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Give Thanks to the Lord
Text: Psalms 107: 1-32
Proposition: Of all the things that men might be thankful for, the mercy of the Lord is the paramount cause for thanksgiving.
Introduction: When it comes to this wonderful time called Thanksgiving it is critical that we not only give thanks for what we have received but that we also give thanks to Whom we have received it from. To just give thanks for what you’ve received and not to Whom it was that gave it to you is an act of contempt towards the giver. We know this personally but it is true to an even greater extent when it comes to God. Anything that is given, whether it is given in your name or another’s, is meant to promote relationship, to draw another closer to you because they know from the gift that you really care for them. Thanksgiving at its heart has this recognition, to appreciate that God has given us Jesus Christ because He loves. Thanksgiving also has an effect on us, it changes the way that we see our circumstances. There’s a story told of a missionary in China who faced struggle after struggle. In despair he went and visited a friend in a nearby village and as he sat in their living room he saw a small plaque on the wall that simply said, “Try Thanksgiving”. The thought raced through his mind, “Have I been praying and not praising?” Immediately the despair that had hung over him was broken as he began to give thanks to God for everything. Let’s take a look at a Psalm that begins the 5th book in the Psalms, it speaks about the main reasons for why we should be thankful. Turn to Psalm 107 with me.
I. The Eleventh Commandment…Give Thanks to the Lord! The way that the Psalm starts is that it carries the tone of an imploring command, “Oh give thanks to the Lord…” and then immediately it reinforces it with, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…”. Lest we think this is just Old Testament over statement, the New Testament emphasizes it as well. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 pushes it to greater height, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Paul expresses the consequences of not doing this in Romans 1:21 “because although they knew God they did not glorify Him as God nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish heart was darkened.” Clearly the response of thanksgiving needs to be there in all people and especially in those people that name Jesus as their Savior. Returning to Psalm 107, there are two main reasons for why thanksgiving is the appropriate response for the believer in everything:
1. For He is good. What does it mean to say that God is good? Does this refer to His purity, like the phrase, ‘good gold’ refers to the higher purity of the gold? Does good refer to His character out which His motivation arises, in other words not only is He good in character but all that God does is good? If this is the case does the goodness of God imply that we should always trust Him because He only gives to us what is good? Is that what James was meaning Jas. 1:17? Thankfulness is the right response to the eternal and emanating goodness of God. Thankfulness proclaims the truth of Who God is, it reflects back the truth of the nature and character and action of God. In that sense thankfulness glorifies God.
2. For His mercy endures forever. His mercy endures forever because there is need of it, both for present actions and their future repercussion. Sin nature in man requires eternal mercy from God. In other words, when I sin, when I choose not to trust Him, nor to be thankful, yet still He is merciful towards me. The essence of mercy is that God withholds wrath and condemnation even though it is deserved because of sin. How long did we reject and resist God before we became redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, before we grasped truth by faith and asked for Him to forgive our sins? How long… it was a long time. And even after that we still sin and God does not withdraw His Spirit from us, does not take away what He has begun in us through salvation in Christ. And look at whose hand you’ve been redeemed from, it says it’s the hand of the enemy. The enemy refers to the destroyer known as Satan. It was in his hand that we were, we were part of the domain of darkness and now we’ve been moved into the domain of light (see Col. 1:13). That’s mercy, and His mercy endures forever, that is He sees us through until the day of our death and ultimate resurrection with Christ. Give thanks to the Lord for His mercy endures forever! To give thanks is like the 11th commandment, it sums up the right response to the goodness and mercy of God in all things.
II. The Five ‘D’ Cycle. In this Psalm the writer gives a series of examples of how we come to a place of being thankful. I call it the 5 D cycle. It goes like this: Disobedience; Destitution; Desperation; Deliverance; Declaration. Let’s look at the first of the four examples that go through this cycle in verses 4-9.
1. The Soul Anguish of Being Alone. Some think this refers to Israel wandering in the wilderness but it can also be personal as people experience the isolation that comes from a struggle with sin, the desert that comes from bad choices. At some point things get so bad that it looks hopeless, they are destitute and come to a brink of despair. They hit a point of desperation and cry out to the Lord in their trouble. The Lord delivers them as they grasp hold of Him, every other alternative has proved useless except to come to Him and depend on His rescue. Then comes the declaration of thanksgiving for His goodness, for His wonderful works to the children of men. Even through the anguish of being alone He brings satisfaction to the longing soul and fills them with goodness.
2. The Intense Pain and Sorrow of the Captive. (vs 10-16) The Psalmist makes a direct connection between their captivity and their rebellion against God’s word and the despising of His counsel. He says that they have become captives, people who are destitute of freedom, worth and dignity because they despised Him. In that destitution their problems became worse and worse to the point that it brought down their heart. They became heart-broken people and at this point they cry out to the Lord in desperation. The deliverance occurs as God brings them out of darkness, they can see their situation clearly. He brings them out of the shadow of death, there is hope. He breaks their chains in pieces, God creates the ability for them to move where before they couldn’t. Then these people declare thanksgiving, not only has the cell bar been cut in two, the very gates of the prison are broken open …hallelujah!
3. The Despair of the Sick. (vs 17-22) Again the Psalmist makes a direct connection between these peoples illness and their sin of transgression and iniquity. It reminds us of 1 Cor. 11 in the communion passage where people have moved in a callous way before God and experienced disastrous consequence. In their stubbornness of heart they come to the point of being unable to even eat, destitute of nourishment and peace. As they near the door of death, in desperation they cry out to the Lord. Look at how He delivers them, He sends His word to heal them, the authoritative truth brings healing. He delivers them out of their destructions and they declare thanksgiving to the Lord. They offer expressions of thanks and their joy is restored as they testify to Who God is.
4. The Fear of the Overwhelmed. (vs 23-32) The disobedience here is implied in that they see the wonders of creation, of the ocean and sky and yet remain detached from the truth that the beauty of what they see has a Creator. They see the painting but give little wonder to the painter. Then as they go about their work they are overcome with by a wind and waves. The storm throws them around so much that they can hardly keep their balance. Destitute of courage, their soul melts. Then in desperation they cry out to the Lord and He brings them through the storm. Where before there was fear now they are glad for the quiet, they reach the shelter of a safe haven. Then comes the declaration, “Oh that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men.!” I suppose the sad part in all this is that the ‘5 D’ cycle can be repeated again and again. This is where a thankful heart is meant to stop the cycle. It’s God’s will that in everything we give thanks, that we learn to see His presence and the way that He provides. Look at how this last section closes in verse 32, “Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, and praise Him in the company of the Elders.” Perhaps it’s not enough that we just recognize God’s goodness and mercy, perhaps we need to proclaim it in the midst of all kinds of people, perhaps we need to praise God even before those who might intimidate us or who seem wiser than us. Pray, yes, but don’t forget to praise. Try Thanksgiving!