Articles

Thanksgiving for God’s Goodness

This article first appeared in the Standard Bearer (vol.89, no.4), November 15, 2012.

“Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed.” Psalm 65:1

 

Psalm 65 gives us multiple reasons for which to give thanks, all of which point to God’s goodness.

The psalm begins on a note of thanksgiving and carries that thought throughout the psalm: “Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion” (Ps. 65:1). Praise has to do with being sincerely and deeply thankful for God’s wonderful works and His superior qualities. The reason praise is said to “wait” is that there is always something for which to praise God in Zion. Today and every day God’s goodness affords constant material for praise.

Thanksgiving Day ought to call our attention to God’s bountiful provision.

Because we live in such a modernized society, we do not very often think about where our food comes from. To put food on our tables we have only to go to the store. And, even if we think beyond the supermarket as the source of food, we still tend to think of the har­vest as something that men have brought about using machinery to plow, plant, and harvest the crops. Not only that, the money we use to buy our provisions is most often conceived of as a product of our own labor. In other words, we tend to forget God. We forget how dependent we are upon Him to give us daily bread. Thanksgiving Day reminds us to put God back into the picture.

Especially at the completion of harvest, we are re­minded that God has once again provided the harvest. He it is that created the plants in the first place. He created the soil to give the proper nutrients for growth. He gives the sunshine and warmth and rain at the right time and in the right amounts. These are just a few of the ways in which God has worked to provide for us.

The psalmist recognizes this provision: “Thou visit­est the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it. Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof” (Ps. 65:9-10). The river of God brings an abundant supply, so that the grain flourishes. Such is the abundance of rain, that it fills the furrows etched in the ground by the plow; it causes the ridges between the furrows to be leveled out; it softens the ground; and produces an abundant harvest.

God’s provision is summed up in Psalm 65:11: “Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.” The idea here seems to be that God adorns the whole year with His goodness, which goodness is manifest in the abun­dant harvest. Thus it can be rightly said, “Thy paths drop fatness,” as if to say, wherever God walks, rich abundance is the result.

Moreover, God’s care extends even to the uncultivated regions of the earth. “They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing” (Ps. 65:12-13). Even in those regions where the shepherds lead their flocks, God’s goodness is displayed. His provision is so abundant that the meadows are filled with flocks, covering them as with a blanket.

The psalmist lived in a time when people were more closely connected to the land, the result being that they recognized God’s hand in the harvest. Though unbe­lief describes these things as “Mother Nature’s” work, by God’s grace the psalmist knew better. He knew that the abundant harvest was caused by the far-reaching hand of God’s providence. What about us? Do we recognize God’s hand of providence in the provisions we enjoy?

Of course, if our thanksgiving does not go beyond our praise for physical provision, we will be missing the main point of our thanks to God.

Indeed, if physical provision were the only thing for which to give thanks, we would really have nothing. If this life, with its physical provision, were all that we had, then we remain most miserable. How does God describe those who live only for the present? While they live, they bless their souls. But when they die, they shall carry nothing along to the other side of the grave (cf. Ps. 49:17-19).

What we need to remember is that the Old Testa­ment saints saw God’s physical provision as a sign of greater spiritual realities. When God gave the people physical manna in the wilderness, He was pointing the way to a greater, spiritual provision, which we enjoy in Jesus Christ. Similarly, the inheri­tance in the land of Canaan pointed the way to the heavenly promised land. So too, the harvest of crops pointed the people to God’s abundant spiritual blessings.

In that connection, it is sig­nificant that every one of the three great feasts in Israel was tied in some way to the harvest. The Feast of the Passover was connected with the harvest of barley (cf. Lev. 23:10-12). The Passover, of course, points to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The Feast of Weeks, also called the Feast of Pentecost, was connected to the wheat harvest (cf. Ex. 34:22). This feast points to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which happened fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection. The Feast of Tabernacles was held after the gathering of the grain and wine (cf. Deut. 16:13). The Feast of Tabernacles points to a day when God’s tabernacle will be with men in the new heavens and the new earth.

Harvest time, therefore, pointed the Old Testament saints to the reality of God’s gracious salvation. Thanksgiving Day should do that for us too, as it points us to the fact that God will ever provide for His people.

What are some of those spiritual blessings for which we give thanks?

In the first place, our God is a God who hears prayer: “Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed. O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come” (Ps. 65:1-2). It belongs to God’s nature to hear and answer the prayers of all those who call upon Him. That’s because if God has begun a good work in us, which work has caused us to pray, then He will certainly continue the work by granting us the grace we pray for. “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them” (Ps. 145:18-19). What a wonderful thing to be thankful for: God hears our prayers!

In the second place, our God is a forgiving God: “In­iquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away” (Ps. 65:3). Our sins are so great and numerous that when we begin to look at them we are overwhelmed in our consciences. We cannot stand before God’s judgment seat by ourselves. Wonderfully, God washes away our sins and gives us the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Are we thankful for such gracious forgiveness?

Third, not only does God forgive us, He also brings us into fellowship with Himself: “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to ap­proach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple” (Ps. 65:4). This is the glorious fruit of God’s electing love: God calls us to Himself and gives us the privilege of coming into His courts, where we will be abundantly satisfied. Are we thankful for this privilege?

All of these things are God’s gracious answer to prayer. They prove that God is working in us mightily to cause us to pray and that He is mighty to answer our prayers. This is the psalmist’s point in the verses that follow: “By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea” (Ps. 65:5). God carries out these glorious operations for the sake of His people. Absolutely nothing can stand in the way of His bless­ings. He will strike terror into His enemies in answer to our prayers for deliverance. No matter where we find ourselves, God is our confidence.

We trust Him, knowing that He has power even over those things we think are most powerful: “Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power: Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people” (Ps. 65:6-7).

Are we thankful for the wonderful goodness of God? Then our calling is to show forth our thankfulness. That is why the psalmist says, “Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion.” Literally, the psalmist says, “To thee is silence, Praise.” That silence has to do with stillness and readiness. Everything has been made ready to praise God; all the noise of preparation has ceased; the people are assembled with hearts eager to praise; everyone is filled with a sense of the great majesty and goodness of God.

That is the way it should be with us; the more we dwell upon God’s spiritual blessings upon poor creatures of the dust and the more we rehearse His ever­lasting love and grace towards us, the more will we be ready to burst forth in praise and thanks to Him.

Those who have such a readiness to praise God will pay their vows: “unto thee shall the vow be performed” (Ps. 65:1b). To perform a vow is to offer to God that which we have promised. The Israelites brought their sacrifices to God; but we must not think their service ended with the outward sacrifice. The true Israel de­voted themselves to a life of thankfulness for all that they had received from God’s hand.

In the same way, God would have us pay our vows of thankfulness. If we are truly thankful for free forgive­ness in Jesus Christ, we will show it by the way we live. Are we thankful for God’s goodness? May God give us the grace to praise Him every day of our lives.

Marcus, John P.

Rev. John Marcus (Wife: Amy)

Ordained: December 2005

Pastorates: First, Edmonton, Alberta - 2005

Website: www.edmontonprc.org/

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