Thursday, November 23, 2017

Reflecting & Remembering with Gratitude; Psalm 105

Thanksgiving is a time to examine our lives and name our blessings. Many of us think back over our year and what God has done. We recount aloud the little things that too often we take for granted. This is a biblical thing to do. God’s people were called again and again to give thanks. The Jewish people were given an annual thanksgiving celebration—it is the Festival of Booths or the Feast of Tabernacles. And part of thanksgiving is to recount sacred history. They retold the old, old stories of God’s salvation. They remembered God’s covenant promises. They recounted times of deliverance. We join together tonight to remember our sacred history. We sing our thanksgivings. We give God an offering of gratitude to help strengthen children and families. We gather to reflect and remember with gratitude what the Lord has done. Palm 105:1-5 is nearly identical to I Chronicles 16:8-22. In I Chronicles, we read that this was the first occasion in which David gave the psalm to Asaph and his brethren (the other musicians) to thank the Lord because the Ark of the Covenant had been brought back to the tabernacle. There are parts of other psalms that follow what we now have as Psalm 105 in the Chronicles passage. It is likely that Asaph helped with the expanded version. But it was used repeatedly, showing us the importance of retelling our sacred history. It is often paired with Psalm 106 which gives thanks to God for the forgiveness of sins even when we keep repeating the same mistakes. Reflecting on God’s goodness reminds us how sinful we are and how great God’s forgiveness is. Certainly we can be thankful tonight for God’s forgiveness of sins—individually and corporately. We can be thankful that God forgives us again and again. What are the stories told and retold? The first is remembering the Abrahamic covenant, which is still in effect. In this story we remember God is the Covenant Maker and the Covenant Keeper. God did it because we could not. God kept the covenant we broke through sending Jesus, the promised seed of Abraham. We have been adopted into the family of Abraham through Jesus Christ. This story then flows into God’s protection of the patriarchs and their families focusing on God’s protection and granting God’s people favor and emphasizes the story of Joseph and how God’s people came to be in Egypt. Then, of course, is the story of Moses, including the 10 plagues, the Exodus, God leading the people as a pillar of cloud and fire, feeding the people with quail, providing water out of rocks and finally bringing them into the Promised Land. What are the stories we need to retell. We retell “the old, old story of Jesus and His love.” We recount times in our family, church, and personal history of God’s provision and deliverance, times when God granted us favor in the eyes of other people, times when God rescued us from danger, ways in which God’s presence has been evident, ways in which the Holy Spirit has transformed our lives, times in which we have seen or experienced miracles. We share our testimony, our personal salvation history and rejoice in it. These sacred stories ought to energize us and motivate us to continue following and obey the Lord, especially when things ahead don’t look so positive. Retelling the stories of God’s provision in the past remind us that we need God’s strength and must rely upon the Lord. But we can also know that God is never going to lead us where God cannot provide. We hear and tell how God has gotten out of seemingly impossible situations. God often allows us to go through difficult things precisely so we give up our self-reliance and self-sufficiency and depend on the Lord. In what ways have you experienced God’s blessing only by going through a time of trial? If God is asking you to do something difficult, look with expectancy for the ways God will provide. Other times, God allows us to go through difficulties so that future people will be blessed. I am especially struck by the emphasis in this psalm of the suffering that Joseph went through. His time in prison was not so easy. Yet, in the end, he told his brothers, “What you intended for evil, God meant for good,” and it wasn’t just for the good of Joseph but for all of Israel. None of those who left Egypt except for Caleb and Joshua, were able to enter the Promised Land, but those who were born along the way were. Abraham never saw his descendants become as numerous as the sands on the seashore as stars in the sky, but that promise is still coming true. Our God is a God with long range and long term plans. What blessings do you enjoy today because of the obedience and faithfulness of your spiritual ancestors? What sufferings did they endure so you can live in peace? These are the stories that we need to continue to pass along. And when we ask “why” regarding the things we suffer, we can know that if we do not see the answer in this life, God will bring something good out of it. We are commanded to praise the Lord in this psalm. Reflecting with praise helps us see God’s faithfulness in keeping God’s promises. We come to see God’s providence in allowing and using different circumstances to help us to trust the Lord and rely on God for protection and provision. Praise makes us more and more aware of and appreciative of God and God’s works. God’s personhood is revealed through God’s deeds. It serves as a witness to non-believers, and it magnifies God. To what stories in your life do you keep returning again and again? What part does God play in those stories? As Rev. Joan Stott says, your memories are both a heritage and a blessing. As we leave here tonight, we remember that we also give thanks by our obedience to God’s ways and laws. Obedience does not earn us God’s favor, but it reminds us to seek God’s favor always and honors God. Our obedience is an offering of praise to God. When we realize everything we have been given is gifted by our good, heavenly Father, we ought to desire to do that which pleases God and to do great works for the Lord. How different would our lives look if we saw everything as gift from God or even as God refining us to prepare us to do great works for God? How do you respond to the goodness and faithfulness of God? May you have opportunity over the coming days to tell stories of what God has done for you, in you, and through you. May you give thanks for the people in your past that have allowed you to be where and who you are today. May these stories inspire praise to God for who God is and what God has done. May you daily walk in an attitude of gratitude for blessings beyond number.


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