GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD, FOR HE IS GOOD
Key Verse: 118:1
Happy Thanksgiving! Today we want to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. This holiday originated in America with the pilgrims. They had left Europe seeking religious freedom. They sailed to America in the “Mayflower,” landing at Plymouth Rock on December 3, 1620. They had a vision to make America a city on a hill. They confronted hardship. In the first winter, 46 of the 102 colonists died. Every family experienced loss. But they were not overcome by grief, nor did they waver in their resolve. They put their faith in God and persevered. God helped them in many ways. In the fall of 1621 they had an abundant harvest. They gave thanks to God and invited many Native Americans to join them. This was the first Thanksgiving. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday to be observed on the fourth Thursday in November.
President Lincoln’s proclamation clearly recognized God as the one to be thanked. He thanked God for granting good weather for farmers. He thanked God for sparing America from foreign attack in the midst of the Civil War. He thanked God for a fruitful harvest, an increase in population, and a good yield of precious metals through mining. He believed God’s blessings were so abundant that even the most hard-hearted person should become thankful. Listen to his words and see if these words don’t sound like they were written today and aren’t challenging you? This is what he said when he proclaimed the holiday.
“….We know that by His divine law,
nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in
this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which
now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our
presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole
”We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”
”It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”
Thanksgiving Day in America has a clear spiritual meaning. We should give thanks to God for his goodness and mercy to us in spite of all of our sins. However, due to the influence of secular humanism and commercialism, the meaning of this great day has been perverted into a day to eat turkey and watch football and a shopping day called “Black Friday.” People wait in line from the Thursday night and storm into the store at 6 AM to buy the products their heart desires at the discounted price. After enjoying a shopping spree and drinking parties, people forget about God completely. This is not true Thanksgiving. As we study Psalm 118 today, may we learn a spirit of thanksgiving to God!
The book of Psalms can be called the hymn book of Israel. Psalms were often part of Jewish liturgical worship. This particular Psalm was sung during the Feast of Tabernacle. This Psalm encourages us to give thanks to God and explains why we should give thanks to God.
PART I THE CALL TO COMMUNAL THANKSGIVING (1-4)
Look at verse 1. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Giving thanks is our right response to God’s goodness and love. True thanksgiving wells up when we recognize who God is. The Psalmist urges us to turn away from our problems and concerns and to look at God. We should not focus on our petty problems in our pilgrim’s journey but focus on God’s love and grace. When we behold God’s goodness, we can thank God from our hearts. If I say, “God is good,” then say, “all the time.” If I say, “all the time,” then say, “God is good.” Very good! Moses in the Bible had the difficult task of delivering the Israelites from slavery and then leading them to the Promised Land. They complained all along the way. Due to their unbelief, the first generation that came out of the Egypt perished in the desert except for Joshua and Caleb, who demonstrated their faith. As a leader, Moses had to confront one suffering after another. But he could be thankful and joyful when he saw the goodness of God. Exodus 34:6-7 say, “And he (the Lord) passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.’” Our thanksgiving must be based on the goodness of the Lord our God.
Not only is God good, he is also the source of enduing love. Verse 1 says, “…his love endures forever.” In loving, endurance may be the hardest thing to practice. Human beings are weak in loving others to the end. Many give up along the way. The love of young people is hot like boiling water but it soon grows as cold as ice and they break up. Their love is short and temporary and conditional. Britney Spears realized that Kevin Federline is a monumental moron and is divorcing him. Their love did not endure even for several years. But God is different. God’s love endures forever. His love endures forever. We need this love from God. To demonstrate his love for us, God sacrificed everything, even his only Son. Now we can dwell in God’s love forever. For this, we should give thanks to God all the days of our lives, no matter what condition or situation we may be in.
We must respond to God’s love. Verses 2-4 call the audiences’ response. The Psalmist repeatedly encourages God’s people to confess: “His love endures forever.” Look at verse 2. “Let Israel say: ‘His love endures forever.’” The Psalmist urges thanksgiving to God on a national level. God deals with us as nations. God blessed Israel through a national covenant. All the members of the nations benefited from that covenant. So they must thank God. The same is true with America. On November 11, 1620 the pilgrims on the Mayflower made an agreement called “The Mayflower Compact” which was the first plan for a self-determining government in America to join together for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith. They formed a Christian community. God blessed them abundantly. Their spiritual influence brought blessing upon America. Now everyone agrees that America is a blessed nation. People enjoy freedom and work hard to enjoy American dream. I suggest that we should make a personal compact with God, “I will not forget your goodness and love and will obey your word and be faithful to your mission to live as a Bible teacher.” The Chinese government did a long and expensive study to find out why America has prospered so much. They concluded that God blessed America because of our Christian faith. We are blessed to live in America. We did not earn or deserve this. So let’s thank God.
Look at verse 3. “Let the house of Aaron say: ‘His love endures forever.’” The house of Aaron refers to the priests. They had a special privilege from God to dwell in the house of the Lord, handle the word of God, and conduct the temple worship. This was God’s great love for them. They should confess that God loved them. St. Peter said that all Christians are royal priests (1 Pet 2:9). In a sense, each Christian is a priest and a missionary. We have a privilege of sharing the good news of Jesus with a lost world. This year God blessed our study of Luke’s gospel. God has used many of us as one-to-one Bible teachers. Let’s thank God. Look at verse 4. “Let those who fear the Lord say: ‘His love endures forever.’” God’s love goes far beyond Israel and the priests. God loves everyone, and God blesses everyone who fears the Lord. Thank God for his enduring love.
PART II PERSONAL THANKSGIVING (5-21)
Now, thanksgiving moves from group level to an individual level. What should we be thankful as individuals?
First, thank God for answered prayer (5-9) Look at verse 5. “In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.” The Psalmist experienced anguish personally. He was without perspective and in dire situation. What did he do in a desperate situation? In his anguish, he cried out to the Lord. Psalm 119:147 says, “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.” He came out to the presence of God and cried out in his pray. Often times King David wet his pillows with tears of prayers. M. James P. said in his EMPM, “Prayer is the way to heaven and praise is heaven itself.” Prayer connects us to God daily. Since the beginning of the fall semester, we are offering 5:30 early morning prayers as our cry to the Lord for America and our Bible student. Last Friday early morning 4 AM Lawson Glenn came to the Bible center to pray while others camped out in the Best Buy parking lot. This is historical because there are people who cry out to the Lord in America. There is hope in America as long as there are praying people for America to become a missionary-sending and Bible believing nation. The joy of faith lies in answered prayer. Did God answer your prayers? God answers our prayers in his way. Sometimes it takes time but he answers our prayers. Dr. Steve H. prayed for his post doc position but God delayed his prayer. In the meantime, God gave him many one-to-one students. We know why God is taking time. God wants to bless Dr. Steve spiritually first. M. Daniel prayed for his green card for a long time. Finally, God answered his prayer and granted him a labor certificate.
Look at verse 6. “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” The Psalmist knew that the Lord was with him in all circumstances of life and based on this conviction he was not afraid of troubles caused by man. Jesus’ last word for his disciples was “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b) When Jesus was with his disciples, they were not afraid of men and preached the gospel message boldly and they changed world history. Apostle Paul said in Romans 31, “What, then shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Nobody will be against us. Based on this assurance, Apostle Paul preached the gospel fearlessly and he became one of the powerful tent-making missionaries in the first century. When the Lord is with us, what can man to us? In my early mission life, I was at gun point at 7-11 but God shielded me from two gun men and protected me from any harm. Since that time, I overcame fear of man. Look at verse 7. “The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies.” The Psalmist confessed that God was his helper. Our life is victorious because God is our helper. Look at verses 8-9. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better than to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” When I was in Rome, I visited the place where Julius Caesar was assassinated. Julius trusted in Brutus. But Brutus betrayed him and was among his attackers. Isaiah 2:22, “Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?” I do not mean that you stop trusting in your parents or friends. I mean that trust God. The Psalmist confesses his confidence in the Lord rather than in man or princes. Who do you trust more, Prince Charles or God Almighty? It is better to take refuge in God. He is our Rock and Refuge. We can trust God because he answers to our cry for help always.
Second, thank God for giving us strength and joy (10-16). Look at verses 10-12. “All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the Lord I cut them off. They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord I cut them off. They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off.” The Psalmist was very poetic to describe his situation. The adversity is likened to “all the nations” that “surrounded him” and “swarmed around like bees.” Then he said, “they died out as quickly as burning thorns.” What was the secret of his quick victory? The threefold repetition of “In the name of the Lord” and the phrase “I cut them off” together demonstrate that the Lord’s name was sufficiently powerful to defeat his enemies like burning thorns. His secret was in the name of Yahweh. Gideon was a man of fear. But when God was with him, he was able to cut off Baal altar and built the altar to God. He delivered Israel people from the hands of his enemies. David was just a shepherd boy when he faced Goliath-an experienced fighting man, and a physical giant with full armor. But David came against Goliath in the name of the Lord God Almighty and triumphed over him with a sling and a stone. In the name of the Lord David cut off Goliath head and delivered Israel people from his enemies. Peter and John did not have money but in the name of Jesus they healed a crippled beggar in Acts 3:6. In our spiritual battle we have to rely on the name of the Lord. Then we will win many spiritual victories.
Look at verse 13. “I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.” The adversity was so great that the Psalmist felt himself pushed and was “about to fall.” But the help was equal to the challenge. Even though we have God’s strength, we will face moments of vulnerability. At that time, the Lord helps us. Look at verse 14. “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” In the final analysis, it is the Lord alone who gives victory to his people. The Lord is our strength. The Lord is our song. Because the Lord fights for us, we can have joy and victory. Look at verses 15-16. “Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: ‘The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things! The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!’” Let’s remember God’s victories in the past one year and rejoice with songs of victory and praise.
Third, thank God for chastening that leads to righteousness (17-21) Look at verse 17. “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.” The Psalmist’s struggle was very intense, a matter of life and death. Look at verse 18. “The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over death.” Hebrews 12:7 says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” Discipline comes from God. God’s discipline is fatherly in nature, though it may seem to be harsh. God brings his people through hard trials for his own glory. St. Peter told early Christians to greatly rejoice in such trials because their faith was purified and they could give glory to God (1 Pet 1:7) God used painful trial to help us grow spiritually and give glory to God. M. Luke Kim suffered a lot due to his eye problem and then to his broken-hip problem. God purified his faith through pains. God’s discipline trains us in righteousness to live before God with thanksgiving. Look at verses 19-21, “Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.” Spiritually speaking, Jesus is referred to the gate and the door. Jesus said in John 10:9, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” Jesus is the gate of the Lord that leads us to God’s salvation. Jesus is the only gate that all men must enter to receive God’s salvation. At the same time only the righteous may enter through this gate. Jesus made us to be righteous when we accepted his blood for us. He gave us privileges to enter into the gate of heaven through Jesus, our God shepherd. This is only by grace. By the grace of Jesus we can enter into the gate of heaven and worship with songs of praise. God blessed me to enter through the gate of righteousness by his grace. In 2006, I am very thankful for God’s enduring love and goodness to me. God’s blessing is overflowing. I thank God for blessing me to get up 5 AM and pray daily. I thank God for blessing me to serve his word and work fulltime. I thank God for my mother-in-law’s home coming. I thank God for blessing me to have a daughter Sarah Lee. I thank God for three house churches. I thank God for networking with KIMNET for world mission. I thank God for all faithful coworkers who are faithful to their mission.
PART III THANK GOD FOR JESUS CHRIST, THE CAPSTONE (22-29)
Look at verses 22-23. “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” This verse is quoted five times in the New Testament (Mt. 21:42, Mk 12:10,11; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet 2:7) By the Holy Spirit the Psalmist praised God for the coming Messiah as the capstone. Here the capstone or the cornerstone pointed to Jesus, the Messiah. The capstone holds the building together. When Jesus came into this world as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, they did not acknowledge him as the Messiah. They rejected Jesus and tried to throw him away outside the city gates by handing him over to be crucified. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law rejected him as the Son of God. They thought that Jesus was unfit to their spiritual house. Jesus was rejected by men but God raised him up from the dead and used him to build the kingdom of God and open the way for us to have eternal life in the kingdom of God. Jesus became our foundation of our salvation. It is marvelous in our eyes. Jesus became the capstone for our salvation. 1 Peter 2:4 says, “As you come to him, the Living Stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him” Let’s thank God for giving us Jesus as our Messiah.
Let’s look at verse 24. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The day God has made is the day of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. We live in this day. At this moment, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. There is no greater blessing than salvation from sin and eternal life in the kingdom of God. This is what God gives as a free gift to anyone who accepts Jesus Christ by faith. Let’s read verses 25-28. “O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.” In verses 25-28, the Psalmist pictures people assembled for the coming of the Messiah welcoming him into the temple. This was fulfilled when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on the borrowed donkey. Mark 11:8, “Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” After entering to Jerusalem, Jesus died on the cross to atone our sins and rose again to give us eternal life. Let’s accept the blood of Jesus as a symbol of God’s love and his goodness. Let’s welcome Jesus who came in the name of the Lord to save us.
In conclusion, the Psalmist confessed very personally, “God is my help, my strength, my song, my salvation, my gate, my God.” I pray that you may experience God’s enduring love and his goodness throughout your life. Let’s thank God and offer songs of joy to him alone. Let’s read verse1.