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Give Thanks to the Lord

Date: Nov. 18, 2018

Author: Sam Rarick

Psalm 118:1-29

Key Verse: Psalm 118:1

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

So, I know that it’s the weekend, and most of you are trying not to think about exams or quizzes, but I’m going to start you all off with a little history quiz. Who knows the year when the Pilgrims celebrated the first “Thanksgiving”. [Answer: 1621] Alright, now who knows the name of the Native American tribe that celebrated the feast with the Pilgrims? [Answer: Wampanoag] Alright, last question; in what year was Thanksgiving declared a regular holiday? [Answer: 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln; Made a federal holiday in 1941 by FDR]. Okay, so now that we know some facts about Thanksgiving, the next question is, why did the Pilgrims celebrate it? The Pilgrims were a group of English settlers who left Europe in search of religious freedom. They established the Plymouth Colony in 1620 in what is modern-day Massachusetts. After arriving in America, things were not easy for them. They were not prepared for the cold winter. Many people got sick and died over the first winter. At one point, there were only around six people well enough to continue working. By the end of winter, only 47 out of 102 settlers were still alive. However, by God’s grace, they were befriended by a local tribe called the Wampanoag, and a man named Squanto stayed with them and taught them how to plant corn, where to hunt and fish, and more importantly, how to survive the winter. Without this, the colony probably wouldn’t have survived. The Pilgrims then held a feast in 1621 to thank God for his great mercy and goodness, for helping them survive the winter. On Thanksgiving, we are typically asked what we are thankful for. We usually give some generic answers such as our family, friends, house, food, etc. However, these answers do not reflect a proper heart of thanksgiving. Unlike the Pilgrims, most of us have never faced true desperation. Our country has been blessed abundantly since these days and we have lost what it means to give thanks. Most people forget the meaning of Thanksgiving, or don’t celebrate it at all, to go Black Friday shopping. Today, let us learn from the psalmist, what it truly means to give thanks from our hearts, so that we may know how to properly give thanks, this Thanksgiving.

Look at verses 1-4. The psalmist, most likely King David, begins by calling upon all those around him to give to God the glory of his goodness. He proclaims, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let Israel say: ‘His love endures forever.’ Let the house of Aaron say: ‘His love endures forever.’ Let those who fear the Lord say: ‘His love endures forever.’”David was a man after God’s own heart, and here, his heart is full of God’s goodness. God was on his mind, heart, and tongue, and he felt such a desire to share it with others. He wanted God have the full glory of this praise and for others to be comforted by it. He says that we should give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. So, he gives us a reason why we should give thanks to God, but what does it mean that God is good? There were plenty of times when evil people were trying to attack David. Was God still good then? Many bad things happen in this world, but is God still good? The answer is a resounding YES! GOD IS GOOD! 1 John 1:15 says that, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” To say that God is good means that God always acts in accordance to what is right, true, and just. Goodness is a part of who God is and he cannot contradict himself. There is no evil in Him. His intentions and motivations are always good. He always does what is right, the outcome of His plan is always good. His goodness can also be related to a sense of pleasantness. Have you ever eaten a good meal, such as a nice and juicy steak, or witnessed something so spectacular, that it gave you a warm feeling inside? Afterwards, you feel good, right? God gives us a similar feeling when he is with us. If we are feeling down and need help to get through the day, God is with us. He turns our sadness into a sense of joy and reminds us that with him, everything will be alright. We can continue persevering by his help and because of that, we are thankful. God is good and he is deserving of our praise.  

Look at verses 5 to 18. In these verses, David encourages others to trust in God, both from the experience he had of God’s great power and mercy, and from the kinds of things He had done for him. At many times, David was in great distress and anguish; there were many people who hated him and wanted to harm him. He was surrounded by hostile nations: The Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, and Ammonites. He was so distressed about these enemies that he repeats “they surrounded me” two times, in verses 10 and 11. However, even though he was surrounded, the Lord helped him and provided him strength. He says and repeats, “…but in the name of the Lord, I cut them down.” They swarmed around him like bees. The bees were buzzing, and their numbers were so numerous, so noisy, and so vexing. They came at him, with stingers ready and armed, but it was to their own destruction. Just as bees lose their life with their sting, so did his enemies. They were consumed in a fire, as quickly as burning thorns. The Lord protected him and allowed him to cut down his enemies. The Lord protects those who trust in Him and call upon His name. Let us remember this during times of struggle. Let us call out to our Lord and Savior, and he will deliver us.

David also faced many troubles. First, he was brought into trouble by the injuriesthat men did to him. Look at verse 13. He was accosted on many sides; pushed back and about to fail. The Devil is the great adversary who tries to push us to failure by his temptations, to cast us down from our relationship with God and from the comfort that we find in him. He can do this in many ways. He can do this by planting doubt in our minds about God. When we are going through difficult times, he can tell us that God is not with us, or that God has abandoned us. David probably felt these temptations when he was chased by Saul. The Devil can also try to convince us that a small sin here and there is no big deal. What harm will one little lie do? But these small sins, while they seem harmless at first, can lead to bad habits which in turn, hurt those around us, and estrange us even more from our Father. These are just a few of the ways that the Devil attempts to lead us astray. There are many more. How are we able to overcome this? Look at verse 14, David describes how God becomes his strength and defense, and has become his salvation. We are not able to defeat the Devil by ourselves and overcome his temptations and assaults, but with the help of God, we are strong enough to overcome. Thank God who comes to our defense and is our salvation!

Second, he was brought into trouble by the chastening of God. Look at verse 18. This trouble is different from that brought by the Devil. This trouble comes from God. However, unlike the Devil, who seeks to bring destruction upon us, God chastens us for his own instruction. While the devil attacks us with the anger and hatred of our enemies, the Lord chastens us with the love and tenderness of a Father. In the end, he will not hand us over to death, but will give us life! God can chasten us in various ways. When we lose our job and are unsure of our next meal, the Lord may be disciplining us to depend on Him. When we are proud and think that we don’t need God, the Lord may discipline us to make us humble. When we get lazy, the Lord may discipline us to work hard. But even though these trials seem difficult and we think that we cannot overcome, the Lord is still with us. Just as the Lord did not abandon David, so too will he not abandon us. He will not give us anything that we cannot handle, and we will not be handed over to death. In the end, we will be given life and victory! And as David says in verse 17, when we live and go through these troubling times, we should proclaim what the Lord has done for us with a thankful heart, for he is doing it for our betterment, with the heart of a loving Father. Thank God for the love he has shown us!

Look at verse 19. In this verse, he’s turning from addressing the audience to addressing God. David prays for God to open the gates of the righteous so that he may enter and give thanks to the Lord. What are these gates of righteousness? In the old days, to enter a city, you must enter through the gates. And here, the city can be referencing heaven, or the new Jerusalem. This city is where God dwells, and where there is no death, toil, or pain. God is king of this city and all those who abide there rejoice in the glory and majesty of our Lord and Creator. This city sounds like a place we all want to go to, right? Well, there’s only one problem; the only entrance into this city is through its sole gate, the gate of righteousness. This gate has been a stumbling block for many. Since the fall of Adam, this gate has been closed to us. Only the righteous are allowed admittance, but because of our sin, we have been barred entry. The walls of this city are very large. In fact, they are miles high. You cannot scale them. The walls are hundreds of feet thick, so you cannot go through them. The only way in is through its gate, which is closed to us. In order to enter, our sins must be blotted out and cleansed. We need someone or something to save us from our sins.

In verse 21, David mentions a salvation that has come, who cleanses us, and allows us admittance into the city through the gate. In verses 22 to 23, David prophesies about this savior. He says, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.”This savior would be humiliated. He would be despised and rejected by the builders. He would be a stone, not only for strength and duration, but for life. He would be the precious stone, for the foundation of the church. But even though people rejected him, he would be exalted. He would become the chief cornerstone in the foundation, in whom both Jew and Gentile are united under His name. And God would exalt him, because he humbled himself. So when would God do this? When would God send this savior to allow us entrance through the gate? He says, “The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.” (24) David calls everyone to rejoice and be glad because the Lord has done it this very day. This Savior is here! He says, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord, we bless you. The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festival procession up to the horns of the altar.” This savior comes in the name of the Lord our God. He comes from God himself. With branches in hand, we are called to join in the festival procession up to the horns of the altar.

So, who is this Savior, who is worthy of all this and who lets us through the gates? The answer is Jesus. Jesus is the gate to heaven, by whom, and by whom only, the righteous shall enter and be welcomed into God’s kingdom. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14: 6) He said again, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9) In His goodness and enduring love, God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. By his sacrifice and blood poured out at the horns of the altar, we have all been saved. Our sins no longer bar us entry from the city. Jesus’ blood washes us clean and allows us entry to and from the city. We will come in and go out, and find pasture. This pasture is a beautiful place. In it, we will find peace from our restlessness, true love from our Father, and pure happiness from the one who fulfills us. Jesus is the way to get there. The Devil may still try to lead us astray, but his efforts are in vain, and his days numbered. Jesus has overcome him and when he is with us, we have nothing to fear. David was so overjoyed that the gate, which had been closed for so long, was now opened. He calls us to give thanks, for God answered him; the Lord has become his salvation. Just like David, we should long to enter through these gates so that we may dwell in God’s house. We should rejoice and thank God, from our hearts, for Jesus, who is our Salvation and who opened the gates of righteousness for us. We are welcome into His kingdom where the love of Christ will flow in us and we will celebrate with not just the Israelites, or the house of Aaron, but with all those who fear the Lord, in the great thanksgiving that is to come. Let the name of our Lord Jesus be praised forever and ever! Amen.

Look at verses 28 to 29. David concludes by saying, “You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”Notice the use of the word “you” here. He has changed from referencing God in the third person, to the second person. He says that “youare my God, and I will praise you; youare my God, and I will exalt you.” With everything David had gone through, God was always there for him. David accepted The Almighty God as hisgod. In the same way, Jesus is ourgod and we should praise him. He is ourgod and we should exalt him. He has shed his blood for us to save us. He is our Creator, Messiah, Redeemer, and Friend. In our times of trouble, he will protect and deliver us. He is the one whom we depend on, and to whom we are devoted, who owns us and who loves us. He is good, for he opened the gates of righteousness, and he is deserving all our praise. Give thanks to Jesus, for he is good; his love endures forever!

From David, we have learned a proper way to give thanks. David started by thanking God for his mercy. God showed mercy on him by not handing him over to death. Next, he thanked and acknowledged God for delivering him and protecting him from the hands of his enemies. Third, he thanked God for chastening him, for bringing him closer to God through his discipline. And lastly, he thanks God for opening the gate of righteousness and giving him life through Jesus.

When writing this message and learning about the heart of thankfulness from David, I felt ashamed. There are many times in my life that I take for granted what God has done for me. He blessed me with such a wonderful family, he blessed me with wonderful friends, he blessed me in my school studies, he blessed me in my basketball career, he blessed me with a wonderful church family to support me, he blessed me to get a good job after college, he blessed me with a beautiful fiancée…I could keep going on. However, I think back to the times when things were not easy for me. I think back to when I was tempted by the Devil. I was tempted to watch pornography at the urge of my basketball teammates. The Devil was whispering in my ear, telling me that one look wouldn’t hurt anyone. It was difficult to avert my eyes and overcome, and there were times where I thought that I thought I would give in, but the Lord’s word, especially from 1 Corinthians 10:13, strengthened and encouraged me. (No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it)It helped me overcome my lustful desires. There were times when I needed strength to go on for basketball practice and for my school studies. I remember the times where I felt my body could not go on any further; when I had run 30 sprints and needed to continue pushing on for 10 more. When I felt that every ounce of my being was spent. Through his Word, especially Isaiah 40, the Lord provided me with enough strength to continue on. There were times when others didn’t believe in me because I was not the fastest or most athletic guy on the basketball court. I was discouraged, because I thought I would never get the chance to prove myself. However, the Lord encouraged me through his words to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) He lifted me up and gave me the drive and determination to work hard and prove everyone else wrong. Throughout all those troubling times, God was always there for me. But in the end, the thing that I am most thankful for is that God sent His son Jesus to save me. I have sinned many times in my life. I continue to sin every day. Every day is a struggle. The Devil tempts me and sometimes I falter. I forget to trust in God and I forget his Word. But even though I forget, God never forgets. Through his mercy, Christ has saved me, and opened the gate of righteousness so that I may enter. I am undeserving of the grace, mercy, and love he shows me every day. Like a father, who loves their child and wants them to succeed, so the Lord is ever patient with me. You love me and have always been there for me. Lord, you are myGod, and I will praise you. You are myGod and I will exalt you. You are my God. I will love you and serve you with all my heart, for you are always there for me. You are the sole owner of my heart. Nothing in this world can ever measure up to you. You give me meaning; you fill me; all that I do is for you. I love you and wish to show that in everything I do. Amen.

This Thanksgiving, let us celebrate the right way. Instead of doing the same-old thing of thanking God for our friends, family, home, etc.; instead of giving thanks and then proceeding to be greedy, through Black Friday shopping; let us learn from David on how to truly give God our praise and thanksgiving. Let us remember the Pilgrims, who, even though were about to starve and saw many of their friends perish, found time to give thanks to God for all he had done. Let us give thanks to our Lord Jesus, for he is good; his love endures forever! Let’s pray.

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