This article was first published as a Thanksgiving Day meditation in the Dec.1, 1969 issue of the Standard Bearer.
The Question of True Thanksgiving
"What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of
salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord."
Psalm 116:12, 13
For all His benefits toward me!
This gives rise to, and is the occasion for the question: What shall I render unto the Lord?
Not does the psalmist have in mind material benefits! Nowhere in the Psalm is there any indication of this. This cannot mean that there were no material benefits for the psalmist to enjoy. Nor does it mean that if he was in possession of them that he would neglect to mention them in his praise and thanksgiving. But his viewpoint is wholly spiritual! And the benefits, without which there can be no other, are those of salvation. This is the tone of the entire Psalm.
"I love the Lord, because He hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will call I upon Him as long as I live . . . The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech Thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and He helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. For Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling."
Indeed, the central benefit around which all other benefits revolve, is his deliverance from the lowest hell, from sin and misery; and deliverance unto the highest state of bliss and blessedness in eternal glory. In one word, the benefit the psalmist by faith enjoyed was Christ and all the saving benefits attached to His great work of salvation. And because he was the recipient of this central benefit, all other things are benefits too. For all things are made subservient unto his salvation. Not only prosperity, but also adversity. Not only health, but also sickness. Not only joy, but also sorrow. Not only light, but also darkness. All these are benefits, because He makes all things work for good unto them that love Him, who are the called according to His purpose.
Benefits toward me!
Benefits are those works or acts of God whereby He intends to show His favor, His lovingkindness toward the recipient of them. In the light of this definition, it should easily be perceived that only the child of God can be the recipient. Not to the world of the wicked are benefits ever given. The wicked experience God's acts, and they perish. The wicked are never the objects of His love. Upon the wicked His wrath abides, O, indeed, the Lord provides the world with all it possesses; for they have nothing or it is from Him—but it is that they may be destroyed forever. Perfectly good gifts He gives them, but never benefits. Nor should we conceive of it so that each child of God receives all of the benefits alone. In the deep sense of the word all things are for the church of God. With the apostle Paul (I Cor. 3:21-23) we say: "For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." Apart from the body of Christ, therefore, we have nothing. And it is God's good pleasure to dispense all His lovingkindness upon His church.
However, there is and must be a personal appropriation and acknowledgement of these benefits. This is what the psalmist is doing in the words of our text. Standing as it were in the midst of all the redeemed church, he exclaims: "all His benefits toward me."
And this becomes the occasion for the question concerning true thanksgiving!
Not a national virtue! For thanksgiving is a fruit of grace. And grace is never common!
Indeed, the nation can and does celebrate what it calls: Thanksgiving Day. The world can celebrate as it counts its treasures. It can and often does rejoice in the material prosperity such as it is. And in this rejoicing it may often appear to be very religious. In their temples where they meet to rejoice in the abundance of things received, they can be and often are confronted with the question: What shall we do with our abundance? They can even be prevailed upon to make rich donations to the less fortunate, in order that they may be able to read in daily papers how gracious they were. But the thanksgiving of the ungodly is an abomination unto the Lord. He is far from their prayers of thanksgiving, and their offerings provoke Him to wrath. He who searches the hearts, pronounces this sentence upon them: "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel."
Thanksgiving is very particular, because grace is particular! God bestows His grace only on the objects of His eternal love. And since thanksgiving is a fruit of grace, only the children of God give thanks, and they do it with great difficulty.
The children of God are thankful always—not only on a certain day; and they are thankful for all things, not merely for abundance. They are thankful for the sweet, but also for the sour; for prosperity, but also for adversity; for fruitful, but also for barren years; for health, but also for sickness. Were this not so, then in seasons of drought, adversity, and trouble, he would have occasion to murmur and rebel. But so it may never be. He learns in whatsoever state he is, therein to be content, and to rejoice in the Lord His God Whose tender mercies fail not. But always with great difficulty. For he knows his sins and unworthiness. He has not merited the least of Jehovah's mercies. And exactly because of this he asks the question: What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?
It is the question concerning true thanksgiving!
What shall I render unto the Lord?
But what does the psalmist mean? Does he have in mind to somehow reimburse the Lord for His goodness? Is the psalmist reasoning thus: that whereas the Lord has been so gracious to him that now he would do something for the Lord in return? God forbid! Nay, rather, the question implies a negative answer. He realizes that he is wholly impotent to bring anything to the Lord. How could finite man ever reward the Infinite? Is He not the All-Sufficient One in Himself? What is there that could make Him richer or more glorious than He is? And what can the creatures bestow on the Creator which He does not already possess? Is there anything in the world that is not His? Reward the Lord? You? I? Are not all the cattle on a thousand hills, and all the gold and silver His? Nowhere is there anything that I could bring to Him that He does not already claim as His own. What then?
The answer to the question is: NOTHING!
The sinner who thinks he can repay the Lord, does not know Him! The sinner who is crushed, overwhelmed by Jehovah's goodness, knows he can bring nothing. He knows that his God has given him all these benefits in such a way that he could never give anything in return, in order that God alone would receive all the glory.
Is there no way then in which the child of God can give expression to the thanksgiving which overwhelms his heart?
O, indeed, there is! Let the psalmist show you!
I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord!
The cup of salvation!
The cup is a figure of what is allotted to one, what one receives—whether good or bad. Scripture speaks of the cup in several different ways: cup of blessing, cup of iniquity, cup of wrath, etc. Here it is the cup of salvation, that is, the salvation allotted to me in God's favor. Symbol of Jehovah's great deeds in effecting our salvation.
That cup the psalmist resolves not only to take, but to lift up! He will hold it high, as before the face of His God, and in the sight of all men. He would have it to be known what has made him to rejoice and for which he is so thankful; namely, that all of Jehovah's benefits which flowed to him in such abundance came to him from the God of his salvation. All of these benefits were with the divine intention to save him. He was lost in sin and misery, he was undone, and utterly unable to save himself. Jehovah delivered him from the sorrows of death. Jehovah dried up all his tears, and kept his feet from falling. In Christ Jesus he now is righteous before God, and counted worthy of eternal life and glory.
And lifting up the cup of salvation, he will call upon the name of the Lord!
You see, the name of Jehovah is upon each benefit which is in the cup of salvation. As the psalmist lifts up the cup and beholds all the benefits of salvation it contains, he sees also written upon each one the name of Jehovah his God. And seeing the name of Jehovah emblazoned on each benefit, he calls out that name.
He cannot keep this wonderful observation to himself. He must call out loudly, so that all may hear him.
This is true thanksgiving!
The only thanksgiving pleasing to God!
For you see, in that cup of salvation which the psalmist lifts up, and which each child of God should lift up, is revealed the God of his salvation in all the work of His saving grace, saving us unto the uttermost. In that cup of salvation he sees the God of his salvation coming down to him in the Person of His Son and uniting Himself to our nature, in order that in that nature He could assume our guilt and pollution, so as to remove it. In that cup he sees the Son of God in our nature and in our stead, hanging on the accursed tree, under the vials of divine wrath, satisfying God's justice for our sins. In that cup he sees his Saviour suffering, dying, and rising again from the dead as a testimony of our justification. In that cup he sees the Captain of his salvation lifted up into the highest heavens to God's right hand, where He receives power over all things to overcome the devil and his hosts, and to apply His salvation to our hearts. In that cup he sees the God of his salvation through the Spirit of Christ sanctifying and delivering His own from sin's corruption, renewing their hearts, and making them in principle new creatures, transforming them into the image of His Son. In that cup of salvation he sees also all the graces of Christ as they have been made to dwell in his own heart: love, joy, peace, and thanksgiving, etc. O, yes, also thanksgiving. That, too, has the name of Jehovah his God attached to it. So that when he thanks God for His great salvation and for all things, he is doing nothing more than reflecting the name of the God of his salvation. It is never so that God saves us, and we thank Him. But it is always so, that we must thank Him that we may thank Him; for also thanksgiving, true thanksgiving, is the fruit of His saving grace.
So, in the entire matter of our salvation, God, and God alone is the Author and the Finisher from beginning to end, in order that His also may be all the praise and thanksgiving.
What then shall the children of God render unto God for all His benefits toward them? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!
All they can do, yea, must do, and forever will do by His sovereign grace, is lift up the cup of salvation which contains all the benefits of salvation meted out to them, and on which is emblazoned the name of Jehovah their God—and then call out so that all may hear it—the Name of Jehovah, their God.
This is the thanksgiving that is pleasing to Him!
Rev. Marinus Schipper was born in Holland, MI on February 8, 1906. He graduated from the Protestant Reformed Seminary and was ordained and installed into the ministry at the Grand Haven, MI Protestant Reformed Church in January, 1937. From there, he went to Second (now: Southwest) Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, MI. in 1939. In 1945 he accepted a call to the South Holland, IL Protestant Reformed Church. From there, he returned to Southwest (formerly: Second) Protestant Reformed Church in 1954. Finally, he went to the Southeast Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, MI in 1962. He retired from the active ministry in 1978.
Rev.M.Schipper was taken into glory on January 2, 1985.