20121118 - How to Thank the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:8-34)
Here's something I ran across this week It says, "I'm thankful for..."
the taxes I pay because it means I'm employed
a lawn that needs mowing and gutters that need cleaning because it means I have a house
complaining about the government because it means we have freedom of speech
the lady behind me that sings off key because it means I can hear
piles of laundry and dishes because it means loved ones are nearby
the alarm that goes off in the morning because it means I'm alive
weariness and aching muscles because it means I've been productive
You get the idea.. we ought to be thankful and its true... but how do we thank the Lord, really?
1Chronciles 16 gives us a picture because in it we're given what is identified as a Psalm of thanks from the pen of King David. Listen to what it says... (reading here)
"Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done." (:8)
This is the “count your blessings” theme! It's the most basic form of thanksgiving. It is utterly simple; just naming some of the things we're thankful for – yet it is so often not actually done! That's why we're so surprised by the number of our blessings when we DO count them! We so easily and quickly forget. That is why it's healthy for us to have a day of thanksgiving – its about remembering all the blessings we've enjoyed every day but have taken for granted.
We're called here to remember. (.12) It's the message of Ps105, quoted here. In fact David who has just come out of a spontaneous expression of praise actually seems to have had this Psalm either commissioned, or he's committed it in writing for others to preserve, depending on how you translate. He'd prepared for a public expression of gratitude! Sometimes we think true gratitude should just flow! We think it ought to be spontaneous but it just doesn't often happen without being deliberate about it. We need the exercise of expressing gratitude! We ought to plan for it – even at our thanksgiving meal.
How much effort goes into preparing the feed, or preparing for the ballgame, or black Friday shopping, compared to the thought and effort we put into expressing our thanks to God! It's like planning a big birthday bash for a dear friend, then enjoying the party so much that we completely forget to say a word to the guest of honor! Wouldn't that be crazy? Yet that's pretty much what a lot of us do with the holiday we'll celebrate this week.
Imagine someone who loves you and does all kinds of things for you. More than you would have asked for at times, and always more than you deserve. You can never pay it back. You certainly didn't earn any of it. So how do you honor such a friend? By showing appreciation! Not by blowing right past the moment as though no gift was given! If you are a parent, you get this. You don't expect payback favors from you kids, but its good and right to see their gratitude. It does something for your relationship – for you and for them! Which is what God is all about when he blesses us...
He provides for us because he loves us so, but also in order that we might know his love and respond to it!
Starting at v14, there's a change of direction. It's not just about what God has done for us. True thanksgiving goes beyond the blessings we usually count...
Psalm 105:14-22 which is quoted here puts emphasis on God's covenant with his people. (:15-17)
A covenant (in the biblical sense) is a contract on steroids. Unlike a contract, it isn't based on limits. A contract tells you how far each party has to go. It is focused on boundaries. If I do this, then you have to do that. If you don't do that, I get to do this. Contracts are necessary because we're not sure we can trust one another. Covenants offer trust. Some biblical covenants are nearly unilateral; most have some responsibilities laid out for both parties. But in every covenant between God and his people, God initiates the deal by promising way more than we can offer. Then he expresses expectations for us, and its like this: “Here's what I'm going to do for you. Because I'm going to do this, I expect you to do that.” The Bible is a history of God proving faithful to his promises, and his people nearly always proving unfaithful. But still God is a promise-keeping God.
Now here's what that has to do with David's song of thanksgiving, and with ours today. So often we only think of things God has given us or done for us and we add up all the circumstances that are good. But some of the most profound thanksgiving we can express is gratitude for God's faithfulness in the midst of troubles. David praises the Lord for being a covenant-keeping God no matter what!
Martin Rinkert learned that. Rinkert was a pastor in Germany during the 30 years war. In 1637 one of the four pastors in their little community jumped ship. He took off for greener pastures because life there was just do hard. That year, the other two pastors both died, leaving Rinkert to do their funerals and carry on alone. Through that unimaginably tough year, he sometimes did as many as 50 funerals a day. 4480 in all – that's over 12 per day, 365 days. In just didn't stop coming. In May, his own wife died, but there was no time for his grief, there were more to bury. Yet Rinkert held onto a song he'd written for his children when times began to get tough: Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices... Unbelievable suffering, but he remained convinced that God had not deserted him.
Do you believe that? You know, fiscal cliff – God may be judging our nation but he will not forsake you. War in the middle east. But God remains true to his promises. Personal crisis... some of you have known a lot of that this year. God's promises still hold true.
God is relentless in caring for you, and no matter how difficult life gets, you can rely on his promises. He won't let go of you, ever. David had experienced that. He'd blown his first attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem. It had cost one of his men his life. Now, a few months later, he'd finished his mission, but only with a deep awareness of God's mercy. You see, that's when we express gratitude, isn't it? Ungrateful people usually think God owes them better. But we know that everything is grace! It's like this...
Most of us don't thank our employer every time we collect a paycheck. It doesn't mean that we don't feel grateful for the job we have. It doesn't mean we are not treated fairly or paid enough. It's just that – well, we've earned it! Gratitude generally arises in direct proportion to how undeserved a gift is. And Dave Ramsey has it right – we are all better than we deserve. So how wonderful that God doesn't treat us as we deserve! Aren't you thankful today that God hasn't given up on you? He hasn't let go of you. Isn't that much more than all the things he's provided for your use!? All his stuff.
Another part of David's song is straight from Psalm 96 which is known as an enthronement song. If thanksgiving for the Christian is about (1) thanking God for what's he's done and (2) thanking him for what's he's been, it's also about (3) thanking him for who he is and always will be. When we really get into expressing gratitude to our Father, we praise him for his very nature; that the future is firmly in his hands. That every knee will bow and every tongue confess his excellency!
If you think about it, when we say thankyou to someone, that is what we're doing. We are humbling ourselves as people who have needs we can't meet ourselves, and we are exalting the giver as one who can meet those needs. Well, as sinful creatures before an omnipotent God, this gets cranked to the Nth degree! True thanksgiving is worship! Do you do that?
Worshipers cannot be mere spectators; they must be participants. But someone got it right when they said we worship our work, work at our play and play at our worship! There's nothing wrong with enjoying a feast with family or any of the other things we'll spend Thanksgiving day doing. But true thanksgiving will involve saying to God: “Lord, our wealth, our homes and provisions, our entertainment is worth so much less than YOU!” But is that what we say? If its all about those other things and only momentarily about Him, then how is that an expression of God's supremacy? Does a 2 minute prayer cut it? David said, “We honor You, and rejoice in your reign!”
One more thing - at the end of David's song of thanksgiving, in vs. 35, he says, "Cry out, "Save us, O God our Savior! Gather us and deliver us from the nations that we may give thanks to your holy name, that we may glory in your praise." Which is what they are already doing because God has already come through for them in amazing ways! They haven't even finished, and they're asking for more! But asking for more is an expression of gratitude and praise as well, when it's done rightly. It demonstrates our trust in God's provision and our confidence in his character!
Not only is it "okay" to ask for more - times of thanksgiving ought to be times of intercession! Our thanksgiving celebrations ought to be a family prayer meeting. We honor God in that! We demonstrate that we're putting our trust in him because he is trustworthy.
So how will your thanksgiving celebration measure up to this example from the Bible? It's only right that we thank the Lord for all he's done. He strengthens our hearts when we celebrate his faithfulness. God is honored when we hold him more dearly than everything we receive from his hand. But did you notice the verbs, here? Give thanks! Make known! Sing praise! Tell! Rejoice! Seek his face! Proclaim his salvation! Declare his glory! Ascribe to the Lord... Worship! Cry out! Will others hear that from you this week? They're supposed to. Our thanks isn't whispered to God in secret. In borrowing from the Psalms, David made one editorial change. The last line of Ps106 is reworked. It says, "let the people say Amen." And here and now they did! "Then all the people said Amen and praise the Lord!" Amen?!