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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:Thank God for daily blessings through our Lord Jesus Christ
Text:Psalms 136:1,25 (View)
Occasion:Thanksgiving
Topic:Thankfulness
 
Added:2013-03-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

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


Give thanks to the LORD                              Thanksgiving Sunday

Ps. 118: 1, 8

Ps. 17: 2, 3

Ps. 65: 3, 5, 6

Ps. 104: 7, 8

Ps. 107: 1

 

Scripture reading:       Psalm 136

Text:                              Psalm 136: 1, 25

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

We often read in the Old Testament that God’s covenant blessings include rain, fruitfulness, the increase of a farmer’s cattle, and God’s blessing on all our labour.  

The one who fears the LORD – who walks before the face of the LORD in obedience to His commandments – he will be like a tree planted by rivers of water.  

He who meditates on God’s law day and night and shuns evil, he will be like a tree that brings forth its fruit in its season.   He shall prosper in whatever he does, while the ungodly will perish – Psalm 1.

 

Or think of the prophets, how they proclaimed this:

 

“Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.   Woe to the wicked!  It shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him.” – Isaiah 3: 10, 11

 

We read about these covenant promises and covenant curses for example in the book of Deuteronomy:

 

“…if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations on the earth.   And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:

Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.   Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.  

Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.

Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.” – Deut. 28: 1 – 6.

 

According to God’s covenant this is how it shall be: if you obey His voice God will make you prosperous in all your labour.   These blessings also include rain and fruit:

 

“The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand…” – Deut. 28: 12

 

If Israel will obey the LORD, the LORD will also give them a good and stable government, but if they do not obey, the LORD will cause children and women to rule over them – Isaiah 3.

 

We also know that these covenant promises are repeated in the New Testament.   Think for example where the apostle Paul instructs the Ephesians, saying to their children:

 

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.   Honour your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” – Eph. 6: 1 – 3

 

We see how the apostle interprets the covenant promise for those who live under the new covenant.   These Ephesians did not live in the land Canaan, and yet the same promise applies to them.   Instead of the land Canaan the whole earth is now promised to them!   The promise does not fall away in the New Testament, it expands!  

 

At the same time we see how the apostle focuses their attention to the future fulfilment of such covenant promises.   For it is surely not in this life that the church will inherit the whole earth.   It is on the day of Christ’s coming that all God’s covenant promises will find their final and glorious fulfilment.

 

But, does this mean that the promises and curses of the covenant no longer apply for our life here and now?

When we thank the Lord for rain and for a good season, do we thank Him for these covenant blessings?    Or do we regard such blessings as gifts apart from Christ, and apart from God’s covenant with us?

 

Can we still thank the LORD for His covenant blessings when we had a good season with plenty of rain and a good harvest?  

Can we thank the LORD for His covenant blessings when He blesses our business and grants us prosperity? 

Dear congregation, God’s covenant blessings still apply to us, but we have to be careful how we apply them.

We have to remember how David nearly lost his faith when he saw the prosperity of the ungodly, while it seemed to him that he was serving the Lord in vain – Psalm 73.

We have to remember how Hebrews 11 describes the believers during all of history, saying:

 

“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword.    They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy.   They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.   And all these, having obtained a good testimony though faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” – Hebr. 11: 37 – 40.

 

He makes it clear that even the believers under the old covenant had to live by faith, and that they were not the rich and prosperous of this world enjoying an easy life of peace on earth.   All these believers, even under the old covenant, knew that the covenant promises will have a most glorious future fulfilment.   And in that hope they lived.

 

It is on the new earth that we will ultimately receive the blessing of a long life on the earth.

It is then that we will know no diseases or plagues anymore, no droughts or famine, no economic recessions, but will enjoy the full and complete blessings of the covenant.

 

And so the question returns: Does the covenant which God made with us in Christ no longer include rain and a good harvest and God’s blessings on our labour here and now?

 

Dear congregation, when we thank the Lord for His mercies towards us and for His loving-kindness, we think first of all of our salvation in Christ.   And rightly so!   For all the mercies and blessings and grace and kindness which we receive from the Father, we receive in and through Christ.  

Outside of Christ we can ultimately receive nothing but curse. 

And thus, when we speak of God’s mercy, it is always His mercy in Christ.

 

Now, our text this morning tells us that the mercy of the LORD is also seen when He gives food to all flesh.   His mercy also extends to His daily care for all of creation.   Shall we then place such mercies outside of God’s covenant of grace, and call it common grace?  

 

No, the mercy which we receive in Christ is not limited to the forgiveness of our sins, the adoption as children, justification, regeneration, sanctification and glorification in Christ.   Yes, these are indeed the greatest mercies from which all other mercies flow, but these mercies of God which can all be summarised with the one word, salvation, extends also to the renewal of creation.   It also extends to rain and fruitfulness and God’s blessing on our labour.

 

This creation, which is under the curse of God, will also be redeemed.   It will be delivered from the curse under which it labours.   God will create new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells.   And thus there will be no more thistles or thorns, no more toilsome labour with a sweaty face.

The desert will become a garden, and the earth will yield its fruit in great abundance.  

 

That is all part of God’s mercy in Christ.   It is part of His salvation.   And thus, when the coming of Christ was foretold in the Old Testament, the prophets said that His coming and His deliverance would also cause the earth to bear fruit.

 

“In that day the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious; and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing…” – Isaiah 4: 2.

 

When the LORD redeems His people and restores them, the earth will become very fruitful.   The LORD says:

 

“…I, the God if Israel, will not forsake them.   I will open rivers in desolate heights, and fountains in the midst of valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” – Isaiah 41: 18

 

And when we read in the New Testament that Christ healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, opened the ears of the deaf, caused the lame to dance, and raised the dead, we see something of this future creation where the curse of sin will be removed by Christ’s redemption.  

And so God’s salvation also includes a whole new creation in and through Christ, so that our salvation in Christ will also include fruitfulness, prosperity, and success in all our labour.

And we do receive a foretaste of such blessing even in this life.

 

Dear congregation, while it is true that we live by faith and not by sight; while it is true that our hope is fixed and should remain fixed on the future fulfilment of all God’s promises, and that God’s covenant blessings will find their final and glorious fulfilment on the new earth, it is also true that we are now already enjoying God’s daily care for us, and that all the blessings which we daily receive are blessings in and through Christ, for which we may and should thank the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus.  

 

And so I proclaim to you God’s Word with the theme:

Thank God for daily blessings through our Lord Jesus Christ

 

We will note…

1.      That the LORD’s mercy is everlasting

2.      That He gives food to all flesh

3.      That we are called to thank the Father through Christ

We note in the first place that…

The LORD’s mercy is everlasting

 

            “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!   For His mercy endures forever.”

When David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and restored the tabernacle service, he also appointed Levites to thank the LORD, and we read that they had…

“…to give thanks to the LORD, because His mercy endures forever.” – 1 Chron. 16: 41.

King David laid these words in their mouth: “…give thanks to the LORD, because His mercy endures forever.”    And these words became a refrain – not only in Psalm 136, but a refrain throughout the history of Israel.

 

King Solomon built a temple for the LORD, and when the ark was brought into the temple all the elders of Israel was gathered for the feast, and as the ark of the covenant was brought into the temple, the Levites who were appointed as musicians “praised the LORD, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever…” – 2 Chron. 5: 13.

 

And as they sang these words of Psalm 136 the house of the LORD was filled with the glory of the LORD.   And fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offerings and the sacrifices which were prepared.   And when all the people of Israel saw this, and how the glory of the LORD filled and covered the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground and worshipped and “praised the LORD for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.” – 2 Chron. 7: 3.

 

And yes, these words became a refrain in the history of Israel.

We read in 2 Chronicles how the Moabites and the Ammonites came to battle against king Jehoshaphat.    Then the Spirit of the LORD came on a Levite who prophesied and said that the people of Judah do not have to fear, and that they will not even have to fight in this battle:

 

“…stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!...” (2 Chron. 20: 17)

 

And then we read the remarkable history how the Levites who were appointed for music sang these words:

 

            “Praise the LORD, for His mercy endures forever.”

 

And as they began to sing these words, the LORD set ambushes against the Ammonites and Moabites and defeated them.

 

The LORD also spoke through the prophet Jeremiah and said that when He restores Judah and Jerusalem He will again cause His people to sing these words:

 

“Praise the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for His mercy endures forever.” – Jer. 33:11.

 

Yes, it became a refrain throughout the history of Israel.  

It is God’s covenant people thanking the LORD for His salvation.

 

And the Jews called this psalm, Psalm 136, the great psalm of thanksgiving.

 

Now, the thanksgiving in this Psalm is directed to Jahve – in our translation LORD with four capital letters.

It is by this Name, Jahve, that God revealed His faithfulness in keeping His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.   He is the great I-AM-WHO-I-AM, who remains faithful to His promise.  

 

And so when the psalm starts with the words, “Give thanks to Jahve, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever”, then the mercy of Jahve which endures forever is His eternal mercy towards His people.   This psalm describes the mercy which the LORD, Jahve, has shown to His people Israel in the history of salvation.

 

And that brings us to the meaning of this word “mercy”.  

The same Hebrew word is also translated: kindness, goodness, favour, lovingkindness, and merciful kindness.  

The word itself may be used to refer to the kindness of one man towards another when he does favours to him, or when mercy is shown to people in need – mercy to the poor and needy.  

The same word is also often used to refer to the Lord’s steadfast love in showing mercy and lovingkindness towards His people when He redeems them from their enemies, and delivers them from trouble, and also redeems them from sin.  

Now, this word, mercy, is also very often used to describe the steadfast love which the LORD, Jahve, shows to Israel. 

 

“You will show faithfulness to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from days of old.” – Micah 7: 20.

 

In such passages the word mercy refers to the steadfast lovingkindness which the LORD, Jahve, will show to His people. 

This is stated very clearly where we read: 

 

“…know that Jahve your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments…” – Deut. 7: 9

 

“…it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that Jahve your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers.” – Deut. 7: 12.

 

It is the steadfast covenant mercy of Jahve; it is the mercy which He has promised in the covenant to those who fear Him.  

 

Because He remembers His covenant forever; therefore His covenant mercy endures forever.

 

And that is also what we see here in Psalm 136.   It is God’s covenant people, thanking the LORD for His covenant mercy.

But now we also see, here in our text, that this word mercy, even the everlasting mercy of Jahve, is also used to refer to His goodness in caring for all flesh.

Jahve, the God of god’s, the Lord of lords – who alone does great wonders, who by His wisdom made the heavens, who delivers His covenant people from their enemies, as we sing in this psalm – He also gives food to all flesh, for His mercy endures forever – verse 25.

 

We note that in the second place…

The LORD gives food to all flesh 

 

He gives food to all flesh, for His mercy endures forever.

The phrase “His mercy endures forever” may also be translated from the Hebrew: “everlasting is His mercy.”  

His mercy lasts forever.

 

And now this everlasting mercy of Jahve is also seen when He feeds all flesh.

 

All flesh – that is: not only all mankind, but every living creature.

He feeds the birds in the sky and the herds on the fields and the fish in the sea.

All flesh – that includes also all men; not only the godly, but also the ungodly.  

He feeds all.

 

It reminds us of the words of our Lord Jesus where He says that our Father in heaven…

 

“…makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Mat. 5: 45

 

Is the rain, after all, then not given as a covenant blessing to God’s people when they obey His voice?

 

Brothers and sisters, we do receive the same rain which falls on the unjust, but while we receive the rain as a covenant blessing, they do not receive it as such.  

We receive a fruitful season as the lovingkindness of our God towards us in and through Christ, but they do not receive it as such.

 

This world, which is cursed by God and reserved for fire, is now still enjoying a time of grace while the judgment is waiting.   And while the final judgment has not yet come the ungodly are still enjoying many privileges in this life.   They breathe in the same air as we do; they enjoy the sunshine just as much as we do; they benefit from the same fruitful season, and they share the same economy with us.  

And this is so because God still grants them time for repentance; and with many gifts He draws them.   But there is a day and an hour fixed when the time for repentance will be over.

Then the ungodly will no longer taste the kindness of the LORD, but wrath only.

 

They will not enjoy His mercy forever.

 

Dear congregation, our text does not say that God will forever show His mercy to all flesh, or that He will feed all flesh forever!

No, it says that God is presently feeding all flesh, He cares for His creation, and that this kindness and goodness of God even to brute beasts, testify of His eternal goodness and mercy. 

 

The meaning is then that if the LORD cares even for cattle and the beasts of the field, and if all people – even the ungodly – benefit from the goodness and kindness of their Creator, much more will God’s own children benefit from the everlasting mercy which He bestows on those who fear Him!   For them His mercy will endure forever.   As we also read in Psalm 103:

 

“…the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.” (Psalm 103: 17, 18)

 

His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him and keep His covenant.

 

Yes, He gives food to all flesh, because He is good and kind to all of His creation, and this goodness and kindness flows from His very being.   He is goodness.   He Himself is mercifulness.   His mercy is one of His divine attributes.  

 

This eternal mercy which dwells in Him is also seen in His care for all of creation, and therefore all of creation ought to thank and praise Him for His goodness and kindness, but they don’t.

It is God’s people who receive all these blessings from His hand with thankfulness and indeed thank Him for it.

 

Yes, we thank the LORD for His daily care in feeding and clothing us, for rain and crop and health, as we receive also these blessings from the hand of our Father through Christ.

And it is also to this praise and thanksgiving that Psalm 136 calls God’s covenant people.

 

We note that in the last place, that…

We are called to thank the Father through Christ

 

Psalm 136 calls us to thank the LORD for His goodness and for His everlasting mercy.   And, as we saw, His goodness and kindness also includes His daily care for all of creation.   He feeds us every day, therefore: let us acknowledge His care and thank Him for it.

 

Dear congregation, we may thank the LORD for rain and crop and health.   Most of us still have plenty of work and receives a good income.   We have enough food to eat and clothes to wear.  And we are called to thank the LORD also for these blessings.  

But how do we thank Him?

 

And what exactly do we thank Him for?   Do we thank Him for these blessings in and through Christ, or do we regard such blessings as benefits outside of Christ; apart from Christ?

 

Are these benefits maybe just part of this creation and part of the course of nature?

Or may we indeed call it blessings that we receive because of the LORD’s eternal mercy towards us; covenant blessings in Christ?

 

Yes, we know that even in the time of the old covenant it happened that the ungodly were often prosperous, while those who served the LORD often experienced much affliction.  

And so we must be careful how we apply the covenant promises.

 

God does not promise the believer an easy and prosperous life on this earth.

And we cannot say that Australia has been more obedient to the LORD in the past year, and that we therefore had a good season.  

It is not always so easy to draw a direct line from a man’s obedience to the LORD to the prosperity that he enjoys.  

For the fulfilment of God’s promises in glory is still waiting for the day of Christ’s coming.   It is then that Abel will enjoy a long life on the earth; it is then that we will inherit the earth; it is then that the desert will turn into a garden.

 

And therefore we are not always in this life now and here able to draw a clear line and say: we have been listening to the voice of the LORD therefore we had a good season!

 

And yet, God’s covenant promises do apply also to this life, although it may now only be a small foretaste of what has been promised.

And we do receive all blessings in and through Christ; and no blessings apart from Him.

 

With the ungodly it is different.   While they receive the same rain as we do, and form part of the same labour force that we belong to, and while we share the same prosperity of the same country, they do not acknowledge this as gifts from the hand of our heavenly Father, and so all these gifts which they now enjoy will serve for their condemnation.

 

But we are blessed.   We are blessed even when we are diagnosed with cancer.   We are blessed even when our business goes under.   We remain blessed in the midst of a recession.   We are blessed even when the crop fails.   For our Father continues to care for us in all our needs.   And He knows best what our needs really are.

He is with us in fruitful and barren years; in health and sickness. 

 

He is also with us in times of prosperity.   And when we do experience prosperity, it is only from His hand by the mercies of Christ.

And so the apostle Paul teaches us that when we thank the Father, we have to thank Him in the Name of the Lord Jesus.   In all things we have to thank Him through Christ – Col. 3: 17

 

It means in the first place that even our thanksgiving is only acceptable to God if we thank Him thought the mediation of Christ.   But it also means that we receive all blessings through Christ alone, therefore we are only able to thank the Father through Him.  

We receive nothing from the Father outside or apart from Christ.

 

Therefore, while all of creation benefit from the goodness and kindness of its Creator, it is only those who receive God as Father though Christ that are able to thank and praise the Father through Christ for His everlasting mercy; and only those who are in Christ are able to thank the Father through Christ.  

 

While the entire world receives the benefits of God’s goodness and kindness, it is only in the church that we find this thanksgiving of Psalm 136.  

It is God’s covenant people thanking their covenant God for His covenant blessings in and through Christ.

 

Dear congregation, let us thank the LORD for His daily care in feeding and clothing us, for rain and crop and health.  

And since we receive all these benefits from the hand of our Father through Christ, we are also assured of His future blessings: that He will provide also tomorrow, and every day in the year to come, and even for all eternity.  

For:

 

“…the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him…” (Psalm 103: 17)

 

For those who are in Christ, yes, for us, His mercy will always endure; even for eternity.

 

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, our God, for He is good!   For His mercy towards us endures forever.

 

Let us see and acknowledge this, and in the Name of our Lord Jesus thank Him for His mercy.

 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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