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The First Thanksgiving Hymn

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
September 14, 2020 1:00 am

The First Thanksgiving Hymn

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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That's like a man or a woman going back to that cancer center where they first heard the news of their terminal disease and going there specifically to give thanks to God. Just like a country that is ripped apart by death and division, stopping for one day right in the middle of a civil war and giving thanks. All of those illustrations are unnatural.

They are supernatural. Thankfulness is an important virtue. It's more than just good manners. But as Stephen was just describing a moment ago, there are times when thankfulness is very difficult, especially when we're in the middle of a crisis. However, when we consider what God has done for us, thankfulness is the appropriate response. Psalm 100 teaches this truth and that's our theme today.

This is Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. Stephen is continuing through a series of select Psalms entitled, The Song Volume 2. His lesson for you today is entitled, The First Thanksgiving Hymn.

Here's Stephen right now. Before I have you open to that text, let me just sort of set it up by telling you about Sarah Hale. She was born in 1788. She was, among other talents, a poet. In fact, her poem, one of her poems became rather famous, Mary's Lamb.

It was entitled, begins, Mary had a little lamb. In fact, that was so universally known that Thomas Edison used those lines you just said when he delivered his first speech ever recorded on his newly invented phonograph. You know that as a record player, a square thing that spins around these disks that has come back. Have you noticed that? It's back in vogue.

You should have kept all of those albums, made a fortune. At any rate, he used those words. Sarah became the editor of two different magazines for women. She would use her influence to argue for the end of slavery. She also appealed to one president of the United States after another to set aside one special day for an annual observation of thanksgiving to God. After decades of persistence, Abraham Lincoln was the president who agreed and set it up. Lincoln, by the way, if you know a little bit of his history, seemed really the most unlikely candidate to agree simply because launching a national day of thanksgiving would mean that they would all thank God right in the middle of the Civil War, which they did. He proclaimed it and the first observance was in 1863, smack dab in the middle of a time when you wouldn't think anybody would want to thank God for anything. In fact, Lincoln's proclamation included these words.

Let me just quote a few of them. I, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States to observe a day of thanksgiving and praise to our Father and I recommend to them that while offering up statements of praise due to him for blessings, they do, note this, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience. In other words, Abraham Lincoln wanted thanksgiving to become nothing less than a day of national confession and revival and he called the nation perverse and begged it to confess and thank God. Since that time, every president has proclaimed thanksgiving as a national observance. They make a thanksgiving proclamation, it's been happening now for a hundred and fifty plus years. However, I found it interesting that one year, thanksgiving was celebrated in December because President Andrew Johnson forgot. Isn't it encouraging to know that the President of the United States forgot to give thanks to God? Well, the truth is, I think, in fact, when I read that, I thought, you know, I resemble Andrew Johnson more than Abraham Lincoln.

I don't know about you, I forget. According to Romans chapter 1, one of the chief characteristics of a digressing culture is an inability to be thankful. You might think that the marks of a perverse culture, you know, a wicked culture, would be something other than people who are ungrateful. In fact, Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3 verse 2 and he actually puts ingratitude in front of other words to describe a perverse culture.

Words like unholy, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of good. All that followed ingratitude. It's interesting that Paul will describe his culture as a people who refuse to give thanks, which is what we did a moment ago. Even though, he writes, even though they knew about God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks. I think that's all that is to really just sort of set the stage that one of the distinctive distinguishing marks of a believer over and against whatever that perverse culture may be is thankfulness.

In fact, Paul commands it to the early believers in Colossae. He says to be thankful. Be thankful. Be grateful. In other words, say thank you. Express gratitude. He commands it because all of our attitudes need reshaping and transforming.

We've been pressed into the mold of our world, which is ingratitude. We've now come to faith and entered the family of God and this mark should distinguish us that we are now thankful. You think of our own Lord who modeled this so amazingly in the hours leading up to his brutal crucifixion and sorrow when he would become drenched, as it were, with our sin. He sets aside a little bread and wine and then institutes what we call communion and as he does it, in light of what's coming, he gives thanks. How do you give thanks a few hours before being crucified? It's like a surviving Jew going back to Auschwitz and giving thanks to God. It's like a parent going back to the intersection where a drunk driver took the life of their child and giving thanks. That's like a man or a woman going back to that cancer center where they first heard the news of their terminal disease and going there specifically to give thanks to God. It's like a country that is ripped apart by death and division stopping for one day right in the middle of a civil war and giving thanks to God. That is, that's unnatural. All of those illustrations are unnatural.

They are supernatural. The truth is we need to be taught to be thankful and we need to be reminded why because we're like Andrew Johnson and we tend to forget. So let's go back to our Hebrew hymnal. The book of Psalms literally translated the book of praises and to Psalm 100. You could call Psalm 100 because it's the only Psalm specifically designated as a public guide to thanksgiving.

You could call it the original thanksgiving hymn, Psalm 100. Old Testament believers and 21st century New Testament believers have the same question, the same question about giving thanks. How do we give thanks to God? And secondly, why do we give thanks to God?

So if you'd like to outline in your text this original thanksgiving hymn, you can do it two words. Verses one and two answer the question, how? Verse three answers the question, why? And since some of us are remedial students and a little slow on the uptake, David repeats the lesson again. Verse four, how we give thanks.

And verse five, why? All right, now David answers the first question, how do we give thanks? Three key words you could circle in your text. The first key word is the word shout. Shout joyfully to the Lord, literally raise your voice with words of celebration. These would be verbal statements. You're putting into words and you're lifting them up to God as you praise him.

We sort of interrupt the darkness of our world with these statements of thanksgiving that kind of light up the darkness like fireworks light up an evening sky with blazing color. If you notice in verse one, as far as David is concerned, all of the earth is invited to join him because all of the earth should join him. The second key word here is serve. Recall that in verse two, serve the Lord. And would you notice he writes serve the Lord with gladness. If you happen to be serving the Lord but you're not very glad about it, it might be because you've forgotten who you're serving. Ultimately, you're not serving the church, you're not serving that ministry, you're not serving this pastor, certainly, you're not even serving your children or your spouse or that department or that role. You are serving the Lord. Serve the Lord. And I want to make a note here that David does not put a period after serve the Lord.

There's no period here. David commands us to serve the Lord with gladness. Can you imagine being told to be glad? To be happy?

Really? You're commanded to be happy or to be glad. Well, sure you can imagine that because you do that with your children. You tell them you better change your attitude and put on a happy face. Stop that pouting and put a smile on your face or you're not getting a happy meal or whatever.

This mother back here really enjoys that. I did too. I did. I don't know.

More people would. Where did you learn to enjoy statements like that? Your parents. Your parents taught you that because they said the same thing to you and that was way before happy meals if you're my age. Listen young man, you'd better adjust your... Attitude. Oh, you had the same parents, I did. You better adjust your attitude. See, I learned as a child how to literate before I ever became a preacher.

All those words beginning with the same letter. Adjust your attitude. You remember that one? It does have merit because now you're old enough to know that you can adjust your attitude. And God evidently thinks so too because David does not right here serve the Lord whether you're glad about it or not. He doesn't say that. He actually says, serve the Lord and be glad about it.

Be glad about it. When our children were little, they got an allowance for doing their chores but they only got paid if they did their chores with a good attitude. We were brutal. I mean, they had to serve our household with gladness.

In fact, get this. We expected them to adjust their attitude simply because it was our will. And that's why you say to your kids, because I said so. We raised our kids the same way you did evidently. You adjust your attitude simply because it's our will.

Why? Because you want to prepare them one day to serve the Lord with the right attitude. Because their heavenly Father is going to command them and they're going to find out sooner or later that he expects them to serve him with a glad attitude.

So evidently, this is something that we're all able to do. In fact, Paul writes to the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 5 18, in everything give thanks for this is the will of God. We give thanks in everything because our attitudes are adjusted simply because it is his will. Which means a thankful heart isn't necessarily a personality trait.

It's an act of will surrendered to the will of God. I found it interesting to discover that Sarah Hale wasn't exactly the most positive person. She certainly wasn't beyond grief and sadness. In fact, when she was 35 years old, she delivered her fifth and last child. That same year, her husband unexpectedly died. And for the rest of her life, she wore black clothing as a sign of her sorrow. And what's really intriguing to me is that it is after her husband's death that she convinced the President of the United States to invite the world to give thanks.

She would wear some kind of black clothing for 57 years. The third key word here in this song is the word sing. Come before him with joyful singing. He goes on to tell us how to thank God by adding, come into his presence, come before him, literally come before his face with joyful singing. And a few moments ago, we had the opportunity to do that. And from where I was sitting, it sounded like that's exactly what we were doing. Wonderfully joyful singing. We were given a chance. How did you do, by the way?

Was it joyful or was it a chore? In fact, coming to this service, I almost hate to say that in the evening because you are all here for the right motive, right? You have come expressly, not because it's the thing to do or you've got to clock in.

You've come back. That's amazing. Is this an obligation or is it another opportunity? It is, isn't it?

To serve him and sing and shout with joy. Maybe you're like Joanne's son, I'll leave the last name out. Her son asked her one Sunday on their way home, Mommy, what's the highest number you have ever counted to? And she said, well, I've never really thought about it.

I don't know. And it was obviously a leading question and so she said to him, well, what's the highest number you've ever counted to? And he said 5,372. She said, well, why did you stop there? And he said, well, the church service was over. How many of you counted these lights, huh? Be honest.

I used to count ceiling tiles when I was growing up. Have you ever thought about the fact that one of God's antidotes to ingratitude is singing? So shout joyfully, that's grateful action.

Serve with gladness, that's a grateful attitude. And come before him with singing, that's grateful access. And we're just amazed that we can come before his face and sing.

John Phillips, now with the Lord, I often quote from him, I enjoy his writings so much from England. He captured this sense of access when in his commentary he told the story of a little boy standing in London, if you've ever been there, you've been in front of the gate there, Buckingham Palace and you don't get very close. And he's tugging on the jacket of one of those guards and he's saying, I want to see the king. I want to see the little boy. I want to see the king. And, of course, that guard is standing there stoically, not flinching. If you've ever been there, you know, you try to get him to blink and he doesn't. Just standing there, tugging away on his jacket, I want to see the king.

And people would say, we can't help you. A policeman came by, Phillips writes, and said to this little boy, you know, you're not going to be able to see the king. You're not allowed in there. About that time, this entourage with some press snapping pictures arrives on some kind of walking tour and one of the men, well dressed, overhears the conversation and says to him, what's the matter, son? And the little boy says, well, I want to see the king. And to everyone's surprise, he holds out his hand and he says, well, come with me. Parents in tow, and he leads this boy through the gate as they unlock it, down several corridors into the presence of the king.

This little boy had been taken hold of by the Prince of Wales, the king's son. And that granted him access. So this is our privilege. We have access to God the Father because we're being held by the hand of his son.

And as he takes you down the corridors and as you prepare to come before the face of your emperor, because of that access, you're ready to sing. Now David answers the question, why? Why do we thank God?

It's as if David says in verse three, well, don't you know? The Lord himself is God. In other words, he is to be praised, not just for what he does, but because of who he is. He is God.

That's enough. Well, what kind of God is he? David describes, look down at verse five, well, for one thing, he's good.

He's good. His loving kindness is everlasting. In other words, he's not going to change his mind. He will not forget you, although you might forget him. Notice further in verse five, his faithfulness is to all generations.

That's another way of saying generation after generation after generation after generation after generation, guess what? He is still the same. He isn't fickle. He's faithful. We thank God because of who he is, but that's not all we offer thanks to him, not only because of who he is, but because of what he has done.

You notice, go back up to verse three and take a closer look. It is he who has made us and not we ourselves. In other words, God is the creator who crafted us inside and out.

He wired you. He gifted you. If you're not able to joyfully praise God, it may be because you're struggling with how he made you and how he crafted you.

David writes another psalm where he reminds us that we were woven together by him in our mother's womb, Psalm 139 verse 13. He decided everything about us. Every ability you have and every disability you have happens to have been premeditated by God. He gave you all the strengths you would need. He gave you all the weaknesses you would need because you need both. Your strengths allow you to bring him praise.

Your weaknesses force you to depend on his power. He made you and better still, he is still making you. He's not finished.

He's not through. I love the way Kenneth Wiese, the Greek scholar, paraphrased Philippians 2 13. For God is the one who is constantly putting forth his effort in you. He not only made you, he plans on keeping you.

That's the next phrase. Look at verse 3. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

I'm so glad David didn't write here. We are his people and stallions in his stable or we are his people and eagles soaring majestically in the heavens. No, we are his fearful, timid, dirty, ignorant, utterly helpless, prone to wander sheep.

But here's the good news. We are his sheep or his. You think you have anything to praise God for? The devotional book entitled Springs in the Valley tells of a man who found a barn. It's a legend, of course, just a parable. He found a barn where Satan evidently kept his seeds ready to be sown in the human heart. The man found that the seeds of discouragement were more numerous than any other seed.

There were bags of them literally stacked everywhere throughout that barn. When he asked around, he learned that it was because the seeds of discouragement would grow almost anywhere. Well, one of the individuals, demons, demonic beings was questioned. He reluctantly admitted that there was one place they could never get those seeds to take root.

Where's that? Asked the man. The demon replied, in the heart of a grateful person. Though that's a parable, here's the truth. You know, it really is impossible to be at the same time anxious, proud, selfish, materialistic, boastful, bitter, and grateful. You see, it really is one of the distinctive characteristics that sets us apart from the rest of the world because the rest of the world is selfish and proud and materialistic and boastful and bitter and hateful. Since we've discovered that gratitude is a command, an act of the will, then it's something we all embrace and pursue.

So we make up our mind to do this because it is the will of our God. And we're mindful. Let's adjust our attitudes. Let's shout to him. Let's serve him. Let's sing to him.

Why? Because of who he is and because of what he has done. He made us and he is still making us, investing effort in us in spite of everything and anything he plans on keeping us.

And that's going to last forever. I hope today's reminder on how and why we should express thankfulness was encouraging to you today. You've been listening to Wisdom for the Heart, the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. Stephen pastors Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, North Carolina, and is the president of Shepherd's Theological Seminary. You can learn more about our ministry by visiting us online at While you're there, be sure and look around and especially pay attention to the link at the top of the page that takes you to our magazine.

We have a monthly magazine that features articles written by Stephen as well as a daily devotional guide. There's a form you can use right on that website to request the next three issues be sent to you. Be sure and do that today. If you prefer, you can call us and we can help you over the phone. Our number is 866-48-BIBLE. That's 866-482-4253 and I hope you'll call us today. Our email address is info at Join us at this same time tomorrow for more Wisdom for the Heart. We'll see you next time.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-14 01:16:52 / 2024-03-14 01:25:56 / 9

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