A Psalm for Giving Thanks
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A Psalm for Giving Thanks

Psalm 100:1–5  (ID: 2599)

“Shout for joy to the Lord!” These words from Psalm 100 are an invitation from God Himself, calling us to joyful worship and thankful praise. As Alistair Begg discusses God’s call to thankfulness in this familiar psalm, we are reminded that our worship is to be based on the truths presented in His Word, and that depending on the Lord Jesus Christ’s redeeming work enables us to enter His gate with praise.

Series Containing This Sermon

Thankful Living

Selected Scriptures Series ID: 26001

Sermon Transcript: Print

Psalm 100:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
 come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
 It is he who made us, and we are his;
 we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
 give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
 his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Father, as we come now before your holy Word, we bow in reverence and in expectation that the Spirit of God will take the written page of Scripture, the voice of a mere man, and come and speak into our lives in such a way as to change us. This is our humble cry and our earnest plea. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, as we turn together then to the One Hundredth Psalm, I hope you will agree that it is appropriate to set aside, at least for today, our studies in James. We are at the moment going through the book of James, as those who are regular will know. And as I anticipated today, there was just something about beginning the service or beginning our study with these words, “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.” That is the Word of God as it begins James 5. But I thought, “Mmm I don’t know, not for the Sunday after Thanksgiving.” I know that all Scripture is profitable for rebuke and for correction and reproof and yet one is supposed to be wise at the same time.[1] And so when I had set aside then my only place to go, I had to decide, well there must be somewhere else to go, and to the psalmist I went, back to the soul’s medicine chest, because here in these psalms, we have laments if we are downhearted, we have the cries to God in various circumstances of life, and also we have the offerings of praise and thanksgiving.

You will be rejoicing with me in the discovery that the One Hundredth Psalm actually has a heading in the NIV. How delighted I was to find it, and if your Bible is open you will see it. It says, “A psalm. For giving thanks.” Well, I said, that seems highly appropriate. If I turn it around, it is “a psalm for thanksgiving,” which I think is the same thing, and so here we are, at one of the best-known psalms in the entire psalter, known largely, in measure, on account of the work of a sixteenth century Scotsman by the name of William Kethe who gave to us the metric version of this psalm:

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice;
Him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell.
Come ye before him and rejoice.[2]

Kethe was an exile to Geneva in the sixteenth century when Mary Queen of Scots was doing her dastardly business, and he and many of his friends had to vamoosh, and off he went to Geneva in 1556, and in 1561 returned to London and introduced this metric psalm. Of course, the tune, the “Old Hundredth,” has been further immortalized for us in the paraphrase written by Isaac Watts which begins, in its most traditional form, “Before Jehovah’s aweful throne.”[3]

So, the One Hundredth Psalm is not an unknown psalm even to people who are on the fringes of the Bible, and it is the very familiarity of the psalm which makes it difficult to deal with. I know when I say that, some of you think, “It’s a line, it’s rhetoric,” but it’s not. It’s absolutely true. It is in many ways much easier to study stuff that is less familiar, less well known, and harder to tackle than it is to come to that which we apparently know. Because the problem is we think we know, and then we think that the people will think they know, and since we know that we don’t know, we know that they don’t know either, and yet how are we going to convey this in a way that is absorbable and understandable? Well, as I studied the psalm, it appeared to me that David, as is the case in many psalms, repeats himself. He calls for the people to praise God at the beginning—verses 1 and 2 is a call to worship—and then verse 3 is the basis for that worship. And then again in verse 4, he issues another call, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving,” and then in verse 5, he explains the basis for that thanksgiving. Well, when I got there, I thought that I had probably made sufficient progress to be able to tackle it, and I gathered my thoughts around two main headings, which I’ll mention to you. First of all, the invitation to thanksgiving or, if you like, what we’re called to do; and then the foundation for thanksgiving or, if you like, what we need to know.

The Invitation to Thanksgiving      

First, then, the invitation to thanksgiving. You will realize, and the picture here is probably of the presiding priest welcoming people out and the courtyards as they make their way into the place of worship and celebration, and he greets them with a whole succession of verbs. You will notice: shout for joy, worship the Lord, come before him, know who he is, enter his gates, give thanks to him, praise his name. Nobody would be in any doubt, and any child reading the psalm even now recognizes that this is a call to activity, that this is a call to action. Now I suppose it would be possible for us just to work our way through each of those verbs, but I found that fairly tedious in prospect, and I think you would find the same. And so I determined that I would give you just two subheadings under our main heading, and the first of these is as follows: that what we have here in this invitation to thanksgiving is an invitation first to joyful worship—to joyful worship. “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.” Those of you who come from an Anglican background, from a Church of England or an Episcopal background, will know the One Hundredth Psalm as the “Jubilate,” and in your background you know that if someone announces that we’re going to sing the “Jubilate,” you would recognize that we’re about to sing the One Hundredth Psalm, “Jubilate” coming simply from the Latin, “to be joyful.” And that is exactly what the call is. You will notice the opening phrase, “Shout for joy,” a call to exuberant, vocal, joyful worship—exuberant, vocal, joyful worship. Exuberant, vocal, joyful worship. No funereal faces here. No one looking as though they have swallowed something that has made them distinctly uncomfortable. No one looking like a large donkey leaning over a fence in the north of Scotland, where it’s freezing cold. No, none of that at all. A cry to the nations to shout for joy.

Now, you see the psalmist recognizes, as we will go on to identify, that this is no mere rhetoric on his part; but the people of God, aware of God’s activity in them and through them, have been “surprised by joy,” to quote the biography of C. S. Lewis.[4] Joy, if you like, has crept up on them and taken them by surprise. For example in Isaiah 51:11, in a verse that gave to us one of our most sung songs of the ’60s, those of us who were around, Isaiah says of these people, “everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” That was, in the ’60s, you will remember,

Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return,
And come with singing unto Zion;
And everlasting joy shall be upon their head[s].[5]

If you wondered what it was you were singing about, you were singing the song of the people in Isaiah in the middle sections. In other words, we were giving voice to that which the psalmist says elsewhere, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”[6] The opportunity for joyful worship is something which lifts the spirits of the genuine worshipper. And you will notice that no one is left out of the exhortation, no one is sidelined by this invitation. “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.” The whole earth should praise God. That’s what the psalmist says. This cry to shout for joy, this “Jubilate,” should ring throughout the nations. Why? Because God has made the nations, and he has made the nations for the praise of his glorious grace. This verse, says Kidner, “claims the whole world for God.”[7] Jehovah is not the tribal deity of Israel. He is the sovereign ruler over the entire earth, and that is why joyful worship is the only right and proper response to God’s revelation of himself. That is why, by the time you get all the way into the New Testament and to the applicatory portions of Paul’s treatise on the gospel in Romans, he says by way of application to those whom he has instructed for eleven chapters, “Therefore,” he says, brothers and sisters “I beseech you by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice to him which is your only reasonable service of worship,”[8] and what he is doing is he’s fastening on the truth that the psalmist reveals here.

There are all kinds of sacrifices in the Old Testament. If we were to summarize them under two headings they would be these: first of all, the sacrifices that are propitiatory to deal with sin, and then sacrifices that are celebratory or dedicatory in response to sin having been dealt with. And it is to this second dimension that we are called, to recognize the wonder of what has been accomplished for us in the mercies of God: that that which was pictured in the Old Testament sacrificial system pointed forward to Jesus, a lamb without spot and without blemish, who would bear our sins in his own body on the tree. And in light of that, then surely who like the redeemed should sing his praise?

Well the invitation is then first of all an invitation to joyful worship, and in verse 4 it is an invitation to thankful praise. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” The simplicity of the very invitation daren’t prevent us from being grasped by the wonder of it. “Enter his gates.” Gates are interesting things, aren’t they? I know they swing both ways, and you may have gates that are your favorites. I suppose when I think of gates in any ultimate sense, I think of Buckingham Palace, and some of you have been there and you understand why. Because like me and amongst the commoners, you have crowded around and you’ve stood at those gates and you’ve actually even poked your nose a little bit through the railings, but you’ve been struck by the fact that the gates are closed, and they’re purposefully closed. They’re closed in order to prevent our entrance. They’re closed in order to protect the Sovereign. They’re closed in order to make the point that we are not going in.

The story is told of a little boy who was standing there and he looked up at one of the policemen, and he said, “Please sir, I want to go in and see the King.” The policeman said, “Not now sonny, just be quiet.” And he became insistent and slightly belligerent, “No, but I want to see the King! I want to go in through these gates and see the King.” And overhearing this, somebody stepped forward and said, “What’s going on?” And the policeman said, “This young boy wants to go and see the King.” The man reached out his hand and took the boy’s hand, and he said to the policeman, he said, “Please open the gates.” And the gates were opened, and in they walked. Well of course, it just so happened that the Prince of Wales had overheard the cry of the boy, and he was able to give access to his father the King.

It is Jesus who gives access to the Father, and the gates are opened wide and they’re opened wide in welcome, and the invitation that is given in this festal procession is to come right in.

It is Jesus who gives access to the Father, and the gates are opened wide and they’re opened wide in welcome, and the invitation that is given in this festal procession is to come right in. Not to trample in his courts, but to enter his courts with praise. In fact, the prophet speaks of those who simply trample around. God says through the prophet in Isaiah 1:12, “When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?” You see the difference? You go down to the botanical gardens there at University Circle and see all those lovely plants and beautiful bushes and everything else, and you have to be careful. And if you trample around, somebody will tap you on the shoulder, and rightly so, say, “Excuse me, we didn’t ask you to come in here and just trample around. That’s why we have the paths and why we have the signs.” Of course you may trample because you’re clueless: “Oh, I didn’t realize.” You may trample because you’re careless: “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t notice.” You may trample because you’re callous: “I don’t care about your signs or about your flowers.” Did you come to trample in the courts of God today, just to trample in, clueless? “I suppose I have go, it’s Thanksgiving. My Aunt Mable said I have to go.” I’m glad you’re here, but you’re clueless. Or careless. “I come, I go, I come, I go.” I hope no one’s callous. “Who cares? Let’s get this over with. Let’s get on with the real day.”

No, you see, the invitation is very straightforward. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise,” because you see, the Christian of all people recognizes the wonder of this invitation, that the torn curtain at the time of the death of Jesus pictures what Christ had performed, opening up a new and living way into the presence of God by his own sacrifice once and for all and by his own blood. And when I understand this, then irrespective of my circumstances or the state of my own health or my wellbeing or my interest in things, I realize why the hymn writers have helped us by saying, “My heart is filled with thankfulness to him who bore my pain.”[9] No, the invitation is a clear one, isn’t it? It’s a timely one: an invitation to thanksgiving, an invitation to joyful worship and to thankful praise. But if you’re thinking, and I know you are, then you have to say to yourself, “Well, on what basis then this joyful worship and this thankful praise?” We’ve hinted at it, but now we need to get to the heart of it because here we have the foundation for thanksgiving. The foundation for thanksgiving. Notice the verb that begins verse 3: “Know that the Lord is God.” Knowledge is power. Knowledge is the basis for our praise. If you read your Bible at all, you will know the Bible knows nothing of empty-headed Christians. There are empty-headed Christians, and there is some empty-headed Christian preaching, but it’s not from the Bible. It’s not from the Bible. No, the Bible is very clear. You will notice that this doesn’t stir up our emotions. Emotion is involved—not emotionalism, emotion—but it doesn’t start from there. It doesn’t start in the heart and try and stir the head. It starts in the head and moves to the heart. You need to know something, he says. If you’re going to accept my invitation to shout in this way, to exuberant vocal praise, if you’re going to become a people that are marked by this thing, there are certain things you need to know, and if you don’t know them you will never be able to engage in this way.

The expressions of gratitude that come are tied neither to the psalmist’s circumstances nor to his feelings.

The expressions of gratitude that come are tied neither to the psalmist’s circumstances nor to his feelings. Not to his circumstances nor to his feelings, and were that not the case, then I don’t know how it would be that the gentleman who wrote to me this week from the state prison in California could give such expressions of gratitude to God in thankfulness. He actually wrote to me from Pleasant Valley State Prison. There’s an oxymoron for you, I suppose. “So where are you spending Thanksgiving?” “Well I’m in Pleasant Valley.” “Oh, that sounds very nice.” “No but wait a minute it’s not, just … that’s not the whole address.” But what about this fellow in Pleasant Valley State Prison? “And how was your Thanksgiving? All your family there, were they? Superb meal just the way your mother usually makes it? Well, I don’t know how you could be thankful at all.” You see, because we got it all wrong as the foundation for thanksgiving. The real foundation for thanksgiving is in knowing that the Lord is God. You see, to know is to have firm ground underfoot. To know is to have firm ground underfoot. Civil engineers recognize this. It is on the basis of knowledge and calculation that we can endeavor to take that strain and to bear that load. We don’t want somebody feeling that it would be a nice idea to have the bridge a little like this. No. We need to know. We need to know.

You see, the Christian knows—doesn’t know everything, but knows this—“He took me out of a miry pit.” This is the psalmist as well, you remember, in Psalm 40: “He took me out of a miry pit and from the slimy clay, and he set my feet upon a rock and he established my going. And he put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to my God.”[10] You see, it is the strength of the foundation that gives the basis for the exuberance of the praise. If you’re still in the slimy pit, if you’re still in the miry clay, then I sympathize entirely with you in being asked to sing these songs, because you’re saying, “What in the world are these songs? I neither like the words or the tune or anything about them. There’s not a thing I like about these things.” Teenage boys, most of them, they hate most of this singing. I understand why. But I’ll tell you, once their feet hits the rock, their lips will praise.

The Lord is God, and We Were Made by Him

The foundation for thanksgiving is in what we know.

You see, the foundation for thanksgiving is in what we know. What do we need to know? Two things. He tells us, one, “that the Lord is God”—“that the Lord is God.” That Yahweh is Elohim. “That the Lord is God.” He is the creator of the ends of the earth, and we were made by him. Notice, “it is he who made us, and we are his.” The reference here is not to the work of creation in terms of our individual DNA and stuff; the reference here is to the work of God in creating a people that are his very own. You remember he says to Abraham, “Through your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”[11] And what the psalmist is saying here is this: our very existence as a company of God’s people, our very gathering in this way, is indication of who God is. God is the God who made us. Once we weren’t a people, but now we are the people. Once we didn’t receive mercy, now we have received mercy. “Well,” you say, “that sounds like the New Testament.” Well, it is actually the New Testament, but Peter is using Old Testament language to make the point. 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God …. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” You see that’s church. That’s the people of God:

“Hey, are your feet on a solid rock?”
“So are mine—let’s sing!”
“Hey, were you in the miry clay?”
“I was too.”
“How did you get out?”
“God brought me out.”
“Hey, he brought me out as well—let’s sing!”
“What do you want to sing?” “Oh, I don’t know. Just … just something.”

Well you see, if there’s nothing in, it doesn’t come out—God puts it in before he brings it out.

The Lord is God, and We Belong to Him

What do we need to know? That the Lord is God. That we were made by him. And secondly that we belong to him. That’s the second half of verse 3, “we are his people.” We don’t belong to ourselves. “You’re not your own, you were bought with a price.”[12] When you were redeemed, you ceased to be your own man. You’re God’s man, you’re God’s woman, and God has given you a whole forever family, and they’re just as funny and weird as your own family and in some cases funnier and weirder. But when we look upon one another, we realize that as the cry goes out, as the invitation goes out to sing God’s praise, we look at one another and say, “Don’t you think we ought to be making a noise here or doing something about this? After all, I was in the miry clay. I’m on the solid rock, and so are you. I couldn’t hear you singing behind a bus ticket. What’s up with you?”

No, it’s very straightforward. I hope you find it just as equally straightforward. That’s why I love to sing especially when we bring in new members, “We’re the people of God called by his name. Called from the dark and delivered from shame.”[13] We are the work of his hands. That’s what God did with his people in the Old Testament: he made them the work of his hands. In fact, he describes his people in the Old Testament as the work of his hands: Isaiah 61, he says of his people, “You are the work of my hands created for my splendor.”[14] Do you get the picture again in 1 Peter 2? He says we were created for the praise of his glory. Peter simply knows his Bible. He knows that God views his people as those who were created for his splendor and for his glory, and so Peter reinforces it.[15]

He is the potter who has fashioned us, and he is the shepherd who tends to us. He is the one who makes us lie down in green pastures.

He is the potter who has fashioned us, and he is the shepherd who tends to us. He is the one who makes us lie down in green pastures.[16] It is a lovely verse, three, isn’t it? “Know that the Lord is God.” O God, help me to know that you are my Lord and God, that you made your people, that we belong to you, and that “we are the sheep of your pasture.” And the wonder of it is that he has redeemed us, that he has brought us into the fellowship of the Son that he loves, and all that is now ours in the Lord Jesus Christ is not an occasion for pride but is an occasion for praise. And I say to you again, we need to know this, so that the hymn writer capturing it says, “It’s what I know of thee, my Lord and God, that fills my heart with praise, my lips with song.”[17] It’s what I know of thee, my Lord and God, that fills my heart with praise, my lips with song.

C. S. Lewis—and I’ll just make an aside here for a moment. C. S. Lewis in his Reflections on the Psalms has a fascinating chapter that is entitled, “A Word about Praising.”[18] Okay? Because when I say this, when I quote that hymn to you, “’Tis what I know of thee, my Lord and God, that fills my heart with praise, my lips with song,” you may, like C. S. Lewis as he acknowledges it in this book, have a hard time figuring the whole praise aspect. C. S. Lewis, who’s prepared to venture into territory that other people leave alone, starts the chapter by saying when he first become a Christian, he couldn’t get the praise thing at all. He couldn’t understand why it was that anybody would ask to be praised all the time. After all, he said, if you go to a party and somebody wants to be the center of attention all the time, you instinctively don’t like that person. So why would I then like a God who wanted to be praised all the time and who wanted everybody to go around talking to each other and say, “Hey why don’t we praise God?” And Lewis says, “I … I couldn’t get it figured out at all.” And I’m breaking into his thought but, I think, at the most pivotal moment. He says,

But the most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I [had] thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise—lovers … readers … walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game—praise of weather, [praise of] wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.[19]

He says, if you think about it, the whole world’s about praise: it’s the spontaneous acknowledgement of what is valuable, and people praise what is valuable to them. They talk about what is valuable. That’s why if you just let somebody talk for five minutes, you will find out what they’re on about. You’ll find out what they like or what they read or if they read or if they don’t read, it will come out. And the point the psalmist is making is, if you assemble the people of God and leave them on their own and they don’t begin to sing exuberant, joyful worship, you know they have a problem, because people give vent to that which is most valuable to them. And then he says, “I [hadn’t] noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least.”[20] And then he has a little thing about hymns where he says, you know, that “Heaven knows, many poems of praise addressed to an earthly beloved are as bad as our bad hymns.”[21]

In other words, he says you know, you wrote a poem to your wife and it stinks? Well, some of the hymns do as well, “and an anthology of love poems for public and perpetual use would probably be as sore a trial to literary taste as ‘Hymns Ancient and Modern,’”[22] which was the hymnbook of the Anglican Church at that point. Then he says,

I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ The psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.[23]

You get it? “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t that a glorious sunset? Did you see that game? Have you read that book?” That’s praise: the spontaneous, voluntary overflow of that which we value. Incidentally, education is about teaching us what to value, so that we might value that which is most valuable, so that we might give vent to our feelings in relationship to those things.

The Lord is Good

Finally, we need to know not only that the Lord is God, but we also need to know that “the Lord is good”—that the Lord is good. Moses meets God on Sinai, and God comes proclaiming his name. Listen to it: “The Lord, the Lord … compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” That’s Exodus 34:6, and it is this that the psalmist affirms as the very foundation for thanksgiving. Why give him thanks? “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever.” This is his covenant love, his steadfast love, that we sang about at the beginning. This is the faithfulness that continues through all generations—the covenant love of God by which he saves and preserves and keeps his people and causes generations yet unborn to arise and give him praise in their day. It is the sovereign grace of God that will not let us go, that affirms his faithfulness to us despite our wanderings.

And I think this was really my great discovery of thanksgiving in the study of this psalm, because I realized all of a sudden—it hit me like standing on the end of a rake—I realized how narcissistic my interest in Thanksgiving really was, how self-focused it really was, how it had to do ultimately with my stomach, or with my feelings, or with self-aggrandizement in some way. And I realized that if someone were to come in and take away that ability to eat, take away the company of those people, remove me from the benefits of this freedom, place me in a miserable desert, stick me in the wilds of Afghanistan, put me somewhere out in the middle of Iraq, remove me from everything that represents, you know, this great American experience, then I say to myself, “I don’t know what I would do. What would I sing about? What would I say? With whom would I gather?” What was our boy doing in the Pleasant Valley State Prison? None of this. That’s not to make us feel bad; it is to make us understand this, and I hope you get this and with this I will close. You see, even when our voices are choked with tears, when our hearts fail us, when our circumstances frustrate us, when life seems to let us down or does let us down, when we are a disappointment to those who love us—yes, and a disappointment to ourselves—we may still find in God’s covenant love the foundation for joyful worship and thankful praise.[MOU1] 

David is in the desert in Psalm 63. He’s pursued, maybe even by his own son Absalom, and those who at this point in his life want just to do away with him. And in the course of that experience in the desert he says, Psalm 63:3, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” Because your love is better than life, is better than human existence, is better than that which I value most—that I can breathe and live and move and interact with my loved ones—because your steadfast love is better than life itself, I will praise you. That’s very different from, “Because everything is going tremendously well, because I got the promotion, because the turkey was perfect, because …” fill in the blanks. You see, but that kind of thanksgiving holds no appeal for the person who was alone on Thanksgiving, who went to a deli and bought enough to eat by herself or himself, who was separated by dint of fear or failure from loved ones, and so on. Where is the foundation for thanksgiving in this? It’s gone, you see, unless God’s love is better than life itself.

You know, one of the distinctive marks of Christian experience is a thankful heart, and one of the strongest indications of the fact that I am not yet a Christian is ingratitude. They neither knew God, “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.”[24] And I just want to finish with this P.S., and that is for somebody who may be here this morning and say, “Well maybe I get a hint of this from what you’re saying.” Maybe you’re honest enough to say, “You know I’ve actually been trying to figure this equation out entirely on my own. I’ve been endeavoring to enjoy the kind of goodness and the gifts of this God while at the same time just ignoring the God himself. And I thought that if I got enough of the goodness and enough of the gifts, that would be enough for me, but I’ve found that neither these expressions of goodness nor the gifts are able to fill the longings of my life.” No they aren’t, because Pascal was right: the void inside of us is a God-shaped void. It can’t be filled by his gifts or his goodness, it can only be filled by himself.[25]

The appeal is universal. It’s an appeal to the nations to shout to God, to come and meet him in joyful worship and thankful praise. To know that he’s God, that he made his people, that we belong to him; that he’s good, and that he’s good even when days are bad, even when doubts arise, even when fears consume us. And that’s the only foundation upon which we can say, “Thank you.”

Father, I pray that out of this company this morning there will be those of us who come afresh to you and are humble enough to acknowledge that, although it’s a cliché now, we’re really concerned with the gifts rather than with the giver; it’s the same at Christmastime. The fact of your giving of yourself—we pay lip service to it while we scurry off to the mall. We come to think of Thanksgiving and get all caught up with turkeys and that which may even divert us from you and our need for you. So forgive us, Lord, and come and refresh our hearts. Grant that we might bow before your throne, that we might join the nations of the world, because we know that one day, your Word says, “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”[26] Help us Lord to bow before you now as Savior, lest we meet you on that day as our judge. For your name’s sake we pray. Amen.

[1] 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV 1984 paraphrased).

[2] William Kethe, “All People That on Earth Do Dwell” (ca. 1562).

[3] Isaac Watts, “Before Jehovah’s Aweful Throne” (1719).

[4] C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1955).

[5] Ruth Lake, “Therefore the Redeemed” (1972).

[6] Psalm 122:1 (NIV 1984 paraphrased).

[7] Derek Kidner, Psalms 73–150 (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1973), 356.

[8] Romans 12:1 (NIV 1984 paraphrased).

[9] Keith and Kristyn Getty, “My Heart Is Filled with Thankfulness” (2012).

[10] Psalm 40:2–3 (NIV 1984 paraphrased).

[11] Genesis 26:4 (NIV 1984 paraphrased).

[12] 1 Corinthians 6:20 (NIV 1984).

[13] Wayne Watson, “People of God” (1982).

[14] Isaiah 61:3 (NIV 1984 paraphrased).

[15] 1 Peter 2:9–10 (NIV 1984).

[16] Psalm 23 (NIV 1984).

[17] Horatius Bonar, “Not What I Am, O Lord” (1861 paraphrased).

[18] C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (Great Britain: Fontana Books, 1961).

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Romans 1:21 (NIV 1984).

[25] Blaise Pascal, Pensées (1670).

[26] Philippians 2:10–11 (NIV 1984).

[27]MOU1]Even when our voices are choked with tears, when our hearts fail us, when our circumstances frustrate us, when life seems to let us down, we may still find in God’s covenant love the foundation for joyful worship and thankful praise.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.