Monday, November 14, 2011

Thanksgiving & The Names of Our God

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, November 13, 2011

Psalm 31:6-8, “I have hated those who regard useless idols; but I trust in the LORD.
I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, for You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities, and have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a wide place.

Psalm 32:10-11, “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him.  Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Psalm 33:1-5, “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous!  For praise from the upright is beautiful.
Praise the LORD with the harp; make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.  Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy.  For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth.  He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.

As you may have noticed in the worship bulletin this morning, the Lord-willing my family and I will be traveling to Atlanta, Georgia this week to attend this year’s National Missionary Convention.  We look forward to this time of fellowship with my brother, and other missionaries like him, who are seeking to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to advance the kingdom of God in places far and wide.  We covet your prayers for our trip and for our own opportunities of ministry and worship.  We praise God for your generous help with the trip as well. 

However, since we will be absent next Lord’s Day, on the Blessing Count Sunday, the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to take the opportunity this morning to rehearse and recite a few of my own blessings and hopefully, in doing so, to sort of help prime your pumps, as you prepare to count your blessings also. 

First of all, let me say, as I’m sure many of you will say, how grateful to God I am for my wife and children and for the rest of the members of my family.  Indeed God has been very good to me, very gracious in giving them to me.  And, like you, I thank God for those every days blessings, those daily essentials, that He so consistently and generously provides, health and strength, food and clothing and shelter, freedom and safety.  Furthermore, I praise Him for His Bride the Church, and the privilege of being a part of it, and for the awesome, and often, overwhelming task He’s given to my family and me, to minister to His people, to you and others like you.

But, you know that all these things for which we are thankful, they didn’t come to us out of thin air.  They had to come from somewhere, from some-One.  And, so ultimately, my Loved Ones, when we count our blessings, when we celebrate a season we call ‘Thanksgiving’, whether we want to or not, whether we realize it or not, we are to acknowledge the Source of those gifts, the Giver of those blessings!  And, in doing so, what are we doing?  What ought we to be doing?  We are celebrating Him!  We ought to be glad in Him!  But, just who is this Giver of every good and perfect gift?  In the handful of verses from the Psalms I read a moment ago, did you notice?  The divinely-inspired poets, David, and another unknown author, contrast the Source of all these good gifts we enjoy – the Lord – with what they refer to as “useless idols” (Psalm 31:6).  Furthermore, the psalmists, in describing their own experiences of and encounters with the Good Give, the Perfect Giver, they contrast their responses to Him, with the responses of those who reject or neglect their Blessings Source. 

Notice what the text says: Psalm 31:6, “I have hated those who regard useless idols, but I trust in the Lord…  I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, for you have considered my trouble.  You have known my soul in adversities, and have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a wide place.”  Or, take Psalm 32:10-11 as an example, David, the psalmist, in expressing his own thanksgiving for how God had forgiven his sins, covered his iniquities, determined not to impute his guilt at his transgressions, David arrives at this stunning and very sobering and humbling conclusion: look at what he writes there in Psalm 32:10-11, “Many SORROWS shall be to the wicked [to those who don’t repent of their sins, to those who refuse to acknowledge their guilt before their holy and righteous Creator], many will be THEIR sorrows, but…  Take a look, he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him!” It’s no wonder, is it, that David’s final verse in this psalm is this triumphant exclamation and exhortation, “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you righteous, and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart!” 

Yes, I want to take this time today, a week ahead of time, since I’ll be missing out next Lord’s Day, I want to take time to count my blessings with you, and perhaps, to stir you to do the same, even today. 

At the top of the first page of this sermon, I made a list of fifteen of the names of God, that I regularly come back to in counting my blessings on a daily, and weekly basis.  Do you mind if I share them with you and briefly explain why I make mention of them? 

Here goes: Shepherd, I know that the term ‘sheep’ may not be the normal, regular way in which you think of yourself, but listen, if you are a Christian, truly born again by the grace of God, you are one of His ‘sheep’, and He is your Good Shepherd.  Several passages of Scripture come to mind, when I think of this name for my God, for example Psalm 23, find it there, if you would, in your Bibles.  David, the psalmist, who was himself a shepherd, knew very well what he was talking about, when he wrote these words, “The Lord is my shepherd…”  I like that, don’t you?  “The Lord”, not some useless idol, not some wood, stone, or metal object, fashioned by the hands of mere men, but “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”  He, the Lord, my Shepherd, supplies everything I need.  “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake…”  We don’t have time to examine the rest of David’s words here, but you the point, don’t you? 

Count your blessings, my fellow ‘sheep’, give thanks to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:25).  Praise, worship, rejoice in the Good Shepherd, who has laid down His life, for you, His dearly loved sheep!

Then, there’s the name ‘Peace’.  We are first introduced to this name of God, “Jehovah Shalom”, “The Lord is Peace”, way back in the book of Judges, in the Old Testament, in the days of a somewhat reluctant servant of the Lord by the name of Gideon.  Judges chapter 6 is the chapter, and verse 24 is the specific verse location.  At a time of great crisis and extreme danger and distress, both nationally and personally, for this man Gideon, the Lord speaks to His servant these calming words of assurance: “Peace be with you… Do not fear, you shall not die…” (Judges 6:23).  Peace, what does that word mean to you?  What thoughts, ideas, images, does it conjure up in your mind?  How about things like tranquility, instead of turmoil?  How about harmony, in place of hostility?  How about rest, instead of war?  Many years later, the prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of Someone whose names would be “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father” and, perhaps best of all, this Coming One would be known as the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah9:6-7).  But, exactly how is it that this Coming One, whose name, by the way, is the Lord Jesus Christ, how is it that He is and will be our peace?  Please find Ephesians 2:11-22 – This chapter that beings by describing the hopeless and helpless spiritual condition of every man, woman and young person outside of Jesus Christ, “Dead in trespasses and sins”, following the leading of the spirit of the prince of darkness, by nature objects of God’s righteous wrath; what is it that the Coming One, Jesus, does for us, is for us, so as to become our Peace? 

Ephesians 2:11-22, “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.  Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

This morning, and really, if I stop and think about it, every morning of every day, I am thankful for Jehovah Shalom, my peace! 

Thirdly, I thank God for the fact that He is my righteousness.  This past week, in preparation for our family trip later this week, my sons and I spent considerable time preparing our old chariot for the trip.  And, Ladies’, if you’re a neat-nick, if you’re Suzy housekeeper, with everything in your home spic and span, clean and shiny, listen, ladies’ don’t invite us over after a few hours of crawling around under a greasy old car!  Yuck!  Put those clothes and hand rags in the trash, right?  Do you know something?  Before an eternally, and infinitely Holy God, when it comes to my own righteousness, my own in-and-of-myself-moral-goodness, yuck!  That’s a good word for it!  Yuck!  Isaiah the prophet put it like this: “All our righteousness are a filthy rags…”  (Isaiah 64:6) 

But, listen, what is Jehovah, my God, to me?  What has He done for me?  What has He given to me in His Son Jesus Christ? One of the most succinct answers to that series of questions is found in the first letter Paul wrote to the Corinthian church.  1 Corinthians 1:26-31 – In a context that has everything to do with the power of God, and the wisdom of God, displayed for all to see, right there, at the Cross of Jesus Christ.  In a context where Paul reminds us that even God’s so called ‘foolishness’ is wiser than the best of man’s wisdom, and that god’s so-called ‘weakness’ is far more powerful than all of man’s might!  Listen to what the apostle Paul writes about our righteousness, Jehovah Tsidkenu.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”

I can’t glory in God’s presence, I can’t – I dare not – boast before my Maker, my God, and neither should you.  Why?  Because: “Of  Him we are in Christ Jesus…”  Because: “[He has] become for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption”.  Why?  So that “no flesh should glory in His presence, yes.  But also, so that those who do glory, we who do give thanks, might do so in the right direction, to Him, in Him! 

Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is my peace.  Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord is my righteousness.  Jehovah Roi, the Lord is my shepherd.  There’s one more from this group of fifteen that I’ll mention quickly before we close.  Jehovah Shama, the Lord who is there.  Ezekiel 48:35 is the passage, if you’d like to look it up.  The same God who makes me lie down in green pastures, and leads me besides still waters, my Shepherd, where is He, when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death?  Have you been there before? Is that where you are now?  There’s no place darker, more dangerous and discouraging than that place.  Your shepherd, my shepherd, where is He when we walk through that valley? 

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”  Jehovah Shama, the Always-There-For-Me God, in that valley, deep and dark and dreary, full of danger and depression, that’s where He is!  Jehovah Shama, He is the Friend who sticks closer than a brother.  He is our very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).  He is the God whose words, “I will never leave you or forsake you…” mean something. 

Jehovah Shama, Jehovah Roi, Jehovah Tsidkenu, Jehovah Shalom.  This Thanksgiving season, and every day of our lives, if you know the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the King of kings, ultimately, you find yourself praising Him, thanking Him.  Do so with me, will you? 

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