This article by Rev.R. Van Overloop first appeared as a Thanksgiving Day meditation in the Standard Bearer (Nov.15, 2013).
"I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving." Psalm 69:30
Many in the United States have come to refer to Thanksgiving Day as “Turkey Day.” We do not want to do this if it is a way to avoid reference to the One to whom all thanks must be given.
All thanks is to be given to God, for He made and He sustains the heavens and the earth and all things that are in them. As the Giver, to all, of life and breath and all things (Acts 17:24, 25), He is worthy to be thanked and worshiped by all. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11).
Professing believers have additional reason to be thankful. The free and gracious gift of salvation from all their sin and sinfulness gives them reason to make thanksgiving an everyday experience. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17). “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thess. 5:18).
Our Canadian readers should know that this meditation is written on Canada’s national Thanksgiving Day—even though it will be printed to coincide with the Thanksgiving Day of the United States.
The setting for Psalm 69 is the evil treatment that the psalmist had received from his enemies. He speaks of those who hate him without a cause, that they are “more than the hairs of mine head” and “they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty” (4). He adds: “Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children. For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up: and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me” (7-9). “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (20). This treatment resulted in the experience of deep affliction: “the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God” (1-3).
Instead of being angry at those attacking him and retaliating in kind, David repeatedly asks God to deliver him. “Save me, O God” (1). “Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel” (6). “My prayer is unto thee, O Lord” (13). “O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation. Deliver me out of the mire and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters” (13, 14). “Hear me, O Lord; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies” (16). “Draw nigh unto my soul and redeem it: deliver me because of mine enemies” (18).
After making these many petitions for divine help, David closes the psalm by exulting in God as if God had already given him the victory. It is in this conclusion that we find the text.
To “magnify” is to cause to grow, to make something great or important. “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Ps. 34:3). With a microscope we magnify very small things, so we can see them. With a telescope we magnify distant things, bringing them close so we can appreciate their very great size.
We are to magnify “God” and His “name.” This is over against magnifying ourselves (cf. Ps. 35:26). The name “God” speaks to the fact that the one with this name is full of every perfection and that He is infinitely full. It is very sad that we say this name often without realizing what we are saying. That He is full of perfections makes Him worthy of our praise and thanks! God’s “name” is the revelation He has given of Himself. God’s greatness is so great that no creature can know Him unless He reveals Himself—makes Himself known. God has revealed Himself to human creatures in all His works in creation (Rom. 1:18ff.), in the Scriptures, and in Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-3).
How do we magnify God? It is impossible for us to make God greater than what He is. We cannot add to Him or to His glory. Instead, the restriction is always in us (in our minds and hearts). We limit God, for we are blind to His constant presence and to His greatness. Our sinful nature and little faith blind us to Him, His attributes and His abilities, His revelation in creation, and His work in the events of history. Our pride dims our sight of His wisdom, justice, love, faithfulness, righteousness, etc.
God is magnified when we acquire fresh, personal, penetrating understandings of His great goodness. This often happens when we experience His gracious goodness in a deliverance—as is David’s experience in this psalm. God’s Spirit, with the Word, opens our eyes to see more and more of His work and of His amazing grace!
Our text adds that we are to “praise” God. To praise is to cause something to shine or to boast. All praise is to go to God, for He alone is worthy of glory and honor. He alone is good! Right praise arises from a heart deeply aware of God’s goodness. His goodness is in His grace, i.e., in His unfathomed love in Christ in contrast to our great worthiness to have only hell. And then His goodness is shown in all the things He gives: food, shelter, family and home, church. On Thanksgiving Day we praise and thank God for the material blessings He gives. But we realize that the material gifts to His children arise out of the same undeserved favor that gives salvation from all sins and sinfulness! He is truly worthy of praise!
How is God to be magnified and praised?
“With thanksgiving!” Praise God with thankfulness! Gratitude is the expression of the heart to Him whom we identify as the Source and Giver of all the things we are grateful for. He has given us everything material: food, shelter, transportation, houses, bodies, measures of health and strength, etc. He has given us everything spiritual: His truth, Scripture, a Reformed heritage, Christ the Savior, forgiveness, righteousness, love, mercy. In Christ, God freely gives us all things. In our text David is thanking God for an anticipated deliverance based on promised care. For him, God’s promise was a sure thing!
An individual’s willingness to give thanks increases in proportion to his awareness of his unworthiness to receive anything good from God. The more we see ourselves to be unworthy of anything good, the greater we see His attitude of love for us to be an amazing gift!
Also, God is praised “with a song.” Songs are words set to music, which have the purpose of praising God. When God’s “salvation sets my soul on high; Then I will sing and praise Thy name, My thankful song Thy mercy shall proclaim” (Psalter #187, stanza 3). “Then will I praise my God with song, To Him my thanks shall rise, And this will please Jehovah more than offered sacrifice” (Psalter #186, stanza 2).
Words with music powerfully convey the moods of the words. Music moves the singer to greater praise than just saying the words. David is inspired to declare that such songs of praise and thanksgiving please God more than the most costly sacrifices of the old dispensation: an ox or a bullock!
The poet George Herbert wrote: “Give thanks! O Thou, who hast given us so much, mercifully grant us one more thing—a grateful heart.” Those who have such a heart see their cup to be running over, because goodness and mercy follow them all the days of their life!
May God graciously grant that your Thanksgiving Day is one in which you praise the name of God with a song and magnify Him with thanksgiving.
Rev. Ronald Van Overloop (Wife: Sue)
Ordained: October 1972
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1972; Home Missionary (AL) - 1979; Bethel, Roselle, IL - 1989; Georgetown, Hudsonville, MI - 1994; Byron Center, MI - 2004; Grace, Standale, MI - 2008Website: www.graceprc.org/
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