Monday, November 28, 2016

“O give thanks unto the LORD”

“O give thanks unto the LORD”

To be thankful is perhaps the most noble of human virtues in that to be truly thankful one must acknowledge that all that he has is undeserved.  To be truly thankful is to be content with what one has.  Therefore, true thankfulness must be absent of covetousness.  Covetousness and thankfulness are antithetical to one another.  This issue is addressed in Proverbs chapter thirty and Psalm one-hundred and seven in considerable detail. 

15 The horseleach {a type of blood sucking leech} hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: 16 The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough” (Proverbs 30:15-16).

          Here the “horseleach” is presented as a female who represents the personification of covetousness or lust.  The metaphor is not intended to represent that covetousness is limited to women; merely that covetousness has produced two blood-sucking daughters that unceasingly cry “Give, give.”  A leech has two suckers, one on each of its ends.  These two daughters personify avarice and ambition.  Avarice is the insatiable desire for wealth and/or power.  Ambition is the driving force of the human ego that is satisfied with nothing less than being treated as a god ultimately desiring worship and praise. 

Once a blood-sucker attaches itself to its victim, it will gorge itself with blood to the point of bursting.  The point of the comparison to the leech is that lust is never satisfied and is ungrateful because it is driven by its nature to do what it does.  As far as the blood-sucker is concerned, all other living things exist merely to satisfy the blood-sucker’s lusts.  Such a creature is totally incognizant of any danger it poses to its victims.  This is equally true of the lusts of the human sin nature. 
The point of Proverbs 30:15-16 is that there are intrinsic characteristics of our sin natures that are an absolute contradiction against being thankful.  Although we might have momentary expressions of thankfulness to God, those moments exist only for a short time within the scope of receiving things we expect from God.  Once that moment is passed, the thankfulness quickly wanes and dissipates into the nothingness of forgetfulness.  Such a person is obsessed with the what of which he is thankful rather than the Who of its provision.  What a sad testimony!  This certainly reflects the depth of corruption into which the human nature has fallen. 
The summation of these few verses is focused upon the fact that the relationship a believer has with God is really the only thing in this creation that will truly satisfy the longings in the human soul.  It is the overflowing presence of the “breath of life” for which the sinner’s soul longs.  Salvation may restore the “breath of life” to a sinner’s soul, but only true “fellowship” with God will release the “fruit” of the indwelling Spirit of God.  The saved sinner longs for that “fellowship” because nothing else satisfies his soul and nothing else will fill his empty existence without it. 

Yet, the sinner’s fallen nature haunts his soul with the insatiable desires of the flesh.  Even when those desires are satisfied for the moment, they soon inflame and again demand the sinner’s subservience.  The believer’s spiritual warfare is the battle of his fallen and corrupted will against the righteous and holy will of God.  Paul says it like this: “16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:16-17).  Every Christian seeking to be holy understands this moment by moment warfare. 

True thankfulness to God burst forth out of the understanding of Who God is.  When a sinner understands Who God is and how far short the sinner comes from deserving anything from God, then true thankfulness will be produced in that sinner’s heart.  This is the introductory substance of Psalm 107:1-9. 

1 O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; 3 And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south. 4 They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. 5 Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. 6 Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses. 7 And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation. 8 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:1-9).

          The essence of Psalm 107 is that temporal blessings are merely a small taste of God’s eternal blessings.  God “is good” because He makes provisions that no one deserves.  Everything that comes to the sinner flows from the “mercy” of God.  The “redeemed” should especially understand this and proclaim the “mercy” of God.  “God is love” (I John 4:16).  However, this fact merely reveals the fountain of God’s blessings and goodness.  God does not love sinners because we are loveable.  God loves sinners because He is love.  God’s love generates His mercy and grace to undeserving sinners thereby redeeming sinners “from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:2).  Understanding this is the fountain of thanksgiving.  
The point of the Psalm is not merely that sinners are lost in their sins.  The point of the Psalm is that sinners are captivated by their sins.  Because the sinner’s nature is corrupted, the sinner wants what Satan offers.  However, Satan does not reveal that what he offers to satisfy the sinners corrupted wanter is also a snare trap. 

22 Flee also youthful lusts {they are snare traps}: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (II Timothy 2:22-26).

          Psalm 107:3-5 describes the lostness of the unredeemed.  These verses also tell us that it is God who seeks out sinners as they wander hopelessly and helplessly without plan or purpose in life.  The point of the text is that God wants all sinners to know Him and His wondrous gift of redemption.  Therefore, “God is good” beyond human imagination.  The goodness of God is magnified by understanding that God is perfectly holy and that sin is an absolute offense against His holy character.  Yet, He extends Himself to reach out to those taken captive by sin and thereby are floundering in life.  However, His goal is not merely to comfort sinners in their hopelessness and helplessness.  God’s goal is to lead sinners out of their hopelessness and helplessness and to give them a “city of habitation.”  The “city of habitation” is being reconciled to God and habitually live in fellowship with God Himself.

1 In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. 2 Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me. 3 Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress” (Psalm 71:1-3).

It is out of all this that the understanding of the statement of Psalm 107:8-9 bursts forth.  “8 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:8-9).
We could stop here thinking God has made His point.  Certainly, there is no further need to explain why God should be praised.  Yet, God thinks otherwise.  There is a subtle redundancy to Psalm 107.  In Psalm 107:10-16, God addresses the fact that sin has consequences.  There is a suffocating darkness that permeates the world.  Every sinner works and lives in “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4).  The reality of this life is that we are on destined to arrive one day in a chauffeured limousine, dressed in our best, at a graveyard of our choice. 

We are imprisoned in the dark reality of that destiny.  For those ignorant of God’s grace and the gift of eternal life, there is no knowledge of existence beyond this life.  However, Psalm 107:10-16 is addressed to those who have rebelled against God’s Word and “contemned {to treat with contempt or distain} the counsel of the most High.”  Here God exposes His longsuffering patience with such people and the fact that He continues working in their rebellious lives to bring them to saving faith.  In these few verses, God reveals how He sees such people and what He must do to bring those people to believe in Him and bow their knees before Him. 

10 Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; 11 Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: 12 Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. 13 Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. 15 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 16 For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder” (Psalm 107:10-16).

          It is amazing the depth to which sinners must be “brought down” before they cry “unto the LORD” in the trouble they have created for themselves.  Most of the “distresses” in a person’s life are created by his own selfishness and carnality.  The great truth of Psalm 107:9 reflects an understanding of the goodness of God as our Deliverer from the miseries that humans create for themselves because of sin – “For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.”  This statement is equivalent to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”  Both texts address consuming desires of the heart.  God often lets sinners be consumed by unrighteousness with which they fill their lives until they want no more of its sickening and disgusting outcomes.  Then, their souls long for righteousness and “goodness” to the same degree the carnal heart is consumed with the love of money. 
The rebellious fool thinks of God as some tyrannical dictator with no concern for His subjects.  Because God has judged humanity for their sins, those ignorant of God’s mercy and grace can see Him as nothing but a harsh and cruel taskmaster.  This is the way the Liberals would want God portrayed.  In fact, they will accept no other view of God. 

Certainly, we must all recognize that there must be consequences for rebellion against what is right.  In fact, we all know there are both natural consequences and supernatural consequences for living in the forbidden zone of human existence.  The drunkard knows this.  The drug addict knows this.  The sex addict knows this.  The thief knows this.  They also know that many lives are destroyed by the damage they cause by their lifestyle choices other than their own. 

Knowing there are consequences for sin is the difference between ignorance and rebellion.  The rebel knows of these consequences but is so egocentric that the pleasure centers of his brain demand immediate gratification no matter what might be the cost to others around him.  It is not enough that God warns such a person living in “the shadow of death,” such a person’s rebellion has him “bound in affliction {depression/misery} and iron” as well.  “Affliction” binds the heart while “iron” binds the body. 

Only those who have struggled with insatiable lusts and addictions can truly understand the reality of the spiritual fetters of their own bondage to the corruptions of their natures.  Only those delivered from those fetters will truly praise God the way He deserves to be praised when He delivers a person from the true tyrant in that person’s own sin nature.  It is the grace of God that brings the rebel to the hopelessness of self-destruction in addictive life patterns.  The sinner digs his own pit and reinforces it with his continued rebellion against God creating his own prison of iron for his flesh.  God must allow this process of destruction to take the rebel to the very end of himself and the brink of death before such a person will look at the prison he has created in which he, and those around him, must now live.  Perhaps seeing what such lifestyle choices have created is the greatest torment for such a person. 

The word “distresses” in Psalm 107:13 is from a Hebrew word meaning narrowness.  Modern language expresses this idea as being caught between a rock and a hard place.  The point is about getting one’s self into predicaments from which there is no opportunity to escape; no solutions.  Psalm 107:12 says, “there was none to help.”  “Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses” (Psalm 107:13).  Do not miss the emphasis on the word “then.”  This statement is repeated in Psalm 107:19 giving further details to God’s provision of the means of His deliverance – where the SOLUTION to their predicament is found.

17 Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. 18 Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. 19 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. 20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. 21 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:17-22).

          The affliction of hopeless despair leads to chronic depression to where selfish godless lives have brought those described in Psalm 107.  “Their destructions” spoken of in Psalm 107:20 are their own solutions to their self-created situations of hopelessness due to the carnal, selfish, and godless choices that they have made.  When they chose the beginning of this way, they also chose the end of that way.  These “destructions” are various forms of self-destruction, which are vehicles to escape the miseries of their own lives.  This is the ultimate outcome when people choose to follow the leadership of the Destroyer (Satan) rather than God.  The Destroyer destroys lives, steals hope, and leaves his followers all alone at the end of a dead-end road in the darkness of the middle of the night broken, bruised, and bloodied.  “19 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. 20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalm 107:19-20).
Every problem in life, especially those created by our own carnal and selfish choices, we will find their solutions in knowing and obeying the Word of God.  This is not talking of waving the Bible over your life like some magical fairytale wand that will cause you to live happily ever after.  This is referring to slowly crawling out of the deep grave that the selfish person has been digging for himself for most of his carnal and godless life.  The length of the process of climbing out of that pit will depend on how long and how deep you have dug it.  Bad habits are not easily broken.  Addictions will constantly haunt and oppress the soul of those once possessed by such demons.  Those demons will want back in.  Getting out of this pit will require a considerable investment of time in studying and learning the Word of God to understand the will of God.  Getting out of this pit will require the “renewing of the mind” (thinking) and the “transforming” of our nature through the operations of God.  Such operations are a miracle in progress. 

This cannot happen without the miracle of the New Birth having taken place first.  Therefore, the Psalmist repeated says, “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”  This is what is meant by the statement in Psalm 107:2; “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy.”  The central testimony of the New Creation is that you are now a child of God and a work in progress.  This is the way every Christian must see himself and other Christians – a work in progress.  Such a work is a cooperative effort between the believer and God.  We need not concern ourselves with how much God is invested in working to bring about change.  We only need look to the Cross of Calvary to see the degree of God’s investment.  The progress of transformation will depend mostly upon the amount of time and effort the saved sinner is willing to invest. 
The fourth quadrant of God’s deliverance is found in Psalm 107:23-32.  This is the most difficult to understand mainly because the modern reader is almost totally ignorant of the lack of maritime navigation knowledge at the time of the writing of the Psalm.   To go out on the open sea was a perilous adventure full of unknown risks and threats.  Only the most courageous of men would dare venture out upon the “wonders of the deep.”  The word “wonders” implies the mysteries of the unknown

These courageous adventurers quickly realize they are traveling in an arena that is totally beyond human powers to control.  They therefore must depend on a power greater themselves.  To do so, they must acknowledge the existence of such a powerful Being and “cry unto” Him.  God, Who controls the storms of life, brings them upon us so that we might acknowledge how puny we are in our greatest acts of courage.  The power of the hurricane, the tornado, a lightning storm, brings the most courageous of men to bow before God, Who is the only Being capable of controlling such exhibitions of power.  

23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. 25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. 31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 32 Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders” (Psalm 107:23-32).

          It is the knowledge of God’s abilities and goodness that generates trust and thankfulness.  Although the difficulties that torture us and cause us pain in the midst of the curse are very threatening, they cannot touch the security of our souls if those souls have been entrusted to the loving hands of our omnipotent Creator.  This is the focus of the last few verses in Psalm 107:33-43.  These are verses that are written for the person who has come to know and trust in Jeremiah’s God.  “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me” (Jeremiah 32:27)?

33 He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; 34 A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein. 35 He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings. 36 And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation; 37 And sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase. 38 He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly; and suffereth not their cattle to decrease. 39 Again, they are minished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow. 40 He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way. 41 Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock. 42 The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. 43 Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD” (Psalm 107: 33-43).

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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