“Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”
In this passage we would like to pick up the spirit of thanksgiving. Each time the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we naturally begin to worry about things, “Oh my, how am I going to cook my turkey?”, “How many people are going to come to my Thanksgiving dinner?”, “What if I pick up a few extra pounds because of all the good food?”, etc. and so forth. But Thanksgiving is not simply about eating a stuffed turkey, but more importantly about giving thanks to the Lord God. Of course, when we seriously think about giving thanks to the Lord, we inevitably fail. For example, we first try to think about what to thank him for; thus we say, “OK, I am thankful that I am at least alive. What else?” Next, one or two or even several other reasons may come to mind, but eventually we run out of reasons. To make matters worse, some bad memories or unfortunate things might hit us, and then we end up losing our thankful spirit.
How then can we pick up a spirit of thanksgiving? Let us think about what King David has to say to us today. This psalm can be read and interpreted in different ways, but we would like to think about it in terms of giving thanks to the Lord. As seen in this psalm, there are three fundamental reasons to give thanks to the Lord:
First, for his holy name (1)
Look at v. 1. “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” This passage suggests that thanksgiving is a spiritual worship of the Lord. We say it is a spiritual worship in that it must come from deep inside our heart, not just as a matter of lip service. The Bible says that the Lord God created us in his image.As we deeply repent of our sins, and believe in Jesus, he gives us his Spirit, which in turn causes us to give thanks to the Lord from the bottom of our heart.
What should we specifically thank God for? In v. 1 David says that we must give thanks to the Lord for his holy name, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” Praising the Lord and his holy name is the first key to giving thanks to God. The exhortation to praise the Lord and his holy name means we need to direct our thanks to the Lord and at the same time we need to know why we are thankful to the Lord, that is, we thank God for his holy name. The word “holy” means “separate” or “different.” How is the Lord different? He is different in that he is perfectly good and good all the time. All creatures within creation are less than perfect. Of course, everything he created is perfect and good, but it is only perfect and good because he himself sustains all that was created by his word.
This tells us that we need to turn our attention from “people” and “the things of this world,” but especially people, to the Lord. When we think about people too much, we will most likely lose a thankful heart. Maybe we can be thankful for a while, but not all the time. Maybe we can be thankful for this person or that person, to a certain extent, but not completely and unreservedly thankful. This was no different for King David. We don’t know exactly when and at what point in his life David wrote this psalm. But throughout his life, we know that he had one trouble after another, and most of his troubles came from people. The people who gave him trouble not only consisted of terrible enemies like Goliath or Saul, but people who were close to him like General Joab or his son Absalom. Had David thought about all these people all the time, David would not have been able to give thanks to the Lord. But when he thought about the Lord God, particularly the Lord’s person, thanks arose in his heart. And he thanked and praised God’s holy name. Amazingly, when we start thinking about Lord and his ineffably great name, we can come to give thanks to the Lord even for enemies like Goliath.
During the Thanksgiving season, we will no doubt see more people than we usually see, particularly those who are close to us like our family members. While we are thankful for these opportunities to meet those who are close to us like our family members, let us discipline our way of thinking so that we can direct thoughts first to the Lord, particularly to his holy name, and then “see” everyone via the Lord’s eyes.
Recently, our CSULB coworkers put together a monthly message program based on Jesus’ seven miracles found in the Gospel of John. And the Gospel of John is a good place to find out about the holiness of Jesus’ name. There, for example, we see Jesus’ seven “I am” statements, like “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the bread of life,” and “I am the light of the world,” etc. These statements give us absolute reasons to fully praise the name of our Lord Jesus. And we are eternally thankful to the Lord for being a good shepherd to us, for being the source of life for us, and for much, much more. So, during Thanksgiving, may we all fill our thoughts with the beautiful name of our Lord God, the Father of our Lord Jesus. Then we can even stuff ourselves with good food and yet be able to better digest it all, because “a cheerful [thankful] heart is good medicine” (Prov. 17:22).
Second, for his benefits (2-18)
Praising God’s holy name sounds kind of abstract. So David now directs our attention to the practical benefits of praising the Lord. Look at v. 2. “Praise the LORD , O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” There is a saying that “People engrave their grudges on stone, but their benefits on water.” This saying indicates how easily and conveniently we forget all the benefits we receive from others, and yet how persistently we remember and resolutely determine to never forget all the bad things we think others did to us.
This is particularly true with the benefits we receive from the Lord. The reason we so easily forget the benefits from the Lord is because the Lord is not visible. Plus, as Jesus mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord God always gives us all the benefits without letting us know that it is he who is giving them to us. People of this world advertise their acts of goodness to others. And they are good at “tooting’ their own horns” when it comes to their acts of righteousness. But the Lord God is different. When he gives something to us, he does so like a person who is giving something to someone else with his left hand while ensuring that his right hand does not know what his left hand is doing. Because of this, we so easily end up giving thanks to the wrong person or to the wrong source, when in fact it is the Lord from whom the benefits come.
What then is the truth? The truth is that all the benefits that have come into our lives are from the Lord. A friend of mine gets paid a seven digit salary. He thinks that he has such a high salary because of his brilliant intelligence coupled with his hard work. But he does not know that, in the first place, it is the Lord who gave him his brain and his determination, strength, and health to work.
“Forget not all of his benefits, O my soul!” As we recite this verse we cannot help but recognize that the psalmist put special emphasis on the word “all.” “Forget not ‘all’ of his benefits.” What does the word “all” mean? All means all. It means what it says. Why then does David emphasize this word? The answer is obvious. Oftentimes we fallen sinners are not as thankful for as many benefits as we are supposed to be thankful for. And if we are not fully thankful to the Lord for all his benefits, it is not the Lord who loses out but we who lose out. This is the deal: the more thankful we are for what we have (or even for what we don’t have), the more we are blessed. For the same reason, there is a Jewish saying which goes, “I felt sorry I had no shoes until I saw the man who had no feet.” Sometimes our “shoes” might be cars, houses, sheep, or some other item(s). Thus “all” includes not just what we have but what we do not have!
“Forget not O my soul all of his benefits!” Then what specifically does the psalmist ask us to be thankful for? Let us read vs. 3-18 responsively.
The benefits (3-5). Look at vs. 3-5. “who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.” This passage describes the Lord God helping his children enjoy a good life.
And David’s description is based on his understanding about the way the Lord God created man, that is, the Bible says that we were created not only as a physical being but also as a spiritual being. This indicates that in order for us to enjoy a happy life, we need to be happy in our spirit as well as in our body; we need to have a fulfilling spiritual life in order to have a fulfilling bodily life. Consistent with this truth, God forgives us of our sins to restore our soul and spirit to him, he heals us of all diseases to extend the wholesomeness of our being to our physical body, he redeems from the pit to restore our external environment – such as with a job or through a relationship – and then in order to fill all the needs we have for satisfaction both spiritually and physically he crowns us with love and compassion, “and satisfies our desires with good things so that our youth is renewed like the eagle's.”
The means (6). Look at v. 6. “The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” At first glance, because the Lord is good in giving all we need for life, we often mistake our Heavenly Father for a mere sugar daddy who does not know how to punish those who are evil. How then is he different from a mere sugar daddy? Verse 6 answers this question. “He works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” Here, “righteousness” and “justice” are two values which seem to contradict one another. For example, righteousness gives out blessings like the restoration of a relationship, but justice withdraws or even takes away privileges in punishment, such as when placing a convicted criminal behind bars, or taking away a thief’s ill-gotten gain. So how can God give bountiful gifts to a needy person while still satisfying his justice?We find the answer to this question in what the Lord God did in and through Jesus. In order to set us free from the power of our sins and Satan, the Lord God condemned and punished Jesus, his sinless son, so that, upon seeing us putting our trust in the Lord Jesus, the Lord God both sets us free from the power of sin and Satan and yet satisfies the need to punish what is evil. This further reminds us of the kind of sacrifice Jesus had to make, and how costly it was, in order for all of the Lord’s benefits to come into our lives, even though we are not worthy.
The motives (7-18). Naturally, then, we come to ask why the Lord did this to us. The psalmist answers this question in vs. 7-18. Let us read this part responsibly. “He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children- with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” Here, “his ways” talks about who he is, how he does his business, and how he relates himself to his creation, particularly with us as fallen sinners. “His deeds” talks about what he actually did because of who he is, and also how and why he does what he does. In sum, we can refer to “his ways” as “his motives” and to “his deeds” as simply “his deeds.” Why then does he do what he does? The passage we just read answers the question – his “loving-compassion” or simply “his love” that never fails. When we show our trust in the Lord, the Lord forgives all of our sins, and then redeems us and restores us to an un-fallen state, firmly establishing us as his children, the heirs of his blessed kingdom! Indeed, the motive behind all of the Lord’s good deeds is his unfathomably great love that seeks the highest good for each one of his children!
Third, for his rule (19-22)
In vs. 19-22, the psalmist is now ready to move onto the final reason to give thanks to the Lord, that is, for his eternal rule in his eternal kingdom. Let us read this passage altogether.
”The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.” This is profound yet at the same time it is very simple. That is, it speaks of his rule in his eternal kingdom. When we think about all the things and people who are changing ever so quickly we are not sure of our present and future life’s security. But King David saw his life differently. He felt eternally secure because he saw God’s rule in his eternal kingdom yesterday, today, and forever. Last week Missionary David Cho visited Korea. I don’t know how he felt while he was in Korea and away from home. But I think he felt secure because, although he was away from home, he knew that he had a place to go back to, that is, his home in Westwood, where he knew his wife and his children would certainly greet him upon his return. And I am certain that when his wife greeted him at LAX, he gave her, as well as his children, a great, big bear hug. This is true with many servants of God like King David and the Apostle Peter. While on earth, David realized that he and his kingdom were surrounded by tons of enemies. But he felt secure because he knew that the Lord God is the sovereign ruler, and as long as he put his trust in the Lord, the Lord would keep him safe throughout his life’s journey, and then greet him when he returned back to his heavenly home, safe and sound. Similarly, the Apostle Peter was faced with the series of severe persecutions like the one suffered by the early Christians under the rule of the Roman Emperor Nero. Nevertheless Peter felt secure, for he knew that after his life’s journey was over, even though he may have to suffer martyrdom, the Lord Jesus would give him a rich welcome into his Kingdom, his eternal home. Seeing this glorious rule of God, the Father, David invites even all the heavenly hosts to praise the Lord, his blessed name, and then his blessed rule.
Read v. 1. In this troublesome world, things might not always go the way we want them to go, so that on many occasions we might feel like complaining. Yet, the psalmist exhorts us to praise the Lord. What does the expression “soul” or “all my inmost being” suggest to us about the spirit of praise?What does it mean to praise him “for his holy name” (Exo 15:11; Psalm 89:8)?
** These expressions tell us that our praise should be more than lip service: praising the Lord must be with our enter person – our mind and heart, will, intellect, and emotions, our body and spirit!
** It means that in order for us to be able to give thanks to God and praise him, we must first be God-centered, rather than self-centered, for if we keep thinking about ourselves, other people, or something else like circumstances, or things that happen in this world, we end up complaining all the more rather than thanking and praising God.
One of the meanings of the word “holy” is to be set apart or different. “Name” has to do with the essential character of a being. The Lord is different from us and all of his creation, in that he alone is perfectly powerful and perfectly beneficial. This is our first and foremost important thanks topic.
Read v. 2. What does “forget not ‘all’ of his benefits” tell us about the way to keep the spirit of thanksgiving?
**The practical way to keep the spirit of thanksgiving is to think about all the benefits the Lord has given us and count them all one by one, until the spirit of appreciation and then thanks and praise for these benefits arises within us.
Read vs. 3-4. How many thanks topics (or praise topics, if you will) can you find? How are they related to one another? How many of them are applicable to you?
** 6 of them.
He forgives us of our sins;
He heals us of every disease;
He redeems our life from the pit;
He crowns us with love and compassion;
He satisfies our desires with good things; and
He renews our youth like the eagles.
Read v. 6. The psalmist says that the Lord works righteousness and justice “for the oppressed”. What does this passage show us about another important thanks topic for us (Romans 1:16-17; 3:25; Gal 5:1, 13)?
** Freedom from the iron grip of all of our enemies like the power of sin and Satan. Hidden in this passage is the grace that comes from Jesus’ self-sacrifice. Righteousness refers to the righteousness that comes from faith in the Lord Jesus (Romans 1:16-17). Justice refers to Jesus’ total sacrifice on the cross satisfying God’s demand for justice that must punish every hint of sin found in men (Romans 3:25).
Read v. 7. How are “his ways” different from “his deeds”? Why do you think the Lord made them known to Moses? To his people? What thanks topic(s) can we find?
** The expression “his ways” refers to such questions/issues as “why”, “how”, or “where”, whereas the term “deeds” talks about “what”. His ways exist on a higher level than his deeds, for his deeds are dependent upon his ways. His ways, then, talk about what goes on inside of the Lord God and therefore are not visible, whereas his deeds present the outcome/manifestation of what the Lord God originally had in mind and then made present in the visible reality.
** So we would know the Lord (his will, purpose, direction, plan, etc.) and live as His children, particularly as members of the kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
** The knowledge of God (his will, purpose, plan, etc.) is one of the greatest thanks topics, for it helps us not to be confused about the meaning, purpose, and direction of our lives, but rather to have a clear idea why we live, what to live for, where we go, etc.
Read vs. 8-18. What does this passage show us about: 1) man’s life on earth; 2) the Lord’s grace upon men; and 3) his love and his righteousness for those who put trust in him? What additional thanks topic(s) can we find here?
** It is short and transient. It flies away like a dream (Job 20:8). It is just like grass or a spring flower, which appears for a while and quickly disappears. Plus it is filled with sorrows and troubles. It comes with errors, mistakes, blunders, and sin problems.
** His grace is far greater than our sins deserve. This reminds us of what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 5:10, “Where sin increased grace increased all the more” or what some of the hymn songs say, such as, “his grace abounded more” or “the grace greater than all of our sins...” etc.
** Unceasingly great, lasting from generation to generation.
** Thanks topic for the next generations to come, for God blesses our children because of our faith and obedience to the Lord.
Read vs. 19-22. Despite all the undesirable things that are happening in this world, what does this passage show us about the way the psalmist sees the world? What grand thanks topic do we have here?
** The Lord God rules the universe and everything in it according to his absolute love and power. It is not men who rule, but God who rules. And the Lord does so in the invisible realm by employing tons of angels and other heavenly beings that obey the Lord.
** We are not in a picky, pesky, perilous world, but under God’s sovereign rule. Our life is never an accident, but is under God’s divine providence through which he leads us to his world of perfection. The end.