The Rallying Point of a Thankful Heart by Roger Rohde

The Rallying Point of a Thankful Heart

Psalm 136

There is no question that one of God’s most challenging commands is for us to give Him thanks.  The concept of thanking God runs throughout the pages of Scripture.  This giving of thanks is commanded of us by God not only when things go to our liking, but He commands us to give thanks in every and all circumstances.  A passage that clearly states this is I Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”

This concept of giving thanks to God in all circumstances called to mind a Southern Gospel song I have come to love.  It is entitled, “On the Mountain.”  The words of the song go like this: “Life is easy, when you’re up on the mountain And you’ve got peace of mind, like you’ve never known But things change, when you’re down in the valley Don’t lose faith, for your never alone.  For the God on the mountain, is still God in the valley When things go wrong, He’ll make them right And the God of the good times, is still God in the bad times The God of the day, is still God in the night.  We talk of faith way up on the mountain But talk comes easy, when life’s at its best Now it’s down in the valley, trials and temptations That’s where your faith if really put into the test.  For the God on the mountain, is still God in the valley, When things go wrong, He’ll make them right And the God of the good times, is still God in the bad times The God of the day, is still God in the night.”  The point of self-examination in this song is quite clear.  We are people of faith when all is well, but what about when we are in the valley?  Do we still thank God?

The rallying point to a thankful heart is not the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but the fact that the Lord’s love is steadfast.  The Lord loves and cares for us whether we are on a mountain or in a valley, whether the circumstances are bright like the day or dark like the night.

Our God is good.  This is a hidden concept that comes out in the very first line of our text, when it states: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”  Change that last word ever so slightly and you have this meaning: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is God.  Ironically such a change in translation is not manipulative, because in the ancient language “good” and “God” are derived from the same word.  We can thank the Lord in all circumstances because He is God in the good times and bad times, in the day and in the night.  The rallying point to a thankful heart is the steadfast love of the Lord.

Our text goes on to describe the significance of God’s steadfast love.  First, because of God’s steadfast love we have the gift of life and all the good things that surround our lives here on earth.  Verses 5-9 speak of the creative work of God.  This brings us to remember the significance of the first two chapters of Scripture which speak of God’s creative work in detail.  You, I and the universe in which we live have not come to be by chance or some self-regeneration.  The world we know and the people in it are the result of God’s wisdom and power that created all things.

Most certainly today’s world is no longer perfect as God had first made it, because man made a choice to forsake the will and way of God by eating from the forbidden tree.  Yet even though man disobeyed God, God’s steadfast love would not let His creation go down the tubes.  To this day God continues to bless us with everything that supports our body and life.  We read near the end of today’s text: “He gives food to all flesh, for His steadfast love endures forever.”

You and I aren’t always sitting on a mountaintop in our lives, but that does not mean God has ceased to love and care for us.  We have always had air to breathe and food to eat.  We have always had a roof over our heads, something to wear, and someone who cares.  Unfortunately, we don’t always thank the Lord for His creative and providential care, because we lose sight of these truths.  A Sunday school teacher had this brought home to her when she asked her class where they got all the things they needed to live.  Without hesitation the answer rang out, “Walmart.”  Like that Sunday school class, we forget Who is the ultimate source of all the food we have to eat, the clothes that is in our closets, and the roof that is over our heads.  There are so many middlemen between these things we have and the God Who gives them to us that Walmart rather than God is seen as the great provider.

The truth found in the First Article of the Apostles’’ Creed is God is our Creator and Provider, and that we are to give Him thanks all of our days.  His creative and providential hand shows us that His steadfast love endures forever.

Second, God’s steadfast love is the rallying point for a thankful heart, because God’s love is the basis of our eternal salvation.  Our text makes us mindful of this as it refers to how God’s hand delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and brought them safely into the promised land of Canaan.

The Bible tells us that we were in bondage as we were “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  We had no way of saving ourselves, because we were in such bondage from the time our mothers conceived us (Psalm 51:5).  It is while we were in this state that God demonstrates His love for us.  God sent His believed Son to the cross of Calvary to suffer and die that the debt of our sins would be paid.  He took on our sins and was punished as though He were the sinner, so that through the lifeblood He shed we would be His forgiven children and heirs of everlasting life in heaven.

God now asks us: “If I did that for you while you were my enemies, will I not in My steadfast love care for you until you enter the eternal home in heaven that I have prepared for you” (Romans 8:32)?  The truth is that God in His love cares for us, watches over us, and will be our God in the valleys as well as on the mountains.  Because of His steadfast love, we can give thanks to Him in all circumstances.  Amen.

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