Thanksgiving and Praise
Samuel Lesson #154
November 13, 2018
“Father, it is such a privilege we have to come together as a body of believers, to corporately come together to worship You. Any time that we are studying Your Word it is a time of worship, a time when we submit to Your authority, a time when we humble ourselves under Your mighty hand. It is a time when Your Word can convict us, rebuke us, correct us, and teach us the right way to live and how we should think.
“Father, for so many of us pride, arrogance, and self-absorption get in the way. We are thankful we have forgiveness. We are thankful for Christ Who died for us. And Father, we are thankful for Your Word, and that Your Word itself sanctifies us by the content that is in it.
“Father, as we study and reflect upon some things about worship that are not always taught well or understood well, we pray that we might have an attitude where we can see a change in our own thinking in these areas. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Last week I came down with a cold, or whatever it was, which didn’t last very long. But we had a review lesson from the Colossian series in which I was also talking about worship and music. I think that was good for everybody.
What I was going to go with next in this series on worship has to do with what happened in both the corruption of worship in the history of Israel, and then the reformations that occurred—talking about Solomon, Hezekiah, and Josiah—and understanding trends that occurred up until the Babylonian captivity.
I’m going to move that out of order because I had arranged things so that today we would talk about something specific, and it will probably take two Bible classes to cover this.
We are going to look at what the Bible teaches about thanksgiving and prayer. I thought it was appropriate since the day after tomorrow is the twenty-second of November and we celebrate our national holiday of Thanksgiving.
It’s a day when we are not thankful for the turkey, or the football games. We are thankful to God for all of the many things that He has done in the last year. We should be thankful every day. As we will see in our study tonight, this is something that should be at the very heart of our Christian life—being reflexively thankful to God and praising Him.
The reality is that that’s not true. It’s not true even for those who are mature spiritually. It goes against our self-absorbed sin nature. It’s a practice, a discipline, and a mindset that we need to cultivate. We should have an attitude of awareness and thankfulness for everything.
As Paul says twice, we give thanks in all things, and for all things. Thanksgiving is part of the ministry of God the Holy Spirit in our lives. When we are filled by means of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), we not only sing, it’s joyful, it’s rejoicing, but we are thankful. Sometimes we lose sight of that, and in many churches I don’t think that they do a biblically defined good job of that.
It’s not taught well, nor well understood. Unfortunately, what I’ve witnessed in a lot of churches is that pastors assume that people know more than they know. I realized over the years that, while we have a great congregation with people who have learned a lot, grown a lot, know a lot, understand a lot, and demonstrate that maturity by the things that they talk about or the things that they are involved in, we also have new people constantly coming into the congregation who need to learn these things.
They need to grow and mature—they need to be taught. Every one of us has this fight with our sin nature and constantly growing. Each one of us has this struggle between our sin nature and spiritual growth.
We need to learn what it means to be biblically thankful and what it means, biblically, to praise God. The focal point of our study tonight and next week is going to be on the Book of Psalms.
As we look at a variety of psalms I’m not going to exegete my way through. The psalms will be summarized, looking for patterns of how we are to give thanks to God and how we are to praise God.
The Book of Psalms is a book that God revealed to us to teach us about the content of our singing, to teach us about prayer, and to teach us how to give thanks and praise God.
The Book of Psalms is in the center of the Bible. When you hold your Bible up and let it flop open in the middle you will find yourself in the Book of Psalms. It’s the longest book in the Bible, one hundred and fifty psalms or chapters. These psalms were the songbook of Israel, their hymnbook.
It is a divinely revealed, divinely inspired, hymn book. I don’t know if you’ve thought about this or not, but there were certainly psalms that predated David. We know about the song of Miriam in Exodus, and we know that Psalm 90 and a couple of other psalms are psalms of Moses.
We know that there are a couple of others that are included that were probably written before David. We also have Judges 5 which is the song of Deborah. There were other psalms that the Israelites sang as part of their worship. But David is the one, as we’ve been studying in the worship series, who changed things.
He ratcheted things up. He brought things to a new level, and it’s all related to the event when the ark of the covenant is brought into Jerusalem. There’s the purchase of the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. This is the place on Mount Moriah where Abraham had gone to sacrifice Isaac. We see how God ties these patterns together and connects the dots down through history.
But David is the one who wrote a large number, I think it’s around seventy-five or eighty, of the psalms.
There were others. There was Asaph, who was a choir director, the music leader that David appointed. He was an absolutely brilliant man musically, as well as in terms of lyrics. That became the backbone of the hymnbook of Israel approximately 1,000 years before Christ.
Most of the psalms that we have were written before the Exile. There are some that were added after the Exile. I believe that the order and organization that we have of the Book of Psalms was put together, perhaps by Ezra, after the return from Babylon.
We are not sure who organized them, but these are the psalms that were sung over and over again.
The people of Israel knew these psalms, memorized them, so that when Jesus was coming into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday—what some call the Triumphal Entry, I’m not sure that’s the best term for it, we studied that as we went through Matthew last year—the people broke out in joyful singing. They were singing Psalm 118 and they all knew the psalm.
People knew the psalms that they were singing, they were part of their lives. When the great transition from the Age of Israel to the Church Age occurred, the psalms were still sung for the next 1,600 years.
Until approximately 100 years after the Protestant Reformation the psalms were being sung. It’s not until the seventeenth century, into the 1600s, that new hymns were written. We will talk about that a little bit as we go along. The hymns written in the post-Reformation era were largely doctrinal.
There were some hymns written in the Middle Ages and we sing some of those. It wasn’t until the post-Reformation period that the writing of hymns really blossomed. If you read them they are restating what the Scripture teaches about who God is, who Christ is, and what He did on the Cross.
They are doctrinal in content, designed to teach, to instruct, to remind, and to focus our attention upon God, not upon ourselves. One of the things that we’ll be seeing is that even when the writer was in deep trouble, we aren’t given a lot of information about the details of that trouble—it’s not about them.
None of the psalms are about the problems that the people faced. They are about the God Who solved the problems, that He solved the problems and how He solved them. They are rejoicing in that, attributing to Him the glory for solving the problems. That’s what praise is.
What we’ve seen in the mid twentieth century is that a shift began to occur. I think it’s a reflection of what began to happen in the evangelical church as evangelical theology became more watered down.
As the content from pulpits became more watered down, as a shift occurred toward entertainment, and as our culture became more narcissistic and self-absorbed, that was manifest in these new choruses that came along and it’s problematic.
They are weak. They have problems with doctrine in many areas. Often, they focus on generating the kind of emotion that historically was produced by people who could think. They could think about and reflect on the words. They were struck deep in the soul by the profundity of what was said.
What happens is that if you are not familiar with Scripture, and you can’t think profoundly about what is being said, or you don’t care because you have forgotten about the Lord, and you’re just there pro forma, you stir up those emotions some other way—through theatrics, entertainment, or a change in the style of the music.
So it’s through the music, the entertainment—secondary things like smoke, darkening the room—that is used to manufacture these emotions that should be the result of a humble heart and a mind submitted to Scripture.
That’s not really there, shortcuts are being taken. The attempt is to create those emotions superficially, and that is sad.
One of the things you should note is that hymn writers are not perfect. They are not inspired by God. That was a lot of the criticism in the early eighteenth century about hymns—they weren’t inspired by God.
In fact, in some reformed and Presbyterian circles, they sang only the psalms well into the 1700s.
As new hymns were being written and we evaluate them, some are great hymns. Some of them need to be tweaked a little bit because the writers were trying to fit a certain rhythm or rhyme pattern, and sometimes the words that they chose may not be the most doctrinally correct.
For example, one of my favorite hymns is And Can It Be written by Charles Wesley. It is a tremendous hymn, tremendous words. But there’s a line in there, in the second verse I believe, “Christ emptied Himself of all but love.”
We know that the concept of Christ emptying Himself, that language, comes out of Philippians 2. But that’s not what KENOSIS is. KENOSIS is when Jesus willingly restricted the use of His divine attributes in order to fulfill the Father’s plan for salvation.
But we changed the words in our hymnal to “emptied Himself because of love.
That has refined and focused it without losing the rhythm or the beat, and it’s made it more theologically correct.
God breathed out these hymns for us for a variety of reasons. Some folks would just as soon come to Bible class and just have a theology class, but that only addresses one part of our soul.
Emotion is a part of our soul that responds to God. But that response is not freewheeling emotion. It is governed by our thinking and singing often impacts our emotions.
That’s why it’s so very, very dangerous to use bad singing, bad hymns, or these superficial choruses when we sing, because it does have an impact on people’s souls that is not the proper impact.
Sadly, when we come together and talk about things like praising God, what’s the first thing that comes into a lot of people’s minds? If we say, “Let’s praise God” they immediately think about singing, that’s how you praise God. That’s not biblical. That is one way praise was expressed, but that’s not what biblical praise is limited to.
The same thing is true with the word worship. Often the pastor is referred to as the pastor, but the guy who leads the singing is the worship leader. Again, the Word is truncated by putting the emphasis on something that is more shallow and superficial.
This is a great challenge. We have to realize that God gave us a pattern in a variety of hymns, different genres of hymns. There are lament hymns, thanksgiving hymns, and declarative praise hymns.
All of these different kinds of psalms are designed to give us a pattern for the writing of words to praise God. They are to teach us also how to pray. One thing that is helpful is to pray the psalms, memorize psalms, and then pray them back to God.
You can change a few words if you want to make it more personal, or directly related to your own circumstances. That teaches us how to pray in a more sophisticated way than a lot of people are used to.
It also teaches us how to give thanks. You want to learn how to express your thanks to God? Read the thanksgiving psalms, read prayers of thanksgiving stated by Paul and Peter and other gospel writers, and our Lord in the Gospels. That teaches us how to give thanks.
We go to the Scripture to learn how to praise God, and all of this is part of our spiritual life and our worship. Worship and praise are byproducts of a believer who is growing in a healthy manner and walking by the Spirit, and so often that’s been lost.
It’s as though the singing is just something we add on Sunday morning as an afterthought. But Ephesians 5:19 tells us it’s the first element in the result of being filled by means of the Spirit. It is expressing joyfully to God what He has done for us and our gratitude and thanksgiving for that.
As I’ve been studying in this worship series, I’m coming to realize a different level that we should cultivate in our personal relationship with God. That’s what we see with David expressing these things and talking about all of these different things.
To begin with we need to understand a little bit about thanksgiving and praise. I want you to turn in your Bibles to Psalm 50. That’s where we will begin.
One of the things I want you to think about is that we are going to do things a little differently when we have our Thanksgiving/Christmas luncheon.
You’ll see some parallels with what happened in the Scripture, usually they gave praise first and ate later. But after church I think we will eat first and then praise and call upon people to give them the opportunity to praise God for the way in which He has worked in their lives in some way in the past year.
The problem is that a lot of us have been at services where people have done that, and there’s always somebody who stands up and they talk for five minutes. It’s all about them. It’s all about their problem. They want to make sure everybody understands all the details about their surgery, or all the details about the problems they had with the car, or everything that happened to them during Hurricane Harvey.
One of the things that we are going to see as we look through these psalms is that when David or the other writers of the psalms are praising God there’s a very short summary of what happened. “God, I cried out to You. I was in the pit and You delivered me.” That’s it.
And then it’s all about God, and what they learned about God. It’s about what God taught them about trusting Him and relying upon Him. The focus in the psalms is not about our problem and all the things we had to deal with. The focus is on who God is, what He provided, and summarizing what is learned from that.
This is an element of weakness in the contemporary church. In some churches a lot of time is spent doing this and it’s really poorly done. People talk too much. They talk about themselves too much and it’s not about God. They haven’t been taught how to do this.
I’ve been in a lot of churches, whether it’s been in a Sunday school class or some sort of Thanksgiving service, I think a lot of us have been at those things, and you just feel uncomfortable because somebody stands up and starts talking and they really haven’t thought about it.
Some people want to be spontaneous. Spontaneity does not mean that you haven’t given it some thought and preparation before you come and say something. It doesn’t have to be long, it can be something very simple.
“I had a health problem this last year, we prayed about it, the family prayed about it, people in the church prayed about it. And God provided healing through the doctor, through surgery, and through that I was moved to trust God more, to understand what it means to truly rely upon Him to get me through a difficult time.”
That’s a biblical statement of praise. It’s a focus on God’s grace. Talk about grace, “I don’t deserve any of this. In fact, I should probably have died because of all the sins in my life, but God healed me and gave me an opportunity to continue to talk about who He is, and to tell others how He healed me, and how He provided for me.”
We look at the Scriptures to get our pattern. So, let’s look at Psalm 50.
Before we get into it let me give you a little bit of a definition of praise. Thanksgiving is when we tell God what He has done for us and we express our gratitude to Him about that.
Praise is when we express to others what God has done for us and how He has worked in our life. It’s done in a way that will encourage others.
If you stand up and you say, “This last year I faced a major health problem or had a financial calamity because of some things that happened with Hurricane Harvey for example, and God provided in the most amazing ways. I just had to learn to walk day by day. I had no idea what would happen the next day or how the bills would get paid and God would provide. Money would show up. God is so good. He knows what we are going through before we go through it and He provides.”
Somebody is going to hear that, they’re going to be going through some problem, and they’re going to be encouraged to trust God in the midst of their difficulty. And then down the road they are the ones who will stand up and talk about all that God has done and share their enthusiasm and their excitement for what God has done.
In praise we tell others what God has done. All of our attention is focused on the God who delivers, the God who saves, the God who heals, and the God who forgives. It’s not really about the details of our problem, and it’s not about us at all.
I ran across an episode in the life of C.S. Lewis. Lewis wrote a lot of different things. He was a brilliant man, an Oxford don who taught medieval literature. He was a skeptic, a classic skeptic, but he eventually became a believer. He wrote some very good books, some not so good perhaps, but one of the things he says in his testimony is that when he was young, he had a problem with God.
I can relate to this because one time when I was young, I was witnessing to somebody, talking about our purpose in life is to glorify God. They said, “What? God is conceited? He just wants us to give Him the big head, constantly telling how great and wonderful He is?” That’s how an unbeliever responds.
That’s kind of the way C.S. Lewis responded, that God just seemed to be somebody who wanted everybody talking about Him all the time. But Lewis came to realize that in the first point of the larger catechism, if you’ve ever said it you know this, that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
He realized that glorifying God and enjoying Him are two sides of the same coin. That to glorify God you have to enjoy God. Think about the things that you enjoy in life.
Let’s say it’s a Saturday afternoon and you’re sitting around with a couple of friends watching a football game. There was a great play this past weekend. There was an interception in the end zone and a full 105-yard run to score a touchdown. What do you do? You say, “Look at this! They are going to show the replay, you can’t miss this!”
You start talking about it. You are excited about it, and you want to share that with somebody else. What you are doing is glorifying what that player just did. You’re talking about him and that’s what it means. You enjoy the game and you talk about it.
We talk about the things that we enjoy. So, here’s the point—do you talk about God? If we enjoy God are we excited about God? Do we talk about God? Do we talk about the things that He’s done in our life? Or do we say, “Somebody’s going to think I’m a fanatic, somebody is going to think I’ve just gone off the deep end in my relationship with the Lord.”
But if we enjoy God, that should be manifested in the things that we talk about, that God is important in our life.
Maybe you can think back to a time when you were dating your spouse and you were falling in love. You wanted to talk about it to other people because you enjoyed that wonderful time you spent with this person.
That’s the idea. That is part of glorifying God. We all have things we like. It may be a movie, it may be music or a book. It may be football, food, or a restaurant, and we talk about it.
That’s what it means to glorify God—to let people know. You can’t add glory to God because He has infinite glory. He is intrinsically glorious.
What we do when we glorify Him is tell others about who He is and what He has done. The knowledge of God spreads and that brings glory to Him.
For example, let’s go back to football again. If you had a good football player but nobody ever talked about him, no sportswriter ever wrote him up, he was not spoken about in the halftime shows, nobody ever showed replays of what he did, then nobody would know who he was. He would not be glorified.
But when all of a sudden somebody recognizes him, sees his talent and starts talking about him, he becomes the subject of special reports during the halftime shows and in the later sports shows, then he’s being glorified.
Telling other people about who he is and what he has done. That is praise.
So we look at Psalm 50. What we see in the superscript is that this is a Psalm of Asaph. Asaph was one of the Levite choir directors David appointed over all of the musicians. That tells you that this is a man of the quality of a Leonard Bernstein. He is absolutely brilliant. He is a musical genius, and he’s going to be over these enormous orchestras and choirs of the Levites. He is going to be writing the music that will go along with these hymns and these psalms.
The context of Psalm 50 is that he’s bringing an indictment against the Israelites because of their lack of praise.
He sets this psalm up as if it were a court case, and he’s going to bring a charge. He is going to represent God as bringing a charge, an indictment, against the nation.
In the first six verses he describes who is in the courtroom. Imagine that the courtroom is here in West Houston Bible Church, and God comes in and He is up at the front. He is the judge.
Psalm 50:1-2, “The Mighty One, God the Lord, has spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth.”
He is the focal point in the courtroom.
Psalm 50:3-4, “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous all around Him. He shall call to the heavens above ...”
Remember, Moses called upon the heavens and the earth as a witness to the covenant. I believe that’s a metonymy for those who inhabit the heavens and those who inhabit the earth. The angels are in the heavens, and human beings are the sentient beings on the earth.
Psalm 50:4, “He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people.”
He’s bringing in the angels and others to be witnesses in the courtroom as the evidence is brought forth against Israel. He says,
Psalm 50:5-6, “Gather My saints—Israel—together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice. Let the heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is Judge.”
He is now going to sit and judge Israel. Starting in Psalm 50:7 God is going to bring two indictments against Israel.
In verse 7 we have the first indictment which has to do with the fact that they are just formally worshiping God. They are going through all the motions. They are doing the right sacrifices on the right days. But it’s not really about the sacrifices, because they think that God needs the sacrifices.
That was what you found in paganism. That the gods of the pagans needed those sacrifices, they needed to be fed. They needed the water, the libations, the wine, in order to satisfy themselves because they had all these basically human needs.
Psalm 50:7-9, God says, “Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God!”
See the language here? “I am God, Your God! I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices—you are doing the right thing at the right time—or your burnt offerings, which are continually before Me. I will not take a bull from your house, nor goats outof your folds.”
What He is getting to there as He begins to shift in verse 10 is recognizing that their mentality was that somehow God needed them to provide food for Him.
The problem is they need to recognize that God doesn’t need them, they need God. That is the point of the indictment. He is not going to rebuke them because they are going through and applying the Law. But He says, “I don’t need your bulls and I don’t need your goats” because,
Psalm 50:10, “Every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.”
We often recite that verse, that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He can certainly provide for my need. That’s not the context of the verse. The context of the verse is that God is saying, “I don’t need what you have. I have all the livestock in the world. I can satisfy these needs if I had them. I don’t need your worship.”
God is not dependent upon us. He is the Creator and He is not dependent upon the creature.
He says in Psalm 50:11-12, “I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the fields are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness.”
“I can go out and take care of Myself. I am independent.”
What we see here is that they are going through the forms of the sacrifices, but without the right meaning. They are doing the right thing for the wrong reason.
We’ve learned this along the way, that a right thing done in a wrong way is wrong. A wrong thing done in a wrong way is wrong. Only a right thing done in the right way is right. And that means a right thing done with the right motivation and the right mental attitude.
When we just go through the motions, show up at church, sit down and take notes, and it’s all just routine, but our heart is not in it, it’s not really changing our lives. That’s what we refer to as formalism.
That’s what happens in so many churches all around the country, all around the city, all around the world. There are so many churches where, as I pointed out in the worship series, they recite these great and wonderful creeds and have no idea what they mean.
They say they believe these things but they don’t have any idea about how that belief should change the way they think or the way they live. They just recite them pro forma and it really means nothing to them. It’s very superficial.
So now God is going to tell them how to change things, how to fix it.
In Psalm 50:14 He says, “Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”
This is really the heart of what this psalm is about. He’s talking about the fact that the solution to this formalism, this superficial going through the motions relationship with Him, is going to be resolved by them humbling themselves before Him.
That begins with thanksgiving. What He’s talking about here is a sacrifice of praise. That language is used in the New King James in Jeremiah 33:11. It’s also used in Hebrews 13. The idea here of thanksgiving, the word in Hebrew is todah.
If you’ve been to Israel with me one of the things that you learn right away is how to say thank you, and that word is todah. If you say “Thank you very much” that is todah rabah.
Rabah means a unit of something greater, something large. It’s ”big thanks” or something like that. Thank you very much.
This is todah and it’s a form of a psalm. So, a sacrifice here is really a thanksgiving offering.
In order to thank God, to truly thank God for what we have, we recognize that we don’t deserve it. What goes along with recognizing you don’t deserve what God has given you?
It’s a recognition of our sinfulness. It’s a recognition that that we are not only unworthy, but if God did what He should righteously do, we should be immediately consigned to the Lake of Fire.
But rather than punishing us, which we deserve because we are sinners and an affront to His righteousness and justice, God is kind to us and He’s gracious to us.
When we think about that, “I didn’t deserve this at all. And God provided this for me,” we should be humbled.
What is humility? We’ve been teaching this on Thursday night. Humility is submitting to God’s authority. The problem that they have is that they are not submitting to God’s authority. They are living life independently of God and just going through the motions.
They do not have a mental attitude of true dependence upon God and submission to his Word. The first line there says, “to offer to God thanksgiving.”
If you are going to bring a thanksgiving sacrifice to God what you are recognizing, first of all, is that there was a situation in your life and you cried out to God to deliver you, to strengthen you, and God answered your prayer.
He delivered you, He healed you, He forgave you, and He rescued you, whatever it is. Now, according to the Mosaic Law, you have to do something publicly in response to what God has done. Now you are going to go to the temple, and it’s called a sacrifice of praise because it’s going to cost you something,
We don’t have this in the New Testament, but you can make a parallel and come up with some applications.
But you would first of all have to do what? We went through the sacrifices somewhat briefly.
First you have to bring a reparation or sin offering. That is going to cost you something. You’re going to bring a bull or a goat and you’re going to slaughter it. That will cost you some money, bringing this animal and slaughtering it.
There has to be a second sacrifice, which is the burnt offering. This animal is going to be killed. You’re going to have to slit its throat, and that animal is going to be put on the brazen altar and the fire lit.
Some of us have done this when we are trying to just grill our afternoon lunch and we just burned everything up as we got on a phone call or something.
That’s what happens with that burnt offering. Everything burned up and ascended to God. It’s a picture, “Now my sin has been forgiven, the reparation offering, now I am dedicating myself completely to God, and all of me, everything, belongs to Him.”
After the reparation offering there is going to be a fellowship offering, the peace offering. Let’s say you’re going to bring a bull and you’re going to kill the bull. The Levitical priests will eviscerate the bull, clean it out, and skin it. Then it is basically roasted, cooked, barbecued, on the big grill on top of the brazen altar.
Then what happens? You share the meal with everybody. It’s a picture of having fellowship with God. And because peace has been restored with God, and because He has done these things for me, then everybody gets to benefit from that.
There is blessing by association. The priests eat, the poor eat, your friends and everybody who’s around in the temple at the time get to partake of this big banquet. Then you stand up and make a public declaration of what God did for you.
We are going to switch that around a little bit. We are going to eat first and then were going to do the thanksgiving afterwards. But it’s the same idea. We eat together because we have we have fellowship with God. And because we are all in fellowship with God, we have fellowship with one another.
God says the solution to this in Psalm 50:14 is to “Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.”
In Psalm 50:15 God says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble ...”
That’s the first part of a declarative praise psalm. “I cried out to God, and I was in the pit”, or “I was ill”, or “my enemy surrounded me, but I called to God in the day of trouble” and God says “I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.”
“You glorify Me by telling others, because that tells people that I am real and I act in their lives. And I intervene in your daily situations and your circumstances. And that is going to strengthen and encourage everybody.”
But what happens if you don’t. One of the ways that the poor were taken care of was that they were to come to the temple and feed off of the sacrifices.
If everybody’s coming every day and there are these sacrifices and peace offerings taking place, the poor got fed.
But if everybody is apostate, and nobody’s coming to praise God then the poor are going hungry, and the priests are begging. This is what happened during the times of Isaiah and Jeremiah as well. A lot of what they write relates to that kind of thing.
In fact, there is a reference to this in Jeremiah 33:11, “The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say ‘Give thanks to the LORD of hosts for the Lord is good—that is what we are emphasizing in praise, God is good, He has done this for me—For His lovingkindness is everlasting.’ ”
Lovingkindness is a word you find again and again in these praise psalms. Especially the descriptive praise psalms that focus on the character of God, and they talk about these various attributes of God.
This is the word chesed. It says, “His covenantal faithful love toward me, is everlasting.”
“And of those who bring a thank offering—and in the New King James this is translated “a sacrifice of praise”. I took this from the New American Standard—“and those who bring a thank offering into the house of the LORD, for I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were at the first.”
There is a warning in Psalm 50:16 as we go on in the Psalm.
The second problem was one of hypocrisy. “The wicked …”
This is not a term for believers. This is a term for unbelievers, “But to the wicked God says, ‘What right have you to declare My statutes or take My covenant in your mouth.’ ”
Have you ever noticed that when certain things are happening socially around us that all of a sudden the Houston Chronicle and these other liberal rags will come out, and the first thing they do is run to the most liberal pastors and preachers, who aren’t biblical Christians at all, and they ask, “What do you think about this?”
There was a great event that occurred election night at Representative John Culberson’s headquarters after he lost reelection. He asked Pastor Ed Young from Second Baptist Church to close in prayer.
Dr. Young has gotten pretty feisty in his eighties and he said the Democrat party is not a party any more, it’s a godless religion. He went on talking about that for about five minutes.
Of course, the liberal press excoriated him for that. They had to go out and get the false teachers, the liberals, the not-really-Christian crowd, the wicked, and ask what they thought about what Dr. Young said.
They said “Well, we will pray for him.” They would quote some Scripture that would bolster their pseudo-humility.
That’s what these guys are doing. God is confronting the wicked saying, “What right have you to quote My Scripture? What right have you to talk about what is in My Word and to twist it and to misuse it and to abuse it?”
Psalm 50:17-23, “ ‘Seeing you hate instruction, and cast My words behind you? When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers.—God does not mince words—You give your mouth to evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done, and I kept silent.’ ”
God didn’t say anything, so they thought that it was okay with God. They thought that because God didn’t strike them with a lightning bolt that they must be okay, and that He was giving His permission.
He said, “ ‘You thought that I was just like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.’ ”
This is the divine discipline on that generation and He says,
“ ‘Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver: Whoever offers praise glorifies Me.’ ”
To offer praise isn’t just saying the right things. Praise comes from somebody who is spending time in their day-to-day walk with the Lord thinking about how God is involved in the things that are happening. Someone who is focused on God, He is at the center of their thoughts and their life.
They think theocentrically about the things that are going on around them. In doing that you see God involved and that brings praise to your lips, because you understand the work of God in your life.
“Whoever offers praise glorifies Me.”
God isn’t glorified because He is conceited and He just wants people to talk about Him. He receives glory when other people learn about who He is and turn to Him.
The purpose of praise is not only to talk about what God did. Its purpose is to teach and instruct others and to encourage and strengthen others who may be going through a similar set of circumstances.
“Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to Him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.”
God is talking about what they will learn. They will grow closer to Him as a result of praise.
The person who is genuinely praising God recognizes that He’s the one in need of God, that God doesn’t need my sacrifice, God doesn’t need my praise, God doesn’t need these things. He is totally self-sufficient and independent. But I need God, and because I need God, I am going to tell people what He has done for me.
The solution for formalism, the solution to hypocrisy, is humility and walking closely with God, learning to be dependent upon Him in everything.
It’s interesting, the word todah, which is used for a thank offering, for thanksgiving, is also a word that is translated in Leviticus to mean confession.
When we are thanking God, we must also be humbling ourselves and recognizing that we don’t deserve Him. It is interesting that in Hebrew there are words that have this kind of double nuance to them.
When we talk about praise and we talk about these different psalms, there are two types of praises, two types of psalms have been classified. One is called declarative praise and the other is called descriptive praise.
Declarative praise is giving thanks for something that God has done. Declarative praise is a response to something that God has done.
We give thanks to God. Thanksgiving is directed toward God and we thank Him for what He has done. And the declarative praise is a response and tells others about what God has done.
There are some other psalms that we’ll look at that are descriptive praise. They just talk about God’s attributes, God’s character. They are not grounded necessarily in a circumstance or a situation.
Legitimate praise becomes grounded in a person’s personal spiritual life and relationship with God. It grows out of their private prayer life, their reflection upon who God is and what He is doing in their lives, and that God is at the center of their life.
It’s interesting, when you read the rabbinical writings, often they use a lot of hyperbole. So this is a hyperbolic statement, but it gets the point across. They said, “If there are three people sitting at a table,”—you can think about the last time you had lunch with folks or what you were talking about—“if three people sit at a table and dined together, and they have no words of praise between them for the Lord, and they do not speak any words of Torah, it is as if they were eating with pagan gods.”
That conversation is not any different from a conversation and a dinner that unbelievers can have.
For believers our friendship is grounded in who God is and what He’s done for us. For it to be a distinctly Christian fellowship something is said about who God is, what He has done, we talk about the Word.
I’ve spent years with a lot of pastors as you can imagine. From the time I was in high school I have known a lot of pastors. There’s one thing I noticed early on, that nearly every pastor I know loves to talk about the Bible. They love to talk about theology, and they love to talk about the Lord.
I’ve run across one or two who would rather talk about football than the Lord. I’m not so sure they should be pastors, but that’s not my call. But that’s a difference and we can take that to heart.
God is concerned about our giving of thanks and our praise
Psalm 122:4, “Where the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, to the Testimony of Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.”
And what do we do when we are there?
We will look at Psalm 22 briefly before we wrap things up tonight. Psalm 22 is mostly known by us as a Messianic psalm, and that it is.
Psalm 22:1, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Jesus quotes this Psalm on the Cross. But I want to look at verse 22. Verse 22 to the end of the Psalm is a declarative praise section. We can learn something from this.
Psalm 22:22 says, “I will declare Your name to My brethren ...”
This is quoted also in Hebrews 2:12.
“I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”
You see, praise in Israel was something that was to be done in the public square, not something kept in private. It was not just talking or texting a friend. No, it was something that was thought out and you would make a statement in public.
“In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.”
Psalm 22:23, “You who fear the LORD, praise Him!”
That is a command. The word halal is used more than any other word in the psalms. It is used over and over again, and it’s used as a command.
Praise is not an option for believers. And yet, if you think about what happens in many churches, there’s very, very little opportunity for the body of believers to publicly express praise. Unfortunately, churches that do it don’t do it well. This is something we are going to improve on.
“I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I praise You. You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and fear Him, all you offspring of Israel!”
We glorify Him by telling of His mighty deeds. We fear Him because when we learn who God is and what He does, that builds our respect and fear for Him.
In Psalm 22:24,
“For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;”
He doesn’t get into details. He just says God does not ignore those who are going through difficult times, this is a summary statement.
“nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.”
As I told you, one of the elements of a praise psalm is a cry to God, “I cried to Him and He heard. God answered my prayer.”
Psalm 22:25, “My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him.”
When you praised God in the Old Testament you would make a vow. That’s not your normal tithes, that’s a special gift, a thanksgiving offering that you would bring to the temple. You would bring that along with all the sacrifices, so it was a costly event.
Psalm 22:26, “The poor shall eat and be satisfied.”
That’s what I was talking about a minute ago. When you have all the different offerings you end up with the peace offering, then the poor will be fed.
“Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!”
This is what happened with Hannah in 1 Samuel 1. We know that Hannah went to the temple and cried to the Lord because she was barren. She vowed that if God would give her a child, she would give that child back to God.
After she becomes pregnant and gives birth to Samuel, we read in 1 Samuel 1:24, “Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls,—she is not a poor person. She is not impoverished—one ephah of flour,—that’s like a bushel or more—and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh. And the child was young.”
1 Samuel 1:25, “Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli.”
They are going to have a meal. There were a lot of people who fed and feasted that day because of Hannah’s praise to God for what He had done.
And this is incumbent upon us.
Hebrews 13:15, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”
That is talking to Church Age believers, that we should be praising God continually.
“… that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”
We should be talking about who God is and what He has been doing, especially in giving thanks to His name. That is, for His character, for His essence, and for what He has done.
And then notice how it still involves the same thing,
Hebrews 13:16, “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
When God provides for you don’t go hoard it in the bank, go provide for others. Be generous.
I want to close here with Ephesians 5:18–20.
In Ephesians 5:18 we are told to be filled by means of the Spirit.
Ephesians 5:19, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
That’s the first result of being filled by means of the Spirit with His Word, “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
That’s not singing in your heart to the Lord. It’s singing and then making melody in your heart because you are joyful.
Then in Ephesians 5:20, “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
That’s the foundation for what we should be talking about and thinking about at this time when we celebrate our national Thanksgiving—reflecting upon the blessings of God.
Next time I’m going to talk about what we mean by these “blessings of God”. It fits in with what we’ve studied in Ephesians 1:3, “Bless the Lord Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies.” These will connect together.
That will be the second part on what it means to give thanksgiving and praise, and encourage you.
Think about how God has worked in your life the last year. And like I said it doesn’t have to be long. It shouldn’t be long. It doesn’t have to be anything that’s real formal, just identifying “God has really taught me a lot this last year and interceded in several events in my life, and I learned about His grace and His sovereignty and His providence.” Something along those lines.
“Father, thank You for this time together. We are thankful as a nation, as Americans, that we have the heritage of this nation. That we were founded by men and women who loved You, who knew Your Word, whose lives were shaped by Your Word.
“Who understood that freedom is not free, but freedom is purchased for us. That our spiritual freedom was purchased for us by Christ on the Cross, and our political or civic freedom was purchased by many who gave their lives on battlefields in war after war the last 200 years, securing our freedom. And this is in great jeopardy today.
“Father You’ve interceded in so many ways in the past in this nation, and we are certainly not deserving of any of Your grace or goodness or benevolence, but we do pray that we would not be hindered by government interference.
“There are so many who hate You, and who hate the Bible, and hate the absolute morals that You have established, and are in rebellion against it. They hate us because we represent You.
“Yet Father, we still have many believers who love You and who are witnessing, and who are taking the gospel around the world and supporting missionaries.
“We pray for their sake, for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of those who are taking Your Word around, for those who are growing as believers, that You might continue to give us the freedoms that we have that Your Word may go forth unhindered.
“Father, we do pray that there would be a change in this nation. We don’t know how that would happen or what would be necessary, but we have seen it happen in the past—for example, with those in Nineveh responding to the preaching of Jonah.
“That Your Word would transform the culture as it has in the past. And Father we pray for us, that whether that happens or not, we might walk closely with You, and humble ourselves under Your mighty hand, that You might in turn exalt us. And we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”