Enter With Thanksgiving To God
One of the most beautiful Psalms of thanksgiving is the 100th Psalm. Please turn to it & follow along as I read:
"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, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.”
"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations."
I believe we are a people and a nation that has truly been blessed by God. And for all those who "give thanks to Him, honor Him and praise His name" the blessings will continue.
It is not uncommon to compile wish lists at Christmas, and draw up a list of resolutions for the New Year. But there is another list we often overlook - a Thanksgiving Day list of all for which we are thankful.
ILL. Let me read part of the list that housewives compiled. They wrote what they were especially thankful for:
"For automatic dishwashers because they make it possible for us to get out of the kitchen before the family comes back in for their after-dinner snacks.
"For teenagers because they give parents an opportunity to learn a second language.
"For Smoke alarms because they let you know when the turkey’s done.
Now our list might not be the same as theirs, but 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.
I’m sure, your list would include the major things - life, health, family, friends, and the nation we live in, despite all its flaws.
But more than that, are we thankful for our salvation, the church family, and 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, the land and they had to do it for themselves.
They had no money, and no place to spend it if they’d had any. They had no amusements except what they made for themselves. There was no means of communication with their relatives in England.
But anyone who dared to call them underprivileged, would probably have ended up in the stocks and egged. They had 4 of the greatest human assets one can obtain: resourcefulness, courage, a willingness to work, and a boundless faith in God.
Our forefathers had "a boundless faith in God." That almost sounds alien 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."
Our hallowed "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 and our sacred Honor."
Thanksgiving Day is a distinctive holiday. It doesn’t commemorate a battle or anyone’s birthday or anniversary.
It is simply a day set aside to express our Nation’s thanks to our Nation’s God.
In 1789, George Washington made this public proclamation. (Now I will read only a small part of it, but I want you to see the strong and absolute acknowledgment of the fact of God, and of our nation’s dependence upon Him.)
"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, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, --------
"Whereas, Both Houses of Congress" (Did you catch 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 and Prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God. . .’
"Now, Therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. . ." So read the very first Thanksgiving Proclamation.
Today our nation pauses once again to give thanks. And one would assume that because of the example of our forefathers; and because we today have so much, that we would be an extremely thankful people.
But it is often just the opposite, isn’t it? The more we get, the less thankful we become and the less mindful of God we become; so the more we want!
I believe that the 100th Psalm was written to deal with that attitude, to remind us of our need to be thankful and to maintain an attitude of gratitude.
I. THE BASIS OF OUR THANKSGIVING
A. The 100th Psalm was written for the people of Israel. God said to them, "When you come into the promised-land and settle down in your warm homes and you have plenty to eat, don’t forget Me. I led you out of the wilderness and I brought you into a land flowing with milk and honey."
But it doesn’t take very long to realize that the people of Israel needed a reminder. I believe we need it too here in America!
Could it be, God also had us in mind 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," and the last verse says that it includes "all generations."
This message of thanksgiving is so deep and 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 and the Philippines (as far as I know), that has a Thanksgiving Day? I wonder how our world would be changed if suddenly all nations would begin to observe Thanksgiving?
I believe there is something about giving thanks together as a Christian Nation to God that breaks down barriers between people.
B. I believe 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 and trimmings to stuff myself to satisfaction? My money I have in the bank, is it secure? Is my family healthy?" We as a nation let these effects and others determine whether we are or are not thankful.
The Psalmist says that all of these things may change at any time. They may drift away, burn up, or someone may steal them. The only thing we have for sure is our relationship with the Lord.
That is what the 100th Psalm emphasizes! 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."
In vs. 5 you’ll find the name of the Lord. In these scripture we find the basis of our thanksgiving is the Lord.
Alex Haley, the author of "Roots," had an unusual picture hanging on his office wall. It is a picture of a turtle on top of a fence post. When asked, "Why is that there?" Alex Haley answered, "Every time I write something significant, every time I read my words and think that they are wonderful, and begin to feel proud of myself, I look at the turtle on top of the fence post. Then I remember that the turtle didn’t get there on his own; He had help."
That is the basis of thankfulness - to remember that we got here with the help of God, and that He is the provider of every blessing we have.
II. FIVE THANKSGIVING COMMANDS
Now, as we look more carefully at this Psalm, we find that there is a series of 5 commands given.
A. 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 and soul.
Maybe He solved your problem. Maybe He has given you the direction to go. Maybe He has provided a blessing, and you realize that it has come from God. So from the depths of your being, that is, the life you live, you proclaim your praise to God!
A minister tells about a veteran missionary who came up to him one day after he had delivered his sermon. The missionary introduced himself and said, "I was a medical missionary for many years in India. I served in a region where there was progressive blindness. People were born with healthy vision, but there was something in that area that caused people to lose their sight as they matured."
However, the missionary developed a process which would arrest progressive blindness. So people came to him and he performed an operation. The people would leave realizing that they would have become blind, but now they were going to be able to see for the rest of their lives. He said that they never said, "Thank you," because that phrase was not in their dialect. Instead, they spoke a word that meant, "I will tell your name."
Wherever they went, they would tell the name of the missionary who had cured their blindness. They had received something so wonderful that they eagerly proclaimed it.
And that is what the Psalmist is saying. "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." You tell His Name!
B. The second command is, "Serve the Lord with gladness."
It doesn’t say "serve the church." It doesn’t say "serve the preacher, 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 give finances for the work of the Lord, whatever it might be, we are serving the Lord. Don’t serve one in awhile, Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s a life style!
Jesus said, "Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me."
I’m not sure that we grasp that concept. Maybe we serve at times out of a feeling of obligation, fear, or of guilt.
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."
C. The third command is, "Come before Him with joyful songs." Another passage says, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord."
Have you noticed? In these first 3 commands, God has said, "I want you to be happy. Shout with joy, serve with gladness, and come with joyful songs."
Now just take a moment and look at the people around you in life. Do they look happy? Or are they just living life with scowls on their faces, dragging along each day?
The Psalmist says, "Come before Him and serve Him and sing His praise with joy in your heart."
D. The fourth command is, "Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture."
1. God took every bone, every joint, and wonderfully put them together with sinews, muscles and covered them with skin. He then gave us eyes that see, brains that think, fingers that pick up objects. God made us, inside and out. He made you the way He wanted you to be.
It is a mystery to me? I don’t understand why, but somehow in God’s providence He decided that He wanted a medium sized man, not too good looking, not outstanding in anything, but just a faithful father and husband who would keep working regardless of the hardship. So He made me. Someplace along the way He had you in mind, and He made you.
And He is still making us. 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.
He’s still working on our lives.
God is your maker, and you are created in His image. Therefore give Him thanks for who you are.
Then He says, "We are His people, the sheep of His pasture." Most of us want to be shepherds, not sheep. (Just as a side note: you can’t learn to be a leader until you have mastered the task of being a good follower). "It’s not any fun being sheep," we say. But the problem is; we don’t know where the still waters and green pastures are! And to make matters worse, every time we go out searching for them, we invariably end up in the far country.
God says, "You be the sheep, Let me be the shepherd, then I will lead you beside the still waters and the green pastures. Just let me lead."
E. The fifth command is, "Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations."
In the O.T. the temple symbolized the presence of God. So whenever the people came to the temple and 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 for corporate worship to God is called a "sanctuary," indicating that God is there. But God is everywhere! He sees all and knows all! He wants to be with you every moment of your life! That is the source of our thanksgiving!
But I often wonder, how would our life be if God treated us as we often treat Him? What if God met our needs to the same extent that we give our service to Him?
What if we never saw another flower bloom because we grumbled when God sent the rain? What if God stopped loving and caring for us because we failed to love and care for others? What if God took away His message because we wouldn’t listen to His Word?
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?
O Lord, help us to be thankful that you do "not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities" [Psalm 103:10].
My prayer is that this will be a meaningful Thanksgiving week for you and your family. Take time to read the 100th Psalm again. If you’ll listen to those commands, your heart will overflow with thanksgiving and joy to the Lord.
This morning we offer His invitation. If you have a decision on your heart, we pray that you will make it, that you’ll come forward, confessing your faith, being faithful to the Lord in Christian baptism, or transferring your membership, whatever your need might be.