Thanksgiving

One of the most beautiful Psalms of thanksgiving is the 100th Psalm. “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.  Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.  Know that the Lord is God.  It is He who made us, & we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving & His courts with praise; give thanks to Him & praise His name.  For the Lord is good & His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

With all my heart I believe we are a people & a nation that has truly been blessed by God.  And of all those who “give thanks to Him & praise His name” our name should be at the top of the list!

It is not uncommon to compile wish lists at Christmas, & draw up a list of resolutions for New Years.  But there is another list we often overlook   a Thanksgiving Day list of all for which we are thankful.  I’m convinced that if we began to make a list, we would find that we have much more for which to be thankful than just our material possessions.

Like you, I’m sure, my list would include the major things   life, health, family, friends, & the nation we live in, despite all its flaws.

But even more than that, I’m thankful for my salvation, our church family, & the mercy that God showers upon us each day.  With Jesus we have so much for which to celebrate on Thanksgiving!

But has it ever occurred to you that no Americans were more underprivileged than that small handful from the Mayflower who started the custom of setting aside a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God?

They had no homes & no government agency to help them build homes.  They had no means of transportation but their legs.  Their only food came from the sea & the forest, & they had to get it for themselves.

They had no money & no place to spend it if they’d had any.  They had no amusements except what they made for themselves, no means of communication with their relatives in England, no social security or medicare.

But anyone who dared to call them underprivileged would probably have ended up in the stocks, for they did have 4 of the greatest human assets: initiative, courage, a willingness to work, & a boundless faith in God.

Our forefathers had “a boundless faith in God.”  That almost sounds strange today in a time when powerful forces are at work in our nation to strip us of every reminder that the very foundation of our nation was built upon the conviction that we are “one nation, under God.”  The “Declaration of Independence” proclaims, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . .”  And it ends with these words, “. . .with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes & our sacred Honor.”

In 1789, George Washington made this public proclamation.

“By the President of the United States of America.  A proclamation: Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, & humbly to implore His protection & favor,   and

“Whereas, Both Houses of Congress”  (Did you hear that, “Both Houses of Congress?”)  “have by their joint committee requested me `to recommend to the people of the United States a day of Public Thanksgiving & Prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God. . .’

“Now, Therefore I do recommend & assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great & glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. . .”  So read the very first Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation.

The 100th Psalm was written for the people of Israel.  God said to them, “When you come into the promised land, & settle down in your warm homes, & you have plenty to eat, don’t forget Me.  I led you out of the wilderness & I brought you into a land flowing with milk & honey.”

But it doesn’t take very long to realize that the people of Israel needed a reminder, & I am afraid that we need it, too.

Maybe God had us in mind, also, when this Psalm was written.  Did you notice to whom it is addressed?  The first verse says that it is addressed to “all the earth,” & the last verse says that it includes “all generations.”

This message of thanksgiving is so deep & wide that it applies to every person in every era in every stage of life.

It’s sad, isn’t it, that we are the only country in the world, except for Canada & the Philippines, that has a Thanksgiving Day?  I wonder how our world would be changed if suddenly all nations would begin to observe Thanksgiving?

I think there is something about giving thanks together to God that breaks down barriers between people & brings about a unity, much like that which occurred as the Berlin wall began to crumble.

I think also that there is a real danger in this season of determining our thanksgiving on the basis of how much we have.

“Do I have enough turkey to gorge myself sufficiently?  Is my money in the bank secure?  Am I healthy?”  And we let these things determine whether we are or aren’t thankful.

The Psalmist says that all of these things may change at any time.  They may drift away, or burn up, or someone may steal them.  The only thing we have for sure is our relationship with the Lord.

And that is what the 100th Psalm emphasizes.  Just scan the Psalm.  In vs. 1 you’ll find the name of the Lord.  In vs. 2 you’ll find the name of the Lord.  In vs. 3 you’ll find the name of the Lord.  In vs. 4 it says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving.”  And in vs. 5 you’ll find the name of the Lord.  The basis of our thanksgiving is the Lord.

Now, as we look more carefully at this Psalm, we find that there is a series of 5 commands given.

The first command is in vs. 1, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.”

It means to “shout with the force of a trumpet blast,” a shout of joy to the Lord that comes from the very depths of your being.

Maybe He solved your problem.  Maybe He has given you the direction to go.  Maybe He has provided a blessing, & you realize that it has come from God.  So from the depths of your being you proclaim your praise.   “Suddenly you realize that God has been so good to you that you can’t keep it inside any more.  From the depths of your being you shout your joy unto the Lord.”

The second command is, “Serve the Lord with gladness.”
It doesn’t say “serve the church.”  It doesn’t say “serve the preacher, or serve the leaders, or serve the organization.”  It says, “serve the Lord.”
The Bible teaches that if we witness on behalf of the Lord, if we feed the hungry, if we clothe the naked, if we do the work of the Lord, whatever it might be, we are serving the Lord.
In Matthew 25:40 Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.”
I’m not sure that we grasp that.  Maybe we serve at times out of a feeling of obligation or a fear of guilt if we don’t serve, or maybe even because we want to draw attention to ourselves.
It’s natural for us to desire appreciation when we do something that is worthwhile.  But the Psalmist says, “In whatever you do, serve the Lord with gladness.”

The third command is, “Come before Him with joyful songs.”  Psalm 98:4 says, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”  And that I can do.

Have you noticed?  In these first 3 commands, God has said, “I want you to be happy.  Shout with joy, serve with gladness, & come with joyful songs.”

Now just take a moment & look at the people around you.  Do they look happy?  Or are they just sitting there with scowls on their faces?

The Psalmist says, “Come before Him & serve Him & sing His praise with joy in your heart.”

Command #4 is, “Know that the Lord is God.  It is He who made us, & we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.”

God took every bone, every joint, & He welded them together with sinews & muscles & covered them with skin & gave us eyes that see, brains that think, & fingers that can pick things up.  God made us, inside & out.  He made you the way He wanted you to be.  And He made me the way He wanted me to be.

That is a mystery, isn’t it? I don’t understand why, but somehow in God’s providence He decided that He wanted a large sized man, not too good looking, not outstanding in anything, but just a faithful father & who would keep plodding along.  So He made me.  Someplace along the way He had you in mind, & He made you.

And He is still making us.  That is important to realize, too.  He’s not satisfied with the unfinished product.  He’s not satisfied with your temper.  He’s not satisfied with the weak areas of your life where you are giving in to temptation.  So He’s still making us.  He’s still working on our lives. Then He says, “We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.”  Most of us want to be shepherds, not sheep.  “It’s not any fun being sheep,” we say.  But the problem is, we don’t know where the still waters & green pastures are.  And every time we go out searching for them, we invariably end up in the far country.

He is saying, “You be the sheep.  Let me be the shepherd, & I will lead you beside the still waters & the green pastures.  Just let me lead.”

Command #5 is this, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, & His courts with praise; give thanks to Him & praise His name.  For the Lord is good & His love endures forever.  His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

In the Old Testament the temple symbolized the presence of God.  So whenever the people came to the temple & entered the courtyards they knew that they had come into the presence of God.

Now that temple no longer exists.  But oftentimes the place where we meet to worship God is called a “sanctuary,” indicating that God is there.  But God is everywhere.  You know that.  He is with you as you drive on the highway.  He is with you when you work.  He is with you as you care for your children.  He is with you every moment of your life.

That is the source of our thanksgiving, isn’t it?  But I’m worried.  What if God began to treat us like we so often treat Him?  What if God met our needs to the same extent that we give Him our lives?

What if we never saw another flower bloom because we grumbled when God sent the rain?  What if God stopped loving & caring for us because we failed to love & care for others?  What if God took away His message because we wouldn’t listen to His messenger?

What if He wouldn’t bless us today because we didn’t thank Him yesterday?  What if God answered our prayers the way we answer His call for service?  What if God decided to stop leading us tomorrow because we did not follow Him today?

I pray that this will be a meaningful Thanksgiving season for you & all your family.  Take time to read the 100th Psalm again.  And if you’ll heed those commands, your heart will overflow with thanksgiving to the Lord.

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