Monday, November 17, 2014
Thanksgiving - Psalm 100
Thanksgiving Pt 1
Lord God, through this reading and addressing of Psalm 100, come and ease the grief or worry or fretting or distractions that may be ransacking our hearts, and fill us with your joy by the Holy Spirit and through the presence and mediation of Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Before the Turkey is cooked and eaten, before the family blows in and blows right back out, before the perspiration trickles down and stings your eyes, before the refrigerator gets stuffed with leftovers, it’s good to remember “Thanksgiving”. This is a good time to reflect on Thanksgiving, on real, genuine thanksgiving, not just as some annual time of panic and pressure. And it is a great time to ruminate over what we hopefully will do in the midst of all the hustle and mayhem. To guide us, we are going to delve into Psalm 100 – “A Psalm for Giving Thanks.”
A pattern: Before we jump into the Psalm, we should see that there is a pattern to it. First, verses 1b-3 are paralleled in verses 4-5. They follow the same path, side-by-side. There is a second pattern that goes like this: verses1, 2 and 4 tell us what we’re to do, while verses 3 and 5 show us what we’re to know about God. This second pattern is the one we will loosely follow.
Who is to give thanks (1): “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!” kal ha Aretz-the whole earth, all creation, creatures and clans! This Psalm calls all creatures and all the cosmos to come in thankfulness to the Lord. But this universality of thanksgiving is looking forward. As some Jewish authors have noted:
“Our Sages instituted this Psalm in our daily prayers as an expression of thanks for the many unrecognized miracles God performs in our behalf every day. S.R. Hirsch sees it as a song of gratitude that will be sung to God in the Messianic era, when the world attains its ultimate perfection” (The Metsudah Interlinear Tehillim, 211).
The day is to come, and is already erupting, when the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is the one who has been lifted up on the cross and is drawing all people to himself (John 12.32). When the One who humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross, is the very One whom the Father has highly exalted and given a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue should confess is Lord, to the glory of the Father. So that now, “the battle is not done;” yet “Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one” (Trinity Hymnal #111 verse 3).
How we are to give thanks (1-2 and 4b): Here we move to the “what we’re to do” sections, and we see that there are 7 directive-statements in this Psalm, all told. These are the “do this; do that” comments. It becomes quickly obvious that Psalm 100 is a very busy, boisterous, raucous, riotous Psalm. (1) “Make a joyful noise to the LORD….!” The idea in the Hebrew is loud and ear-splitting, “Shout joyfully to the LORD!” (2) “Serve the LORD with gladness.” The word serve is used both of the priests in the temple and those working in their vocations. Worship and work are pulled together as a joyful offering to God, much like Paul’s sentiment, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12.1-2). To “serve the LORD with gladness” (worship and work) comes forth in poetic fashion in George Herbert’s poem where he prays, “Teach me, my God and King, In all things thee to see, And what I do in any thing, To do it as for thee” (“The Temple,” Elixir). (3) “Come into his presence (to his face) with singing!” God desires us to draw close, and will be present as we do so. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (Jas 4.8). (4) “Give thanks to him” tells us that there is a specific direction for our thanksgiving. Unlike a highly secularized age that coaches us to “just be thankful” with no one to be thankful to, this Psalm informs us to be specific – to give thanks TO him (4b). (5) “Bless his Name” (4b)! This is a synonymous phrase with the previous. To bless God’s name, is how Jews began their prayers, “Baruch atah Adonai elohaynu melech ha'olam” [Blessed are you Lord our God, King of eternity]. It’s how Paul began his prayer in Ephesians 1.3 and how Peter began his in 1 Peter 1.3 (“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”). As good Jews, they started off many of their thankful prayers this way. These are 5 of the seven direction statements that guide us in how we should give thanks to the Lord. There are 2 more that explain,
Where we are to go to give thanks (4a): (1) “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!” We are pointed in the direction of entering into his place of public worship. Both “his gates” and “his courts” are temple language, where the public worship of God climaxed. It’s right and fitting for us to give thanks in our homes, when the family has gathered around the dinner table. But we should make the high point of our season of Thanksgiving God’s public worship where we gather in the company of God’s people, openly declaring God’s praises and identifying ourselves as worshipers of this God. It would be very fitting, wherever you may be during this Thanksgiving season, to invite all of your guests to attend with you a public worship assembly, explaining to them that this is the climactic high point of your thankfulness. (2) And as Christians we can, and should desire, to do this knowing that we are being brought by Christ and made fit by Christ (Col. 1.15-23; Heb. 10.19-22). This point then moves us along to hear,
What we are to know to give thanks (3 and 5): (1) “Know that the LORD, he is God!” The LORD is God alone. That exclusivity is clearly laid out in this statement. It doesn’t say, “The LORD is God among a host of other gods” but that he IS God! We must know and remember that there are no competitors, he is God alone. (2) We then should recall that “It is he who made us”. Yes, he made us by creation, but as Christians we ought to know that he has remade us through re-creation (2 Corinthians 5.17). And “we are his”. What a great truth to recall! Our identity is wrapped up tightly in him, not in our circumstance, not in the violence or shameful things done to us, not in our previous addictions or catastrophes. He has (re)made us and we are his! Surely this evokes gratefulness and thankfulness! (3) What else are we to know in order to give thanks? “We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” He daily cares for us. I hope that as you hear this last statement your mind went to another Psalm, because it goes here beautifully,
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23).
He daily cares for us, he is our Shepherd and we shall not want! Give thanks!
But there’s more we need to know, and it’s down in verse 5. (4) “For the LORD is good”. Sometimes we doubt this, especially when going through the dark and dreary times of life. Sometimes we slip into a pagan mindset with our ancestors, and think that the LORD is just like Jupiter, Zeus, Pluto or Poseidon, sitting around rubbing his hands gleefully, waiting to strike us down, to crush us. But no! “For the LORD is good” and we must know that to give thanks! (5) “His steadfast love [hesed] endures forever”. The LORD’s love is steadfast, unwavering, unswerving, staunch and sturdy. And as Christians we should know this, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.8). (6) “And his faithfulness to all generations.” His trustworthy loyalty is undying and undecaying. He is loyal and faithful, first to himself. If he has promised, he will show his integrity by honoring his promise; and if he has promised us, he will keep his word to us: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Corinthians 1.20).
All of this is clearly paraphrased and described in the words of the Isaac Watts’ hymn we sang earlier: “Wide as the world is Thy command; Vast as eternity Thy love; Firm as a rock Thy truth shall stand, when rolling years shall cease to move” (Trinity Hymnal #65 verse 5).
So, as we wrap this up, keep in mind four things:
1st-If you find it hard to give thanks because the dump truck of life has back up to your house – career – body – or whatever, and piled it on; or on the other hand, prosperity has come and plundered your heart; do as the Sacred Songwriter directs us to do, look to God and recall who he is, recall what he is, and recall what he has done! Search out reasons to be thankful TO him, by searching him out.
2nd-When giving thanks, use every linguistic, creative and musical means and talent in your possession to assert your gratitude. “Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices; Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today” (Trinity Hymnal #98 verse 1).
3rd-[This is more for the Sunday after Thanksgiving] Even if you have to drag your limping, lame, lumbering soul along, bring your burdened, troubled, exhausted self into the public place of God’s worship and recount your reasons to be thankful.
4th-Finally, as you give thanks through the new the living way opened up by YeHoshua ha Mashiach (Hebrew for Jesus the Christ), know that you are exhibiting that the Messianic era has begun, that the new heavens and new earth are exploding into the present! Rejoice with a grateful heart!