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You’ve heard officials say it on TV. “Thanksgiving is cancelled this year, and probably Christmas too.” What does that mean? Obviously, those dates have not been erased from the calendar. November 26 is still listed as Thanksgiving. December 25th is still listed as Christmas. What it means is that the kind of celebration you have this year might be a lot different than it has been any other time in your life. But if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas with as large a gathering as usual, have those special days been cancelled? What does saying they have been cancelled reveal about those who make such a statement? Doesn’t it indicate that the extent of what Thanksgiving and Christmas mean for them is getting together for a party, watching football, eating too much, and getting presents? If that’s the case, maybe it’s a good thing that we won’t be celebrating the way we usually do! Maybe being forced to do something different will help us focus on what these celebrations should be all about.
With all that has gone on in 2020 it is easy to wonder what we have for which to give thanks. As we think about COVID, lock downs, civil unrest, the uncertainty of the future, we might easily forget all the benefits, the blessings we do have. That’s why this Psalm is so helpful.
First of all, David encourages us to bless the Lord, but not in a way that is just going through the motions. He doesn’t want us to think, “well, it has been declared a day of Thanksgiving, so I guess I better go through the motions of giving thanks to someone, even if I don’t feel very thankful.” No! David reminds us that the one we are to bless is the LORD, the one and only true God. He remind us that the blessing, the thanks we give him is to come from our soul, from all that is within us. Our giving thanks to God needs to be a response of faith or it isn’t really giving thanks.
If we aren’t motivated to bless the Lord and give him thanks, David helps us with quite a list of wonderful reasons. He lists some of the greatest benefits we have from God, benefits only he can provide.
He pardons all your guilt. If you have experienced guilt you know what a wonderful thing it is to have that guilt pardoned. David described what he experienced when he felt the burden of his guilt because of his sins of adultery and murder. He says my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. He says that it felt like a heavy hand was pressing down on him. He says my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
If you have ever tried to silence your guilty conscience by working harder, by trying to do something to make up for whatever is making you feel guilty, by using alcohol or drugs to quiet your guilty conscience, only to find that you have even more to feel guilty about, you know what a wonderful thing it is to have the Lord remove your guilt from you. You know, as David did, what a wonderful thing it is to have the Lord tell you, “I have pardoned your guilt. I have removed the punishment you rightly deserve from you and put it on Jesus. Look at the cross and see that your guilt is there, on Jesus’ shoulders.”
He heals all your diseases. Maybe you think of all the colds you have had, or maybe you have recovered from something more serious. But the most dangerous disease, a disease worse than COVID, worse than cancer, even worse that ALS, is the disease of sin. It’s the cause of everything bad. It’s a disease that only God can heal. He has begun the healing process in you by bringing you to faith in Jesus and creating a new spirit within you. When he comes again in glory, he will complete the process, giving you a glorious body that is like his; a body no longer affected by sin, no longer subject to any sickness or disease.
He redeems your life from the pit and crowns, literally surrounds you, with mercy and compassion. As we heard on Sunday, the Lamb, the Good Shepherd, redeemed us. He purchased us for God with his own blood. He has rescued us from the pit of Hell. He has claimed us as his own, his precious sheep. If he was willing to suffer and die to save us from the pit, how could we ever doubt that he surrounds us with mercy and compassion, sending his angels to watch over us, and making everything that happens in our lives serve our eternal good?
He satisfies your life with goodness so that your youth is renewed like the eagles. As an eagle is said to go through a molting process, shedding old feathers so that it can fly like it did when it was young, knowing that we are forgiven and have a perfect life in heaven to which to look forward makes us feel young at heart, and eagerly away the time when we will be transformed and given a body that is young forever.
The Lord performs righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. No matter how unjust the world might seem, the Lord always does what is just and right. It must have seemed like it took a long time, but God did step in and rescue Israel from the Egyptians who were oppressing them. Over and over again God gave Israel judges to deliver them from others who were oppressing them. His timetable might not agree with ours, but sooner or later, even if it’s on the day of judgment, he will provide righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
When Moses asked to know more about the Lord and to see his glory, God told Moses it was not possible for him to see his full glory and live. But he did agree to let Moses have a glimpse of his glory. As Moses watched, sheltered in the cleft of a rock, the Lord passed by and proclaimed his name. He helped Moses and us understand more fully who he is and what he is like. He told Moses what David repeats for us here. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in mercy. He will not always accuse. He will not keep his anger forever. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. He does not repay us according to our guilty deeds.
Wow! God doesn’t hold a grudge against us. We have sinned against him, not just once, but too many times to count. Yet he doesn’t give us what we deserve. He doesn’t send down fire and brimstone to destroy us, and then lock us up with Satan in the fires of Hell forever. That’s what we deserve. That’s the payment we have earned for our guilty deeds.
How can he do this? How can he look at us and not give us the punishment we deserve? As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our rebellious acts from us. In other words, they are gone. When he looks at us, he doesn’t see those rebellious acts. He has taken them off us and put them on Jesus. And he has taken the righteousness, the perfection of Jesus and put it on us. He doesn’t give us the punishment we deserve because when he looks at us in Jesus, he doesn’t see any sins, any rebellious acts, only the perfect righteousness of Jesus in our place.
God is our maker, the one who created all things, the one who made each of us in our mother’s womb. God is the one who put the curse of death on everyone and everything so that we would not live in suffering and imperfection forever. He understands that our days are like grass. He knows that we are here today and gone tomorrow. He has given us life as a time of grace, a time to come to know the truth about ourselves, that we are not going to live forever. He has given us time to come to know the truth about him and about the way to eternal life. He has given us time to come to know that his mercy never fails. He is always there for us because he is from eternity to eternity, without beginning and without end. His offer of righteousness in Jesus doesn’t ever expire. It’s free, purchased for us by Jesus. It’s there for you and me, for our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, for everyone.
Regardless what human activities may be cancelled, reasons to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas will always remain because the Lord’s mercy is from eternity to eternity. It can never be cancelled. Regardless of what physical, bodily, earthly blessings you may or may not have, never forget the greatest benefits that are yours no matter what. They are benefits no one can take away. God has sent his one and only perfect Son to take your place. He has placed all your guilt on him. He has given him the punishment you deserve for your sins. He has surrounded you with mercy and compassion and proven his love for you over and over again.
All these benefits, all these undeserved blessings, give you ample reason to bless the Lord. They move you to give thanks, not because you think you have to, but because you want to, with your all your heart and soul, with all that is within you. The undeserved blessings of God move you to keep his covenant and remember his precepts and gladly strive to obey them. There is no better way to thank and bless the Lord than to gladly and eagerly devote yourself to serving him every day.