Sometimes when we read scripture, a familiar expression like the opening phrase like today’s reading from Psalm 100 jumps out at us.
What does it mean to “Make a joyful noise to the Lord”? or as the NIV translates “Shout for joy to the Lord”.
We all have cause to shout occasionally – either calling out to someone distant or close by failing to listen or as a warning or in anger or in celebration. The dictionary defines shouting as “utter a loud cry, typically as an expression of a strong emotion”.
So how do we “Shout for joy to the Lord”? The Psalmist also uses this exact invocation in Psalms 66.1; 98:4 & 6, and other Psalms speak about “shouting for joy” in the context of praising God.
A joyful noise is not merely noise for its own sake. The world is filled with noise (especially our Australian summer) – much of it harmful or distracting.
The Bible reveals that a joyful noise is a bold declaration of God’s glorious name and nature, that often includes music, such as singing, playing instruments, and dancing (Psalm 95:1; 98:6; 149:3; 1 Chronicles 15:28) and other outward expressions of praise.
While there is a time for quiet reverence in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 5:7; 95:6), God also delights in our outward displays of joyful abandon as we worship Him with all we have. Scripture is filled with examples of God’s servants praising Him in a variety of ways, many of them noisy and active. David danced (2 Samuel 6:14); Miriam played the tambourine, singing and dancing (Exodus 15:20–21); the children of Israel shouted and sang (2 Chronicles 15:14); Solomon lifted hands before all the people (1 Kings 8:22); Paul and Silas sang loudly in jail (Acts 16:25); and Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem with loud shouts of joy (John 12:13).
Often what prevents us in our praise and worship from taking the opportunity to make a joyful noise to the Lord is that we worry about “What will other people think?” rather than focusing on praising God. Why is it that most people who feel too reserved to make a joyful noise to the Lord, would think nothing of shouting, clapping, and cheering at their favourite sporting event or music concert?
While our corporate worship should always be “done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40), they should never stifle the joyful expression of praise brought before the Lord by his people. When the fear of man either prompts or stymies any type of outward expression, we are not doing “all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
When the fruit of the Spirit dominates our lives, we cannot help but express it—and part of that fruit is joy (Galatians 5:20). God wants us to find such joy and excitement in Him that we cannot contain it. Ephesians 5:18–19 instructs us to “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.”
When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we desire to sing to the Lord and edify others. Our musical talent has nothing to do with it. A joyful noise incorporates many creative expressions of praise: dancing, singing, clapping, shouting, raising hands, as well as playing instruments. When the focus of our hearts is God and His greatness, our noise is a sweet sound to His ears.