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Author:Pastor Ted Van Raalte
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 Canadian Reformed Church - CanRC
 
Preached At:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
 www.redeemer-canrc.ca
 
Title:To be God is to be Almighty
Text:LD 10 (View)
Occasion:Thanksgiving
Topic:Thankfulness
 
Preached:2004-10-10
Added:2005-05-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 147:1,2.
Hymn 1A
Read: First Chronicles 16.
Psalm 147:3,4.
Text: Lordís Day 10
Hymn 60:1,2,3.
Psalm 52:5,6.
Hymn 60:4,5.
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved Congregation in our Lord Jesus Christ,
As we will give thanks this week, today and tomorrow especially, we now may reflect on who the God is who deserves our thanks. If we honour Canadaís mighty troops of the past with a Remembrance Day, and if we honour the strength of our companies with Christmas dinners, then with what shall we honour the Almighty, our God? He has been good to us again this year.
Canadaís Supreme Court is a mighty court, but not almighty. Proctor and Gamble is a powerful company, but not all-powerful. The cultural movement that wants to make homosexuality accepted and much more seems strong, but it is impotent before God. Bruce may be big and strong, but he is not almighty. There is only One who qualifies as almighty.
We confess him to be God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. When we say that he is almighty, we are confessing something what he always is. Our forefathers long ago confessed that he is almighty. We confess the same. God grant that our children do also. God is the same, yesterday, and today, and forever. He is always almighty. I wish to establish this basic point as a foundation in point 1, and then we will turning to Thanksgiving in points 2 and 3.
It works like this: He alone must receive our thanks because he alone is almighty. Everything flows out of his plan. All things come by his fatherly hand. We receive all these things with joy because he gives in his love through Jesus Christ our Lord. I preach Godís Word as follows:

To be God is to be almighty always; let us give thanks that we are in his care:
1. This God plans for us as our God;
2. This God provides for us as our Father.
3. This God loves us through our Saviour.


1. This God plans for us as our God:
It seems to me that in Lordís Day 10 we really have the further explanation of what it means that God is "almighty." The Apostlesí Creed is a brief summary, confessing that God created the heavens and the earth. But he finished that in six days, long ago. It might seem that nothing is said about Godís actions today, as the earth continues to make its circuit around the sun. But a summary always has each word chosen carefully, and when we come to the word "almighty" in the creed we come to the confession of Godís providential care. There is someone guiding the earth in its orbit.
It would not be right to say that we believe God was almighty when he created the heavens and the earth, but that he is not almighty anymore. For, God does not change. Even if he does not always show his powers in exactly the same way, he does remain all powerful all the time. This teaching, in fact, goes to the very root of what it means for God to be God. If he changes, he would not be God anymore. If he is less than almighty, he would not be God.
There is no question that for us the word "almighty" is a core confession. It is also a radical statement, because it goes to the root of who God is. Either he is almighty or he is not God at all. God must be, by definition, almighty.
Let us see how the word "almighty" was used in the Old Testament. In Hebrew we read quite early of El-Shaddai. Gen. 17:1, "When Abram was ninety-nine years old, Yahweh appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless." "God Almighty" in the Hebrew is El-Shaddai. El means God and Shaddai means Almighty. Shaddai comes from two words. The first word is a short form which means "Who." It is simply the "sha" sound of Shaddai. The second word is "dai." This is a word that means "sufficiency," or, "enough." Shaddai really means "He who is self-sufficient." El-Shaddai means, "God who is self-sufficient." In other words, he has everything he needs in himself. God stands alone without needing others in any way. He is El-Shaddai, God Almighty. No power is greater than he. Nothing else exists without his power, because he is ALL mighty.
Yahweh appeared to Abram and said, "I am El-Shaddai. Walk before me and be blameless." What was God saying to Abram? God was putting everything on his own shoulders because he is El-Shaddai, Almighty. Abram should not fear any other power or person, but fully trust in the LORD who had a plan for his life. Abram should not be concerned about his own old age. God would bring it all to pass as the self-sufficient, almighty God.
Another name for God in the Old Testament is "The LORD of Hosts." It first appears in 1Sam. 1:3, "Year after year [Elkanah] went up from his house to sacrifice to the LORD of Hosts at Shiloh." The NIV has now made this "The LORD Almighty." Behind it is a phrase we know from Lutherís hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is our God," where we sing in verse 2, "Christ Jesus it is he, Lord Sabaoth his Name, from age to age the same." Tsebaoth is how it sounds in Hebrew. What does this mean? Tsebaoth means "hosts" or "armies" or "powers." It can refer to Israelís armies and to angelic armies, indeed to all powers. The LORD is over all these powers. All the hosts of heaven and earth are at his disposal. Therefore he is the LORD Almighty.
Notice how this is. We donít mean he is able to be almighty. No, we mean that he is constantly using his powers in this world to bring about his will. He is always almighty. El-Shaddai and LORD Sabaoth acts the living comfort of his people. When their hosts or armies are weak and helpless, he reveals himself through Samuel as "The LORD Almighty." All the powers are in his hand. His people are under his care. He is acting to fulfil his plan for them, just as he has promised. Let them trust the LORD Almighty, LORD Tsebaoth. Let them yield to the plan of El-Shaddai, God who is self-sufficient and yet strikes up a relationship with his people. This is God Almighty.
God is also called almighty in the New Testament, especially in the Book of Revelation. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who was and is and is to come, the Almighty." In this case the word "almighty" also is a very active word. It could be translated as "all-ruling" and "all-sovereign." The word does not just mean what God is able to do, but what he does actually do. It means that as almighty God, he is always ruling heaven and earth and all creatures.
The early church fathers explained this word in the Creed like this: "[God is called almighty] because he rules and compasses all things. For the heights of the heavens and the depths of the abysses and the limits of the world are in his hand." Another said, "He is called almighty because he wields power of over all things." Still another argued that God can only be almighty if he is one, for if there is a multitude of gods, they cannot all be almighty. Only one is able to be almighty, because the definition of almighty must mean exactly what it says, ALL mighty. Not almost almighty, not just about almighty, but ALL mighty over ALL things ALL the time.
This is our God, brothers and sisters, who guides and directs all things so that not even a hair falls from your head without his will. This is exactly what Jesus himself taught us. God has planned for all the things that take place. This belongs to his almighty power, because his power is not simply a theoretical or possible power, but a real power which is actually being continually exercised. He is all-ruling. Since his power is being continually exercised, and it is a power over everything, there is nothing that escapes his governance. Godís providence is his almighty and ever-present power, whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that . . . Precisely because God is not simply reacting to this or that thing we do, but actually directing it all, he must be proceeding according to plan. People ask whether God is able to restore a virgin after virginity is lost. But they forget that the loss of virginity also came under the inscrutable plan of God. He does not just step in now and then, but directs all things according to his plan.
This brings me to mention a very blasphemous movie that hit the theatres last year called "Bruce Almighty." I will never watch it, but I have read numerous reviews. The premise of the movie was that Bruce, a man unhappy with his lot in life, blames God until God finally decides to give this Bruce Godís powers while God goes on vacation so that Bruce would learn that "it ainít easy beiní God." But as God leaves Bruce he reminds him of two rules. 1. Donít tell anyone you are God. 2. You may not interfere with anyoneís free will. Some Christian reviewers criticized the movie for its bedroom scene and its offensive language. But only one that I could find criticized the defective view of God. For the basic problem is that God is not almighty at all. The producer, Tom Shadyac, said in an interview, "Yes, God cannot make you love him, thatís the thing." The Questioner says, "Thatís high theology!" Shadyac responds, "Yes it is! [Bruce in the movie] says [to God], ĎHow can you make someone love you if you cannot affect free will?í God says, ĎWelcome to my world, son.í" But here, to the church of Jesus Christ, I say that this is not Godís world. Shadyacís movie simply presents the logical position of Arminianism, and he is wrong. We have a God who is Almighty, governing, moving, and directing all things according to his plan and decree. There is nothing outside of his power, for he is almighty.
We have a creed, which Shadyac as a Roman Catholic and so many Arminians also claim as their own. But in effect they deny the very first line of the Creed, "I believe in God the Father almighty." He is almighty over everything except your heart, they say. Oh that all people would acknowledge the great power of God instead of trying to hold onto some for themselves! His power is always acting. He asks us to accept that even if some things in life appear different. Will you do that? Will you simply submit to him? Will you trust in him as the God who plans for you and holds your future securely? Will you not worry? Show you believe that he is almighty! The foundation, now, has been laid. We know who God is. Let us confess his actual providing.


2. This God provides for us as our Father:
It has pleased Almighty God to provide for us again for another year. But as soon as we say this we realize how true it is that he is not in an ivory tower far away. He provides for us. He is our Father. I had said that the Creed is a summary, with carefully-chosen words. The word almighty describes God as he is forever, but especially as he is today, ruling over his universe. The word Father is the second word that confesses Godís continual care over his creation. His hand is an almighty hand, yet it is also a fatherly hand. His power is guided by his fatherhood. His plan was moulded in accordance with his fatherhood. He provides for us now as our Father.
As we give him thanks for his blessings, we must do so just as children should to their father. God cares for us. His heart is turned toward us. This is something very tender and special that we are confessing. It goes beyond confessing his almighty power, for now we confess his fatherly love. We know that all things are in his control, be it rain or sunshine, be it health or sickness, be it riches or poverty, be it getting a job or losing a job. Everyone in the whole world should thank him for the good things and be patient in the difficult ones, simply because it is not in their control. Everyone owes this sort of honour to God. But we, my brothers and sisters, confess that he is our Father. We are subject to many of the same joys and troubles as the rest of the world, but we understand all of them differently. They come from the hand of our heavenly Father. He determined these things for us not because he is experimenting like a scientist who does not know the outcome, but because as our Father he knows the path he will lead us to bring us into his heavenly kingdom.
Not one of us has received exactly the same things from him in the past year. Some of us have greatly suffered, some in the body, some in the soul. Some have suffered because of the unfaithfulness of others in their lives. Some have received blessings which were totally unexpected. Some have seen doors open for which they prayed. It helps all of us - it must! - to confess that our Father has governed all these events by his fatherly hand. He knows the path he is taking us on to lead us into his heavenly kingdom. Do we know it? Not ahead of time. But we know his promises to take us there. With the confidence that he will see us through, let us remain faithful in the midst of suffering. Whether it is of the body or the soul, let us not allow the troubles that God brings upon us to separate us from him, for that is not his reason for bringing them. If he brought these troubles to drive us away, then he is not a Father to us. His Word and promise is all we know. There he says that he provides for us as our Father. With such a confession we come to him with thanksgiving.
The Lord willing, we will give him thanks for the good things he gave us. We will thank him for our health, our food and drink, our crops, our pay cheques, our children, our families, our school, the brothers and sisters in the church, and much more. Giving thanks for these things makes it okay to enjoy a feast as his gift to us. The feast is like a foretaste of heaven. It is like Psalm 34, "Oh taste and see that the LORD is good." But if we feast without giving thanks, God will make it a bitterness in our mouths and an acid in our stomachs. Ingratitude is a terrible sin. That is why Thanksgiving is a very Christian holiday. It is a way of acknowledging that our God is almighty. We also give testimony that we love him as our Father. We acknowledge that he has loved us.
We must wonder sometimes, though, whether those in famine and drought can still celebrate Thanksgiving. Indeed, they can and must. Thanksgiving is, after all, a basic attitude of life towards God. We confess that these troubling things also come from him. Drought and barren years, sickness and poverty, they also come by his fatherly hand, and we need to be patient in adversity. Our thanksgiving therefore should go deeper than giving thanks for good health. The truth is that God our Father is wise and has his plan. Although we ourselves may be suffering, we should still thank him for giving us life. We also should not isolate ourselves as though some years of trouble for us personally would suddenly change the character of God from Father to something else. We are not the only ones in the world. His children whom he blesses are all around us. And then if we look back in history we know that he has blessed our forefathers.
Let 1Chron. 16 be an inspired example for us, with its collection of the verses of various psalms. Verse 8 starts with, "Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name." Here calling on his name does not mean asking for things, but directly addressing him in prayer as our Father to thank him for his goodness. In the next breath it is commanded, "Make known among the nations what he has done." This clearly belongs to thanksgiving, for the next verse has the same two-fold expression. "Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts." Singing to him and telling others of his acts are both alike honouring to him. As we give thanks, the next verses also teach us: "Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced." The psalm continues in this way. Notice that the thanksgiving is not restricted to the previous year of King David. Nor is it held down to food and drink. Rather, the fatherly hand of God throughout history is praised. We should read this like little children who are hearing about their very own parentsí experiences, sitting on the edge of their chairs, listening. For here we confess the work of God among our forefathers in the faith. May I suggest that you read First Chronicles 16 tomorrow at your thanksgiving meal? It is a collection from various psalms with some additions, beautifully crafted to express thanksgiving to God.
One of the key things of this thanksgiving in 1Chron. 16, like all the rest of Scripture, is its framework. The framework clearly is the sovereignty of God. No one who reads this should for one second question whether God is almighty. Verse 12, "He allowed no man to oppress them." No matter what was the desire of their will! God is Almighty. Verse 26: "For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens." Verse 31: "Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, "The LORD reigns!í" It is the assumption that lies behind every verse and it is clearly said often enough. He is God and therefore he is almighty, always. Let us give thanks that we are in his care, that he is our Father. The fact is that in the past year he has richly provided for us again. We all have many reasons to give thanks. There remains yet one last block to mortar into the foundation, so that you will not doubt these words. I proclaim, finally:


3. This God loves us through our Saviour:
I turn for this to First Chronicles 16:35, "Cry out, "Save us, O God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, that we may glory in your praise." This is a petition that God continue to give reasons for thanks. Then this prayer for salvation is completed with praise, in the sure faith that God will provide the salvation requested of him. " Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said ĎAmení and ĎPraise the LORD.í" Amen and Hallelujah, they said. It is true! Praise the LORD! We must thank him now and we will continue to do so.
God is called our Saviour, and we know him as such through Jesus Christ our Lord. "Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he! Lord Sabaoth his Name." I trust you now make the connection to Lord of Hosts, He who is over all the Powers. Lord Sabaoth is his Name. Whose name? The name of Jesus Christ. He too is the LORD of Hosts. One little word of his shall fell his foes. Yes, we have a Saviour who is God Almighty. Let him come in, the King of Glory!
God your Father loves you through Christ Jesus his Son. This is the last block of the foundation for Thanksgiving. You have a Saviour who is so almighty that nothing shall separate us from the love of God, for it is a love in Jesus Christ our Lord. All the children of God have reasons for thanksgiving when they know themselves as children of their heavenly Father through Jesus Christ his Son. No creature shall separate us from Godís love, not when that love was secured by Christ Jesus who is Lord Sabaoth, greater than any creature.
To be God is to be almighty always. Let us give thanks that we are in his care. He loves us through our Saviour. God makes our thanksgiving so rich, so full, so wonderful, so complete, and so full of hope for the final harvest. Praise God for guiding every single thing in your life according to his all-wise plan! Ask him to continue to preserve and save you. Having asked, you can say, Amen! and, Hallelujah! Thatís how true it is that your Almighty Father will do it in Christ. Amen



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2004, Pastor Ted Van Raalte

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