The Promise of Thankfulness

David’s rise to the throne of Israel and subsequent reign dominate the landscape of Jewish history. From the young shepherd boy who fought wild animals to budding warrior who killed Goliath to the faithful soldier running from a jealous commander, the early life of David established a powerful backstory for the mightiest king in Israel’s history. Despite his youthful anointing by Samuel, he patiently and faithfully served Saul, consistently respecting him as “the LORD’s anointed.” Here we find no power-hungry leader but a man of faith and principle. He did not view his anointing as a political opportunity but as a spiritual responsibility. And while the psalms surrounding his coming to the throne located in Book One are more familiar, Psalm 101 offers great insight. It essentially records David’s promises to the LORD upon coming to the throne of the kingdom. However, this emphasis provides another practical consideration and perspective. David saw these characteristics as essential when he came to the throne of an earthly kingdom, but they have even greater application for all who become Christians and enter Christ’s heavenly kingdom (Matt. 16:18-19; Col. 1:13-14).

Throughout this psalm David makes a series of promises to the LORD. The two words “I will” dominate the psalm. But for the Christian, submitting to the reign of Christ as King by being immersed to enjoy the forgiveness promised (Acts 2:38) and the joy assured (1 John 1:4) is an even greater promise—the promise to live faithfully as a subject in the kingdom, whatever that may require (Rev. 2:10). David saw his responsibilities as God’s anointed leader of the nation of Israel, but truly Christians have an even greater obligation as subjects of a far greater kingdom. Therefore, upon entering the kingdom, Christians are promising to worship God faithfully (Psa. 101:1). This implies far more than regular attendance (Heb. 10:24-25) but rather a heart and soul dedicated to honoring the LORD as much as possible exactly how the LORD desires, as true worshippers do (John 4:24). More than this, upon entering the kingdom, Christians are promising to live and grow in accordance with God’s design and for God’s purposes rather than their own (Psa. 101:2). No disciple begins in exactly the same place, the same knowledge or the same problems, but every disciple should seek maturity in living for God by developing a spiritual maturity in a heart for God (1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18). Upon entering the kingdom, Christians are promising to distance themselves from wickedness of every kind (Psa. 101:3-5). It is therefore essential to eschew evil (1 Pet. 3:9-12), reprove the works of darkness (Eph. 5:11), maintain a holy heart (Matt. 5:8), and avoid the wrong companions (1 Cor. 15:33). More than this, upon entering the kingdom, Christians promise to keep close to the faithful (Psa. 101:6), following their example (1 Cor. 11:1), building relationships with them (John 13:34-35), and preferring their company (Rom. 12:10). Finally, upon entering the kingdom, Christians are promising to stand against evil however it presents itself (Psa. 101:7-8). Rather than compromising conviction, God’s people stand with the Savior (2 John 9-11). Instead of accepting iniquity, the LORD’s people take action against trespasses (2 Thess. 3:6).

David fell far short of these promises at times, as the rest of inspired history makes clear. But his heart brought him back to these promises and his desire to be faithful to God each and every time. When we become Christians, we are promising our loyalty, our fidelity, and our all to the One who saved us. We may fall short in practice here and there, but may we ever keep the heart of David with a determination to keep our promises.

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The Origin of Thankfulness

Few traits demonstrate a combination of humility and joy better than thankfulness. Its very nature depends on recognizing others’ contributions to our well-being and happiness. Because of this, from a young age, most parents teach their children the importance of saying, “Thank you.” And yet, as we grow older, and perhaps because we lack the necessary humility or are missing out on the joys of life, we do not seem as ready to say it—even when the situation calls for it. However, Psalm 100 exudes thankfulness. Every phrase builds on the previous to express a crescendo of thanksgiving offered to the LORD Himself. This on its own bears imitation. But this psalm’s placement follows a poetic series that begins with man’s needs, shows God’s provision, points to the Messiah, and then marvels at the possibility of forgiveness the LORD makes available in the context of His judgment. As sinners needing all of these and yet incapable of creating any circumstance comparable to such a plan, thanksgiving ought to spring forth from within our hearts like a budding flower welcoming the sun. Indeed, the psalmist captures this very sentiment with this brief psalm’s joyful cry of thanks.

While the history of the United Kingdom records various times when David rightfully might express such appreciation, and while the Jews who returned from captivity most certainly would feel it, these should serve only as mere shadows to those who realize the forgiveness available through the blood of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the broad wording of the psalm allows the reader to consider all of these perspectives while encouraging him to internalize the psalm. Thus, all that God has done should motivate us to respond with thanksgiving—yet not simply a casual “Thank you” but rather a heartfelt gratitude that builds a relationship (2 Cor. 5:14). The reality of sin and its consequences should flood our soul with guilt and shame. Indeed, this makes the possibility of forgiveness all the more real and meaningful, which in turn causes joy to well up within us until it bursts forth for all to hear (Psa. 100:1; Phil. 4:4). More than that, it changes our behavior so significantly that we take joy in serving the LORD who made it possible (Psa. 100:2a; Rom. 12:1-2), worshiping (Psa. 100:2b; Jas. 5:13) and praising Him (Psa. 100:4; 1 Pet. 1:3-5) from a heart overwhelmed with gratitude. And yet, as the psalmist declares, this newfound passion has a specific focus: the LORD. Sadly, many people separate the opportunity of forgiveness from the will and character of the One who made it possible. But Psalm 100 so integrates thanksgiving with the One worthy of it that the personal character of real thanksgiving shines brightly. Indeed, couched within this song of thanks the psalmist points to the reasons why the LORD is so deserving. Yahweh, the Hebrew name translated LORD, means “the One who is there.” It is the covenant name of God signifying that He is by the very nature of His being but also that He is there for us (Psa. 100:1) as the offer of forgiveness so demonstrates. As our Creator, we owe our very existence to Him (Psa. 100:3a; Gen. 1:26-27; Col. 1:16-18). But He is also our Shepherd, caring for our every need (Psa. 100:3b; 23:1-6; John 10:1-10). He provides only what is good for us as part of His intrinsic nature (Psa. 100:5a; Jas. 1:17) and shows us mercy daily (Psa. 100:5b), disregarding our own character to offer aid because of His character. More than that, He does not allow us to wallow in our ignorance but reveals truth to us so that we might know Him and His will and be more like Him by doing His will (Psa. 100:5c; John 8:32; 12:48; 17:17). And because He is eternal so also can His forgiveness and blessings be bestowed on those who embrace that relationship with Him (Psa. 100:5; 1 Pet. 3:8). O how we should give thanks to the LORD—not only for what He has done for us, but also because of who HE is for us!

The Privilege of Providence

We take far too many things for granted today. We wake up in the morning and do not consider how that can even happen—and be refreshed. We enjoy running water, easy access to food of all kinds, indoor plumbing, instant communication around the world, advanced warning of and preparedness for many natural disasters, personalized music choices, electric lighting, a closet full of clothes, mobile phones, central air and heating—the list could go on and on! And while some people do not share all of these things, they likely have a list just as impressive in its own way. In fact, from the view of history, most of the things cited above are extremely new to civilization. In some places it has become common to use all these items as evidence of some inherent character flaw in society. Society has its problems, but the items listed above are not among them. Instead, they offer evidence of just how blessed we are. And that is why we cannot afford to take them for granted.

Three thousand years ago, before any of the aforementioned luxuries existed, David recognized this same principle and turned to God as the One worthy of praise (Psa. 65:1-2). And even then David saw that the greatest blessings he enjoyed were God’s willingness to forgive sin and accept worship on His terms (Psa. 65:3-4). He had confidence in God’s righteousness, salvation, and help because He took the time to notice what God had already done in His creation (Psa. 65:5). David looked at the mountains and was awed by them (Psa. 65:6). He looked at the seas on either side of the land and saw a God in control of them (Psa. 65:7), as He is over all the earth (Psa. 65:8). He recognized that man does not provide the water and the grain that provides for farmers to grow food. God does (Psa. 65:9-10), and He does so for man’s benefit and for the land’s (Psa. 65:11-12). He saw firsthand how God provides animals for food, as well as crops, and also provides what is necessary for them to grow and flourish (Psa. 65:13). And all these things remain true today.

Some children honestly believe that their food comes from a grocery store. They have no concept of a farm or dairy. Such reports often receive attention in social media, sometimes to make fun of the child, sometimes to make fun of the schools, or sometimes to expose a problem. But many people today cannot see that all of this and more actually comes from God who blesses and blesses again. He chose not to care for us miraculously throughout the ages but chose to work providentially through nature, but that does not negate the love, care, and attention that went into His provision, and it should not dampen, in any way, our thankfulness to Him. David saw these things as worthy of praise and further evidence of what God can do for us spiritually. We would do well to do the same.

Many Thanks

We have now been at Granbury Street for twelve years. That means that the upcoming high school graduates were in kindergarten when I arrived. Throughout that time period, we have done a lot of different things together. Youth devotionals, visitation groups, Bible Search, Open Forum, Gospel Meetings, Singings, Summer Series, Family Summer Series, trips with families, Green Valley Bible Camp, more than a thousand different sermons, and a number of various studies have been with us through that journey together. Not everyone is still around that greeted us that first Sunday, but many others are now with us filling some of those roles and taking on different responsibilities. However, while some of our activities and events change, and while some of the families have also changed, your generosity and kindness and my thankfulness for you have not changed. I would like to take a moment to expand briefly on the comments I made Sunday night at our annual Christmas party.

My family and I have been the recipients of such wonderful generosity over the years from this congregation. And certainly every year at this dinner has been special. But tonight, in the midst of your generosity, I am thinking about other things too. I am so thankful for how generous you have been with your friendship. It means so much to me that I can look over the crowd and see not only brethren, but friends—family—even when the lessons are difficult and times are hard. I am thankful for how generous you have been with your patience. I am probably more aware of my weaknesses than anyone—except perhaps Tracy. And I am thankful for the opportunity to grow and improve. I am thankful for how generous you have been with your encouragement. You probably will never understand how important that is—what prayers and just a few words of appreciation for a class or sermon can mean. I was reminded of this again both in the morning and evening on Sunday. I am thankful for how generous you have been with your time. People have volunteered their time to step in and help with any number of things we needed—more often than we can count. I am thankful for how generous you have been with your support—especially through health issues and  various other trials. We have received so many gestures of kindness that it is impossible to list. Truthfully, we cannot remember them all, but we do remember our brethren who have come to our aid so often. I am thankful for each of you and all of you—for all of these reasons, and more.

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