“Give Thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 136:1 sermon)

First Baptist Church, Angleton, TX 11/22/20  First Sunday at 972 Anchor Road

When the first Pilgrims landed in the New World on November 11,1620, William Bradford, the pilgrim leader who later became their governor wrote that: “‘They fell upon their knees, and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element.’”  (Nathaniel Philbrick, The Mayflower and the Pilgrims’ New World, p. 44)

In the same way, we today at First Baptist Angleton fall on our knees, and bless the God of heaven, for bringing us as a church through many “perils and miseries” of sorts, to “set OUR feet” on “OUR proper element” here in this beautiful new place!  Let us officially give thanks to God for His goodness to us today!

This is a day for our church to give thanks. This is of course a week for giving thanks — Thanksgiving Day is Thursday. And we can be thankful for SO many things, can’t we? 

— our new building especially today! 

— for Cheryl & I this week: we give thanks for our new grand baby!

— for SO many other things — we could literally spend the entire service this morning, just giving thanks to God for all of His goodnesses to us. And that is the theme of our scripture for this morning from Psalm 136:1:

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

This is a great verse, and its content is one of the most famous and most repeated worship phrases in the whole Old Testament:

— As far as we know, it was first used by King David in a song of praise in I Chronicles 16:34 when they brought the Ark of the Covenant back up to Jerusalem. As the ark came up, David appointed Asaph and his brothers to praise God (the first “ministers of music”) and they sang these very words: “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for his lovingkindness is everlasting.”

— then in I Chronicles 16:41, it says they gave the priests the duty to regularly “give thanks to the LORD, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

So that was the beginning of this great worship phrase. Then we see it used again in multiple prayers and songs:

— When Solomon dedicated his temple  in II Chronicles 5:13, the priests praised God using this great phrase. 

— In one of its most famous occasions in scripture, when a coalition of several nations invaded Judah, God’s prophet told His people that they didn’t even need to fight — Jehoshaphat just sent out the priests singing this verse: “Give thanks to the LORD, for His lovingkindness is everlasting” and God went before them, and confused the enemies, who turned on each other, and they were defeated.

— In Ezra 3:11, when Israel rebuilt the foundation of the Temple, they praised and gave thanks to God, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” 

— Then we find this phrase is used repeatedly in different Psalms, including Psalm 118, and as we saw this morning in EVERY verse here in Psalm 136 as we just read. 

So this is one of THE most significant phrases in all of the word of God,”Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”  It must be important for God to have His people use it so much. So we need to know it, and understand what it is saying to us:

I.  First, we see in it the IMPORTANCE of giving thanks to God.

“Give thanks to the Lord …”. This is one of the most basic elements of worship: giving thanks to God. Realizing that everything good that we have, comes from God, and thanking Him for it, is a key to a healthy spiritual life.

This is one of the most basic things we can teach our children: to give thanks — and not just “give thanks” in general, but especially to give thanks to GOD — that HE is the source of everything good. Giving thanks before our meals is not just a trite “ritual;” it is a vital reminder that everything that we have comes from God, and we should be thankful for it. Teach it to your kids; model it for them. Teaching them to be thankful is one of the most vital, most life-changing things you can do for them. 

I love the old Shirley Temple movies; in “Bright Eyes” (1934) Shirley is a little orphan girl who is staying in a home with spoiled girl named Joy. Who is not a “joy,” but does’t appreciate all the rich things she has. She rips the heads off her dolls in anger; when she is asked what kind of gift she wants, she says “I want a machine gun!” Shirley, on the other hand, is thankful for just a broken doll that she could love and care for. That may be a little exaggerated picture (or maybe not so exaggerated …) but it does show the great difference than gratitude makes in a life.  

This one thing makes all the difference in a person’s life: do you believe that things just “happen” to be as they are; it’s evolved by accident; that what we have, we have merely by our own efforts or by chance — OR do you believe that there is a God who made you, and who in His goodness and mercy has given you every good thing that you have? From those two basic viewpoints come all the division that we see in our society today: 

Romans 1 says that everyone can see the glory of God made manifest in creation, but many “did not honor Him as God, or GIVE THANKS.” So it says that God gave them over to all the evil passions we see to this day.

But what is at the heart of it? That “they refuse … to give thanks” to God!

If you think about it, ingratitude — the lack of giving thanks to God — is at the heart of virtually every sin we commit:

— think of the very beginning of sin in the Garden of Eden; Adam & Eve had every tree of the Garden at their disposal; every good gift that God had just LAVISHED upon them. Only ONE tree could they not eat from — but instead of giving God thanks and appreciating all they had, they coveted the ONE tree they couldn’t have instead! Ingratitude played a huge role in the very first sin.

— Ingratitude was Israel’s sin in the wilderness too: instead of thanking God for His provision, they grumbled that they were “tired of manna”

— it was at the heart of King David’s sin: instead of thanking God for the wives he already had — and the kingdom, and His favor and His blessings — instead of thanking God for what he already had, he coveted what He did NOT have instead, and committed adultery and lied and murdered.

— Herod, rather than thanking God that He allowed him to be king, and thanking Him for sending a Messiah to the world, sought to kill Him instead.

— Jesus disciples, rather than thanking God that they had even been chosen to be one of His apostles, grumbled about who might have been the greatest among them!

And we could go on and on. NOT thanking God is behind virtually every sin of mankind. 

And it is the same down to this day. The lack of giving thanks to God is behind adultery and SO many marital problems (you don’t appreciate what you have); it is behind covetousness, and envy, and greed, and overspending, and idolatry — putting other things ahead of God, because you don’t appreciate Him and what He has given you. 

— It is behind grumbling and complaining — like Israel, instead of giving thanks for what we have, we grumble about it or wish we had something else

— It is behind the sin of bitterness: rather than thank God for the life of a person we had the privilege of enjoying for some length of time, we are bitter that they were taken from us when they were.

You can apply it to virtually any sin of word, deed, or attitude; virtually ANY sin could be headed off, if only we were truly thankful to God!  DO YOU WANT TO BE AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT PERSON TOMORROW than you are today? One of the biggest steps you can take to change your life immediately\ is to start becoming a THANKFUL person!  “Give thanks to the Lord.”

God knows how important, and how life-changing this is. THAT is why the Bible gives us SO many repeated commands to give thanks to God. Over and over it tells us to give thanks to Him:

— Psalm 100:4 says “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him, bless His name …”

— Psalm 105:1 “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name …”

— Psalm 106:1 “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy is everlasting” (same thing in Psalm 107:1, and Psalm 118:1, and 118:29)

That’s why the New Testament continues this theme with repeated commands to thank God:

— I Thessalonians 5:18 says “In everything give thanks, for THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD FOR YOU in Christ Jesus.” 

Over and over we see this. God is saying, this is SO important; it can be SO life-changing; if you will just learn to do this one thing: in every situation you find yourself in, “give thanks to the Lord.” 

If you will give thanks to God in every situation, you can make worst hell on earth a heaven — because you’ll see the good in it. But if you do NOT learn to give thanks in every situation, you can make an almost heavenly situation a hell; because you don’t appreciate what God has given you. 

This is SO important; so life-changing — and that is why God repeats this command SO many times, to: “Give thanks to the Lord”!  

This great verse specifically says we should give thanks for TWO THINGS:

II.  Because He is Good.  

This is an often under-appreciated aspect of God, that we just take for granted: that He is GOOD! 

See, it is one thing that there is a God. It is another thing that the God who exists is GOOD. That one thing puts everything on an entirely different plane. It’s like the difference between having “A father,” and having a GOOD father. All of us who live, have a father. That is just a fact. You have a father. But the truth is, many fathers are not what you would call “good” fathers. They may be violent, or abusive, or abandon and not care about their child at all. But it is an another thing entirely to have a GOOD father; who loves you and who is truly looking out for your best interests. 

And it is the same way with God. There IS a God. More and more scientific information is accumulating which indicates there must be a Master Creator. “Astronomer Fred Hoyle was an atheist and a bit of a maverick in the world of science. He was quite shaken when he first examined the evidence of a delicately fine-tuned universe. He concluded that there must be some kind of intelligence behind it all. He uttered these famous words: 

‘A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.’” (Richard E. Simmons III, Reflections on the Existence of God, pp. 177-178).

More and more scientists are seeing the complexity of the universe; the intricacies of DNA, which is more advanced than the most sophisticated computer programs, and they are shaking their heads and saying, this could not have happened by chance. There must be a Master Mind behind it. Even many formerly secular scientists are saying there must be a God.

But it is one thing to say that there is “A god,” and it is another thing entirely to say that there is a GOOD God. Just because there is a Master Power, a Super Mind behind all the universe, doesn’t mean He had to be good. He could have been evil; He could have been a God who “toyed” with us like insects. But the great thing which the Bible reveals about God is that He is not only the Creator, and all-powerful, and all-wise, but that He is GOOD!  That makes a HUGE difference for us!

It makes all the difference for our understanding of the universe, and the realities of life, that God is good. Because He is good, He loves us; He wants the best for us; He is not “out get us;” He wants to bless us. It makes all the difference when we understand that God is GOOD!

This is why I personally don’t believe that God predestined people to heaven and to hell. As I was sharing with some pastor friends a few days ago, honestly, I think God has every right to predestine us to hell. He made us out of nothing. We are His, and He has every right to dispose of us in any way that He wishes.  If He DID predestine us to hell, that would be His prerogative, and NO ONE could say one word against it — except for one thing: His word says “He is good”! Would a GOOD God predestine someone to hell? Now that’s a different thing. See, I think an omnipotent God could predestine someone to hell. I think a God of cold justice could predestine someone to hell. But when He says that He is “good,” and that He is “love,” and that He loves the “whole world,” well, see, that puts it all in another ballpark doesn’t it? 

And this applies to so many things. One of the things for which we should be most grateful for today is not just that there IS a God, but that He is GOOD! Psalm 100:5 and many other scriptures emphasize this: “For the Lord is GOOD”!  And because He is good, He gives us all of the good gifts which we enjoy. James 1:17 says “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” The Bible says that every single good thing you have in your life, comes from God. And why? Because He is good. Because He IS good, He DOES good, and gives us every good gift that we have.  

This truth should affect our attitude towards God. I believe that too many of us as God’s people have a vague sense that somehow they are under “God’s righteous frown” and that He is just waiting to “get” them for one trivial lapse of righteousness or another. Or if you didn’t say just exactly the right words in your “salvation prayer,” He’s gonna go “AHA!”, and gleefully toss you out of heaven. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!  God is GOOD. He LOVES us. He WANTS us to be in heaven with Him so badly that He came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ and DIED for our sins. You don’t do that for someone you are out to “get”!
Romans 8:31-32 says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” God sent Jesus to DIE for us! What other proof do we need of God’s love for us? Romans 8 goes on to say: “If God is for us, who is against us?” God’s not some “bully in the sky,” who’s waiting for a chance to “get” us; He’s “FOR us”! Because HE IS GOOD! 

So the Bible says we should give thanks for that. We have a free salvation, based not on how good we can be, but on what Jesus did for us on the cross. We have a God who is GOOD, who is FOR us; who sent a Savior to die for us; who offers us all that freely if we will just turn around from our foolish rebellion against Him and come back to Him through Christ. So as this great verse says, we should “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is GOOD!”

B) The second thing we are specifically to give thanks to God for, is Because His lovingkindness is everlasting.

What does that mean? We’ve talked about this word “lovingkindness” before; the Hebrew word “CHESED,” so rich in its meaning that it is virtually untranslatable into any one English word, but which Martin Luther said is perhaps best translated “grace”: God’s undeserved love and favor and goodness and mercy which He freely gives us in Christ. 

It’s only by His “chesed,” His grace that we are saved. We take that expression “saved by grace” for granted — but we need to think about what it really means. It means that we aren’t saved by what we do. It means that we don’t deserve it — but we are saved just because of His “lovingkindness” — His “grace” — His undeserved goodness to us. 

Some of you probably watched the video of the shot that the golfer hit at the Masters the other day, when he hit the ball on the water, and it skipped several times to the other side, then gradually rolled down the side of the green, and very slowly just started turning towards the hole — and kept on going — and actually went IN for a hole in one! The golfer raised his arms, and laughed, because he knew you don’t “deserve” a shot like that; it was a gift!

(In fact, we were out on the golf course the other day, and Drew Culpepper hit his drive right into the water on the 2nd hole — but it bounced twice, and landed on the other side on the fairway!  I said, “You must’ve had a good prayer time this morning!” and we all laughed, because we know you don’t “earn” a shot like that; it is all a gift. It is all just grace.

But how that golfer felt at Augusta, and how Drew felt that day — and how all of us feel when we get something that we just KNOW we don’t deserve — that is how EVERY Christian ought to feel, every day. Because we have been GIVEN — just flat out GIVEN — this GIFT of grace of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. It is NOTHING that we have earned or deserved; it is just a gift! We should just “wallow” in it; we should just “revel” in it and rejoice, and have a smile on our face every day – because God has given us this GIFT entirely of His CHESED; His grace, that we have in no way earned. 

And the even better thing the Bible tells us here, is that this lovingkindness, this “CHESED,” this “grace” that God gives us as a free gift — is EVERLASTING! That is, it is not here today and then gone tomorrow, like so many other things. God’s grace can be counted on. He does not give you His grace today, and then take it back tomorrow. His grace is everlasting — that is, it does not end!

— It is not that you can be forgiven today, and then not tomorrow.

— It is not that you are saved today, but not tomorrow (in fact, this concept of “His CHESED is everlasting” is one of the strongest points to be made for the eternal security of the believer — “once saved always saved” — because the Bible says His grace is everlasting. Like Jesus said in John 10:28 of those who receive His grace: “they shall never perish.” NEVER PERISH! Why will we “never perish”? Because “His lovingkindness is everlasting”!  SHOUT FOR JOY, child of God!  We will never perish! 

— our job may end

— our economy may collapse

— our health may fail

— our candidate may lose

— our friends and family may desert us

BUT WE WILL NEVER PERISH!  Because “HIs lovingkindness is everlasting”!  

That is why we as Christians, ALWAYS have something to give thanks to God for — that’s why we can “give thanks in everything” like First Thessalonians 5 says — because no matter what else happens in any other area of our life, for good or for bad; we always have this: that “His lovingkindness is everlasting”!  

— Today we can celebrate the goodness of God in giving us this brand new building — but there will come another day when “not one stone here will be left upon another” in this facility; one day this building will decay and be destroyed. But when it does, we will still have this: that “His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

— Today we give God thanks for His good gift of a child or a grand baby; but there will come a day when we will LOSE some family member that we love. But when that happens; we will still have this: that “His lovingkindness is everlasting.” 

— This week we all give thanks to God for His multiple kindnesses to us in good health, and money, and material blessings, and so many other things that we thank Him for this week. But we’ve got to realize there may well come a day when we LOSE our health, and our money, and almost everything for which we have given thanks for this week. 

But even if we are like Job, and lose everything on earth that there is to be lost, in that day we can still raise our hand to heaven and say “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” because we will still have the one thing that we can NEVER lose: that “His lovingkindness is everlasting”! 

So the Bible says: give God thanks today! Give Him thanks for every blessing under the sun that He has freely bestowed upon you, because it is all from Him, every bit of it. But more than anything, it says, give Him thanks: 1) that He is good, and 2) that His lovingkindness, His grace to you in Christ, is everlasting.  Oh what reasons we have, to give God thanks!

CONCLUSION:

In George Eliot’s Middlemarch, a local pastor does a young man named Fred a great service, which helped Fred to secure the love of his life as his wife. In response Fred tells Mr. Farebrother: “I shall never forget what you have done, I can’t say anything that seems worth saying — only I will try that your goodness shall not be thrown away.’” (p. 676)

I think that would be a pretty good response for US today, too. What can we say to God for all of His goodnesses to us? Just like Fred in that story, we can try to make sure that His goodnesses to us are not thrown away —that we will appreciate what He has done for us; that we will give Him THANKS — and that we will LIVE lives of gratitude and service to Him, because of all that He has done for us.   

God HAS done so much for us, hasn’t He?  So this first day in our brand new building; this Thanksgiving Week; let’s DO what this verse says:  “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting”!

INVITATION:

— spend time NOW giving thanks

— ask God to help you give Him thanks to start each day in prayer

— ask Him to help you give thanks in daily situations: to change your life by becoming a grateful person

— some of you have thought God is “out to get you,” but today you realize He is FOR you! Ask Him to help you rejoice in Him

— if you are a Christian, thank God for His salvation that you can’t lose!

— Or if you are not, ask Him to save you right now for the very first time ….

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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