I’m thankful this Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Day for most of our population is a real good excuse to lay aside the diet and pick up a knife and fork. It is a day full of food and football and little else. After months of hard work with little rest, Thanksgiving Day is a day set aside in which we can justifiably be lazy as we lay around the house and make small talk while watching a good ballgame.
Everyone is getting ready for the big day. On Wednesday night, family will begin to arrive so that they can be in place when the big day arrives. Mom is busy in the kitchen getting ready for the big meal. She has had a menu planned for weeks, groceries were bought days ago, and preparations are being made at the present time so that everything is “right” when the big day arrives. Already sitting on the counter-top are pumpkin pies, pecan pies, and of course my favorite chocolate pies — all awaiting the big day so that they might be a slice of happiness for the stuffed turkeys who will say, “Sure I’ll take another piece, but make it a small one.”
In the oven a big turkey catches some rays and a big ham waits his turn. Everyone is ready, and when the day arrives, family and friends who haven’t seen one another in a long time catch up on what has happened since the last Thanksgiving. Most often, the men huddle around the t.v. to watch the big game which is about to take place on the big day. The ladies make small talk and listen to the small talk of their family members. Then it happens. The words ring out like Handels “Messiah” as grandma shouts, “Yall come on. It’s time to eat.” As everyone is jockeying for position around the big bird, grandma asks the family to bow their heads as the family “returns” thanks. There in the midst of everyone’s big day — the big moment takes place. A sincere prayer which reflects the heartfelt thanks of a family for another year of blessing; for the endurance to make it through the difficult times; for the exultation of the happy, joy-filled times, and for a family who desires to hold our hand as we make the roller coaster ride of life. It doesn’t matter how difficult the times might have been during the past year, the family will find something for which to be thankful and they will sing God’s praises, if only for a moment, for His sovereign hand which is held them above the crest of the waves and restored strength to their weary hands.
This morning I want us to freeze that moment on the big day we have all been through before and which we are making plans for even today. I want to freeze the moment of thanks, when everyone’s head is bowed in reverence, every heart is bowed in gratitude, and silent praise fills the air. I want to enable us to look at God’s provision for us, all of us, during the past year. Let’s take out our Scripture for this morning and read together.
1 For the director of music. A psalm of David. A song. Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled. 2 O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come. 3 When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. 4 Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. 5 You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, 6 who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, 7 who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. 8 Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy. 9 You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. 10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. 11 You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. 12 The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. 13 The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing. (Psalm 65:1-13 NIV)
It must have been Thanksgiving when the Psalmist sat down to write these powerful words. In thirteen brief verses the Psalmist writes of God’s provision of forgiveness for a sin-filled people; God’s concern and control of the affairs of the entire nation of Israel; and God’s provision for the land. This is such a beautiful and moving Psalm which speaks volumes to us today, even to those of us who are sitting here in this sanctuary wondering what in the world we might be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Take a look at verses 1-2.
1 Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled. 2 O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come. (Psalm 65:1-2 NIV)
“Praise awaits you, O God…” The Hebrew noun “dumiyyah” means “silence,” “still waiting,” or “repose.” Davidson wrote, “Praise, like prayer, is often truest when in deep and still devotion it waits in the presence of God.” Thanksgiving Day is nothing more than another national holiday if we fail to miss the awesome nature of our God. Our God is not the product of a creative imagination. He is not the ultimate clout for a politically charged society. He is not the “opiate of the people” regardless of what Karl Marx might have said, rather He is the Creator and Savior of His people. All too often today we find people mixing God with personal preference and political agendas, rather than falling down before His glorious, majestic throne and being still in reverential awe and praise. The Psalmist says to us that we need a pure view of the God of the Universe. We see the same kind of reminder in Ecclesiastes 5:1-7.
1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. 2 Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. 3 As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. 4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5 It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. 6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God. (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 NIV)
Thanksgiving Day is a day when we have no problem celebrating with great feasts and laughter, but there is a great need to be still and assess the great blessings of our God.
We can be thankful because God is not partial. The Psalmist writes, 2 O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come. (Psalm 65:2 NIV) There was a minister a few years ago who made a public statement which shocked many people when he said, “God does not hear the prayers of the Jew.” Oh how I wish our friend would read the words of this powerful Psalm. The Psalmist didn’t say, “O you who hear the prayer of the rich. O you who hear the prayer of the poor. O you who hear the prayer of white folks. O you who hear the prayer of Asians. O you who hear the prayer of black folks. O you who hear the prayer of the righteous. O you who hear the prayer of the people who have perfect attendance in Sunday school and church.” We serve the God of all creation, the One who truly desires for all people to come to Him. He hears your prayer. He knows your voice. He responds in a heartbeat to your cry for help with deliverance, strength, endurance, and ultimate victory.
God is concerned for all realms of human existence, for your life as an individual, for our nation and every nation, and even for the land. It is these three components of Psalm 65 that I want to focus on for the remainder of our study.
In verses 3-4 we find God’s care, concern, and forgiveness to the individuals who will turn to Him in humble repentance.
3When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. 4 Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. (Psalm 65:3-4 NIV)
We have tried with all our might to do away with sin in our day. We work diligently to legitimize all lifestyles and practices, and to some degree, on a societal level, we are reaching our goal, or so it may appear. What we fail to realize is that by reaching our goal we will only further enslave people to sin.
Much of the stigma which used to be associated with adultery has been done away with, in the eyes of secularists, as now we are given justifiable reasons why someone would turn away from their vows to an adulterous affair. State after state is trying to legislate “gay marriage” regardless of what God’s Word says. The societal dismay which used to be attached to those who engaged in premarital sex has dissipated into an age of “safe sex.” Our society says abstinence before marriage is too much to ask of our young people so we hand out condoms in our schools and teach teenagers how to have “safe sex.” Lying and cheating are not even character flaws today; rather they are tools to be employed by a person of high goals who desires to get to the top. We have worked to dismiss all sin and all guilt and in the end we have done nothing more than to make people more miserable than they already were because there is no way to escape God’s innate law.
Even to the irreligious and atheist, there is natural moral law written into the universe. It is wrong to kill. It is wrong to steal what another person has worked hard to attain. It is wrong to slander someone simply to achieve your goal. These things are done each and every day, but they are done with consequences. It doesn’t matter what legislation is passed, how many dollars we pour into Madison Avenue advertising campaigns, what psychoanalysts tell us — we cannot escape the law of God. The tragedy is that in our nation we are not focusing on the healing and forgiveness of people who have gone astray, we are simply dismissing waywardness as if it never even existed. As a result there are multiplied millions who are burdened down with the sin of their past, but no one to listen to their pain and guilt.
Psalm 65:3-4 comes to us as a refreshing breeze to assure us that God forgives sin, not discounts it, but forgives sin. We have all done wrong, not just at one point in time in our life, but I’m talking about each and every day of our life we have gone astray. John wrote,
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8 NIV)
The Good News this Thanksgiving is that if we will turn to God in humble repentance, confessing to Him our sin, “He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) Psalm 103 vividly illustrates the love of God and His desire to forgive His people and bring them back to His will.
1Of David. Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. 7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:1-12 NIV)
The Psalmist says, “We were overwhelmed by our sins, but we talked it out and now everything is okay. My friends told me to not be so hard on myself because there is nothing wrong with what I did so I took their advice. Through the understanding of my therapist I have resolved my sin. Through forgiving myself I have been able to go on with life.” No, the Psalmist writes, “When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.” You forgave us. You made it right when we did it wrong. You cared when we were cold and callous. You exonerated our errors. You pardoned our pride. You vindicated our vice. You forgave our failings. You triumphed over our transgressions. Not us, but You, our Lord and King!
How God wants to forgive us this morning and we can be truly thankful that we serve a loving Heavenly Father who looks to forgive His people, rather than acting like His people who so often hold sin over one another’s head. You need to know this morning that you can be forgiven. It doesn’t matter what you have done, you can be forgiven, by sincerely asking. Jesus died for our sins. He suffered for our transgressions. He rose victoriously so that we might have forgiveness and victory over sin and the grave. You can be forgiven. You may have totally wrecked you life with all kinds of drugs and promiscuity. You can be forgiven. You may have led others down a dark dead-end road, taken young impressionable kids and made the wrong impression. Now they are tortured souls, a torturous existence that you may have contributed to. You can be forgiven. You may have destroyed your marriage or harbor great hatred and resentment at the one who did destroy your marriage. You can be forgiven. You may have lied on somebody and hurt their good name. You can be forgiven. You may have seen someone in need and walked right on by. You can be forgiven. You may have heard a gossiping word about someone and didn’t put a stop to it. You may be forgiven.
You may be a critical choir member, an evil elder, a devilish deacon, a cynical Sunday school teacher, or even a profane preacher, but you can be forgiven! God is drawing each and every one of us near to His throne, to experience His blessings, the life of peace and fulfillment that He desires for us, but we have to choose to accept His choosing.
In verses 5-8, the Psalmist speaks of God stilling the nations and making Isreal secure in the land God has given to her.
5 You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, 6 who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, 7 who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. 8 Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy. (Psalm 65:5-8 NIV)
Beginning in verse 5, the Psalmist turns from God’s provision for the individuals to God’s provision for the nation. The prayers of the people for their troubled land goes out and God answers them with “awesome deeds of righteousness.” God has been active in the life of the Hebrew people since the beginning as He delivered them from Egyptian bondage, from Babylonian captivity, and from continual threats of oppression from Israel’s adversaries. If you read the book of Judges you will find that six times Israel turned away from God, was led into servitude, and, when the people cried out for forgiveness and help, was eventually given a deliverer by God who led them out from oppression.
The history of Israel is full of periods of great turbulence and times of peace and prosperity. There were periods when Israel turned to God for direction and blessing, under the leadership of David, Solomon for a period, and Josiah, and the people prospered. There were periods when Israel’s leaders turned to foreign leaders and foreign gods for protection and safety, and it didn’t work. The Psalmist has learned that Israel can trust in God and Him alone.
The word “hope,” which literally means “confidence,” is a fascinating and powerful word. Alfred Jepsen, in an article on the Hebrew root word “batach” in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, shows how the word is used to convey the message of “feeling secure,” “being unconcerned,” or “to rely on something or someone.” Throughout Israel’s history they had vacillated between trusting in God and trusting in false gods. There were prophets throughout Israel’s history who continuously called Israel back to the foundation of true confidence. Jepson writes,
…In time of need, whatever it may be, there is no way for humanity to survive but to take refuge in God, to trust in him, and to have confidence in him. The inner power of the worshipper rests on this certainty…humanity may be disappointed by people, but he can know there is security in God’s care. (pp.93-94)
We can be thankful this Thanksgiving knowing that God is in charge of our nation and the other nations of this world. He is the Lord of history who is working His will through fallible and frail human beings. We do not need to fear, but we need to keep the faith that God is at work. While we rest, He works. While our minds are preoccupied with personal matters, God is working His will through the pages of history.
I know that right now our nation is in a multi-faceted crisis. We are at war, our economy is in the tank, and there are a lot of questions about our new President for a lot of people. If ever there was a time for the people of God to fall on their knees and pray, the time is now. Yet, I find far more Christians talking than praying. If you are one of the followers of Jesus who is talking more than praying then you need to change your ways. God is at work, but you will never recognize His hand at work unless you quiet your voice and listen for His. God is at work and His will is firmly in place.
In verses 9-13, God’s concern for the Promised Land is vividly illustrated as the Psalmist writes of God’s care for the land.
9 You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. 10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. 11 You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. 12The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills clothed with gladness. 13 The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing. (Psalm 65:9-13 NIV)
We can be thankful this Thanksgiving for God has not abandoned the land which provides for us. The Psalmist says that God cares for the land and waters it; He enriches it abundantly. We are not in the desert with Moses and the children of Israel where God provided firsthand for the people by showering them with manna and quail. We live in a day where we must work the land to provide sustenance for us. We enjoy the rich produce of the land — bright, colorful fruit which not only tastes good but provides needed vitamins for our bodies; all kinds of vegetables which we can enjoy and which contribute to our health and well-being. We can be grateful for those who work hard to produce the food which feeds. God has been so faithful. We, in America, have not only enough food for the people of our country, but we raise enough food to feed hungry people around the world.
Most of us don’t know too much about farms. Most of us were raised in the city, but maybe you have a grandparent who was a farmer or you know someone who lived on a farm. If you have ever been around farmers you know they have very little to do with whether their crops produce a bounteous harvest for their family. The farmer tills the land, plants the seed, fertilizes the crops, but if there is too much rain the harvest will be a wash-out; if there is too little rain then the crop will dry up and die. The farmer relies upon God to provide for the tiny seeds which are placed in the earth. The Psalmist says,
10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. 11 You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. 12 The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills clothed with gladness. 13 The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing. (Psalm 65:10-13 NIV)
The Psalmist believed that God cared immensely for the land and its produce. We must believe that today, especially in our great nation which produces more crops than any other nation on the planet. God has blessed our land year-in and year-out with a bounteous harvest!
We have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. We serve the King of all creation who has placed us in a country where we can provide for our families. What joy is available to those who are willing to see God’s hand at work in providing for His people. Folks, we assume so many things in this great land of ours. You and I sit down to at least one meal a day; there are even places for people who live on the street to get a hot meal each day. I have learned from talking to the folks who work in the food pantry that literally tons of food are thrown away each day in our country. Is there any question that God has blessed this great land? Who can question the productivity of American soil? God has blessed our land!
We can be thankful for the Lord of history who reassures us that He is King over all. We can trust Him. Regardless of our situation—we can trust Him. Regardless of our difficult our circumstances are right now—we can trust Him.
Finally, we can be thankful not only for God provision for our land and the nations of the world, but we can be thankful for God’s provision for each of us as individuals. It is a travesty what is happening in our society with the decay of morality and ethics, but even in the midst of such decadence God has struck a decisive blow. A nation gone astray can recieve forgiveness and be restored to God. It doesn’t matter how far you have strayed, our Lord has long arms and they are reaching out to you this Thanksgiving to call you back, to forgive you, and welcome you back home. I pray this Thanksgiving will be a decisive day for you as you say “yes” to God for His bounteous blessings upon your life and our land. Ask Him to forgive your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness this morning.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
November 23, 2008