“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, 3 And gathered out of the lands, From the east and from the west, From the north and from the south.” Psalm 107:1-3
In the Christian course, thanksgiving is not an elective but a directive. We are urged again and again in Scriptures to “Give thanks to the Lord.” “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). None of us can say that God hasn’t redeemed (delivered) us from something this year; things we could see, but there were even more that we couldn’t see.
The Psalmist reminds us, “Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.” (Vs 2 NLT). Some of the people who passed through the same road we did in 2015 never made it to their destination. Even this Sunday morning, while you drove out from your house to come to church others did the same but they were heading to the hospital. Even if you have nothing left but just your breath, you are still encouraged to give praise to the Lord: “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.” (Psalm 150:6 KJV)
The primary reason we are encouraged to give thanks to the Lord is because He is good. Whether in the good times or in the bad times; in the things we could understand and those we couldn’t, God is still good. “You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees.” (Psalm 119:68 NLT). We are beneficiaries of His goodness. If we all got what we deserved, none of us would be alive today but God’s mercies covered us and preserved us. Therefore, thanksgiving should be our reasonable response to God.
Our referent Scripture (Psalm 107) is most suitable for a thanksgiving service. In fact, it may well have been written in commemoration of a gathering of God’s people for thanksgiving. People came from the east, west, north and south. In our midst this morning we have people from the four corners of our nation. We have all come to express our thanks to the Lord for the things He has done in our lives in 2015.
It appears that there were four groups of people who came forward to ‘say’ what the Lord had done for them. The pattern of their presentation was first to describe the situation they faced (sometimes they confessed the cause of their distress), how they cried out to God in prayer and He heard and delivered them. Before each group will leave the stage, they urged the congregation: “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107:8). Each grouped ended by declaring what they had learned about the goodness of God.
THE WANDERERS Psalm 107:4-9
The first group to testify were those who couldn’t navigate their way through life. They were in a constant flux. The Message Bible aptly describes their condition: “Some of you wandered for years in the desert, looking but not finding a good place to live, 5 Half–starved and parched with thirst, staggering and stumbling, on the brink of exhaustion. 6 Then, in your desperate condition, you called out to God. He got you out in the nick of time; 7 He put your feet on a wonderful road that took you straight to a good place to live.” (4-7). Their life had no direction until they cried out to God and He heard them. This group was in the service to proclaim what the Lord had done for them and to urge others to thank God with them.
FORMER PRISONERS Psalm 107:10-16
The second group to testify were those who had been released from prison. In a sense, they were the cause of their own circumstances “Because they rebelled against the words of God, And despised the counsel of the Most High,” (Psalm 107:11). But even then, when they cried out to the Lord He heard them and delivered them. They also declared “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107:15)
PEOPLE WHO RECOVERED FROM SICKNESS Psalm 107:17-22
The third group were those who had been so sick that they almost died. Their condition was so serious that “They couldn’t stand the thought of food, and they were knocking on death’s door.” (Psalm 107:18 NLT). Like the last group they also recognized that they were suffering because of the wrong they had done. Nevertheless, when they cried out to the Lord He heard them and healed them. They too were jubilant with thankfulness.
BUSINESS TRAVELLERS Psalm 107:23-32
Business people were also there to testify of how God delivered them in their trips. In that era, merchant ships were the regular means of travel to distant lands. They found themselves sailing in turbulent waters. Today, they would have talked about air travel because the situation they described is similar to what people experience in the airplane. “For He commands and raises the stormy wind, Which lifts up the waves of the sea. 26 They mount up to the heavens, They go down again to the depths; Their soul melts because of trouble. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, And are at their wits’ end.” (Psalm 107:25-27). In their trouble they cried out to the Lord and He delivered them.
WHAT WE LEARN FROM THEIR TESTIMONIES
These four groups of people learned some indisputable truths about God as a result of the problems they faced. Indeed, it is true that the circumstances of life cause us to discover new dimensions of God’s goodness. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28).
The wanderers discovered that God satisfies: “For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness.” (Psalm 107:9. Like Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, “Jesus answered and said to her, ” Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14). They also discovered God as a way-maker; He made a way for them where their seemed to be none (Isaiah 43:16-19).
Those who had been in prison discovered that God as a bondage-breaker. “For He has broken the gates of bronze, And cut the bars of iron in two.” (Psalm 107:16). Whether a person is locked up in the prison of his mind, or of his past or of the devil’s making, God can free him. When Jesus started His ministry, He announced: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;” (Luke 4:18). God is still in the deliverance ministry!
Those who had been afflicted found that God is a healer, He rescues people from death. “He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions.” (Psalm 107:20). He is Jehovah Rapha, the God that heals (Exodus 15:26). When Jesus was on earth He demonstrated God’s goodness in healings: “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38).
The fourth group discovered that no matter what happens, God is able to bring His people to their expected end. “He calms the storm, So that its waves are still. 30 Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven.” (Psalm 107:29-30). God will see us through the circumstances of life. He said: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29:11 KJV)
CALL TO GIVE THANKS
We can all relate to the experiences of these four group of testifiers. Let us be inspired by what they discovered about God because He is still the same today as He was then (Malachai 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). We need to also heed their counsel. Those who were healed said: “Let them present thank offerings, and loudly proclaim what he has done!” (Psalm 107:22 NET). We should testify of His goodness, praise Him with words and thank Him with our substance. The business travelers said: “Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, And praise Him in the company of the elders.” (Psalm 107:32). That’s precisely what we have come to do on this thanksgiving day. Let’s be hearty in our praise and lavish in our thanksgiving.