(Open with a reading of Psalm 104)
Thanksgiving season is upon us again. Every year we are faced with the question of “What do I have to be thankful for?” For some, I suppose, answering that question is easier than it is for others. One of the things that I have always been confronted with is my life in its totality. I’m not the strongest, the best looking, the richest, or the most articulate. I’m not an expert in anything. I do not have the confidence of other men. I’m not what you would call a career man, where others have spent the majority of their life harnessing their abilities and talents, I have been more akin to a jack of trades.
Yet, I have been richly blessed in numerous ways. I have a wife that I love who returns that love, and children that reciprocate the love I have for them. I have a home where there is an abundance of food and a place to lay my head at night in warmth, protected from the elements. I have a job that enables me to provide for my family, and vocation that provides me the opportunity to share the blessings of God with others. I live in a nation where freedom is experienced to far greater measure than any other in history, and I have available at my finger tips a wealth of knowledge that is deeper than the treasure troves of the mightiest kings; first and foremost the Holy Scriptures and secondly, the vast libraries available for free or purchase on the internet.
More importantly, my life has been touched by the grace of God. In Him I have come to know my blessed Savior Jesus Christ, who was willing to be my replacement on the cross of God’s wrath. The Holy Spirit has touched my mind and my heart to know and love God and to love my neighbor as I do myself in terms of His Holy Law. He restructures my thoughts, He reorders my prayers, He gives insight into things far beyond my ability to truly comprehend. As I think over my life, as I review its passing, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I have much to be thankful for. God has given me life, He has fashioned me in the womb, He has provided good health, He has enabled me through my senses to enjoy and bask in the pleasures of this life: the blazing rays of the sun, the gentle breeze that billows through the trees, the cool crisp air of autumn and early winter, the dazzling colors mingled with the greenness of the earth every spring, and starry nights that make my mind wonder at the majesty and glory of a God who created these things to remind us, His creatures, of who and whose we truly are.
There is much to be thankful for. For we have a God in His wisdom and kindness that provides for all the creatures that He has made. He orders the earth in a way that benefits mankind the most. All that He asks in return is that we recognize Him for who He is, that we be thankful, and that we enjoy Him forever. He is God there is no other, and He is the One alone that shall be Praised.
The 104th Psalm has much to say about the things that I have shared with you. It was why I read it to you all in the beginning. When we sit back and meditate on its truths we find that we truly have much to be thankful for. There are a a couple of verses that I would like to highlight. Let us first look at Psalm 104:13-15, then we shall contemplate for a moment Psalm 104:24, and we shall close with Psalm 104:28-35.
Psalm 104:13-15 reads,
“He waters the mountains from His upper chambers; The earth is satisfied with the fruit of His works. He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of mankind, so that they may produce food from the earth, and wine, which makes a human heart cheerful, so that he makes his face gleam with oil, and food which sustains a human heart” (NASB).1
All that the earth needs, God provides. Period. He sends the rain. He makes the grass grow. He feeds the cattle (along with all other creatures of this earth be they by land or sea). But more importantly, of all the Lord’s works He has special consideration for the care of man, the one who bears the mark of God’s image; even though, that image is marred by sin. God created mankind for work, and He blesses man for being faithful in his labors. We harness what God has given us in faith that through our labors He will provide a bounty for our table. What is amazing is that not only does God give us bread to eat, but He gives us wine to make our hearts merry!
For far too long in this nation, and because of our influence in other parts of the world, mankind has looked at the fruit of the vine, the drink made through fermentation as a curse upon the earth. Yet, the psalmist recognizes that it is God who has given us alcoholic beverages, like wine, to bring joy to our hearts. To enjoy the rest from our labors in good company with good drink. I will not spend time defending (offering an apologetic) why alcohol (i.e., wine and strong-drink) is a gift from the Lord.2 The Holy Spirit testifies of it right here. People kick against what is right because they are ignorant of the truth or they suppose that they know better than the Lord of Hosts. Neither of which is true.
The Lord also provides oil for our skin and our cooking. That is He provides us with that which will sustain our largest organ (our skin), and that which helps protect our other vital organs. For fats are needed for our bodies to function and be protected from the elements and that pathogens that try to harm us. Not to mention that “oil” in Scripture is symbolic (just as water is) of God’s sustaining/anointing Spirit. The anointing of oil upon the head that drizzles down onto our bodies is symbolic of God’s protective covering that He provides by His Spirit through His Son. It should be no wonder to us that physical oil that provides such protection to our vital organs (i.e., skin, heart, lungs, etc.) is representative of the protection that the Holy Spirit provides to the children of God. For that matter, we could include the bread and the wine, which are elements of our Lord’s sacrifice that also speak of deeper matters. But the point here is that God provides us with food, drink and protection in this life. Something that we ought to be thankful for.
“Lord, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions.”
Everything that we experience in this life. Everything that we witness with our senses. Everything that fascinates us. Everything that exists is the Lord’s. How mighty are His works that He has made from nothing! The earth is full of His possessions.
Think about that for a moment. This is why you should be thankful. Nothing you possess is yours, it is God’s. This includes your talents, your looks, your spouse, your children and their children and your children’s children, your home, your clothes, your food, your wealth, even your time. Reflect on this for a moment… time is your most valuable resource, but every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every year belongs to Him. God owns it all. If someone asks, “Why should I be thankful?” You might respond when touched with such knowledge as disclosed from God’s Word, “Why shouldn’t you be thankful?!” We complain about our circumstances. We grumble about what we have. We yearn for what we don’t. All of this rather than being grateful and content that we have everything provided for us. Everything gifted to us. Everything lent to us. We are stewards of creation not masters of it, for there is only One Master, One God and to Him alone do we owe our praise of thanksgiving. When we have the right perspective, the correct outlook, there is much to be thankful for in this life. There is much to look to the Lord and say, “You have given me much, a sinner who deserves nothing, and yet, in your loving kindness you have shown me the compassion of your love in meeting my needs, and even allowing me to enjoy some of my wants!”
“You give to them, they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good. You hide Your face, they are terrified; You take away their breath, they perish and return to their dust. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the ground. May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in His works; He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they smoke. I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. May my praise be pleasing to Him; as for me, I shall rejoice in the Lord. May sinners be removed from the earth and may the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, my soul. Praise the Lord!”
As Job said, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away” (Job 1.20; HCSB). When God opens His hand the world receives. He gives sustenance to sustain. He gives life to the living. He gives death to the perishing. All things find their being in God alone. He is the Creator and the Provider of all things. The Lord finds great joy in those creatures that acknowledge and honor Him. He is pleased to give to His own what they need. It is a delight to Him. One of the things that the apostle James points out to Christians in his day is that the reason they don’t receive something is because they don’t ask God in prayer for it, and this because they fail to truly trust in Him (cf. James 4.2-3).
When a father looks at his son or daughter, shouldn’t they be a delight to him? Does the father of children not look to his own to see that they are grateful for his being and for meeting their needs? For being their rock and refuge in times of distress? For being compassionate and merciful when they have done wrong? If this is true for our earthly fathers, then shouldn’t it be true to a greater degree to our heavenly Father?
I cannot answer for any other, and neither can you. But you must, you will, answer for yourself. You should have the heart of one who looks to the Lord God with a thankful heart, full of praise, full of wonder for His being. We should rejoice dearly in our God and King Jesus Christ. We should sing praises to His Name for His care of us, for His salvation of us, for His intercession on our behalf, for His mercy towards our waywardness, for His forgiveness, for His love, and for His protection! We should bless the Lord with all of our souls. Not just once a year, but every day we have breath in our lungs. And in our praising of Him we should hope for the eradication of all sinners. Either in their repentance where our Lord becomes their Lord—Praise be His Name; or, in their judgment for not acknowledging Him above all others, and loving His Son whom He sent as a sacrifice for them—Praise be His Name.
1All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the New American Standard Bible (NASB), 2020 update.
2One biblical reference that verifies what I have spoken is found in Deuteronomy 14:26, “And you may spend the money on whatever your heart desires: an oxen, sheep, wine, other strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.” That the practice of celebrating before the Lord was still prevalent in the New Testament is seen in 1 Corinthians 11:21 during the love feast (Communion or Eucharist service). The problem that the apostle Paul dealt with was not the eating and drinking (wine or strong drink) in celebration, but the abuse perpetrated there by members of the church. The poor were neglected while the rich overindulged—i.e., gluttony and drunkenness. It is the abuse that is condemned not the gift.