasion of joy to the soul. The service of God is a source of the highest joy that man knows.
Come before his presence with singing - As expressive of joy. So the birds sing; so nature rejoices; so should man - intelligent, redeemed, immortal man, be joyful.
Know ye that the Lord, he is God - That is, Let all the nations know that Yahweh is the true God. The idols are vanity. They have no claim to worship; but God is the Creator of all, and is entitled to universal adoration.
It is he that hath made us - The Hebrew is, "He made us," and this expresses the exact idea. The fact that he is the Creator proves that he is God, since no one but God can perform the work of creation. The highest idea that we can form of power is that which is evinced in an act of creation; that is, in causing anything to exist where there was nothing before. Every created thing, therefore, is a proof of the existence of God; the immensity of the universe is an illustration of the greatness of his power.
And not we ourselves - Margin, "And his we are." The difference between the text and the margin is owing to a different reading in the Hebrew, varying only in a single letter. The reading in the text is, "And not (לא lo') we;" in the margin, "And to him (לו lô) we." These words would be pronounced in the same manner, and either of them would convey good sense. The weight of authority is in favor of the common reading, "And not we;" that is, We are not self-created; we derive our being from him. All that we have and are, we owe to him.
We are his people - By virtue of creation. The highest "property" which can exist is that derived from an act of creation. He that has brought anything into existence has a right to it, and may dispose of it as he pleases. It is on this idea essentially that all idea of "property" is founded.
And the sheep of his pasture - As the shepherd owns the flock, so God is our owner; as the shepherd guards his flock and provides for it, so God guards us and provides for us. See the notes at Psa 95:7.
Enter into his gates ... - The gates which lead to his temple, or to the place of public worship.
Into his courts ... - The "courts" were literally the open spaces which surrounded the tabernacle or temple. It was in these that worship was celebrated, and not in the tabernacle or temple. See Psa 65:4, note; Psa 84:2, note; Psa 92:13, note.
Be thankful unto him - That is, Offer thanksgiving and praise. Come before him with a grateful heart. See the notes at Psa 50:14.
Bless his name - Bless him; praise him; ascribe honor to him; acknowledge him as God.
For the Lord is good - For good is Yahweh. That is, He is not a being of mere "power;" he is not merely the Creator; but he is benevolent, and is, therefore, worthy of universal praise. In the former verses, his claim to adoration is founded on the fact that he is the "Creator," and has, as such, a right to our service; in this verse, the claim is asserted on account of his moral character:
(1) his benevolence;
(2) his mercy;
(3) his truth;
(a) the fact that he is a God of truth; and
(b) the fact that his truth endures, or that in all generations he shows himself to be faithful to his promises.
The first of these is his "benevolence:" "The Lord is good." As such, assuredly, God is worthy of praise and honor. A being of "mere" power we could not love or praise; a being whose power was united with malignity or malevolence, could only be the object of hatred and terror; but a being whose power is united with goodness or benevolence ought to he loved.
His mercy is everlasting - This is the "second" reason, drawn from his moral character, why he should be praised and adored. A being of mere "justice" may be feared and respected; but a character of "mere" justice would be to man an object of dread - and may be so anywhere. There are other attributes than the one of "justice," high and valuable as that may be, which are necessary to constitute a perfect character; and man, in order to find happiness and security, must find some other attribute in God than mere "justice," for man is a sinner, and needs pardon; he is a sufferer, and needs compassion; he is to die, and needs support and consolation. Besides, mere "justice" may drive its decisions over some of the kindest and tenderest feelings of human nature, for there are cases, under all administrations, where pardon is desirable and mercy is proper. It is, therefore, a ground of unspeakable joy for man that God is not a Being of "mere justice," but that there is mingled in his character the attribute of mercy and kindness. But for this, man could have no hope; for, as a sinner, he has no claim on God, and all his hope must be derived from God's infinite compassion. To all this as a ground of praise is to be added the fact that this mercy of God is "everlasting." Its fruits - its results - will extend to the vast eternity before us; and in all that eternity we shall never cease to enjoy the benefits of that mercy; never be suffered to fall back on the mere "justice" of God.
And his truth endureth to all generations - Margin, as in Hebrew, "to generation and generation." That is, forever. It is the same in every generation of the world. This is the third reason derived from the moral character of God for praising him; and this is a just ground of praise. We could not love and honor a God who was not true to his promises, and who did not himself love the truth; we could not honor one who was changeable and flexible - who loved one thing in one generation and a different thing in the next; who in one age was the friend of truth, and in the next the patron of falsehood. It is the just foundation for praise to God - our God - that he is essentially and always - in all worlds, and in all the generations of people - toward all in the universe - a Being of unchangeable benevolence, mercy, and truth. Such a God is worthy to be had in universal reverence; such a God is worthy of universal praise.