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Nov 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 22, 2020


Intro: I am going to read Psalm 118 to you

But first, I’ll say something about this poem
– it was written by one person
• that’s obvious from the singular personal pronoun in first 24 verses
• we’ll hear other voices — perhaps a priest giving a benediction
◦ and the poet will speak for the whole congregation of worshipers
◦ but he will return to his own voice at the end of the psalm
– the reason I’m pointing this out,
• is because many biblical scholars now see it as a liturgical composition
◦ that is to say, an outline for a service of worship in the temple
• but even if the poem became that, it began with one person,
◦ who went through a terrifying ordeal
◦ then after God brought him through it he was inspired to give thanks

So he begins,
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he his good;
for his steadfast love endures forever

– he borrowed this part of his poem from an earlier source
• King David composed it when he brought the ark of the covenant into his city (2 Chr. 16:34)
• afterward, it became a formal slogan in Israel’s worship
◦ temple musicians were assigned to sing it every morning (16:41)
◦ it was sung at the dedication of Solomon’s temple (2 Ch. 5:11-13)
it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD . . . when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever” (2 Chr. 5:13)
◦ and later when turning to God for his assistance (2 Chr. 20:21)
◦ the tradition was continued after Israel returned from exile (Ezra 3:11)
– also the following psalms begin with this slogan 106, 107, and 136
(and every line in Psalm 136 repeats for his steadfast love endures forever)

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Misery loves company”
– well, joyful thanksgiving loves company too

Jesus makes this clear in three of his parables found in Luke chapter 15. The first who tells of shepherd who had lost a sheep, and the second is of a widow who lost a coin. Both the shepherd and widow, when what they had lost was found, calls together [his and her] friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found [my sheep/coin] that was lost (Lk. 15:3-10). The third parable tells of a father who had lost his son, and justified throwing a party to celebrate his return, saying, It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found (Lk. 15:32).

• the poet of Psalm 118 also knew that joy loves company
• so he invites three classes of worshipers to join the chorus
◦ all of Israel, the house of Aaron (worship leaders), and foreigners who had embraced Israel’s God as their God

The poet devotes most of the psalm to telling his story

He does not give us specific details of what happened
– but it was a distressing and terrifying ordeal,
• in which he almost lost his life
• still, all the way through it he trusted God,
◦ and that enabled him to fight his way to the surface time after time
– once he realized he had survived and would go on living,
• he understood something
• that God gives life to humans so that they can praise him
For the dead cannot praise you;
they cannot raise their voices in praise (Isa. 38:18, New Living Translation)
◦ the last verse of the very last psalm links life to praise,
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! (Ps. 150:6)

The poet’s next move was to visit the temple to give thanks

As he approaches the temple, he calls out to the gatekeepers
Open to me the gates of righteousness
– it may be that each of the entrances to the temple had its own name
• Jerusalem today: Jaffa Gate, Lion’s Gate, Damascus Gate, etc.
◦ in the New Testament we find a crippled beggar who sat
daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms (Acts 3:2)
• the poet chose the Righteous Gate, because he had done right thing
◦ he had trusted God through his ordeal
– as he entered the temple, looking around, he saw a stone that reminded him of himself:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone
• a radical change had taken place in his life and circumstances
◦ from being rejected to finding his place in the house of God
• there it dawned on him that this day is special
◦ God made it especially for him

The poet’s prayer was for himself and everyone in the temple

Save us, we pray, O LORD!
– for “save us,” he used the Hebrew word hosanna
• as Christians, we immediately hear this song echoed in the New Testament
◦ in fact, much of this psalm can be applied to Jesus grand entrance into Jerusalem
• the poet’s prayer was heard,
◦ and immediately he received a blessing
◦ from his house, God spoke the blessing
– with the blessing, God’s light shined on him,
• just as with the formal blessing of the priests
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you . . .
(Nu. 6:24-25)

Almost intoxicated with joy, the poet pours out his thanks
– and then, at the end of the psalm, he circles back to where he began

Before I read the psalm, there’s one more thing for us to notice

This is one of the most dynamic psalms in whole book of Psalms
– the poet re-creates the drama of his experience
• he wants us to feel what he felt
◦ he wants our eyes to be wide open and our hearts to beat fast
• he creates this effect through:
◦ strong language, powerful rhythms, and eye-catching repetitions
– he uses these poetic tools in describing both his crisis and rescue

Psalm 118 The New English Version
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
    the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
    What can man do to me?
The Lord is on my side as my helper;
    I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.
10 All nations surrounded me;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
12 They surrounded me like bees;
    they went out like a fire among thorns;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
    but the Lord helped me.

14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.
15 Glad songs of salvation
    are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,
16     the right hand of the Lord exalts,
    the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!”
17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
    and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has disciplined me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
    the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save us, we pray, O Lord!
    O Lord, we pray, give us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
    We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
    up to the horns of the altar!
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God; I will extol you.

29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Now I’ll tell you why I chose this psalm for today

Some of us are thinking that this Thanksgiving is going to be a downer
– we have had to cancel our travel plans,
• or limit the number of guests we can invite,
• or forego even having a big Thanksgiving dinner
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?” (Psa. 4:6)
– Well, if it feels to you like Thanks giving has been spoiled
• Psalm 118 is your our reminder of the greatest reason to be grateful
Oh Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!

Conclusion: Whatever else may happen, you will not be alone for Thanksgiving

The Scriptures tell us God is holy (Ps. 99:9)
– holiness is unique to God – this is something we must know
• to approach God, we have to be holy (Heb. 12:14)
• but we cannot make ourselves holy
people who try, become legalistic, moralistic, judgmental and
only succeed in making themselves self-righteous (or weird)
– I have to ask, Does my life belong to God fully?
• because that is what it means for me to become holy
◦ everything he touches and claims as his own is holy
• I am thankful to know that God is holy

The Scriptures tell us God is light (1 Jn. 1:5)
– the one who enlightens our hearts (Ep. 1:18)
• light is purity, light is truth, light is revelation
Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling (Psa. 43:3)
– then there is that that mysterious verse,
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light (Ps. 36:9)
• perhaps it means, in God’s light everything is illuminated for us
• I am thankful to know that God is light

The Scriptures tell us God is true (Jn. 3:33) and that God is faithful (1 Cor. 1:9)
– we need this reassurance
• I am thankful to know that God is true and faithful

The Scriptures tell us that God is love (1 Jn. 4:8, 16)
– and he pours his love into us (Ro. 5:5)
• this is the source of our compassion, mercy, grace, and forgiveness
◦ whatever religious work I attempt, without love is nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3)
• I am thankful for God’s love

The Scriptures tell us God is Good
– this is the greatest reason we have to be grateful
• I am thankful for God himself

Nothing can spoil our day of Thanksgiving
– because with or without a big gathering – or a big meal,
God is with us and he is good

So on Thanksgiving Day
whether your table is loaded with scrumptious food
or you sit down to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,
try doing this:
Do not bow your head to give thanks,
but lift up your face
and let the light of God’s countenance shine on you
Rejoice in your heart and say,
“What? All this and Jesus too?!”
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

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