Opening Selection: His Mercy Endureth Forever
Inspirational Selection: I Wanna Say Thank You
Subject: “Living a Life of Gratitude: How to Worship God”
Scripture: Psalm 100
“Living A Life of Gratitude: How to Praise God”
We’re just four days away from what is undoubtedly one of the most popular holidays of the year. No matter how many holidays you celebrate all year long, including New Year’s, Fourth of July (or Independence Day), Easter, etc., there’s a special place in the American heart for Thanksgiving. And during this time, many individuals, whether Christians, Protestant, Catholic, or even atheist, profess their gratitude for the good things that are in their lives: family, friends, spouse, kids, coworkers, confidants, and other human influences, along with their careers or jobs, possessions, and achievements/accomplishments.
And yet, few believers understand what it means to be grateful for what God has done for them. Though they say they’re grateful to God and thankful for His goodness, for His mercy and grace, there are those things they do that are so second nature to them that they don’t realize that their actions don’t like up with their words. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know, for example, the mood one should be in on his or her wedding day. No one has to tell you, “Hey, psssttt…put on a smile and show your teeth to express your happiness. Put eyes on your mate, hold his or her hand, look into their eyes, look happy in front of everyone,” etc. If you’re happy about your wedding day, you just exude happiness in everything you say and do. It’s obvious that you are happy and joyful and that “everything’s going your way,” as a famous stage song says. The same goes for all other happy occasions, whether it be a baby shower, birth of a child, an engagement party to celebrate a new engagement and future marriage, wedding anniversary, wedding reception, and so on. You could be at a party celebrating your promotion at work, and even there, you know how to wear a smile and charm the crowd. After all, you’re happy, joyful, grateful, and feel so very, very blessed to be in the position you’re in. That gratitude is obvious to everyone around you.
And yet, I’ve grown to observe church life, in my home church growing up and in visiting churches while at seminary, and have found that we’re more excited about a touchdown in the Super Bowl title game in the NFL, the men’s college basketball championship in the NCAA, or the shopping deals at retail stores on Black Friday, than we are about worshipping God. Remember when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick first protested at NFL football games during the National Anthem? I wasn’t on Twitter at the time, but I joined Twitter later. Within the last month or so, I’ve seen a lot of news about Colin Kaepernick. I preached a sermon involving him last Sunday titled “America’s Golden Calf.” What made me laugh hardest was a poster shared on Twitter about the whole “TakeAKnee” hashtag that was trending for a time (and still is, I think). One guy that I didn’t know but whose comment I stumbled on had the poster in it.
Basically, the poster was saying that so many Christians are upset because others won’t stand up for the National Anthem, but the same ones upset about sitters for the National Anthem are the same ones that won’t stand in worship in church service and lift their hands and praise God for His goodness. Think about that: many Christians believe that all should stand and honor the National Anthem, a song devised by atheists in this country for purely political reasons, but won’t stand up and honor their Lord in worship service. We give more praise and worship to the National Anthem than Jesus, the King of Kings! Sadly, as I preached last Sunday on America’s Golden Calf, we give more honor, praise, and worship to the Pledge of Allegiance as well — even though many of us don’t stand up for Jesus in worship, won’t raise our hands, clap our hands, sing, or do any external action to show God that we love Him and want others to know it, too. No, we put more stock in national anthems, public sports events, and political news and debates than we do worshipping God. To give a diagnosis of the church, we have an idea of how blessed we are, how great God’s love is for us, and we have a sense of the mission He’s given us, but we just don’t know how to react to God’s goodness. We don’t know how to praise God.
So today’s text is somewhat unconventional. Last Sunday, I preached 22 verses and wanted to preach all thirty verses of Daniel 3 but time wouldn’t permit it. Today’s text is Psalm 100, a Psalm or song to the Lord that only has 5 verses. That’s right: five. verses. And yet, as we’ll see in a minute, Psalm 100’s five verses are nothing to laugh at, nothing to blow off, nothing to disregard. For in these five verses, God tells us how we are to praise Him, what genuine worship looks like. For, whether we know it or not, worship is also a part of evangelism. How we worship the Lord shows the world whether or not we genuinely believe the gospel we preach and teach and speak to others. And the impression we give, the thankfulness displayed or hidden, will impact our evangelism effort as the Body of Christ. How can we as a body of believers tell the unbeliever, “O taste and see that the Lord is good” in Psalm 34:8, but say it with a sad, depressed, and sorrowful face? How can someone believe it is a blessed thing to trust in the Lord when our faces look as if it’s the worst thing in the world anyone could do to believe in Him? When you say the right words but your expression says otherwise, you won’t convince others to believe you.
And if we have no enthusiasm in worship, no smiles on our faces, no song in our hearts, no raising of the hands, stomping of the feet, no actions to show that we’re enjoying the singing of the choir, then the unbeliever who enters the church won’t have any enthusiasm, either. Why would the unbeliever want to join the ranks of the believing and faithful when we’re not excited about being in those ranks ourselves?
I’m convinced then, that we know the word “worship” when we hear it, and we know when we aren’t enthusiastic about it. And the unbeliever doesn’t have to have the Spirit of God to see the looks on our faces or the lifelessness in our eyes and conclude, “these people are living a routine, a tradition, something that they don’t love any more than brusselsprouts.”
Today’s text of Psalm 100 is all about how to worship God. We need to know, as believers, as those who belong to the Lord, how to worship God. Remember in the New Testament when the Magi, the wise men, come to Bethlehem to see Jesus in a manger? Matthew 2 says that the wise men came into the house and fell on their knees to worship Jesus. We often hear the statement that “wise men still seek Him,” that wise men still seek the Lord, but we need to remember that wise men not only seek the Lord but worship the Lord and know how to worship Him. David tells us what we need to know about how to worship God.
There are some interesting details worth pointing out about Psalm 100. First, this Psalm is said to be, at the top of it, “a Psalm of Thanksgiving,” though the word in the Greek used for “thanksgiving” is “exomologesis,” or “confession.” So to give thanks to God is to confess that God is good, that He is the Giver of all good things, our Provider, our everything, that, as Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:17, “gives us richly all things to enjoy.”
In Psalm 100:1, the writer says “make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!” The word for “joyful shout here” is the Greek word alalaksate, a command meaning to “cry aloud” to the Lord, to give a continual shout to the Lord, to keep shouting not once but several times. This loud cry is all about giving a war shout, according to Strong. When troops go into war, they cry aloud before attacking the enemy to summon the people in their army to go forth and be brave. And when we cry aloud to God and joyfully shout His name, let us remember that we should do it with reverence.
This shouting is not the kind that occurs in a fit of anger. Here’s the first lesson for those who want to learn about, as the sermon title says, “living a life of gratitude: how to worship God”: you don’t shout at God in a fit of anger, like you shout at a relative, friend, or special someone when you’re angry. I know, I know: some people say that it’s healthy to show God that one is angry and come clean about your feelings, but where in the Scriptures do we ever read of men and women shouting at God in anger? Sure, there’s Job who talks to God and vocalizes his frustrations, sure; and I think that if we want to have an honest relationship with the Lord, we should do as Peter says in 1 Peter 5:7 : “cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us.” And yet, we can go before the Lord in a reverent manner, in a loving manner because we expect our God’s response to be loving, do we not?
The context of this Psalm is all about giving thanks, being grateful, honoring Him, exalting God, remembering His goodness, reverencing Him — and it is in this context that the shout is to be given in a joyful, exuberant, jubilant manner. When you “cry aloud” to the Lord, make a joyful war cry unto the Lord as if you’re going into battle, waving the blood-stained banner, and confident that at the name of Jesus, strongholds will fall, doors will open, wrongs will be righted, and Satan and his demons have no choice but to flee! When we make a joyful war cry to the Lord, we put Satan, his demons, and the enemies of God on notice that our God is near, our God is present, our God is, as David says in Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” As a song I’ve heard many times over the years says, “In the name of Jesus/ in the name of Jesus/ we have the victory/ in the name of Jesus/ in the name of Jesus/ Satan you have to flee/ Oh, tell me/ who can/ stand before us/ when we call on/ that great name/ Jesus, Jesus/ precious Jesus/ we have the victory.”
The jubilant war cry, the joyful, confident war cry, is to be made by “all you lands” or “all the earth.” The psalmist invites everyone to shout unto the Lord, to call upon the name of God with joy. The Lord wants everyone on the face of the earth to call upon His name, not just the Jews, not just the Gentiles, not just some of us, but ALL of us. This is a reminder to us that in the face of Calvinism, we know the truth: that God delights in the salvation of the whole world, not some of it, and that He gave Jesus so that every one on the earth could be saved, not just a few.
So the first step in How to Praise God is to joyfully cry out the name of the Lord, an acknowledgment that He is your God and your Savior, that you’re dependent on Him, and that you can’t make it without Him. As David says in Psalm 105:1,
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples!” We call upon the name of the Lord in salvation, so we shouldn’t fear calling upon His name, even in our worship. The name of Jesus is the Name above all names, the One most worthy of our worship and deserving of our praise.
In verse 2, we’re told to “serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing.” The word “serve” is a command, an imperative, telling us to do it. It’s an action we must do, not an action that God can do or will do for us. God doesn’t make us serve; He tells us to serve, and then we do it out of obedience to Christ. The word “serve” itself is similar to the word “doulos,” a word that means “bondservant” or “slave.” We are to serve the Lord because we are His servants, and servants are to always and forever proclaim the greatness of their King. Servants are named for what they do: they serve the King, not lead the King, and they also serve the King by taking orders. In Scripture, believers are told to serve the Lord, as they are told here in Psalm 100. What does it mean to serve the Lord, though?
First, we serve the Lord by giving our bodies over to God for His use in His service. Romans 12:1-2 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Here we see that “presenting your bodies as a living sacrifice” is “your reasonable service,” or, as the Greek translates it, “your logical worship.” In other words, as creatures made by God that belong to God, we are to live our lives in such a way that all our limbs and physical abilities are to be used to bring worship to God. Everything we do, from feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, to donate clothes to the local homeless shelter for homeless persons, to give someone evicted from their apartment a place to stay, lend a crying shoulder and listening ear to a friend whose husband or wife just filed for divorce, drive a sick person to the nearest emergency room for treatment or to a doctor’s visit for a monthly checkup, and more are all actions of worship to God. They are forms of divine worship.
Serving the Lord is about more than just forsaking all other gods, though the Lord had to repeatedly remind Israel of this in the Old Testament. It’s also about worship, and that worship is what it means to serve the Lord. When we do something for God, when we do something for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are worshipping because what we do for Christ brings glory to Christ. This is what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 above: when you give your body over as a living sacrifice to live for Christ, this is your act of worship — and everything you do with your limbs that have been consecrated in the service of our Lord are all forms of worship that magnify, glorify, and exalt the name of Christ.
I grew up in and around churches that often had a church sign with the words “Enter to Worship, Depart to Serve.” Now, to some extent, the sign is true: you can’t serve God if you don’t serve others because serving others is part of serving God; after all, God wants us to “let our light so shine before men” that they see our works and glorify the Father in heaven, right? And yet, the sign wasn’t 100% accurate because it distinguished between worship and service — as though to say that they’re two different things. The sign distinguishes between worship as what you do in a church service, in a gathering of believers, and service, what you do outside the church. This division of worship and service, however, is wrong, because, though gathering with believers (what we would call corporate worship) is so defined, worship is what all humans were created to do. We were created to worship God, whether we believe or not. When we distinguish between worship in the church and service outside the church, we forget that we were created by God with one primary purpose: that is, to worship God. Everything we do should bring worship to God. Remember Romans 12:1-2, where Paul tells us to present our bodies and renew our minds? Even our minds are designed by God to worship Him (so is every body part).
Think about this: what does Jesus Himself say about us giving glory to the Father? How did Jesus tell us to glorify God the Father? By our deeds: In Matthew 5:16 to “16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Notice that the verse points out something important: men can only glorify God the Father if they see your good works. If the men in question here are ungodly men in the world, who don’t know the Lord, how will they ever get to know Him if you don’t show them who God is through your words and deeds? They can’t glorify a God whose actions they never see…and they can never see who Jesus is and what He does if you don’t show them. God doesn’t need us, and God is God alone (He’s self-sufficient), but we are God’s hands and feet in the world because He told us to go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature in Mark 16:15.
He told us in The Parable of the Great Supper in Luke 14:23 to “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” We are to go out and show them who and what Christ is. Jesus is the light of the world, and because we are in union with Him, we too, are the light of the world, as Jesus Himself says in Matthew 5:14. Our worship, then, includes our service to our fellow man as well as what we do in worship — though worship is an important part. All of our service to God matters, not some of it, and the distinction that many make with the words “worship is what you do in church and service is what you do outside of it” isn’t entirely accurate. For everything you do that’s done in the name of Christ is worship.
Even working for an unreasonable, wicked boss is a form of worship, as Peter encourages believers in 1 Peter 2:18-21 to do as unto the Lord: “18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps;” Christ is our example, and we know from Scripture that He suffered unjustly and wrongly because He died for our sins (not His own). With that said, if He could suffer wrongly though He was innocent, we can suffer wrongly and take it because we’re following after our Leader, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That’s not to say that it’s right for a harsh boss or an angry, evil, wicked boss to be cruel to us, but our suffering on behalf of Christ, Peter says, is “commendable” before God. God is pleased with our suffering for His name, and we can worship Him by obeying our boss — even if he or she mandates you work on Sunday instead of letting you off to go to public worship.
We’re talking about serving the Lord here, but the writer adds the phrase “with gladness.” The word for “gladness” here is joyfulness. Our worship to the Lord, our service, should be done with joy. There’s nothing more dishonoring to someone than to do something for him or her with a frown on your face, or a disinterested look as though you’d rather be doing anything else BUT serving the individual. And in the same way that your relative or friend doesn’t want you doing something grudgingly, the Lord doesn’t want you to do something in a begrudging manner, either. When Paul tells the Corinthians to give to the Lord, he says the following in 2 Corinthians 9:7: “7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” Even in our giving, which is an act of worship, the Lord wants us to do it with gladness, with joy. That means that you do whatever it is with a smile on your face, not a frown as if you’re disappointed or hate it. Serve the Lord by smiling, laughing, being joyful.
I wish some believers in the pew or in the gathering realized what God desires in our worship. I imagine you’ve seen your share of others who come to worship and never smile, never stand, sing, wave their hands, raise their hands, or open their mouths and praise the Lord by saying “Praise God,” or “thank you Jesus,” or “hallelujah,” or other words of praise. You may even be guilty of having done this last Sunday, or for the last few Sundays, in your worship gathering with fellow believers. We all can be challenged by the writer’s statement to serve the Lord with gladness, but we should do it with joy because even the joy on our faces is an act of worship that can witness to others. Proverbs 16:20 says “He who heeds the word wisely will find good, And whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.” How can you fulfill Proverbs 16:20 if you come to worship always frowning, never smiling, always worried instead of being at peace because you’re trusting in the Lord? You may not know it, but even preaching is an act of worship, and even preachers should preach with joy. I pray that I fulfill that divine mandate today and every day moving forward.
And along with this joy and gladness comes singing: “Come before His presence with singing.” When you come before the Lord, you shouldn’t just be happy and wear a smile; you should also have a song in your heart. “Come before His presence with singing.” The word for singing here is “exaltation,” “delight,” and “exhilaration.” And part of that, from Scripture, is singing to God. In 1 Chronicles 13:7-8, David and Israel rejoiced over the return of the Ark of the Covenant by dancing before the Lord, playing instruments, and singing: “7 So they carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart. 8 Then David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets.” 2 Chronicles 23:18 says that the Levites were appointed over the house of the Lord to offer burnt sacrifices “with singing, as it was established by David.” Even the daily sacrifices were to be given with singing to the Lord (they weren’t to be offered without singing).
In Nehemiah 12:27-43, we read that the Israelites were dedicating the wall of Jerusalem and that the celebration involved two large choirs who “sang loudly with Jezrahiah the Director” in Nehemiah 12:42. The celebration to dedicate the Jerusalem Wall wouldn’t have been festive enough without the two large choirs and loud singing. Singing was a sign of joy and exaltation to God in worship and praise for His goodness and the things He had done. In Acts 16:25, even in the midst of being jailed for the gospel, Paul and Silas broke out into singing at midnight, and God moved on their behalf: “25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.”
In Ephesians 5:19:20, Paul tells the Ephesians to make melody in worship when they’re gathered together: “19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.”
Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord is not something expected to be done in silence internally; no, it is something Paul says that the Ephesians and thus, we today, are to do “to one another”: “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” Paul says. He says the same to the Colossians in Colossians 3:16 — “16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
From these examples, we know that worshipping the Lord while gathered together involves singing and that singing is an external sign of inward joy. We’re to demonstrate to others the joy we have within, not rejoice silently or quietly and hoard it to ourselves. Our joy and our facial expressions should give the unbeliever something to think about when he or she comes and assembles in our gatherings for whatever reason. Additionally, our smiles and facial expressions minister to each other, reminding us to be joyful and to do as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 — “rejoice always,” which means that our joy should always be apparent to believer and unbeliever alike in the world. Yes, even joy and facial expressions are examples of worship to God because they move believers and unbelievers to worship God.
In verse 3, the writer tells us that it’s fine to shout to the Lord, to be joyful, and to sing and exalt Him, but we are unable to do any of these things if we don’t know anything about God. The writer is concerned with us knowing one thing: “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” First, in order to learn how to worship God, we must realize that God is our Lord, that He is our Head, that we belong to Him. He is God, not man. And that’s something that unbelievers struggle with. They have it hard wrapping their minds around the fact that there is a God and that it’s not them, that they are not their own God, that they are not Deity. And yet, that’s the first thing one must know to be saved. As Paul says in Hebrews 11:6, the one that comes to God for salvation must “believe that He is,” that is, that He exists. And if He exists, then He is God and we are not. We die, but He doesn’t. He lives forever, His age is eternal, and “age to age He stands.”
The writer then says “It is He that has made us, and not we ourselves.” He is not only our God, but our Maker. He made us in His own image, after His own likeness we’re told in Genesis 1:26. When He made Adam, the text of Genesis says that God took of the dust of the ground, the dirt of the earth, breathed the breath of life into Adam, and made Adam a living soul. We did not make ourselves. We are not God, despite our best efforts to be God and our wayward thoughts about ourselves. We are man, mortal, while God is immortal. In the Book of Job, Job, the person for whom the book is named, calls God “Maker” four times: in Job 4:17; 32:22; 35:10; and 36:3. In Job 4:17, Job asks, “Can a man be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?,” which calls God “Maker.” In Job 36:3, Job says, “I will fetch my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.”
Psalm 95 calls God our Maker with the words, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” Proverbs 22:2 says, “The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all.” There are 18 additional verses in the Scriptures that refer to God as Maker, coming from the books of Exodus, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Habakkuk.
Along the lines of “He made us,” the writer gives an analogy of God being the Shepherd and His human creation being sheep: “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” We are called “sheep” here in Psalm 100:3, which matches the Scripture’s perspective of the people of God. David calls the people of God, the Israelites, sheep in 2 Samuel 24:17 and 1 Chronicles 21:17 when he says, “Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done?” In 1 Kings 22:17 and 2 Chronicles 18:16, the prophet Micaiah says, “17 “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd.” The people of Israel are referred to as “sheep.” In Psalm 44:22, we read the same verse that Paul quotes in Romans 8:36– “Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” The Psalmist Asaph asks the Lord in Psalm 74:1, “O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?” Asaph calls the Israelites “the sheep of God’s pasture,” thereby making God the Shepherd. Psalm 23:1 tells us “the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Psalm 78:52 says, “But He made His own people go forth like sheep, And guided them in the wilderness like a flock;” Psalm 79:13 says, “So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, Will give You thanks forever; We will show forth Your praise to all generations.” The Psalmist calls the people of God “the sheep of Your pasture.” Psalm 95:7 says, “For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand.” There are passages in the New Testament such as Jesus’ words in John 10:11 where He says that “I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep,” referring to believers as His sheep, and in John 10:27 where Jesus says that “27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” In Hebrews 13:20, in his benediction to the Jews, Paul calls Jesus “that great Shepherd of the sheep.”
We are told in verse 4 to “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” The temple consisted of gates on the outside, and then the courts (one being the inner court). So, today, what the writer tells us to do is come to the place of the worship gathering with thanksgiving in our hearts, giving thanks to God for all He’s done for us, for how He’s provided for us through the years, how He’s provided this year, what good things He has done this year that we can look back and remember, and so on. The word for “thanksgiving” here, as at the beginning of Psalm 100 in its description, is “exomologesei,” which means “confession.” What must one confess when one comes into the gathering of God’s people? His goodness. Confess His goodness. Confess His blessing. Confess how He’s provided for you, watched over you, guided you with His hand, defeated your enemies before your eyes, put food on your table when you didn’t have the money, blessed you to meet rent this month when you thought you’d overdraft at the bank, and so on. When one thinks about just how good God has been, how we are undeserving of His goodness, and His love for us, we should do as the end of verse 4 says: “Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” We’ve mentioned here shouting to the Lord, come before His presence with singing. Let’s also remember to just thank Him, praise Him, say “Hallelujah,” “Thank you Lord,” worship Him, tell Him how grateful you are for all that He’s done, is doing, and will do in your life.
In verse 5, we are told why we are to thank the Lord: “For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” First, the Lord is good. He is good in all that He is and does. In Ezra 3:10-11, we find that the temple of the Jews was being rebuilt. When the foundation of the temple was laid, marking the beginning of Israel’s restoration in its homeland, the text says that the Jews “sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord: “For He is good,
For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.” A constant theme that runs through the Psalms such as Psalms 106, 107, 118, 135, and 136 is, “O give thanks to the Lord; for He is good; for His mercy endures forever.” The Lord is good, He does nothing but that which is good. His ways are good, and He does not delight in wickedness, nor does He do it. Psalm 11:7 says that “the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness,” and a few verses earlier, we read that “the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.” I preached this in October in my Las Vegas Memorial Sermon titled “The Goodness of God in the Face of Evil.”
The Lord’s mercy is everlasting, which means that He’ll never stop having mercy on His people. In the Old Testament, no matter how rebellious they were, and how many times He handed them over to their enemies, He always brought them back into their land and restored their wall and temple. The Lord made a covenant with Israel’s fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) that Israel would be His people, and He never took it back. As the Lord says in Psalm 89,
30 “If his sons forsake My law
And do not walk in My judgments,
31 If they break My statutes
And do not keep My commandments,
32 Then I will punish their transgression with the rod,
And their iniquity with stripes.
33 Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him,
Nor allow My faithfulness to fail.
34 My covenant I will not break,
Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.
35 Once I have sworn by My holiness;
I will not lie to David:
36 His seed shall endure forever,
And his throne as the sun before Me;
37 It shall be established forever like the moon,
Even like the faithful witness in the sky.” Selah (Psalm 89:30-37)
Isaiah 54 and Jeremiah 33 say the same:
“For a mere moment I have forsaken you,
But with great mercies I will gather you.
8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;
But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,”
Says the Lord, your Redeemer.
9 “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;
For as I have sworn
That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,
So have I sworn
That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
10 For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you. (Isaiah 54:7-10)
19 And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, 20 “Thus says the Lord: ‘If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, 21 then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, My ministers. 22 As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so will I multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.’”
23 Moreover the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, 24 “Have you not considered what these people have spoken, saying, ‘The two families which the Lord has chosen, He has also cast them off’? Thus they have despised My people, as if they should no more be a nation before them.
25 “Thus says the Lord: ‘If My covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, 26 then I will cast away the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, so that I will not take any of his descendants to be rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will cause their captives to return, and will have mercy on them.’” (Jeremiah 33:19-26)
Finally, the Lord’s truth endures to all generations, or, as the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) says, “from generations until generations.” From one generation to another, forever, the Lord’s truth, the Lord’s Word, endures. And since the Lord has sworn by Himself (for there is none greater, see Hebrews 6:13-18), He will fulfill His promises to His people, Israel. And He will also fulfill His promises to us who are the seed of Abraham by faith.
Today’s sermon tells us how to live a life of gratitude and worship God. First, we’re to shout joyfully to the Lord, serve the Lord with gladness, with a smile, sing songs when entering His presence in the assembly of the saints (fellow believers), and have thanksgiving and praise in our hearts and on our lips. Praise Him for His goodness, mercy, and His enduring Word. As the song says, “I’ve learned to praise You/ in the good and the bad/I praise you, whether happy or sad/ I praise you, in all that I go through/because praise is what I do.” We were made to praise, and living a life of gratitude to God means that every thought, every deed, and every action glorifies God. We won’t obtain this (our every action and thought does not glorify God), but this is the Word of the Lord and the divine standard.