Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1327
Dr. Ed Pettus November 19, 2017 Psalm 106
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
Thanksgiving, for He is Good Ps. 106.1-3
This time of year we think about Thanksgiving, in particular a day set aside to give thanks for our blessing, for our history as a nation, and to reflect on those who first gave thanks when they settled in this country. We give thanks for food and family and blessings from God. Let’s not concern ourselves with the leftist attempt to rewrite the history of Thanksgiving, but let us look to Scripture and the reasons we trust the Pilgrims gave thanks and the reasons we still offer our thanks today and especially on Thanksgiving Day.
First, I want to comment on the connection between giving thanks and praising God. Claus Westermann, a German theologian, says that giving thanks is a part of the larger act of praise. Giving thanks is something like a subset of the overall discipline of praising God. In giving thanks we are giving praise. So I believe that when we praise God we are also including in that praise a word of thanks. We praise God because we are grateful to God. We thank God because He is praiseworthy. Giving thanks and praise places us in a position of awareness of at least two things: the greatness of God and our need for God. We are not our own; we belong to God and thus we have constant reason for thanks to God.
Let’s take a look at Psalm 106.
Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
2Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare all his praise?
3Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!
First notice that the Psalm begins with praise. It begins in praise and it ends in praise, verse 48.
48Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the Lord!
Praise envelops the Psalm. So we might say that gratitude also envelops the Psalm. In the middle of this surrounding discipline of praise is the story of God among His people and the unfortunate failing of Israel. Verses 1-3 set the tone, praise, give thanks to the Lord. Why give thanks? Two reasons: because God is good and because God’s steadfast love endures forever. That would be sufficient for praise and thanks, but the Psalm goes on to give very concrete reasons.
Before doing that, verse 2 basically says that all our praise and all our thanks does not even come close to what God has done for us. But even so, we are called to offer our praise and thanks. In the book of Hebrews it is called a “sacrifice of praise.” “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb. 13.15). Praise and thanks are indeed sacrificial. We offer something of ourselves to God by offering our praise and thanks. We are acknowledging in these acts that there is something or Someone greater than ourselves. We are acknowledging that God is worthy of our praise and thanksgiving for a reason and thus no other gods are worthy and no other powers are worthy. We thank God and praise God alone for all things. Ultimately this means that behind all other thanks, thanks to family and friends and government and systems, is our thanks to God. Hebrews tells us to do this continually...all the time! Pray without ceasing, thanks without ceasing, praise without ceasing, love without ceasing, all done continually, always, never forgotten.
Thanksgiving Forgotten Ps. 106.6-7
6Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
7Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
One of the great dangers for people of God is amnesia, that is, forgetting to give thanks. The confession of sin in Psalm 106 is that the current and past generations had sinned by not remembering the love of God. When we forget His love, His works, and His presence, we forget to give thanks for His love and work and presence and it leads to rebellion.
Over and over again Israel is reminded not to forget. They had to be reminded because they kept forgetting, and when they forgot, they did not give thanks. It is not just that forgot mentally, but they often began to replace their thoughts and their actions with what they claimed to have done instead of what God had actually done. Second thing they would do is to not keep commandment which also led them to forget to give thanks. Deuteronomy 8:11-17 is a classic example,
11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt...17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’
Forgotten commandments and forgotten God leads to no praise or thanks. No praise and thanks leads to all kinds of problems – amnesia, disobedience, idolatry, and the like.
Thanksgiving Renewed Ps. 106.8-12
8 Yet he saved them for his name's sake, that he might make known his mighty power.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry, and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
11 And the waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left.
12 Then they believed his words; they sang his praise.
The Psalm seeks after God to save once again just as God has saved in the past. God is credited with parting the waters of the sea to save a people and leading them through the desert. The request of the Psalmist is to be remembered by God, “Remember me…help me when you deliver them” (Psalm 106:4). The Psalm recounts the many times God delivers a people who essentially forget God time and time again.
Because God saved them yet again, the people believed again, in verse 12, and they offer the sacrifice of praise. They offer thanks again for what God had done. Even though they sinned against God, He delivered and thanks was once again offered.
Thanksgiving Forgotten Again Ps. 106.13-39
Let’s look at the middle of the Psalm for more of the story.
A quick overview of the story.
106:14 – Amnesia led Israel to crave the “comfort” of Egypt. They yearned for the return to slavery thinking that God had lead them out only to let them die. So, instead of giving thanks for deliverance, they put God to the test.
106:19-20 – They forgot God by practicing idolatry, making the golden calf and worshiping it instead of God. They gave their praise and thanks to a metal idol, the image of those on which they road out of Egypt.
106:24 – They despised the land and had no faith in God’s promise.
25 – They grumbled against God and were disobedient to His commands.
28 – They worshiped other gods. Idolatrous again.
29 – They provoked the Lord with their actions.
34-39 – They grew deeper into disobedience by some of the worst ways possible.
The consequence of their amnesia and the resulting action is clear.
Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the whore in their deeds (106:39).
They no longer gave thanks and praise because they no longer remembered God and everything He had done.
Thanksgiving Renewed in Memory Ps. 106.40-48
Having recited the story – having heard and told of what God has done, the Psalmist prays for a similar act of deliverance. Verses 44-45 are key. 44 Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. 45 For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
God heard their cry and remembered and showed compassion. God remembers even when we do not. God is faithful even when we are not. God loves even when we do not.
Once again, when God saves, they remember to give thanks, they remember the reasons to give thanks. They bless and praise and give thanks. It is an amazing and wonderful work of God to forgive and bring more and more reasons for Israel to offer thanks again and again.
We have abundant reasons for thanksgiving. So much so that we could never match our offering of thanks with God’s abundant gifts. Biblically we give thanks for God’s works in places like Psalm 106, but there is vastly more from all over the Scriptures. We can give thanks for all the stories that mention God’s patience, memory, forgiveness, restoration, and for Israel’s life with God. We move to the New Testament to give thanks for Jesus, redemption, love, mercy, gifts, earthly blessings, heavenly blessings, history, and the life of the early church. Beyond the Bible we have multiple reasons for praise and thanks. We can give thanks for our church, it’s history and life, our roles within and through the ministry here. We can give thanks for our work or retirement, for family and friends, for life and breath, and food and shelter, and on and on and on.
What I want us to consider is the danger of forgetting gratitude that we might fall into the same condition of amnesia in Israel. Instead we should consider all the ways we might cultivate a heart of gratitude in our lives. We can cultivate a heart of praise. God has done much in abundance for our life and we have reason to offer abundant thanksgiving and praise. Thursday is a special time to consider these things, but everyday offers us another day to offer our sacrifice of thanks and praise. Make thanksgiving a constant whisper on our lips and a constant song in our hearts. Thank you, Lord. Praise the Lord! Amen.