GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 587 • November 29, 2020
A THANKSGIVING PSALM
The outstanding and most notable characteristic of humanity in the present generation may be ingratitude, the lack of appreciation and thankfulness. The same is true of every generation. We are the “is that all there is” generation. We are the “never satisfied” and “never enough” generation. We are the “you only go around once so grab for everything you can get” generation. The most glaring defect of people is the failure to thank God properly. Other persons may call us out if we fail to express thanksgiving. God does not do so audibly. He does so in His Word in the Bible, but many or most do not read or give heed, and those who preach and teach His word do not emphasize it properly, repeatedly, and emphatically enough.
This sermon is an attempt call attention to the need and obligation to give thanks to God, why and how to do it. Our primary text is Psalm 136:1-26. This Psalm repeats one word and one phrase with absolute accuracy and detail twenty six times to explain why and for what we should give thanks to God. It explains repeatedly why and for what we should give thanks to God – because of His HESED which can be a useful Hebrew synonym for the Greek AGAPE (love), though with some basic differences. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; They are new every morning: Great is Thy faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul. Therefore I will trust in Him.” Lamentations 3:22-24.
MEANING AND IMPORTANCE OF HESED – AN ATTRIBUTE OF GOD EXPRESSED OFTEN IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.
HESED appears 249 times in the Old Testament, 127 times in the Psalms, 26 times in our current text, Psalm 136. The word has a wide variety of meanings: the quality of unchanging or unvarying steadfastness, urgency and fervency and dependability of love, mercy, goodness, faithfulness, kindness, sympathy, charity, benevolence, sympathy, helpfulness, fellowship. It is covenantal – reserved for those who accept and agree with a specific covenant relationship with God. Here is where it varies from AGAPE (the Greek word for a special kind of love). AGAPE is unrestricted, universal – nobody is excluded from it. But HESED is reserved as an obligation and promise only for those in covenant fellowship. Faithful Jews of the Old Covenant waiting for the Messiah/Christ could depend upon God’s steadfast love, mercy, goodness, etc. God obligates himself to maintain the same steadfast relationship with faithful Christians under the New Covenant now and forever.
In this Psalm God is spoken of by three different but equally important Hebrew names (not evident in most translations). Verse 1: Give thanks unto the LORD – YAHWEH (JEHOVAH). The Is-Was-Will Be – Eternal God, the faithful covenant maker and keeper God who identified Himself to Moses as I AM that I AM. Exodus 3:13-14. Verse 2: Give thanks unto the GOD of gods – ELOHIM. The Almighty, the Creator. Verse 3: Give thanks to the LORD of lords – ADONAI. The Sovereign God, the Lord, the Master. Verse 26: Give thanks to the God of heaven for His steadfast love endures forever.
Why give thanks to God? I am using the ESV (RSV) as a matter of choice. KJV says for His mercy endures forever. NIV says His love endures forever. NASB says His lovingkindness is everlasting. ESV says for His steadfast love endures forever. Add and compare Isaiah 54:10. “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing steadfast love (HESED) for you will not be shaken, will not depart from you and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord who has compassion for you.” Add Romans 8:35-39 and read it carefully with proper expression, especially that part which says we are more than conquerors in and through Christ and that nothing that exists can separate us and deprive us of the love of God that is ours in Christ.
Now read Psalm 136, the first line of every verse and notice the repetition of the second line after every verse –to see what God has done, is doing, and will do, and why we ought to trust Him and give thanks for His steadfast love that endures forever. Notice how the psalm includes and refers to so many things referenced elsewhere in the scripture – creation, maintenance of the universe, the leading, providence, and protection of the Lord. Each of the 26 verses in the psalm ends with the same phrase: for His steadfast love endures forever. Here is a composite of the first line of each verse and the statement of God’s HESED, His steadfast love stated only once at the end.
“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, give thanks to the God of gods, give thanks to the Lord of lords; to Him who alone does great wonders, to Him who by understanding made the heavens. To Him who spread out the earth above the waters, to Him who made the great lights – the sun to rule over the day and the moon and stars to rule over the night. To Him who struck down the first-born of Egypt and brought Israel out from among them with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, to Him who divided the Red Sea in two and made Israel to pass through the midst of it but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea; to Him who led His people through the wilderness, to Him who struck down great kings and killed mighty kings – Sihon, king of the Amorites and Og, king of Bashan and gave their land as a heritage to His servant Israel. It is He who remembered us in our low estate and rescued us from our foes, He who gives food to all flesh. Give thanks to the God of heaven for His steadfast love endures forever.”
SOME DOUBT GOD’S GOODNESS IN PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES IN THE WORLD, EVEN IN THE CHURCH OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.
The pandemic virus, the hostility of the world, the BLM and ANTIFA madness, the voter fraud, the changing Democrat party, the socio-cultural shift embracing the LGBTQ agenda, etc make it difficult to say “God is good.” Some are asking, “Why is God letting this happen?” But even when we can’t understand why things are as they are it doesn’t change the nature of God or His involvement with us. God does not, cannot, and should not do everything for everybody just the way each person wants it and asks for it, because people are essentially selfish and care only about themselves, their things, their wishes, and not much for others. The steadfast love, mercy, goodness, and fellowship of God certainly exposes the lack of steadfastness, love, goodness, mercy and kindness in most people. It also exposes the lack of thankfulness and faithfulness in people, even the people of God – the Christians and the churches.
What is the proper response to God’s steadfast enduring love and how can it be expressed? It is set forth plainly and concisely in Psalm 25:1-2. “Unto Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in Thee. Let me not be ashamed, let not my enemies triumph over me.” Those who realize what the Lord has done for their salvation should sing often, “Thank You Lord for loving me … and saving my soul.”
CONCLUSION: My own soul is often bruised and broken, often presented to the Lord for healing and restoration, and is needy now for strength, reconciliation, reassurance, hope, and peace. I lift it up and offer it to the Lord God to receive everything it needs – all that I need.
Father God, we do thank You and our Lord Jesus Christ
Please bless to us the time we have spent together today. Bind us together in the perfect love and holiness of Christ as Your people in him. Forgive the sins we confess and repent.
Renew in us hope and assurance that we are Your people. Help us to be faithful in our journey to Your Presence in Your heaven – nothing separating us from You and our salvation in Christ.
Send us away from here and into the world today with renewed courage and commitment to be lights for Christ in Your world, showing others how to live in Your steadfast love that endures forever. We pray to You always in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.