This week people all around our country will gather with family to give thanks for the blessings of life. If your Thanksgiving is like most, there will be much more eating than there will be giving thanks. Part of the reason for this is the growing secularism of our society. The more a society feels they don’t need God, the less grateful they will be.
Dr. Al Mohler summarizes this truth with eloquence:
The secular vision of thanksgiving feels empty and false. If there is no Creator and the universe is a cosmic accident, whom do we thank? At best, all we can do is be happy—at least in some sense—that this accident has not turned out worse. If there is no divine intelligence or benevolence behind world events, public and personal, it certainly seems like our Thanksgiving is just an exercise in considering ourselves comparatively lucky. How can fate be thanked?
I hope you recognize that life is not an accident. I trust you are here because you believe in a Creator and hopefully in a Redeemer. Yet, even in our situation our thanks tend to be rather superficial. We thank God for
- Our jobs
- The good things that happened over the last year
- The good food we are about to inhale
It is great and appropriate to give thanks for God’s all these blessings but I want to suggest this morning that we should consider giving for something greater: for God’s character, His love, and His rule in our lives.
This morning we are going to look at a song was song sung when the Ark of God was brought to Jerusalem. It is a compilation of Psalms 96, 105 and 106. I am going to give you three general categories that should be part of our thanksgiving.
God’s Great Works (8-13)
8 Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
Let the whole world know what he has done.
9 Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
10 Exult in his holy name;
rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
11 Search for the Lord and for his strength;
continually seek him.
12 Remember the wonders he has performed,
his miracles, and the rulings he has given,
13 you children of his servant Israel,
you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.
The first reason to give thanks is the greatness of our God. We honor heroes for their bravery. We honor athletes for their excellence. We honor Presidents for their service. We reward students for their academic excellence. In the same way, we should give God thanks and praise Him for the things He has done and continues to do every day.
We should thank Him for the creative genius that we get to enjoy every day. The Lord made all the natural wonders that take our breath away. He made the people who fill our lives with love. He made our bodies that are more complex than human minds can understand. He is the Creator and has earned our gratitude.
We are to praise and thank Him for His Holy Name. What this means is that we are to praise God for His character of holiness. God is pure; there are no “shades of goodness” in His character. God is always right, He is always good, and there is no Evil in Him.
There is a great benefit to God’s holiness. He is always dependable. You never have to worry if He is leading you in the wrong direction. He is who He says He is. He does not make mistakes. He never takes a wrong road. He never has mixed motives for what He chooses to do.
Think about this. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a financial advisor that was always right? Wouldn’t it be incredible to have a counselor who you knew was always giving you the right solution to a problem? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you were able to live consistently? God is all of these things and more and we should praise Him.
We should praise Him for His unmatched Strength and His miraculous works. As we read through the Bible we read of all kinds of miracles. And just because we don’t regularly see miracles today doesn’t mean God is not intervening in our lives every day in ways only He could bring to pass. His strength is our fortress in times of trial. We confess truthfully that “greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.” In other words, there is no power of Hell that can stand against the Lord of the Universe.
We give Him thanks for His judgments. Even though we often don’t understand what God is doing, we know that He is in control. We know that He is guiding life along a path that will lead to eternal blessing and life.
When we realize God’s greatness we should respond as the Psalmist does: We are to proclaim, sing, tell, exult or celebrate, rejoice, search for, seek, and remember. In other words, God’s greatness should energize and motivate us. Our passive approach to our worship is largely due to the fact that we do not understand what great things God is doing!
We have no trouble getting excited about a winning streak in our favorite sport or when we make unexpected money. We are enthusiastic when we complete a project or we have a new addition to our family. Yet, when we are in the presence of the God who created us and sustains us we often respond as if we had been sent to the Principal’s office.
We should give ENTHUSIASTIC thanks not only at Thanksgiving but every day of our lives!
God’s Covenant/Promise (14-22)
A second reason to give God thanks is for His covenant and His promise.
14 He is the Lord our God.
His justice is seen throughout the land.
15 Remember his covenant forever—
the commitment he made to a thousand generations.
16 This is the covenant he made with Abraham
and the oath he swore to Isaac.
17 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
and to the people of Israel as a never-ending covenant:
18 “I will give you the land of Canaan
as your special possession.”
19 He said this when you were few in number,
a tiny group of strangers in Canaan.
20 They wandered from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another.
21 Yet he did not let anyone oppress them.
He warned kings on their behalf:
22 “Do not touch my chosen people,
and do not hurt my prophets.”
The covenant referred to here is the promises God made to Israel. He promised to be their God and to give them their own land and lead them as a nation. Over and over He promised deliverance and they received it. He promised them a Messiah and that Messiah came to them.
In the New Testament we also read about the promise (or covenant) of God. He promised to redeem or save us. He promised to give us a Comforter in the person of the Holy Spirit. He promised that He would answer our prayers and never let us go. He promises us an inheritance that can never perish or fade.
In the upper room during the last supper Jesus told them that the cup represented the new covenant established through the shedding of His blood. In other words, He promised that we would have a new relationship with God. We would no longer be enemies of God but we would be His friends and His children.
How in the world could we give God thanks without mentioning the gracious salvation that is ours because of Christ? We should be thankful for
- God’s love for us even though we who rebelled against Him
- God’s forgiveness that came because of God’s own provision of a Savior.
- God’s Spirit who prays for us, comforts us, guides us, and guarantees our inheritance.
- God’s promise of victory and eternal life. We live today with hope and confidence because God has promised that this life is not all there is.
Suppose someone put money in your account that would pay enough in interest alone to meet all the needs you could imagine. Would you be grateful? You bet we would be! What God has promised is even better than this.
We are what we are today because of God’s willingness to save us and His willingness to provide the Savior we need. Our hope, our purpose, our joy is because of His covenant with us.
His Kingship and Rule (23-30)
In the third part of this song we find thanksgiving for the rule of God.
25 Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
He is to be feared above all gods.
26 The gods of other nations are mere idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
27 Honor and majesty surround him;
strength and joy fill his dwelling.
28 O nations of the world, recognize the Lord,
recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
29 Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
Bring your offering and come into his presence.
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
30 Let all the earth tremble before him.
The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.
The people of Israel gave thanks to God because He is not like the other gods of the world. He is real. He is powerful. He is personal. He is the One who created and sustains all things. Our Lord is characterized by strength and joy. He is glorious and strong.
We live in a world of imaginary gods. These are gods designed in our image! They are worthless and powerless. We form “designer gods” because we want a god that we control. We determine what power he has, what values he declares and more. This god is one who is favorable to the way we want to live. The only problem is that these gods are not gods at all! They are imaginary and powerless to help us.
The Bible tells us that the Lord God is the One in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). This unnerves many people because it means we are accountable to this God. What they don’t realize is this: they are accountable to this God whether they accept that fact or not!
We should give thanks to God because everything we have, are, and ever hope to be, comes from Him. He is the One who keeps the earth going. He is the One who will determine when to call everything to a halt.
Understanding the greatness of God is the reason the disciples were able to rejoice when they were persecuted. They understood that the Lord was going to use their pain for His glory. They knew that their testimony would be used by God to redeem others. They rejoiced because they were confident of the hands that held them.
A Thankful Response to A Great God
I love the end of this song. It exhorts us to the right attitude as we give thanks.
31 Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!
Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
32 Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!
33 Let the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
35 Cry out, “Save us, O God of our salvation!
Gather and rescue us from among the nations,
so we can thank your holy name
and rejoice and praise you.”
36 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
who lives from everlasting to everlasting!
And all the people shouted “Amen!” and praised the Lord.
Do you notice that this is not a reluctant thanksgiving . . . it is exuberant! This is a far cry from our “sit on our hands” kind of worship. The Lord is worthy of praise. He is worthy of a celebration! Look at these great words: “Rejoice, Shout, Burst with Joy, and cry out!” We should be enthusiastically grateful to the Lord for all He is, does, and has promised to do. Praising Him should be the first thing on our lips rather than an afterthought this Thanksgiving and every other day.
So how do we learn to be grateful for the blessings of the Lord rather than just the temporal blessings we can hold on to? Let me give you some suggestions.
First, Look at your life and seriously consider how things would be different if the Lord was not in your life. Consider the fact that even the temporal blessings you enjoy come from His hand. Consider how your life would be different if you were not forgiven, if you did not have the Holy Spirit in your life, and if you did not have hope of life beyond the grave.
Second, make note of the things for which the Biblical writers were grateful. It is all too easy for us to neglect to thank God for His holiness, His mercy, His power and His sovereign rule over the world. It is easy to forget to be grateful for God’s promises and His unchanging character. We seldom if ever thank Him for the trials that deepen our faith. Follow the pattern of Biblical writers.
Third, make it a point to draw the attention of your family to the blessings that come to us because of our relationship with the Lord. In other words, testify of God’s blessings whether you say the prayer, share something for which you are thankful or just talk about your blessings in conversation. Be intentional about praising Him publicly.
Fourth, in your personal praying develop the habit of wider thanksgiving. If you are like me, you will thank God for your family, you will thank Him for the good things that happened during the day and for the things that surround you. However, we seldom think about these greater blessings that are mentioned in this song. My point? Work at remembering.
It is true that there are many things wrong in the world in which we live. However, we are still wonderfully blessed. We owe the Lord a debt of gratitude for giving us life, surrounding us with families and friends, and providing for our needs so richly. We owe Him gratitude for giving us purpose and meaning in life.
I hope your Thanksgiving finds you surrounded by the people you love and that you are drawn into the presence of the God who loves you.