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Nov 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 18, 2018 – Psalm 107

“What Do You Say?

O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary
And gathered from the lands,
From the east and from the west,
From the north and from the south.
 Psalm 107:1-3

Intro: I have been reading Resilience by Rick Hanson

I don’t like it – the same way I don’t like taking medicine when sick
– he said all the same things in a previous book I read
• but I’m someone who needs to be reminded to do the work
• so it’s okay that I’m going over these things again
– “resilience” is the ability to recover quickly, to bounce back from negative emotions
• one chapter in his book is devoted to gratitude

Rick Hanson says, “We spend our lives seeking to feel good in the future, but this is stressful and tiring in the present. With gratitude, you feel good already . . . .” “Thankfulness feels good in its own right.”

According to Hanson, researchers have discovered thankfulness “brings:

• More optimism, happiness, and self-worth; less envy, anxiety and depression
• More compassion, generosity and forgiveness; stronger relationships, less loneliness
• Better sleep
• Greater resilience”

I’ll tell you right now, this isn’t going to work!
– what I mean is that we’re not going to get the benefits of gratitude,
• by giving thanks just one day out of the year
• we have to learn thankfulness every day
◦ and return to it many times in a day
– a book that has helped me greatly is Ann Voskamp’s, One Thousand Gifts
• the first point she establishes is that she knows pain, grief, and suffering
• she was inspired to make a gratitude list of 1,000 items
◦ she reminds us that Jesus gave thanks before multiplying the bread for the crowds
◦ the Greek word to give thanks is eucharisteo, derived from charis (grace), which is related to chara (joy)

Voskamp says, “As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible …. Whenever—meaning now; Wherever— meaning here. The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location …. The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.”

If we can get to God through giving thanks,
– then we can get to joy and all the other benefits that come from being grateful

The psalm encourages us to give thanks to the LORD

And it immediately gives us a reason,

. . . for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

– God can faithfully see me through years of difficult situations,
• but the next difficulty comes up and my first reaction is worry

GOD: Why don’t you trust Me by now? Haven’t I always been faithful to help you?
ME: Yes, Lord, but this time I don’t deserve Your help.
GOD: Chuck, you have never deserved My help.

◦ this, to me, is actually very comforting and reassuring
• the same logic for giving thanks is embedded in Psalm 136
◦ it contains twenty-six verses and each ends, For His lovingkindness is everlasting
◦ reading it, you feel like it’s never going to end
◦ the very form of the psalm teaches us God’s lovingkindness never ends
– what will it take for us to become grateful people?
• the experience of God’s never ending love and mercy

Verse 2 tells us that if we’ve been redeemed we are to say so
– why do we have to say it?
• the obvious answers are:
◦ to give God credit for his redemption and loving support
◦ to express our appreciation
• giving expression to our gratitude it makes it a fuller experience
◦ feeling grateful affects specific structures in the brain
◦ speaking our appreciation engages other structures
(other structures that may otherwise be unrelated to what we feel)
• but also, we want thanksgiving to become our new habit
◦ replace the old habits of griping and complaining
◦ a collection of godly habits can become our new lifestyle

The example of people who wandered in the wilderness

They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region;
They did not find a way to an inhabited city.
They were hungry and thirsty;
Their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
He delivered them out of their distresses.
He led them also by a straight way,
To go to an inhabited city.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness,
And for His wonders to the sons of men!
For He has satisfied the thirsty soul,
And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.  
Psalm 107:4-9

Here were a people who were lost, disoriented and short on provisions
– we all run into more than enough bewildering situations
• “bewildered” means to be lost in the wilds (or wilderness)
• when a repair is needed on home or car and we don’t have nearly enough money to cover it
◦ or when we find out a child is addicted to drugs or in trouble with the law
◦ or everyone is driving 80 mph and I’m ticketed for driving 75 mph
– God found these lost souls and led them to safety
• verse 8 is the refrain or chorus
◦ these people who have come through harrowing times need to give thanks
◦ do you know what redemption does for us? it gives us hope

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait . . . .
O Israel, hope in the LORD;
For with the LORD there is lovingkindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption (Ps. 130:5-7)

• to wait for God, we need to put our hope in him
◦ otherwise we’re not waiting, we’re only killing time
◦ hope allows us the breathing room to feel joy

Thanking God for what he will do is to embrace our future joy now

The example of people imprisoned in darkness

There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death,
Prisoners in misery and chains,
Because they had rebelled against the words of God
And spurned the counsel of the Most High.
Therefore He humbled their heart with labor
They stumbled and there was none to help.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
He saved them out of their distresses.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death
And broke their bands apart.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness,
And for His wonders to the sons of men!
For He has shattered gates of bronze
And cut bars of iron asunder. 
Psalm 107:10-16

This can be a literal prison or, more commonly for us, a state of mind
– stuck in resentment, chronic anger, depression, or fear
• the turning point in each of the examples given comes when they cried out to the LORD (vv. 6, 13, 19, & 28)

Ann Voskamp asks, “Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us?”

• and, as we saw earlier, for her it is in giving thanks that joy bubbles to surface
– again, the chorus in verse 21
• and a specific reason is given,

For He has shattered gates of bronze

• if you have lived in the dark prison cell of a mood disorder,
◦ you know it will take something powerful to shatter those bronze gates

The example of people who made wrong choices

Fools, because of their rebellious way,
And because of their iniquities, were afflicted.
Their soul abhorred all kinds of food,”
And they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble
He saved them out of their distresses.
He sent His word and healed them,
And delivered them from their destructions.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovinkindness,
And for His wonders to the sons of men!
Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving
And tell of His works with joyful singing. Psalm 107:17-22

“Fool” does have to do with mental deficiency
– rather, it refers to a person who knows better, but goes ahead and does wrong
• when we act foolishly, we create our own misery
– some people in this situation feel they cannot ask God for help
• “It’s my own fault and I just have to live with it”
◦ but that’s never the case
◦ God sends us his word to heal us and deliver us from our own destructions! (v. 20)

The example of sailors on the high seas

Those who go down to the sea in ships,
Who do business on the great waters;
They have seen the works of the LORD,
And His wonders in the deep.
For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind,
Which lifted up the waves of the sea.
Their soul melted away in their misery.
They reeled and staggered like a drunken man,
And were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
And He brought them out of their distresses.
He caused the storm to be still,
So that the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they were quiet
So He guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for His loving kindness,
And for His wonders to the sons of men!
Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people,
And praise Him at the seat of the elders. Psalm 107:23-32

Notice that verse 32 does not provide a reason for giving thanks
– instead, it prescribes a specific way to giving thanks
• in Old Testament Hebrew, there was no way to say “Thank you” to someone
◦ every kindness, gift, or rescue created an unpaid debt
• you did not say thank you, but you demonstrated your gratitude
◦ you gave something back
(for example in v. 22, Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving)
– another way to do repay benefactors was to sing their praises to others
• imagine a middle-eastern man bowing before a generous sponsor, saying,
“I will tell the whole world of your generous soul”
◦ the when Psalms refer to paying vows, this is what it means
◦ you broadcast to others the promise you made to your patron
• for example,

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving
And pay your vows to the Most High (Ps. 50:14)

A list of ways God disciplines and then helps people

He changes rivers into a wilderness
And springs of water into a thirsty ground;

A fruitful land into a salt waste,
Because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it.
He changes a wilderness into a pool of water
And a dry land into springs of water;
And there He makes the hungry to dwell,
So that they may establish an inhabited city, [cf. v. 4]
And sow fields and plant vineyards,
And gather a fruitful harvest.
Also He blesses them and they multiply greatly,
And He does not let their cattle decrease.
When they are diminished and bowed down
Through oppression, misery and sorrow,
He pours contempt upon princes
And makes them wander in a pathless waste.
But He sets the needy securely on high away from affliction,
And makes his families like a flock.
The upright see it and are glad;
But all unrighteousness closes its mouth. Psalm 107:33-42

These are changes that God makes in the circumstances of these people
– this is going on all the time on our behalf
• some of provisions and protections come to us that we don’t even know about
• many others we barely acknowledge
– but the point of the entire poem is that we are to return thanks–for everything

In verse 42, the poet writes of the positive effect God’s goodness has on people who witness it
– and that prompts them to give thanks
• but those same changes shut the mouths of the unrighteous
• one is vocal and the other is silent

After reading Ann Voskamp’s book, I began making my own list
– I began in the fall of 2012 and it carried over into 2013
• a couple months ago I pulled out that list and began to re-read it
• I have to say, it warms my heart and I feel the joy she wrote about

Last night, Barbara showed me a video on her smartphone. I was looking at a dull looking leaf. As I watched, it trembled as if moved by a slight breeze. Then it opened and revealed striking color on the two halves of insides. It was a butterfly disguised as a leaf!

In 2012, #60 on my gratitude list:

“Nature’s genius–plants and animals hidden by their color and shape, protected, “armed [against predators]”

Conclusion: The last verse of the poem tells us how to proceed

Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things,
And consider the lovingkindnesses of the LORD  
Psalm 107:42

Pay attention and consider – reflect, ponder, contemplate
– giving thanks draws us closer to God

Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him and bless His name
(Ps. 100:4)

• you see, you can’t even make it through his gates if you’re a complainer
• giving thanks makes us more aware of God’s presence in our own lives
– living without gratitude
–especially if instead we always feel cheated, neglected, discontent–
• closes us off to God

This final verse is a challenge to be wise
– to look for beauty and goodness, and when you see it linger over it
• it is possible to notice many blessings and not be changed
◦ not become a grateful person
• that’s because we did not give our brains enough time to be rewired
– but if we spend a few moments allowing ourselves to feel the beauty or the good
• and to feel and express our appreciation
• gratitude will eventually become a way of life
◦ and as a result we will feel better, freer
◦ and we will become better, freer
◦ this is how it is for every grateful person

A few other items from my gratitude list
I am thankful for:
• Hope that doesn’t depend on the world being good or people being nice
• Funny mechanical things that make no sense–like Felix the Cat wall clocks
• Exceptional people who hire, care for, or simply love people with disabilities

I encourage you to start your own list
And add to it every day
Becoming ever more responsive to God
is exactly what being his people is all about

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