A THANKSGIVING DAY MEDITATION
AS THE EDITOR SEES THINGS
BIBLICAL RESEARCH MONTHLY, NOVEMBER 1943
Dr. David L. Cooper
"OFFER unto God the sacrifice of thanksgiving; And pay thy vows unto the Most High; And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me" (Ps. 50:14-15).
WHEN THE LORD BROUGHT Israel out of Egyptian bondage to Mount Sinai, He gave His law, which was to regulate both the religious and political life of the nation. In the divine service the sacrifices played a very large part. These were, as we know from the New Testament, only types and shadows of the supreme sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ which He made when He died for our trespasses and rose again for our justification.
Many in Israel misunderstood the import of their sacrifices. They became contaminated with heathen ideas. To these pagans the sacrifices to their gods were supposed to be food, literal food, for the gods. In various pagan literature the heathen gods are represented as coming down even like flies and consuming the sacrifices of the worshipers.
It is true that in Leviticus 21:6, the sacrifices and offerings are called, "the bread of their God." Of course this language was not to be interpreted in the light of pagan usage but rather in the light of that which was typified by those sacrifices, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ who was indeed "the bread which came down out of heaven."
The psalmist, in the passage which we are studying, tried to correct the mistaken idea of the people with regard to the sacrifices. God said He was not hungry. The cattle on a thousand hills are His. If He were hungry, said the psalmist, He would not tell them and ask them to give sacrifices. Therefore they should never offer any of their sacrifices with such pagan ideas. On the contrary, He instructed them to offer unto God the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise, and to fulfill their vows unto Him.
The psalmist wanted Israel to cease offering a mechanical type of worship to God. Instead of, in a half hearted way, bringing sacrifices of animals, He urged them to bring gratitude, thanksgiving, and praise to God for the many gifts which He constantly bestows upon His creatures. Man had a knowledge of God in the beginning, as we learn in Romans, chapter 1. He accepted the bounties of the Almighty as a matter of course. Soon he became unthankful and refused to retain God in his knowledge. The next step was that he made images, changing "the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things." Thus man plunged into the depths of heathen superstition and immorality. And, as just noted, the first step in that direction was an attitude of unthankfulness and ingratitude.
May the Lord enable us to see our utter dependence upon Him and to realize that everything we have is given to us by the pure, sovereign grace of our God. If we can only keep these things in mind, naturally our hearts will well up in gratitude, praise, and thanksgiving for the various and multitudinous bounties of life.
Certain of the peace offerings were vows of various types which Israel was instructed to bring. Men naturally under the strain of trying circumstances make vows to the Almighty. This is a natural tendency. This custom is seen both in the heathen world and in Israel, as well as among Christians. The fact that the psalmist urged his brethren to pay their vows faithfully shows that evidently they were rather lax in carrying out and fulfilling these vows. There are people today who, under the impulse of strong emotion, make vows to God that they will do certain things. This is done when the heart is overflowing with joy, or when the soul is depressed with sorrow and anguish. When these vows are made under such conditions and when the stress of the experience which called them forth is relieved, so very frequently the vow is forgotten and is never fulfilled. For instance, many a sinner has been sick, nigh unto death, and he has vowed to the Lord that if He would raise him up from his bed, he would serve Him the remainder of his days, but upon being restored to health and moving about in his usual duties, he has forgotten all about his pledge to the Lord made when he was sick. Many a Christian, while ill, has made pledges to the Lord that he would do certain things if restored to health. But when in good health, he has forgotten his promises to the Lord.
Though we are not under law but under grace, whenever one makes a promise to the Lord, He should be faithful and should carry the vow out in the letter and in the spirit of the same. That seems to be the idea that the psalmist is emphasizing when he says, "And pay thy vows unto the Most High."
The Lord says for those who offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and who pay their vows, to call upon Him in the day of trouble. This statement assumes that the day of trouble will certainly come to all of the children of God. Experience teaches that this is true. So long as we are in this life there is nothing permanent, nothing certain, except the Lord Jesus Christ and His blessing. All may be going well with us today, but the picture may change entirely tomorrow. Our day might be turned into the night of sorrow in a moment of time. The child of God should expect this, for we are told that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Satan hates everyone who is living close to the Lord and is going to do his utmost in an attempt to bring sorrow and discouragement into the life of every child of God.
Let us in this connection remember that Satan is a conquered foe and that he can do nothing unless he first asks the Lord's permission to do a certain thing to one of the children of God. Satan was compelled to go into the presence of God and to ask permission to sift the Apostles as wheat before ever he could do so (Luke 22:31,34). "No temptation has befallen us Christians but such as we can bear, for God is faithful and will with every temptation make a way of escape that we may be able to endure it" (I Cor. 10:13). While all of these promises are true and unchangeable, let us remember that God never fails but that we are likely to stumble at any moment, when we take our eyes off of the Lord and begin to pay attention to the things of the world.
Whether we are the ones who bring the day of trouble upon ourselves, or whether Satan does directly, or uses some of those under his influence to bring trouble into our lives, if there is a possibility he will bring this time of trouble and of stress and trial; whenever such times come, God asks us to call upon Him, to bring the matter to Him. Vengeance belongs to Him, He promises to recompense (Rom. 12:19). God is equal to any emergency. He can handle any and all cases successfully. Therefore He asks us not to bear our own burdens but to cast them upon Him for He cares for us.
If we will, in faith doubting nothing, bring our case to Him, He promises that He will deliver. Remember that our Lord Jesus Christ is God, that He was God in human form. He was and is the God-man. He is the creator of all things. He loves us with an everlasting love and His thoughts for us are more numerous than the sands beside the sea. Remember at the same time that Satan, as I have already said, is a conquered foe and that he can do nothing except that which he is permitted by our adorable Lord.
When we are thus brought into a difficult situation, it is for us to do as Moses told Israel when he was standing beside the sea and the Egyptian hordes were pressing upon them. With a majestic faith the great lawgiver declared, "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. Jehovah will fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace" (Ex. 14:13,14). It is for us to sit quietly and trust our Lord to bring the deliverance. He is able, He is willing, He will never disappoint us. He will bring the deliverance at the right time. If He tarry or seem to delay in bringing the deliverance, let us still hold on in faith and at the proper time He will deliver and will make the experience contribute for our good both for time and eternity.
The final admonition of our text is found in these words "... and thou shalt glorify me." All experiences through which the faithful children of God are called to pass are designed for their good. God doubtless permits many experiences to come into the lives of His faithful children in order that they might learn some of the deeper truths of the Almighty to the end that they may give their testimony to others and thus glorify God, and cause others to trust the Lord as they have done. Let us never take any glory to ourselves. Whenever the Lord does anything for us, let us be careful to give Him the praise. The example of the Samaritan of whom we read in Luke 17:11-19 should be a lesson to each one of us. There were ten lepers whom the Lord Jesus healed. Of those number only one remembered to return to give thanks to the Lord Jesus and praise to God. Our Lord tells us, "Whoso offereth the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifieth me; And to him that ordereth his way aright will I show the salvation of God." Let us in the little things of life, as well as in the great things, always return to give thanks to God through our Lord Jesus Christ for what He does for us. In so doing we will glorify and honor His blessed name.
Blest Lamb of God, with grateful praise
Our voices now to Thee we raise,--
O'er earth to reign, redeemed by blood,
Kingdom and priests are we to God.
Soon too in glory shall we sing,
And louder praises to Thee bring,
While ev'ry nation, tongue, and tribe
Strength, glory, might, to Thee ascribe.
O Lord, Amen!
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