Why Be Thankful

Rob Green December 6, 2008 Psalms 135:1-2

 

Introduction

Thanksgiving is a great holiday - after all you get a day off.  That is how you tell the real holidays compared to those invented by Hallmark to sell 4.5 billion dollars worth of cards.  The real holidays are the days you get to sleep in for!!

  • Normally thanksgiving has something to do with saying different things that you are thankful for. 
  • The list includes our homes, our food, our clothes, our pets, our siblings, our relatives, our friends, a day off school, …..
  • And we need to give thanks regularly for all those things.
  • Learning to give thanks all the time is how we avoid being that grumbler and complainer of Phil 2:14.

But I would like to suggest this morning to talk about thanksgiving at a much more fundamental level.  Because after all genuine thanksgiving is not simply being thankful for your family parents or for getting to attend a great church like FBC (although both those things are reasons to give thanks).

Genuine thanksgiving is dependent on something much deeper and much more fundatmental.  I want us to consider this morning thanksgiving as an outgrowth of a Joyful Relationship with God.

To begin I would like you to turn in your Bibles to Psalm 135.  Read the Psalm.  I would like to work through this psalm using 4 points.

I.  You are called to Praise the Lord (vv. 1-2)

Psalm 135:1-2Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord; Praise Him, O servants of the Lord, You who stand in the house of the Lord, In the courts of the house of our God!

The opening two verses of this psalm are a call to praise.

Praise can be understood to be cheering for God

Anyone who has ever attended an event where a large crowd of people was gathered—a sports contest, a parade, a concert—knows how thunderous the applause and shouts of an audience can be. Thousands of people acting together can generate a lot of noise, because there is tremendous power in the collective voice of a crowd.

Psalm 47 envisions the whole world clapping and shouting in praise to the Lord (Ps. 47:1).

Psalm 47:1O clap your hands, all peoples; Shout to God with the voice of joy.

Imagine what a deafening din that would be! God (and God alone) deserves that kind of honor, for He is the Lord Most High, the great and awesome King who rules over all the earth, over all its peoples and nations (Ps. 47:2–3).

Do you give God the respect and praise to which He is entitled?

Praise = Halal

This root connotes being sincerely and deeply thankful for and/or satisfied in lauding (praising) a superior quality(ies) or great, great act(s) of the object.

Humanly, we can understand how man praises by looking at the example of  how our country “praised” Michael Phelps after winning 8 gold medals or one of the soldiers that  has sacrificed greatly to the detriment of self and the benefit of his  colleagues.

The expectation is that we are going to praise the Lord, and we are to praise the name of the Lord.

  • The name of the Lord does not simply refer to the letters that make up how God’s name is written.  The name of God refers to the character of God.
  • As a result, both God and his character are worthy of our time and effort to think about this morning and then to offer praise and thanksgiving to God.
  • This is intentional.  I am asking you to put off the distractions for the next 30 and see how God and his character are described.

I realize how easy it is to put this down the priority list. 

  • You have are busy with life: a spouse, perhaps kids, the puppie. Then outside the family is the job and it can be overwhelming sometimes. Then you need a little down time that then encourages you not to think about the Lord and not to offer praise for who he is.

Apparently this issue was important enough to God that he calls three major groups of people to praise God:

  1. Servants of the Lord

This likely refers to the priests.  Those who are serving in the house of the Lord, who lead worship, who offer sacrifices, who offer guidance to the people are brought together for Praise.

  1. Those who stand in the house of the Lord

This would refer to those who serve in the temple but would not necessarily be priests.  In the OT the entire tribe of Levi was taken by God and they were expected to serve the Lord and they were not given an inheritance.  However, only the line of Aaron represented the priesthood.

So these two groups represent all the Levites --- those who had been especially called into the service of the Lord in the tabernacle and in the temple.

  1. Those who are in the courts

Those who are in the temple area were to praise the Lord.  Here the referent is to all Israel. 

In other words all those in attendance were to be praising the Lord.

  • But the point the psalmist wants to make is let’s get everyone together in order to praise and worship the Lord.

That puts “thanksgiving” in a little different light.  I am thankful for a great many things --- and I should be --- but we cannot forget that the foundation of our thanks is rooted in a meaningful relationship with the God of heaven and earth. 

  • There may be some of you here who would say

(1) I don’t even know Christ [Let me say that I hope you don’t leave the class this morning in that same condition]

or

(2) I am a Christian and I believe that God is important but I would not say that my relationship with him impacts my thankfulness.

  • I encourage you to hear and apply the words of this psalm

The Psalmist then begins to explain the reasons for our praise.

II.  The reasons for Praise (vv. 3-14)

Psalm 135:3-14Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; Sing praises to His name, for it is lovely. For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His own possession. For I know that the Lord is great And that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; Who makes lightnings for the rain, Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries. He smote the firstborn of Egypt, Both of man and beast. He sent signs and wonders into your midst, O Egypt, Upon Pharaoh and all his servants. He smote many nations And slew mighty kings, Sihon, king of the Amorites, And Og, king of Bashan, And all the kingdoms of Canaan; And He gave their land as a heritage, A heritage to Israel His people. Your name, O Lord, is everlasting, Your remembrance, O Lord, throughout all generations. For the Lord will judge His people And will have compassion on His servants.

In this portion of the Psalm, the writer lists 5 different reasons to praise God.

A.  Praise the Lord for He is Good (v. 3)

I thought James Montgomery Boice put it quite nicely when he said:

”God is good in all things and in all ways…

His wisdom is good.

His knowledge is good.

His judgments are good.

His power is good.”

Do you believe that? 

  • Would God still be good if things were not going so well in your life? 
  • Are you absolutely convinced this morning that God is good. 
  • Another Psalmist put it this way“ O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)
  • Jeremiah said in Lamentations 3:22-23“your mercies are new every morning, great is your faithfulness” [explain the context of Lamentations]

Here is what I tend to believe:

  • Some of you hear or read that God is good and you are absolutely convinced that is true.  You would be willing to stand and give a testimony of how great God really is. 
  • Some of you might be struggling to be convinced that God is good.  You hear us say it but in your heart of hearts you are struggling because there is some junk in your life.
  • How can God be good?  I don’t have real friends….I am not that popular…the boy/girl I like will barely even talk to me….my parent’s marriage is horrible….everyone else has cool stuff and I don’t ….and just for good measure I got zits!

That is why you look at what God has done in the past.  Exodus….The prophets …. The cross …. And then you look in your life and see where God has interceded and brought you near to him.

For you I encourage you to look at the rest of this psalm and ask yourself again if God really is good.  The second reason to praise the Lord in this psalm is found in v. 4.

B.  Praise the Lord for His Electing Love (v. 4)

The Bible reminds us of the election of Jacob over Esau. Why was the choice made?  Because God wanted it that way!

  • Both boys were born to the same parents – in other words their family tree was the same
  • Esau, since he came out first, would normally have all the rights of the first born and would be the one both blessed and given the birth-right.
  • This choice was made before they even had an opportunity to display their character.  Ironically, neither one had a great character. 
  • Jacob was a deceiver, always looking to exploit others. 
  • Esau was just a bit ignorant and impulsive.

Yet God picked one over the other for no other reason than that is what he wanted to do.  You know, the reality is this:

  • We share in the blessings of God not because we were so great and God needed us, but because of his loving choice for you and me.
  • God’s love for the world is seen in the giving of His Son to die on the Cross.  The Cross is the universal symbol of love.  If you want to know what love looks like --- look at the cross.
  • Paul, after coming to faith in Christ, writes…

Ephesians 1:3-5  3 ¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love  5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

Ephesians 2:1-7  :1 ¶ And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,  2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Obviously, these passages are not talking about every person on earth.  They talk about those who have come to the place where they have realized their sin and trusted in the finished work of Jesus Christ for their salvation.

  • For those of you who have come to that point --- these passages remind you that you did not come to this realization because you were so smart or so wonderful but because God helped you!
  • That kind of grace, that kind of love, demands and calls you to love him and to praise him. 
  • This is a kind of love that is deeper than you can ever find anywhere else.
  • Verses 8-9 are for those of you who have not made that decision.  Quite frankly that might be one of the reasons that you are struggling to believe that God is good.  You fail to see the desparate situation that you are in and the wonderful grace of god in that he gave his son to die on the cross for you.
  • I want to encourage you to repent and believe today.  These holidays could be the most meaningful holidays of your entire life.

Not only are to praise the Lord because he is good and because he has chosen us, but the passage also helps us praise the Lord because…

C.  Praise the Lord that He is in complete Control (vv. 5-7)

This section begins with a reminder that the idols, referred to a little later, are nothing in comparison to God.  Unlike any other being, God does what he pleases.  He does what he pleases because He has the capacity to carry out those things that please him.

  • It is one thing to say you are going to do something and it is another thing to actually go out and do it.

The psalmist explains God’s ability to do anything through the use of creation imagery

  • He can do whatever he wants in heaven, on earth, in the seas, and in the deeps.  What place is left?  Where is the location that a person can go that is somehow outside of God’s control?
  • In v. 7 we are given very specific instances of God’s control
  • Clouds
  • Lightening
  • Rain

When Jesus stills the storm in the boat with his disciples how is it that they respond?

  • Who is this that even the wind obeys him?  You see they got the point ---- no one can control the weather or creation. 
  • If man could do so then we would not have big honkin’ hurricanes killing all kinds of people or tornadoes ripping through towns tossing cars all over the place --- BECAUSE man cannot control the weather.  It is only God that can do that.

The implication that the psalmist is making here is if God can control all of his creation then is he not also in control in the midst of your life?

You see, I believe this….many folks believe that God is not really in control because if he were there is no way he would allow certain things to happen to me.

  • I spend every Monday evening counseling folks in all kinds of tough situations.  Sometimes teens are caught in the crossfire and they are struggling trying to put the pieces together.
  • Sometimes they ask questions like “Why is God allowing this to happen?” or “Why did not God prevent it?”

Here is what I can tell you ----- God is in the business of bringing people into a meaningful relationship with him.  Sometimes the means that God uses is that he allows trials and suffering in our life not to trust in men but to trust in him.

In this Psalm God is telling us to praise him because he is worthy of our praise because he is in complete control of our lives!

  • It is possible for God’s control to be very comforting. 
  • It tells me that nothing happens that God did not know about. 
  • It tells me that even when something happens that I do not like God limited the amount of suffering I faced. 
  • It tells me that God will use it in my life to help me get to a better place.

That is why we should continue to praise the Lord because of his control.

D.  Praise the Lord that He Keeps His Promises (vv. 8-12)

The fourth reasons that we are to praise God is found in vv. 8-12.  I would like to suggest to you that the point is that God keeps his promises.

To demonstrate the point let me remind of you of a few really important events recorded early in the Bible.  He made a promise to Abraham that He would give him LAND (the nation of Israel), DESCENDENTS (many children), and BLESSING.

As we finish the book of Genesis Abraham has about 70 descendants who are all about to die because of a famine.  Jacob was living in the land of Israel but so were a bunch of other people.  As the book of Genesis closes we begin to wonder what God is doing.  How is God going to keep his promises.

Exodus begins and we find that the people grow in numbers rapidly.  So we at least begin to see how God’s promise of DESCENDENTS will come true.  However, they are living in the land of Egypt and they were fairly content for quite some time. 

  • So God raised up new leadership in Egypt that mistreated God’s people and gave the people a desire and a longing to live in the land God promised them.
  • The problem now is that Pharoah does not want to let them go.

So God’s acts in order to grant the children of Israel his promise were truly extraordinary.

  • The killing of the first born sons of Egypt was the final straw that secured their release.
  • It was God who was responsible for all that (you might remember that some of the plagues occurred all over Egypt except the land of Goshen – the residence of the Israelites)
  • In my own imagination I have thought of the Israelites sitting in their lawn chairs drinking some strawberry dachery and watching the hail pummel the fire out of the Egyptians and saying “dup, that had to hurt!”
  • The point is that God fought on their side and the more God fought the worse it was for the Egyptians --- so much so the Egyptians paid the Israelites to leave!
  • Then we find reference to the power of God over the nations.  We are not going to take the time today to review those battles but for those interested (Numbers 21 and Deut 2).
  • The formula was very simple --- if God fought for them they won and if God did not fight than they lost.

Here is a God who made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and God followed through.  That is the same God who has made promises to you and me.  Just as he followed through with Israel, so will he follow through with us.

INPUT – What promises has God made to us?

  • If we seek him we will find him
  • A home in heaven
  • A compassionate Jesus who was tempted in all things without sin
  • Help in the midst of trouble (1 Cor 10:13)
  • His unfailing love (Rom 8)

These kinds of promises are worthy of our praise!

E.  Praise the Lord for His Fair Judgments (vv. 13-14)

The final reason for praise in this section is that God always makes fair judgments.  He is able to see the situation as it is and then to render the appropriate verdict.

That is a little different with people isn’t it?

  • Have you ever thought you got cheated? 
  • Maybe a parent or a teacher or a friend jumped to some conclusions that just were not true.  It is so frustrating especially when you have no recourse.
  • Just so we are fair you have probably done the exact same thing with someone else.
  • But you can praise the Lord because he always gets it right.  He is the perfect expression of grace, love, wrath, mercy, kindness, and discipline.

His judgments, given to his people, are characterized by compassion.

  • In other words, God is better to us than what we deserve. 

We have been called to praise, we have seen 5 reasons why we should praise and now the psalmist compares God with everything that competes with God.

Review: 

  1. You are called to Praise the Lord (vv. 1-2)
  2. The reasons for Praise (vv. 3-14)

A.  Praise the Lord for                   He is Good (v. 3)

B.  Praise the Lord for                   His Electing Love (v. 4)

C.  Praise the Lord that                   He is in complete Control (vv. 5-7)

D.  Praise the Lord that                   He Keeps His Promises (vv. 8-12)

E.  Praise the Lord for                   His Fair Judgments (vv. 13-14)

Now we’ll look at why -

III.  God is Superior to all His Competitors

Remember that our primary point this morning is that you need to develop a more meaningful relationship with Christ than you have ever had before.  In vv. 15-18 we see that no one compares to God.

Notice how the psalmist describes the idol:

  • Made with silver or gold – dead matter
  • The material used to construct the idol does not increase the power of the idol itself.  It merely reflects the amount of wasted money
  • Work of man’s hand
  • Is not the thing that made it greater?  Paul challenges us in 2 Corinthians, is the pot greater than the potter who made it?  In other words, how ridiculous it is to worship something that is actually less important and less great than YOU are.
  • Cannot speak
  • They have no ability to communicate with their worshipper.  They cannot command them to do anything nor console them in suffering.  This is a tremendous problem for those who have been in idol worship.  Thus, they come up with a series of rules to make people feel good (i.e. offer a bull instead of a goat – how did they really know that the idol wanted the bull or the goat?)
  • They didn’t – they made it up
  • Cannot see
  • In fact, they cannot even see who is worshipping them!  This is terribly ironic.  Idol worship was often their attempt to manipulate the God (by giving them gifts) to make life easy for them. 
  • How ironic that the idol might bless the wrong person!
  • Cannot hear
  • They cannot hear the prayers of their worshippers now matter how many voices are joined nor how loud they shout.  (Elijah come to mind? Again a passage that we considered earlier this morning)
  • Is no life to them
  • In the end, they are worshipping and talking and praying and giving to a dead thing without any power to act.

How sad, v. 18 really is.  Those who worship idols become as worthless and as lifeless as the idol itself.

Now, how does that impact you????? 

We are not likely to have any little gold buddas in our house.  But we do have issues in our hearts that are just as bad.

  • The person who worships sports (eats, drinks, and sleeps sports) determines their happiness based on their participation or success in sports.
  • Rather than using sports as one way to the worship the Lord --- sports are what is worshipped.
  • The person who worships relationships always has to have a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”
  • Rather than using relationships to please and honor the Lord we use them in an idolatrous fashion.
  • The person who worships video games is only satisfied when they have the proper access to the right games.
  • There is something other than God in Christ that is providing value.

I want to challenge you this morning.  Is God really #1 in your life?  Do you give him lip service but your heart is still tied up in the “friends,” “sports” or “entertainment.”

But God, our God, is not like that.  As Psalm 115 says, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”

The psalmist is calling us to see God as better than anything else this world has to offer. 

  • He is reminding us that the one thing you cannot give up is a meaningful relationship with the Lord.
  • The writer of Hebrews, a book on the supremacy of Christ, was written to people with suffering and he says “hang on to Jesus with everything you have and never let go.”

We live in a world where you do not always get everything that you want.  You do not have an unlimited amount of time.  So, when choices have to be made --- which ones do you make?

What gets the priority?  Does the Lord get what is left over or does the Lord get your best?

Does your relationship with the Lord result in a heart of thanksgiving and praise?

IV.  Praise God because he is Good, because he is in control, and because he is supreme

In vv. 19-21 the Psalmist wraps up.  In so doing, he once again makes a call to praise from the entire covenant people of God.

  • Friends, worship is something that you do. 
  • The only matter up for debate is what you will worship.
  • Psalm 135 is calling you to worship God ---This was written before the time of Christ.  How much more can we rejoice having seen the death, burial, and resurrection of Chriist.  How much more should we praise?  How much more should we rejoice?  How much more should we give thanks?

Young people, give thanks not simply because you get what you want.  Give thanks for a God who would want you to be his own.  

Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.