O Give Thanks
Today, we are just a few days away from Thanksgiving 2016.
On Thanksgiving Day, most will have the day off to maybe sleep in, then maybe watch some football or maybe get a good start on Christmas movies, although the Hallmark Movie Channel has been showing Christmas movies for a couple weeks already. Most of us will enjoy some excellent food.
The challenge of course is to make sure we set aside some time on Thursday to be thankful. For we who are Christians, to be thankful to God since He is the source of every good thing that ever has happened, is happening, and ever will happen, here during this life and in Heaven later.
To set the tone for being thankful, we are going to consider two Bible passages, the first one Psalm 136, the second one a few verses in Revelation 7. For the first one, you get to take part, which will be proclaiming something, repeating the words many times. Let’s practice it together. For His steadfast love endures forever.
It is God’s steadfast love - love that does endure forever - that brings us the blessings we have, including a long list recorded in Psalm 136. I will explain the items on the list. You will respond with - say it, please - for His steadfast love endures forever.
Over and over again, Psalm 136 gives the call to give thanks to the LORD - to God - which we are to do all the time.
By the way, verse 1 teaches us to give thanks with our lips. That is what the wording means. We can thank God many other ways, including through our service and by the giving of our tithes and offerings, both of which are also very important. But in verse 1, the call is to express our thanks in words.
As mentioned, we are to do that all the time, but what a good reminder today’s service and this week’s holiday are that we are to give thanks.
Give thanks to the LORD. Why? For he is good. That means everything He does is for the benefit of others, including His people.
Many of the good things the LORD has done and is doing are coming up later, but God is good. Therefore He is worthy of our thanks.
O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. Say it please. For His steadfast love endures forever.
Verses 2 and 3. O give thanks to the God of gods, to the Lord of lords.
Unfortunately, there are other “gods” some people worship.
The ancient Greeks had many, many gods. Maybe, like me, you read about them in high school humanities classes.
For the Greeks, they included Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, Apollo, the god of music, Ares, the god of war and violence, Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and Poseidon, the god of the seas.
The ancient Romans had many gods as well, including Neptune, the god of the seas, Mars, the god of war, and Minerva, the goddess of fine arts.
Other gods are worshiped some places around the world today, too. Where there are multiple gods worshiped, such as was the case with the Greeks and the Romans, do we see the problem? It is that there are so many gods that have to be considered for various parts of life, it must be frustrating to try to figure out and then remember to whom to pray to for what.
Our God is the God of gods. He is the only one to whom we need to go for whatever help we need. How wonderful is that. Something for which we are to give thanks.
And Lord of lords. Lord means ruler. The one who is to be in charge of everything we do. We are not to follow Zeus or Jupiter, the head gods of the Greeks and the Romans, or Buddha or Allah, or any current person who claims divinity. We are to follow God - our God - the one true God - the one who is God and Lord of all.
O give thanks to the God of gods and the Lord of lords, for His steadfast love endures forever.
The Psalm continues by proclaiming in verses 4 through 6 that our God alone does great wonders. That is true because He is God of gods and Lord of lords, but what wonders? How about creation?
We are to thank Him who by understanding made the heavens. “Understanding,” in this passage, refers to knowing what the stars and the planets and the comets are to look like and where they should be for our benefit. God is the one who created everything we see in the skies and beyond. He is the one who put each piece in the proper place.
In addition, God is the one who spread out the earth upon the waters. That means He made the dry earth appear, which was necessary for human survival.
Remember the order of what God created. He made the dry earth appear before the first human was created. What knowledge He had. What a wonderful plan God had to create what was needed before it was needed.
O give thanks to the One who made the heavens and the dry land. Say it please. “For His steadfast love endures forever.”
Back to the heavens. Verses 7 through 9. God made the great lights.
The sun to rule over the day. are you amazed, as am I, that the sun is exactly where it needs to be for us to survive? A little bit closer and we would all burn up. A little farther away and we would be too cold. Not even the crops He formed could survive if the sun was not and did not stay where it is. How wonderful that God knew exactly where to put the sun to rule over the day.
The moon. That, too, is right where it needs to be. Think of this. If the moon was closer, the tides would be so high there would be horrible flooding every day.
The moon and the stars to rule over the night. Concerning stars, think of the wonder that where they were placed millennia ago is where they still are. The patterns of their movements are so steady that navigators throughout history have been able to chart their journeys using the stars. How amazing is that?
O give thanks to Him who did all of creation, for His steadfast love endures forever. Creation is an example of God’s love.
Psalm 136 then lists a number of historical events that proved God’s steadfast love. Verses 10 through 16.
O give thanks to Him who smote the first-born of Egypt and brought Israel out from among the Egyptians with a strong hand and an outstretched arm and divided the Red Sea and made Israel pass through the midst of it, but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Sea.
Those three things refer to the escape of the people of God from slavery in Egypt.
In a series of miracles wrought by God, the ruler of Egypt often promised to release God’s people, but he did not follow through until all the first-born of the Egyptians died. That finally convinced the ruler to free the people of God.
But even then he pursued the people of God to the Red Sea, where the people would have been trapped and either killed or captured except for God’s intervention.
God parted the Red Sea, which gave His people a path to escape. A path that remained until the last of His people had crossed to the other side. Then God caused the Sea to come back together, which wiped out the entire Egyptian army. Soldiers, horses, and equipment alike were all destroyed.
What wonderful miracles God performed for His people to protect them, which are more reasons to give Him thanks. Say it please. For His steadfast love endures forever.
There is more. After the crossing of the Red Sea, God led His people through the wilderness. Eventually He led them into the Promised Land, where God helped His people defeat great kings, including Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan.
In a commentary, I read that specific kings are mentioned to show this is not just a general statement that God helped. Specific names were given to prove the authenticity of God’s help.
I might mention, in case you are wondering, Sihon opposed the people of God. He led an attack against them. Not only were his forces scattered, he was killed. His capital city and his territory went to the people of God. That encouraged God’s people in the Promised Land.
Og was the ruler over 60 separate communities. He and the communities were thought to be invincible. The appearance of Og and his people promoted that thought. But he, too, was defeated. His land was also given to the people of God.
Because of the defeating of all the great kings in the Promised Land, including Sihon and Og, the people of God were able to take over the land. The fulfillment of God’s promise also makes Him worthy of thanks. The fulfillment is proof of His love. For His steadfast love endures forever.
Verses 23 and 24. It is God who remembered us - and still does remember us - in our low estate.
The words “low estate” refer to the people of God who escaped Egypt and made their way through the wilderness and, with God’s help, occupied the Promised Land. They were of low estate through all that because without God’s help, none of those things would have been accomplished.
Being in a low estate refers to us, too. Low in the fact that even now we struggle to survive, sometimes physically, but also spiritually.
As hard as we try to be perfect, it is so difficult to accomplish perfection. At least I find it difficult, no matter how much I try. Compared to God’s perfection, we are so low we should give up. And we would give up, except that God remembers us. Not remembers as we think of it, but extending the meaning beyond thought to action, rescuing us from our foes, including the foe of discouragement.
O give thanks to God who does remember us, for His steadfast love endures forever.
God remembers us when we face foes. He also takes care of us other times, including - verse 25 - that He gives food to all flesh.
Verse26. O give thanks to the God of Heaven, for his steadfast love endures for ever.
A quick summary from today’s first passage. Today, next Thursday, and beyond, let’s remember to give thanks to God. The one true God. The one true Lord. The one who created all of nature. All the universe. The one who continues to help us in any wandering we do. The one who helps us in our battles against people and against harmful thoughts and moods. The one who thinks of us. The one who wants to help even the lowliest of people, which can describe any of us at least at times. The one who is the provider of our food. And yes, the farmers plant and reap the crops and the truckers truck the food and stores sell it, but all those things are gifts from God. They represent Him making good, adequate food available to us.
Again, let’s give thanks to the God of Heaven, for His steadfast love endures forever.
That is an Old Testament teaching. For a New Testament example of that same instruction, let’s move almost to the end of the Bible. Chapter 7 of the Book of Revelation.
In that chapter, John saw Heaven. One thing he saw there was - verses 9 through 12 - a great multitude of people. Too many people to count. The people were from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues. What a wonderful reminder it is that Christians are found not only here, as in this church and this city and our state and nation, but throughout the world God’s people can be found.
All the people John saw in chapter 7 were standing. They stood before God’s throne and before the Lamb. The people were clothed in white robes. They had palm branches in their hands. They cried out with loud voices. They cried out, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb [to Jesus].
What was cried out is true. Salvation comes through no one but Jesus. Jesus is God’s gift to us. But then some other things were cried out. Things that God deserves.
Blessing. That means we are to praise God. We are to recognize that He is holy. That He is different. We are to praise Him and recognize His holiness so we can make Him happy. Such a wish is what it means to bless Him.
Bless Him. Why? Because of His goodness. Goodness displayed, as described in Psalm 136, in His creation and His redemption (for His Old Testament people, redemption from their enemies, for us, redemption from the enemy of sin). His goodness seen in providing what we need to live physically and spiritually.
God deserves blessing. He also deserves glory, which is given to Him when we proclaim His attributes - His characteristics and traits, which include three of my favorite words - “omniscience,” “omnipresence,” “omnipotence” - which describe His total knowledge, His presence everywhere, His complete power. Again relating this to Psalm 136, attributes including His creative power, the knowledge He used in creating, His presence in both the wilderness and the Promised Land, His presence with His people even now, His ability to provide food, His power to give His people, then and now, victories over whatever foes we have.
God deserves glory. He deserves to have His characteristics proclaimed. He also deserves wisdom. That means we are to acknowledge and proclaim that He is the source of all truth and the source of the strength needed to put truth into action, which is what wisdom means, making sure that all we do is right and proper.
God deserves wisdom. Our proclamation that wisdom comes from Him. He also deserves thanksgiving, which obviously means we are to thank Him, not only for His creation and for His help with physical enemies and for His providing what we need to survive physically, but also all He does for us spiritually. Without Him, we would be unable to rise above sin. Without Him, we would have no hope for Heaven. But He offers us forgiveness. He offers us second and third and fourth chances. When we take advantage of those chances, we are saved from our sins. What a wonderful gift. A gift certainly worthy of our thanksgiving.
God deserves thanksgiving. He also deserves honor, which is what worship is all about. When we worship Him through songs and hymns and choruses and Bible readings and praying and giving our tithes and offerings and having messages about Him, we are honoring Him. We are giving proof that He is worthy of our time and energy.
God deserves honor. He also deserves power. Not our power, but our proclamation that He is powerful. Powerful enough to create and rescue and provide.
God deserves blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power. He also deserves might. Again, not our might. He does not need our strength. What He deserves is our proclamation and our thanks that He is mighty. That it is not our strength we use for any of His tasks, but the strength He gives us.
Here we go. O give thanks to the LORD, for His steadfast love endures forever.
O give thanks to Him who created the universe, for His steadfast love endures forever.
O give thanks to God, who leads and provides for His people, for His steadfast love endures forever.
O give thanks to God. Bless Him who is all glorious, who has all wisdom, who is worthy of all our thanks, who is filled with honor, who is all-powerful, who is the most mighty of all, for His steadfast love endures forever.
At the end of verse 12 of Revelation 7 is the word “amen,” which interestingly is also at the start of the verse. “Amen” means, “so be it.” All that is proclaimed to God and to His Son Jesus in verses 9 through 12 in Revelation 7 and all that is proclaimed about our Heavenly Father and our Savior in Psalm 136 is true. He is deserving of each of those descriptions of Him. may they be part of our conversations with Him and about Him today, next Thursday, and beyond.
Today’s closing song is a reminder to talk about Him. It is the hymn Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim.
Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim,
And publish abroad His wonderful name;
The name, all victorious, of Jesus extol:
His kingdom is glorious, He rules over all.
God ruleth on high, almighty to save,
And still He is nigh, His presence we have;
The great congregation His triumph shall sing,
Ascribing salvation to Jesus, our King.
“Salvation to God, who sits on the throne!”
Let all cry aloud and honor the Son;
The praises of Jesus the angels proclaim,
Fall down on their faces and worship the Lamb.
Then let us adore and give Him His right -
All glory and power, all wisdom and might,
All honor and blessing, with angels above,
And thanks never ceasing, and infinite love.
God is worthy of all our praises and all our thanks. He has proved that for all eternity. He will continue to prove it forever. So, one more time, O give thanks to God, for His steadfast love endures forever. Amen.