We have been in Israel two weeks now, and the last week of November we heard this very interesting sermon at the Light of the Galilee assembly in Nahariya, northern Israel. The preacher was David McConkey, from Massachusetts. It is all about thanksgiving, and I must admit I never realised how dangerous it is NOT to thank God.
David spoke on Psalm 103, a psalm of King David. Verse 1 calls us to bless the Lord, to express our thanks, but not in a half-hearted or a formal, routine way. It says ‘with all our soul, with all that is within me. Greek philosophy divides men into body, soul and spirit, but biblical philosophy sees the whole person. Genesis 2. 7 says God breathed into Adam and he became a living soul, nephesh, the whole person.God is calling for the totality of who we are, everything about us, not a part of us, not an emotion or as we feel like it.
The motivation and the reason is …to bless His holy name. What a contrast between the holiness of God and sin; they are not on the same plane. They are separated so far. The difference between God’s holiness and our sin is so great. His purity, His righteousness, all that makes up God’s being is so different from our lives ravaged by sin – that in His presence we fall face down. We cannot stand, as in Isaiah 6. When Isaiah saw the temple of God full of His presence, his instant response was to fall down and worship Him.
God guards His holiness in great intensity, even jealousy. Ezek 39.25 says He is the only holy God; there is none like Him. We give thanks because of who He is.
Thanksgiving became a holiday in the U.S in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln set it aside as a day for thanking God for taking care of the people. But it actually started in 1621 with the Pilgrims in Massachusetts as they collected the harvest and thanked God for His care. It was my dad’s favourite holiday because the family gathered and celebrated what had happened in the past year.
William Bradford was one of the founders of the Plymouth B ay Colony and he said: ‘Thus they found the Lord to be with them in all their ways…for which His holy name be blessed forever.’Abraham Lincoln said: ‘Let us not forget the blessings of God.’
We have thanksgiving in Pilgrim’s Progress, in the holiday – why this passion for thanksgiving? It should swell, pour out, overflow from our hearts.
V2’ Forget not all His benefits’ is a warning and a command. There is no option, no choice. We’re no free to choose what to acknowledge; we’re to forget nothing God has done and is doing for us. Deut 6:12 and 8:ll warns: Beware lest you forget the Lord.
2 Chron 32.25 King Hezekiah of Judah was sick and God gave him another 15 years of life, but he was not thankful. He became proud, so the wrath of God fell on him and on the nation. Failing to give thanks is to lose a thankful heart and to fall into pride.
Do you see how important a thankful heart is? David lists five things to be thankful for, and they are awesome.He pardons all our sins. ‘My sin not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more; praise the Lord O my soul!’ The attitude of thanksgiving should overflow us for the forgiveness of our sins; we should break out in praise.
He heals us. This is not limited to bodily sickness, but includes all our suffering. Is 40: 27-41 …we shall mount up with wings as eagles…’When we come to the Lord no matter how old we are, it is like we are given a new life and a new start. There was an agnostic who came to church aged 60 and after a year long process of God working in his life, he became a believer. At age 61 he desires to know more about God and his youth has been renewed like the eagle because of his relationship with Jesus Christ.
God pardons, heals, redeems, crowns, satisfies us. What does thanksgiving mean to you? Do we spend more time complaining about what we do not have than being thankful for what we do have? The Israelites in the wilderness were always complaining, always grumbling about what they did not have. How much they had to be thankful for! They had been set free from slavery; they had walked through a sea on dry ground; they were delivered from a hostile army; they had heard God speak and lived; they had been given the riches of Egypt; their clothes and shoes did not wear out in 40 years of wandering; they were promised a wonderful land; they were told that God would not only give it to them, but would fight for them. But instead of being thankful, they complained about food they missed, meat and cucumbers.
Do we have the spirit of thanksgiving? Let us be doers of the word and let thanks flow out of our hearts in all we do.