Psalm 100: The Ten Commandments of Joy

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.
           ~Psalm 100:1-2

We’re all familiar with the Ten Commandments of Exodus, but do you know the Ten Commandments of Psalm 100? This psalm is entirely written in the form of commands. The first three are listed above. The other seven are: “Know that the Lord is God”; “Know that it is He who made us”; “Know that we are His people, the sheep of His pasture”; “Enter His gates with thanksgiving”; “Enter His courts with praise”; “Give thanks to Him”; “Praise His name.” 

But wait a minute. Didn’t we leave behind all those Old Testament commandments when we “died to the law through the body of Christ” (Rom 7:4)? As Christians, don’t we come to God by faith rather than works? Actually, the New Covenant is as full of laws and commandments as the Old. Indeed the new commands are even more exacting than the old, for they include interior rules such as “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1), “Be completely humble and gentle” (Eph 4:2), “Be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray” (1 Pet 4:7), and “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Php 4:4). To this list might be added the ten commandments of Psalm 100. 

Each phrase of this psalm is either a direct command to rejoice or a command to do something that results in joy. For example, if we know for certain that we belong to God, that “we are His people, the sheep of His pasture,” how can we not “worship the Lord with gladness”? Happy people, secure in knowing they belong, are free to worship their Creator with abandon. Unhappy people withhold worship, which is the very reason for their unhappiness. 

Joy is a biblical commandment. Is it fair for God to command you to be happy? Aren’t the odds overwhelmingly stacked against you? No, this is a lie. The truth is that Jesus has done everything to secure your happiness, in order that His “joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). 

Nobody questions Jesus’ most important command, “Love one another” (John 13:34). Why then do we argue with the command to rejoice? In the case of love, we know that we ought to do it, and we also know that we can. If we don’t love, it’s not because we cannot but because we will not. Simple as that. 

It’s the same with joy. Happiness is a choice. As Abraham Lincoln put it, “People are just about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” What we lack as Christians isn’t just the will to believe the gospel, but the will to be happy about what we believe. Indeed our lack of joy is a sign of unbelief. 

Happiness is not happenstance, but rather it involves a profound spiritual discipline. If I want to be strong, I don’t sit around waiting until I’m strong enough to lift weights; rather, I lift weights in order to become strong. To accept joy as a commandment is to admit that it doesn’t come to one effortlessly but requires the cooperation of the will to achieve. Like salvation, joy is a free gift of God that cannot be earned, yet even a gift must be opened and actively enjoyed by the recipient. It takes energy to “shout for joy to the Lord,” but it takes just as much energy (or more) to be miserable. Why not re-channel our energies into something more fun?

~an excerpt from my book Champagne for the Soul, Chapter 10

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