Make a Joyful Noise

In my journey through the Psalms, I am presently spending time in Psalm 95. The English Standard translation (ESV) entitles Psalm 95 as Let Us Sing Songs of Praise. A.A. Anderson suggests No Worship without Obedience. The first two verses beseech the Jewish community to make joyful noises in worship of Yahweh, their God…

1 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
    let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Making a joyful noise to the Lord is a common thread throughout the Psalms (c.f. Psalms 66, 98, and 100). As I was reading this, I begin to wonder how noise can be joyful, especially to the hearer. By definition, noise is loud, obnoxious, and unpleasant. The etymology of noise is Latin nausea (“seasickness”) – interesting. For me, not only can noise be obnoxious, it actually hurts my ears (might be an age thing)!

So how can noise be joyful to the hearer? It might have everything to do with the source. Our youngest grandson, Elend, spent the last several days with us awaiting a flight to Arizona to join up with his family who drove to Scottsdale for a lengthy stay at their condo. (They literally didn’t have room for him in their vehicle, so Elend’s aunt flew with him to join up with his family. 🙂)

During his stay with us, Elend got a fair amount of time with his cousin, Grant. Grant and Elend enjoy life and know how to have fun – a lot of fun. And they make noise – a lot of noise. Loud, obnoxious, and unpleasant (ear hurting) noise…

One afternoon, as I was trying to work at my desk, the two boys took their enjoyment of each other to a new level – in both glee and decibels. It was deafening. And I loved it. To a grandpa it was truly a joyful noise! I wonder what it sounded like to God?

What made their noise so joyful? Much of it was the way the enjoyed each other. And I enjoyed watching them enjoy each other. It did my heart good. Since we were created in God’s image, I have to believe that He enjoys watching us enjoy each other. I have to believe it does his heart good as well. (I wonder what it does to his heart when we don’t enjoy each other?) I also suspect that God enjoys it when we enjoy the rest of his creation.

Joyful noise is about glee and decibels

I am beginning to understand that the operative word in the phrase joyful noise is indeed joyful. As much as we love harmony, I suspect the Psalmist wasn’t necessarily suggesting joyful harmony.* Instead, I’m beginning to realize the focus is on the joyfulness of the noise-maker. I wonder if the making of joyful noise is about doing right things. Harmony might be focused on doing things right (see Doing Right Things). Joyful noise is about glee and decibels. With that it mind…

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! (Psalm 100)

* By the way, this is very good news to those of us that struggle to carry a tune.

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Curt Hinkle

I am a practical theologian. A theology that doesn't play out in one's everyday life is impractical, or of no real use. A simple definition of theology is the attempt to understand God and what he is up to, allowing us to join him in his work.

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