By T.R. Robertson
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. What would that look like? More to the point, what would that sound like—the whole earth shouting for joy to the Lord?
Not just the people who gather with you at church each Sunday, but everyone. The people in your neighborhood, the people in the neighborhood next to yours, and even the people in the neighborhoods you avoid.
And the people who live in neighborhoods on the other side of the world. They have good reason to shout for joy to the Lord, too.
Imagine it. All over the earth people are pausing in the middle of their day, or waking up in the middle of their sleep, to shout for joy.
The Christian farmer in a small village in China who worships God in a house church. He pauses to lay down his farming tools and looks up to the sky and shouts to the Lord.
The residents of a Jewish settlement join together with the Palestinians from a neighboring community to shout and sing and dance joyfully before the Lord.
The postmodern and post-sober atheist in a London pub joins with his mates to shout for joy to the Lord. Every man, woman, and child from Tasmania to Iceland, from Shanghai to Quito, shouting for joy to the Lord.
And don’t forget the Scriptures that talk about the beasts and the birds and the rocks and the trees and the mountains praising God. Mixed in with the sound of all those people shouting for joy would be the singing of birds, the howling of dogs and coyotes, the roaring of lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!
A Joyful Noise
What would that sound like—more than 7 billion people shouting for joy to the Lord? Perhaps they would shout words of praise like “Hallelujah!” or “Praise the Lord!” or “Hosanna!” We might hear a jubilant “Yes!” or maybe a casual “Yippee!” or “Cowabunga!”
They wouldn’t all say the same thing. They would shout what comes to mind in their own language, whatever expresses their sheer joy.
“Chvalte Pana!” “Prijs de Heer!” “Alabado sea Dios!” “Sifa Mungu!” “Papuri Dyios!”
Many would not be saying anything specific at all, just letting their voices cry out with exultant noise. Not so much a primal scream, but a primal praise.
No doubt many would break out into joyful song, as the psalmist says. They might sing “Amazing Grace,” “How Great Thou Art,” or “Our God is an Awesome God.”
As you are standing outside in your neighborhood, shouting for joy with others from your cul-de-sac, you might hear the voices of the people from the next street over. Perhaps you’d hear the combined noise of the entire neighborhood, all shouting for joy.
We don’t often hear such unified shouting in our culture—unless we’re in a stadium watching baseball or football.
My wife and I used to live just a few hundred yards from the University of Missouri campus, less than a mile away from Memorial Stadium where the football team plays. On game days we knew when the home team scored because we could hear the roar of the crowd from our backyard.
In the winter, when the basketball team was playing, whether home or away, we could tell when the Tigers won because the uproar from the neighboring student housing could be heard inside our house, even with the doors closed.
I would expect that if the entire city of Columbia were to spontaneously go out into the streets and begin shouting with joy, the combined sound would be greater than what we heard from the stadium.
But beyond that, would we hear a noise like rumbling thunder as the sound waves from cities and villages across America and around the world blended into a cacophony of praise?
How Will They Hear?
What would it take to bring the entire earth full of people to the point of willingly, eagerly, spontaneously shouting for joy to the Lord?
The Scriptures promise that when Jesus returns, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (see Philippians 2:9-11). But what would it take for that sort of jubilant expression to cover the earth before his return?
First, people would have to come to know with their minds and their hearts that the Lord is God, as Psalm 100:3 says. That he is real, that he is the only God.
And they would have all come to admit that it is indeed he who made us. Many in the world either pay lip service to that proposition or they deny it altogether.
Bringing so many people to accept God as creator would require much more than sharing evidences of intelligent design or apologetic reasoning. Paul tells us in Romans 1 that the evidence in the created world is so clear that people cannot help but know there is a creator; and yet they choose to reject that knowledge and worship created things instead.
Leading unbelievers and skeptics to understand that God is he who made us requires that we become involved in their lives so we can help them be honest with themselves and their true motives for unbelief.
Second, they must come to understand and agree that we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Actually, that belief is part and parcel of the belief in God as creator. The unwillingness to surrender to his ownership and to accept that they are but sheep reliant upon him is the very thing that blocks them from giving themselves over to believing in him at all.
And again, if a sheep refuses to accept that he’s a sheep, the best way to convince him otherwise is if other sheep will spend time with him, rubbing shoulders with him, grazing in the same pastures, inviting him to explore greener pastures and still waters.
Christians “enter his gates” every Sunday and join our voices in praise to the Lord. We, the ones who know the feeling of shouting for joy to the Lord, have a choice before us.
We can flock together and comfort ourselves with the knowledge that he will return, and on that day everyone in the world will confess that Christ is Lord. We can content ourselves to wait for that day, all the while knowing that for many of those sudden confessors it will be too late.
Or we can gather together to plan and mobilize and motivate one another to pursue the “impossible” dream of softening the hearts of every person in the world to accept Jesus as Lord.
Go out your door right now and look around your neighborhood or your workplace or the streets of your city. Visualize all the people coming out to join you, shouting together to the Lord, joining their voices with the rumbling roar of people doing the same all over the world.
Now picture what you need to be doing to make that incredible event a reality.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?
And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?
As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:13-15).
T.R. Robertson is a freelance writer in Columbia, Missouri.
The Broad Spectrum of Worship
For many people, the music in a church service that we commonly call worship is not the best way to worship God deeply.
Take the quiz at common.northpoint.org/sacredpathway.html to find out more about the pathway that most clearly leads you to God.
Below are different types of worshippers, and of course, most of us fit into several categories. Do you recognize yourself in this list even before you take the quiz?
1. Naturalists draw near to God through nature.
2. Sensates draw near to God through the senses.
3. Traditionalists draw near to God through ritual and symbol.
4. Ascetics draw near to God through solitude and simplicity.
5. Activists draw near to God through bringing about social change.
6. Caregivers draw near to God through caring for and serving others.
7. Enthusiasts draw near to God through celebration and mystery.
8. Contemplatives draw near to God through personal adoration and heartfelt devotion.
9. Intellectuals draw near to God through their minds.