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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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 www.vanpopta.ca
 
Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
 jubileechurch.ca
 
Title:Thanksgiving
Text:Psalms 65 (View)
Occasion:Thanksgiving
Topic:Thankfulness
 
Preached:2010-10-10
Added:2010-10-08
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Philippian 4:4-13

Songs: Ps. 65:1,6; Ps. 65:2; Hy. 10:1,9,10; Hy. 65; Ps. 67

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ:

On this Thanksgiving weekend, for what are we thankful? Thanksgiving day is, traditionally, a harvest festival. We express our thanks to God for the harvest, that he provides food for us. And even though not many of us are farmers, yet we as a congregation are thankful that the fields produced their harvests and that we have food in our cupboards and on our tables.

But is that all we are going to thank God for? What if the harvest had not been good? What if there had been no harvest because of drought or other disaster? Would we still have had reason to be thankful? Would we still sing: "Now thank we all our God"? Or, if things go poorly, do we have good reason not to be thankful?

Let us allow the word of God, as it comes to us in Psalm 65, to guide us in our giving of thanks to God.

The theme of Psalm 65 can be stated thus:

The People Of God Thank And Praise God For His Goodness

We see His goodness in:

1. His grace (vv 1- 4)

2. His power (vv 5- 8)

3. His generosity (vv 9-13)

1. King David wrote this thanksgiving song. Most likely, the Israelites would sing it when they gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths (also called: the Feast of Ingathering). This feast was a harvest festival. In the middle of October, after the harvest had been gathered in, the Israelites would hold a great festival in Jerusalem. They would make booths out of branches. They would live in these booths for seven days. These booths would remind them of how they had had to live in temporary shelters as they were travelling through the wilderness from Egypt to the land of Canaan. During these seven days they would give special thanks to God for his goodness in saving them, in giving them a land to live in, and for the productivity of the land–for the good harvests.

In this Psalm King David thanked God for giving a good harvest. For being faithful to his promise to Noah. In Genesis 8:22 God had promised Noah, "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease."

However, King David put his expression of thankfulness for the harvest at the end of his song. First he thanked God for something else. For his forgiving grace. Much more important than a good harvest is the forgiveness of sins.

David said: "Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled.."

Why ought we to praise God and fulfill our vows (keep our commitments) to him? Because of a good harvest? Yes, but that's not the first reason. That comes later. All praise is due to God, and we fulfil our vows to God, because he is the God who hears us when we pray to him. When we ask him to forgive our sins.

King David said: "To you [God] all men will come." We have no choice but to go to him. He is the only one to whom we must and can go.

Sometimes we think that we cannot go to him. We think our sins are too great. Our sins keep us from going to God.

But then we've got it wrong. King David wrote that all are to come to God because of sin. We go to God because we are sinners. Our sins don't prevent us from going to God. They drive us to God.

We ask for forgiveness. And we'll not be disappointed. As David wrote: "When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions."

What it actually says in the Hebrew is: When our transgressions prevail over ...me God will forgive them. Halfway through the sentence, David falls into the first person singular. He makes it a personal confession of sin. And that's what each of us must do. Not only participate in general, communal confessions of sins. That's important as well. But each of us must, personally, confess his sin and ask for forgiveness. When you do that, something good happens.

Your transgressions are overwhelming you. Your sins seem to be winning the battle. You feel snowed under by your sins. Perhaps a specific, particular sin. Besieged! Beleaguered! What are you going to do? You are going to go to God with them. Your sins will not prevent you from going to God. In fact, says David, you will go to God on account of your sins. And then the good thing will happen: God will forgive them.

You see, your sins overwhelm you. But they do not overwhelm God. In fact, God overwhelms, over powers, your sins. God forgives them if you go to him confessing them and asking him for his forgiveness.

In this way God brings you back to himself. We separate ourselves from God by our sins. But God brings us back. He, out of his free, sovereign grace, chooses us (v. 4). Those whom he has chosen he brings near to himself.

We would not go to him on our own. Even after God has chosen us, we would still not go to him if it were left up to us. God brings us near to himself. Those whom he has chosen, he also calls through the gospel and brings near to himself.

In the language of theology we would say that not only is our election completely the work of God. Also our effectual calling is the work of God. He is the one who works in our hearts by the power of his Holy Spirit. God is the one who makes us turn away from our sin to God. Choosing us and drawing us to himself, he also makes us live in his courts. We remain right there, near him, forever. Also our perseverance is the work of God in us.

Our election, our conversion, our final perseverance in the faith–it is all the work of God. For the sake of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross, God does these things for us.

And, says King David at the end of verse 4, we are filled with the good things of God's house. We are satisfied, content. We are and we shall be satisfied with the goodness of the house of God, of his holy temple.

Child of God, is this your joy? Is this the ultimate reason for your thankfulness? That all of this: election, calling, forgiveness, conversion, perseverance, belonging to the church–is yours for the sake of Christ?

We thank God for the goodness of his grace.

2. But God who is rich in grace is also mighty in power. He has shown us his great power. That's the second thing we want to thank God for–for his power. Because he also shows us his goodness in this–his power, his might.

King David wrote about that in the vv. 5 - 8. He wrote about the mighty power of God which is evident in both nature and history. And he praised God for the awesome deeds he did in saving his people–in delivering them.

God has established the mountains. The mountains are there because God has put them there. God stills the roaring of the waves of the sea.

All of nature, creation, is in his hands. He establishes mountains. He levels them. He stirs up the ocean. He stills it.

And what God does in creation he does in history as well, among the nations. David said that God stills the turmoil of the nations.

Nations are fighting, clamoring and making a lot of noise. God quiets them down with a move of his hand.

As God shows his power in the midst of nature and history, he delivers his people. He makes room for them. He gives them a place to live, to work, and to worship him.

God showed his great power in saving Israel from Egypt. The plagues which the Lord brought down upon Israel clearly showed God’s power, control and lordship over nature. God can turn water into blood. He can invade a land with frogs. He can turn off the sun so it won't shine. He can open up a way through the Red Sea for his people. And he can destroy Pharaoh and his armies in that same sea.

God can do all these things because he has complete control over nature and history. And he exercises his control for the deliverance of his people.

Those who dwell upon the earth cringe when they see the signs of God's great power. When the Canaanites heard the rumor of what God was doing for his people Israel, they grew scared. Their hearts melted and their knees knocked. Here was a God unlike their gods. This God actually had the power to do something–not like their gods, who just sat their, lifeless.

And this God who did great things in nature and history for the deliverance of his people continued to do so throughout history. He delivered his people from Babylon. He delivered the church in the NT from the hands of persecutors. Read the book of Acts and you will see how God often saved his people in miraculous ways. He showed that he has control over nature and history.

God continued to do so. An example of only 500 years ago: When the Roman Catholic Philip II of Spain sailed 130 ships with 30,000 men to teach first England and then the Netherlands a lesson or two (he wanted to wipe the Reformed faith off the face of Europe, and he wanted to start in England and then proceed to the Netherlands) then God showed Philip a thing or two by blowing his fleet of ships, the famous Spanish Armada, to pieces off the coast of Scotland. The Reformed believers in England and the Netherlands praised and thanked God for showing his control over nature in such an awesome way. The enemies of God cringed and cowered in Spain. But God's people praised him.

God, the one who answers the cries of his people with dread deeds of deliverance, is the hope of all the ends of the earth. From east to west and from dawn to dusk his people shout for joy.

We thank God for the demonstration of his goodness in his grace, in his power, and…

3. Thirdly, in his generosity. David wrote about this in vv 9-13.

David said that God cares for the land. Not only does God exercise his magnificent power over the earth–nature and history. He also cares for the land in his love for it and in tenderness.

He waters the land. The rain from the clouds is like a river coming from God's holy place. The farmer ploughs up his fields. The dirt is hard. Then God lets the rain fall. He softens the furrows.

The farmer seeds the fields. The Lord blesses it. The crops grow.

The year is crowned with the Lord's bounty. At harvest time we thank God for his great generosity in providing a good yield.

David said that the carts of God overflow with abundance. It's as if God personally visits each of the fields. He drives a cart through them. This cart is heaped and overflowing with rich, abundant produce.

Even the grasslands of the desert overflow. Even they are filled, with grain, corn, and other crops. When David speaks of the grasslands of the desert he means the dry regions of Palestine. When God moistens these dry grasslands with his gentle rain, and when he visits them with his blessing, then they cannot but help produce a good harvest.

And so, said David, the hills are glad. The meadows are covered with flocks of sheep. The valleys are mantled with grain. All together–hills, meadows and valleys–they shout and sing to God for joy.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, we thank God for his generosity in providing a good harvest. But what if it had gone otherwise? What if God, through the weather, had destroyed the crops? If the stores and produce stands were empty? Would we still be thankful? Would we still sing: Now thank we all our God?

Yes, we would. I would take you back to the end of verse 4 where David said, and he wants all of God's people to say it: We are filled with the good things of your house.

We are thankful for the harvest. But if God had not given a harvest, we would still be thankful to God for the good things of his house. We would still be thankful to God for the forgiveness of sins. Yet would we praise God. We would still fulfill the vows we made to him.

We are thankful for God's mighty power in nature and history by which he intervenes on behalf of his people. But if God, in his wisdom, were to use nature and history to test us and to discipline us–if we were to suffer "natural" disaster or war, oppression or persecution–we would still sing: "Now thank we all our God." For the primary blessing, the very first thing for which we thank God, is the forgiveness of sins. We are satisfied with the goodness of God's house.

It is enough. God's grace is sufficient for us. With God's grace we've got everything. Without God's grace, we've got nothing. Let us, with the apostle Paul, learn to be content, in whatever state we are. Be anxious about nothing. Be thankful in all circumstances. Rejoice in the Lord always. Let us, with Paul, learn the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want.

Let us learn the secret the prophet Habakkuk learned. (End of Hab 3; Hymn 10): Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

Let us offer our thanks to the one to whom all praise is due. Let us thank him for the harvest. Let us thank him his awesome deeds in nature and history. But most of all, let us thank him that he has, through Christ Jesus, brought us back to himself that we may dwell in his house forever.

With that we satisfied. It is enough. AMEN

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2010, Rev. George van Popta

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