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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Praise God for His Never-failing Stream of Blessing!
Text:LD 50 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Thankfulness
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-11-12
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 34:3,4                                                                            

Ps 100:1,2,3,4  [after Apostles’ Creed]

Reading – Psalm 65

Ps 65:1,3,5,6

Sermon – Lord’s Day 50

Hy 76:1

Hy 78:1,2,3,4,5

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, it seems to me that we praise God for the things we most value. If something is important to you, it’ll probably float to the top of any praise in your prayers to God. You’ve been studying hard, so you praise the Lord for good marks on your exams. You’ve been sick, so you praise God for improved health. You praise God for your children, or your friends. You praise Him for work, or for holidays.

And we should do this—it’s right and suitable to praise God for his many gifts. The Psalms are the ultimate example of such praise, where God’s people never run out of reasons to worship the LORD. As Psalm 146:2 says, “While I live I will praise the LORD; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” Because truly, there’s always another cause to rejoice in the Lord!

Yet let’s take an inventory sometime of what we praise God for. It’s saying something about what we most treasure. Is it our daily work that’s #1 on the praise list? Our dear family? Our money or our music? You could say that we are exposed by our praise. It sounds strange, but the things for which we always adore God might even reveal an idol, lurking in our hearts, something that we’ve come to prize too highly. A point for us to ponder…

On the subject of causes for praise, this afternoon we consider our daily bread. The fourth petition of the Lord’s prayer is about how God the Father promises to provide us with “all our bodily needs” (Q&A 125). Food and drink and housing and clothing and health are things for which we need to go to God each and every day—and when we receive them, we need to praise Him for them. That’s the example God gives in Psalm 65, where David and all Israel praise the LORD for sending rain on the land and providing a rich harvest. They are exuberant in their worship, even for what seems like a simple gift.

And this Psalm sets a mirror in front of us: Are we praising God for our daily bread? Do we worship Him for his generosity? Are we still moved to gratitude by God’s material gifts, or is our focus on blessings that seem more interesting, more novel—more important? It’s a challenge. Sincerely praising God for it is hard when you’re accustomed to having a lot. Relying on God to provide is hard when it feels like there’s no uncertainty about tomorrow’s food-supply. And if we know about wealth, and we’re not-so-dependent anymore on the Father to provide, Psalm 65 praise isn’t going to flow from us. So let’s be taught again by Christ in the fourth petition,

Praise God the Father for his never-failing stream of blessing!

  1. praise Him with thanksgiving
  2. praise Him with confidence

 

1) praise Him with thanksgiving: When you’re on a walkie-talkie, it’s important to acknowledge. You have to let the person on the other end know that you’re there, and that you’ve heard them. “Copy that,” you’ll say. “Acknowledged.” At the heart of every true prayer is that simple activity of acknowledging. For when we talk to God sincerely, we’re not ignoring Him. When we talk to God daily, we’re saying that He’s important to us, we’re confessing that we need his help, and we’re rejoicing that He is near.

That’s also how the Catechism explains the fourth petition. It offers this prayer to God, “Provide us with all our bodily needs, so that we may acknowledge that [you] are the only fountain of all good” (Q&A 125). It’s letting God know that you know He’s there. It’s having open eyes for the Father’s glory and his generosity. So how do we do this?

At the most basic level, we need to see his gifts, and then we need to recognize where all these gifts have come from. This is a pretty obvious point, but it’s difficult to thank someone for a gift if you don’t know who gave it you.

Our family had that last year sometime, when we found a present left at our front door. It was a thoughtful and generous gift, but there was no card or message with it—no “To,” no “From,” just the present. It actually bothered us that we didn’t know where the mystery gift came from, and we tried to find out, because we really wanted to say thank you. To acknowledge a gift, you need to know the giver.

Again, that sounds obvious, but sometimes we overlook the obvious. Sometimes we forget that everything we have is from the open hand of the LORD. And then the human view is that it was we who provided: it was our hard work, and good ability, and careful budgeting, and wise investing. But it actually came from God—both the labours and their results—and we need to acknowledge that in prayer and praise.

This is what Psalm 65 teaches. It’s been called a harvest hymn, because it may have been sung at the beginning of the annual harvest. As the people of Israel were heading out to the fields to bring in the wheat and barley, the grapes and olives, they happily acknowledged the source of every blessing as being in God, “You crown the year with your goodness, and your paths drip with abundance” (v 11). It may have been a song for harvest.

Another suggestion is that it was a song of thanksgiving for when a drought or famine has come to an end. There’s an aspect of confession of sin in verse 3 (“Iniquities prevail against me”), so maybe God had been disciplining his people with a drought. But that’s over now: sin has been atoned for, rain has started to fall again, and the crops are showing the promise of fine harvest.

In any case, the prosperity that’s being celebrated is something the Israelites had prayed to God for: “O you who hear prayer, to you all flesh will come” (v 2). Even if they’d sinned before, and depended on idols, now they remembered where to look. In their need they went to the God who hears prayer, knowing that He will answer.

For look at verse 4, “We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, of your holy temple.” David speaks about God’s temple being a depository of blessing, like it’s a warehouse that is packed to the rafters with good gifts. The rain they received, the crops, the thriving flocks—it all came from the temple. Not literally from the temple, of course, but the presence of God is the source of all the goodness we receive: We are satisfied with the goodness of his house!

David then portrays that blessing from God in a striking way. In verse 9 and following, the LORD is pictured as if He’s a gardener who is busy tending to his flowers and working his veggie patch. “You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it” (v 9). God “visits” the earth, which has the sense of God coming near, even “dropping in.” In the Bible God is sometimes said to visit the earth in order to judge sinners, but here God visits in order to show his goodness, to leave behind a blessing. “He visits the earth and waters it,” like we’d go around our garden on a summer morning, giving water to every plant that needs it.

As the Psalm continues, David emphasises that gift of water: “The river of God is full of water… You water its ridges abundantly, you settle its furrows; you make it soft with showers” (vv 9-10). There’s a deep appreciation here for rainfall, which makes sense. Israel was a dry and arid land, receiving rainfall only at certain times of the year. There could also be years when the rains didn’t come at all, and everything dried up. New sources of water were always being looked for, and when they were found, wells and cisterns were built.

Life can’t survive without adequate water, but when there’s a good and steady supply, life is preserved and it’s able to thrive. So it’s a beautiful picture of God’s loving care for the earth as He tends his garden, “You water its ridges abundantly, you settle its furrows… You make it soft with showers, you bless its growth” (v 10). After another long, hot summer, how wonderful it is when the LORD pours refreshing rains down onto the land. The hard clods of earth are broken up, David says, and the earth is made soft, so seeds can penetrate, germinate, proliferate. There’s going to be a harvest, all because God gave the water!

It makes us think of Lord’s Day 50, where we acknowledge to God: “You are the only fountain of all that is good.” You can probably remember a fountain that you’ve seen before, like in a city park: there’s a constant stream of water, gushing up and shooting out. That’s what God is like, says the Catechism and Psalm 65—He’s an endless flow of blessing, a fountain of good.

We find the same language in Psalm 36. There David says, “You give them drink from the river of your pleasures” (v 8). To his thirsty people, God promises that we can kneel down at his river and be satisfied. For the LORD is like a gushing source of water and grace: “With you is the fountain of life” (v 9). God’s life-giving waters feed the streams and rivers, supply the clouds, refresh the land, and quench our thirst. Every drop is sourced from the Fountain in heaven above!

Without God’s water, we’d be lost. Without this water, we’d have no food on our tables, and nothing to drink in our cups—and without water, we would die, every one of us, in probably less than a week. But God sends water, so that life can continue.

That’s the result of God’s rainfall in the closing verses of Psalm 65: “You crown the year with your goodness, and your paths drip with abundance” (v 11). Because God sent the rains, gave growth to the crops, and enabled the people’s work, there’s much blessing. A good harvest is no accident—this is something God has done.

So what is the response to the LORD’s nurture and care? Look at verse 12: “The little hills rejoice on every side.” Or verse 13, “The valleys also are covered with grain; they shout for joy, they also sing.” Creation rejoices in the generous provision of God! Sometimes when you go for a walk, you can almost hear creation sing. If there’s been a recent rainfall, the colours of the flowers have suddenly brightened, the grasses and leaves have been refreshed, there are birds and insects everywhere—it’s a symphony of praise in sound and colour for God the Creator. That’s what the Israelites witnessed too, when they went out to the fields for harvest: a worship-filled testimony to the only fountain of all good.

Doesn’t that teach us? If the little hills rejoice, and the valleys shout for joy and sing—if the trees of the field clap their hands—then what is our answer to the LORD? Do we, God’s own children, remember to acknowledge our Father as the gracious Giver? We see the gifts, and we also know exactly Who gave them. So praise Him! Give thanks with a joyful heart! Worship God in your prayers, and in your songs!

Do it—and do it before you forget. For an appreciation for God’s mercies so quickly fades. When you’re accustomed to having plenty, it almost feels unnecessary to acknowledge God for the little stuff. It’s troubling how we can push God to the fringes of our mind. Did we truly thank Him today? This past week, did we ask for his blessing on our work?

And then instead of being grateful, don’t we sometimes wish we had more than this, that we had better than this? We end up wishing that we had what someone else has, their job, their car, their home. No sooner has a blessing been received, and we find something wrong with it. We wish our security was a little more secure, our happiness a little more happy.

We are corrected by the fourth petition. Jesus reminds us that everything we have comes from God. Yes, if God gives extra, we ought to praise Him—but remember to praise Him for the basics too, as Paul teaches, “Having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Tim 6:8).

That teaches us to consider it carefully, to consider it thankfully, every day of your life: What has God given you today? What mercies has He rained down? Did your car start this morning? Could you take a gulp of morning air when you went outside, and have you kept breathing all day? Have you had food and drink, and do have somewhere safe to sleep tonight, and could you rest and could you work? If so, praise God with thanksgiving. This is the Father’s goodness, and his faithfulness!

 

2) praise Him with confidence: If you were cynical, you might ask to turn down the volume of Psalm 65. Why? You say the only reason there’s so much joy in Israel is because of that great harvest! Who wouldn’t praise God when the earth drips with abundance? Translating that to today, we can ask: Who doesn’t have a thankful feeling when last month’s revenue jumped by 20%? You’d have to be pretty hard-hearted not to feel grateful when you just received an increase in your wages. It’s almost natural to be thankful in times of plenty—so maybe Psalm 65 isn’t such a great example for us.

Because what about when there’s a drought? What about that downturn in the economy, or layoffs at work, or a sudden illness which means you can’t work anymore? Can we still praise God for “crowning the year with his goodness, and making things drip with abundance?”

We can. When the LORD gives a harvest in the field, or at the factory, or in the office, we ought to sing this Psalm. But that’s not the only time. We also sing this Psalm and pray this petition in expectation. For in lean times, and days of scarcity, we anticipate the good gifts of God, and count on what He’s promised.

If you look carefully, that expectation is part of Psalm 65 too. It’s not just a party in the present, but a prayer for the future. Look at verse 5, “By awesome deeds in righteousness you will answer us.” There’s a hope in what God is yet to do: He’ll answer his people, and He’ll do so “in righteousness.” Whenever we hear about God’s “righteousness” in the Bible, we’re pointed to God’s character as the reliable one. He unfailingly keeps his Word, and always upholds his promise.

So when David prays for God to act, to provide, to give, he knows for certain that He’ll answer according to his will. It’s why verse 5 continues, “You… are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of the far-off seas.” Because of who God is, and what He has said, we can have confidence in Him.

That’s one of the important lessons of this petition: the lesson of trust. Do we look to God with confidence that He’ll provide? Ask God for what you need, because that’s what God has told us to expect. He says this in Psalm 34:10, “Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing.” He’s given his Word, like God says in Psalm 81:10, “Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it.”

That makes the fourth petition a bold prayer, yet also a modest prayer. We don’t bring God a wish list as long as our arm. We could easily have a hundred petitions for a whole range of comforts and luxuries. But Jesus teaches us to ask for those basic necessities of life. What do I really, physically require to serve God? God calls me to a life of faith and obedience—so do I have life? Do I have breath in my lungs? Do I have strength in my hands and clarity of mind? Do I have food in my stomach? Am I able to get up this morning and do what God has called me to do?

God makes that promise, and keeps that promise. The people in Psalm 65 praise God for granting a good harvest. And they could look at this material blessing on at least three levels: First, this was God’s generosity in the present—proof of his goodness that you could take in your hands, and see in the fields. Second, this was God’s faithfulness to his promise in the past—proof of his reliability to his Word. And third, this blessing could serve as an added assurance for the future. They could say, “Remember the great harvest of ‘65? Remember how the drought ended with that amazing rainstorm—three days straight—and then all that plenty from the fields? So just think of what God might do this time!”

We should do the same. First, celebrate what God has given you today—enjoy his good gifts, sanctifying them with prayer and thanksgiving. Second, see his blessings as evidence that God keeps his promise. And third, store it up for the future. Make it one more memory of how your Father provides and never forsakes his children. Seeing his unchanging faithfulness, his rock-solid reliability, we start to learn that we don’t have to worry about our money. We learn we don’t have to be anxious about our job or doubt that He’ll provide.

Even when we are working and reaping the benefits, know that it’s all coming through the LORD. Think of all the work in the background of Psalm 65: the Israelites had been busy: ploughing, cultivating, sowing, fertilizing, irrigating. Like they did every year, they had invested huge amounts of labour into their crops. But it all came down to God’s blessings in rain and growth. “You crown the year with your goodness.”

It’s exactly here that we have to fight against a false dependence, a misplaced trust. We find it in that last line of our Lord’s Day, where it’s crafted in the form of a prayer, “[Father], grant… that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures” (Q&A 125). Our confidence can be misdirected. Even if we’ve never said it out loud, the thought is there, just below the surface: “I’ll be OK, because I know how to work hard. I’m pretty resourceful. I’ll make it, because I always have my savings.”

So we pray, “Father, grant that I may withdraw my trust from all creatures and place it only you.” The LORD wants our trust to be placed only in him, the invisible but almighty God. This is our confession when we pray: “Our care and our labour, and also your gifts, cannot do us any good without your blessing” (Q&A 125).

It’s not our efficiently-running brain that brings us our pay every month. It’s not the tools in our hand that earn us a living, not the skills we’ve acquired, or the business we’ve built up. Nor is it our exercise and diet that keep us healthy. But it’s all from God, each gift and opportunity and success.

God wants us to learn that lesson, so that as we begin to trust him in temporal things, we can trust him in things that are eternal. Your daily working and earning and spending—this is the classroom of faith. God knows we’ll need to visit the grocer store again this week, and that the utility bills need to be paid soon. He’ll make sure it can happen. But He provides these things for a purpose, so that we learn: just as God provides for our bodies, so He’ll provide for our souls!

From the same river that all our daily needs were filled—from that same overflowing “fountain of good”—we can receive abundant grace and mercy through Christ. Think of what Jesus said to the woman sitting at the well in John 4. He told her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again” (v 13). He means that the things of this life will only last so long. We’ll eat dinner this evening, but then we’ll need to eat again tomorrow morning. We might have some fine earthly goods right now, but they will fade. Your car will rust. Your home will crumble. Your phone will soon be obsolete. Even our bodies and minds will wear out. Nothing here can satisfy our longing forever. “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again.”

Yet in God’s grace there’s an everlasting hope. This is what Jesus says, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst… The water I give him will become in him a fountain of water, springing up into everlasting life” (v 14). True and lasting life only comes from Him, our Lord and Saviour!

That’s something to think about, when we sit down for another meal, or earn another month of pay. We might have our daily bread, we might even have more than we need, but if we’re not eating from Jesus, the Bread of Life, then it’s all a waste. We might have all our physical desires supplied—even live in a kind of luxury—but if we haven’t been made rich by faith in Christ, then it’s all for nothing. God has given us this physical life so that while we live we might seek Him, and turn to Christ in faith, and obey Him as our Lord and Master.

So praise God for what you most value. Praise God for your daily bread, and praise God for Jesus, the Bread of Life!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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