Uniform 12.14.2014: Communal Noise

Psalm 95:1-7a

Advent is perhaps the most audibly rich time on the Christian calendar. Bells ringing, fires crackling, people singing—the sounds of the season prepare us for Christmas in a way that sights alone cannot. We gather for end-of-the-year concerts and recitals. We listen to seasonal music on the radio. We put on warm clothes and go caroling. December is indeed the season for making “joyful noise” (Ps 95:1).

This phrase—“make a joyful noise”—is a familiar one. Christians use it year-round to describe the way we should approach God in praise. We also use it to encourage those who are embarrassed by a lack of musical ability to participate in congregational singing with confidence. Sometimes “joyful noise” is a euphemism for the ruckus young children cause during worship services.

We usually talk about making a joyful noise as something individuals do. Even when we worship in the company of other believers, we are often concerned with our own offerings. But the psalmist’s language encourages us to think more communally: “Let us make a joyful noise” (v. 1). “Let us come into his presence” (v. 2). “Let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker” (v. 6). We can sing praises to God on our own, but it is richer, deeper, and more transformative when we offer praise alongside others.

Through all the noise of Christmas, joy comes when we praise God together for the new thing happening in our world through the coming of Christ. Joy shines on the faces of preschoolers singing beside their friends in their first Christmas programs. Joy lights the eyes of grandmothers who hear hymns sung reverently by rooms full of grandchildren on Christmas Eve.

And joy rings out from churches all over the world as congregations join their voices to proclaim the good news that “the rock of our salvation” (v. 1) has come to dwell among us.

Discussion

1. Which December sounds most help you prepare your heart for the coming of Christ? Why?
2. How do you most often think of “joyful noise”?
3. How can you “make a joyful noise” as an individual this Advent season? How might you join your voice with others?
4. What can we learn about Christ by celebrating his coming with others? How might we miss these lessons if we only worshiped alone?
5. Where do you hear joyful noise being sounded around you this year? How can you carry the sounds of the season with you beyond December?

Reference Shelf

This psalm is similar in form to Pss 50 and 81. It falls into two parts: vv. 1-7c compose a hymn that celebrates the kingship of Yahweh and vv. 7d-11 form a prophetic oracle that warns the people against stubborn disobedience. Commentators commonly speak of the liturgical nature of this psalm, and it is probable that it was shaped by liturgical practice. Perhaps a procession of worshipers entering the Temple area for worship at one of the Jerusalem festivals is the original setting of Ps 95.

The worshipers encourage one another to go into the Temple courts and into the presence of Yahweh in vv. 1-2. The poet may have had in mind the movement of the worshipers into the sanctuary in vv. 3-5. In v. 6 the people have arrived in the holy area and are summoned to assume the postures of worship. Verse 7a-c is an affirmation of Yahweh by the worshipers; it parallels the statements in v. 3 and forms a frame around vv. 4-6. The great king above all gods (v. 3) is declared by the speakers in v. 7 to be our God, the shepherd of the people.

Resource

Marvin E. Tate, “Psalms” in Mercer Commentary on the Old Testament, ed. Watson E. Mills et al (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1995), 497.

Bonnie Chappell is the editor of the Uniform Series Bible Study. She is a graduate of Mercer University and Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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