THE MAN WHO BUILT A BOAT

THE MAN WHO BUILT A BOATTHE MAN WHO BUILT A BOAT

“By faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family. By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Hebrews 11:7 CSB).

Our investigation into the heroes of faith as outlined in Hebrews 11 has only just begun. So far, we have looked at the man Abel, who had only one shot at demonstrating his faith, and did not throw away his one shot.

By contrast, Enoch had a very very long life to demonstrate his faith by walking with God. What set them apart as people of faith was not the length of their lives. What set them apart was the choices that they made. It was how they chose to live their lives.

Today’s hero is another example. His story is told in four chapters in Genesis, but it is summarized here with only one verse. But that one verse is jam packed with information. Let’s read it again, and this time notice the words that I underline.

“By faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family. By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

One verse, but the words BY FAITH are included in it three times.

Outside of the book of Hebrews, the New Testament tells us that …

• by faith our hearts are cleansed (Acts 15:9)
• by faith we have been sanctified (Acts 26:18)
• by faith we live (Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11 [Habakkuk 2:4]; Galatians 2:20)
• by faith we are justified (Romans 3:28,30; 5:1; Galatians 2:16; 3:8, 24)
• by faith we are descendants of Abraham (Romans 4:16)
• by faith we have been introduced into grace (Romans 5:2)
• by faith we have attained righteousness (Romans 9:30)
• by faith (and not by sight) we walk (2 Corinthians 5:7)
• by faith we receive God’s promise (Galatians 3:22)
• by faith we are waiting for the hope of righteousness (Galatians 5:5)
• by faith we work out God’s plan (1 Timothy 1:4)

So, you see how essential faith is for the Christian. But the apostle James warns us that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Noah is a good example of that. Noah put his faith to work by building a boat. It was a big boat. It had to be. God’s plan for Noah was a big plan. He planned to rescue Noah and his family and families of all the animals from the coming flood.

What the author of Hebrews wanted us to know about Noah is the role his faith had in his life. By looking at how faith worked for Noah, we can get instruction on how God intends for faith to work for us.

Noah’s faith helped him to respond appropriately to his fear.

This text tells us that God warned Noah of the coming flood. Genesis 6 tells us that Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries. But his contemporaries were not righteous. They had corrupted the earth. So, God told Noah…

“I have decided to put an end to every creature, for the earth is filled with wickedness because of them; therefore I am going to destroy them along with the earth” (Genesis 6:13).

I don’t know how long Noah had to wait for God to say the rest of what he had to say. I can imagine Noah standing there, looking up into the sky, holding his breath. He’s thinking “every creature? That includes me and mine! The earth – that’s where I live!”

God motivated Noah by godly fear. Friends, fear was not the opposite of faith for Noah. If Noah had not had faith in God, he would not have been afraid of the coming flood. His generation had taught themselves not to fear, and that lack of fear led to their destruction.

We do not have to fear God himself, but we would be fools not to fear his wrath. His coming wrath is real, and that is a wake-up call for us. The axe is already laid at the tree trunks, folks.

Thankfully, God continues…

“Make yourself an ark of gopher wood” (Genesis 6:14).

Noah’s response was that he “built an ark to deliver his family.” He built it by faith. Nobody had built such a thing before. There was no precedent. There hadn’t been any need before. God himself had to give Noah the blueprint for the thing. Building the ark was something that was going to be very hard to do, and it was going to take a lot of effort and resources to do it.

But … and this is very important… it could be done. God sometimes calls you and me to do the impossible, but most of the time he just calls us to do the impractical, to test our resolve and commitment to him. God didn’t call Noah to build a spaceship. A boat was what was needed, and Noah could do that. Noah’s faith helped him to respond appropriately to his fear and build that boat.

Noah’s faith demonstrated the difference between him and his environment.
Our text says that Noah “condemned the world.” He stood out like a sore thumb. He was an island of integrity in a sea of corruption.

In Job’s day, Satan came to the Lord gloating. God asked Satan where he’s been, and he said that he had been roaming through the earth and walking around on it. He said that as if to imply that the whole planet and all its inhabitants were under his power. Then God asked Satan “Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8). Satan thought “He had to go mention Job, didn’t he?

Noah was like Job in his day. He was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries, and he walked with God like his Great-Grandfather Enoch did. The man was different, and his faith demonstrated the difference.

When his generation had it as their goal the enjoyment of life, Noah had it as his goal to protect life. As such, he condemned the world of selfishness.

When his generation had it as their goal to ignore God, Noah had it as his goal to obey God. As such, he condemned the world of godlessness.

When his generation was insensitive to God’s purposes, Noah was sensitive to them. As such, he condemned the world of carelessness.

Jesus is calling you and me to be the light of the world. But we cannot be the world’s light if we choose to blend in with the world’s darkness. We need to follow Noah’s example and stand out from the crowd.

Noah’s faith gave him an eternal inheritance.
Now, the story of Noah’s faith does not end when the waters settle and he comes out of the boat. God establishes a covenant with Noah. And the author of Hebrews lists Noah as one who “became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” His faith did more that just rescue him and his family from the flood. The Old Testament says that “Noah’s life lasted 950 years; then he died” (Genesis 9:29). But the author of Hebrews lists him among the heroes of faith that “had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).

Our permanent inheritance is the city that God has prepared for us. We are all waiting for that city. God is not ashamed to be called our God because he has prepared a city for us (Hebrews 11:16).

That holy city is our inheritance. We share that inheritance with the great heroes of faith like Noah. It will descend from the sky. John saw a vision of that city descending (Revelation 21:2, 10). It is our destiny.

But it is not our present possession. We are in a waiting period, just like everybody else. The thing that distinguishes people of faith from the world is that we know what we are waiting for.

Jesus said “in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah boarded the ark. They didn’t know until the flood came and swept them all away. This is the way the coming of the Son of Man will be” (Matthew 24:38-39).

Because we know what we are waiting for, we can respond appropriately to our fear. Because we know what we are waiting for, we can live differently than the world around us.


sermon audio file

OUR LIGHT IS COMING

OUR LIGHT IS COMINGOUR LIGHT IS COMING

John 12:46-48 (Christian Standard Bible).

“I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me would not remain in darkness” (46).

Imagine a world with no light in it. There would only be darkness. Our eyes would be useless. We would all be blind. There could be no such thing as beauty. There would be be no distinction between the fair and the fowl. Everything would “look” the same.

our problem: darkness

One of the ways that the apostle John told the story of Jesus is by bouncing around a few themes throughout his narrative. One of those themes is the contrast between light and darkness.

• He told us that Jesus’ life was humanity’s light (1:4). We were all in darkness until he showed up.
• He also told us that even though Christ was just one man, when his light shown in our darkness, our darkness didn’t overwhelm it (1:5),
• In fact, John told us that when Jesus was born, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (1:9).

Before we think about the good news that the Light has come to us, we need to step back and consider the bad news. The bad news for us all is that we needed the true light. In other words, we were all born in darkness.

John picks up on the light and darkness theme again in his chapter 3.

• He told us that although the “light has come into the world, … people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God” (3:19-21).

In chapter 8, John records Jesus own admission that he is the light. Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (8:12).

But in chapter 9, he points out that the exposure to the light was limited. There Jesus said “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (9:5).

Then, earlier in chapter 12, John recorded Jesus as saying “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become children of light” (12:35-36).

So, to summarize what John had told us so far, we can say that Jesus has appeared as light for our world briefly, and now he is gone.

What good is that? Well, imagine you have to go into a dark room and do something. Wouldn’t it be a good thing for you to have seen the room with the light on – at least once?

enter a solution: light to save the world

Let’s look again at verses 46-47. There Jesus says “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me would not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and doesn’t keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.”

Jesus says that the purpose for his first advent was to save the world. The words that he gave us during his lifetime on earth were enough to make a difference. But the salvation that he offers is conditional. Everyone who believes in him will not remain in darkness. Oh, but anyone can say that they believe in Jesus. That is why Jesus explains that the true believers are those who hear his words and keep them.

Every year at Christmas we remind people that a Savior has been born in Bethlehem. We should also remind them that he has explained just how he intends to save us. His salvation is tied to our choice to believe and follow his teachings.

the consequences of avoiding the light

People who choose to avoid the words of Jesus are said to “remain in darkness” now (46). It is a terrible thing to remain in that kind of darkness. It is the darkness of sin, of error, of failure, of shame, and impending judgment.

Jesus said that those who do not receive his words and sayings have rejected him (47-48). We each have a personal responsibility to learn everything about Christ and everything he has taught us. We cannot let someone else do that for us. The stakes are too high. Our salvation depends on our proper understanding and acceptance of his words. We need to get the light right.

We need to be saved ourselves or else it will do no good for us to try to save others. Jesus warned against the hypocritical blind guides. We need the light straight from the source.

And one final note, and the reason I am talking about this subject as we celebrate advent. Just like the other advent themes, this one as well has a second advent component. Jesus said that the consequence of truly believing him and following his teachings is “permanent life” (12:50). But the consequences of not doing so is that those who reject his light now will be judged by those words “on the last day” (48).

Our light was with us for a while, and our light is coming back. But only those who live by the light now will enjoy the light and the life he offers forever.

OUR KING IS COMING

OUR KING IS COMINGOUR KING IS COMING

Revelation 1:3-8 (Christian Standard Bible)

Our Christmas Carols remind us that Jesus Christ was born a king:

• “Born thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King” (Come Thou Long-expected Jesus).
• “King of kings, yet born of Mary” (Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence).
• “Glory to the newborn King” (Hark! The Herald Angels Sing).
• “Come and behold him, born the king of angels” (O Come, All Ye Faithful).
• “All our costliest treasures bring, Christ, to thee, our heavenly King” (As With Gladness Men of Old).
• “Come adore on bended knee, Christ, the Lord, the newborn King” (Angels We Have Heard on High).
• “Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King” (Angels, From the Realms of Glory.
• “Let earth receive her King” (Joy to the World).
• “Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heaven’s all gracious King” (It Came Upon the Midnight Clear).
• “This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing” (What Child is This).
• Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Born is the King of Israel” (The First Nowell).

It is appropriate for us to stop during this season of Advent and consider Jesus as our Christ – our Messiah, our king. Why was it important that Christ our Savior be announced by the angelic army as the newborn king of Israel? Why did God’s anointed king have to go to the cross? There are all sorts of questions that come to mind when one thinks about Jesus as king. Today’s passage guides us to the answers of some of those questions.

Jesus was born as God’s anointed king.

The Magi asked Herod “”Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” That points to the historical reality that our savior has a birthday. He was born in Bethlehem. We have more historical evidence for the birth of Jesus than we do for our own birth.

John calls Jesus the faithful witness (5). Jesus commands us to be witnesses for him, but long before we were alive, he was a witness for us. Christ told the Laodiceans that he was the “Amen, the Faithful and True Witness” (3:14) But he condemned that church because they kept witnessing to their own wealth but they were really “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (3:17). They were hypocrites. Jesus is the real deal. He was born where he was, when he was, to be the Witness to God’s light in our darkness. I’ll share more about that in the evening service.

When we celebrate Christmas, we remember the most significant life that ever will be. Christmas is not really about family, or joy in the face of hardship, and it is most certainly not about a fat man in a red suit. Christmas is about the man who was born to be Israel’s Messiah, and God’s witness to us.

Jesus went to the cross as God’s anointed king.

John tells us that Jesus “loves us and has set us free from our sins by his blood” (5). The cross was not a mistake. It was God’s plan to send his only Son to die for our sins. The unbelieving word cannot quite figure out why we keep harping on the fact that Jesus died. They might be sorry that he died, but they cannot understand what that has to do with them.

The author of Hebrews tells us that “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of humanity, and after that he will appear a second time. This time he will not deal with sin, but he will save those who eagerly wait for him” (Hebrews 9:28 GW). Our king had to go to the cross because that was a necessary step in his plan. He is our Savior, but he has not yet saved us completely. He came first as a sacrifice.

And when he comes again he is going to raise the dead. He’s not just going to raise us from the dead, but everyone. Verse 7 says that every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. Those eyes have long been shut in the sleep of death. But our coming king is going to open them again. They will look on whom they have pierced. Like all those who have chosen to reject Jesus as king, there will come a day when they will be forced to admit that he is their king – they will weep in sorrow, and gnash their teeth in anger. The king will return, and it will be their turn to die – and permanently.

Jesus was raised from the dead as God’s anointed king.

Notice that verse 5 calls Jesus the “the firstborn from the dead.” He is called that because he is the first to be raised from the dead. The apostle Paul explains death and resurrection to us with these words:

• “since death originated through a human, resurrection from the dead ones will also originate through a human. Because just as everyone in Adam is dying, in the same way everyone in Christ will be made alive. But each crop will be harvested in its own order: Christ, the first harvest, then the ones to be harvested by Christ when he makes his appearance” (1 Corinthians 15:21-23 JDV).

But Christ is the firstborn in another sense as well. The firstborn in a royal family inherits the throne. Paul calls him “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). He is the king-elect, just waiting for his inauguration.

We belong to the coming king. He has “made us a kingdom” (6) now. We are citizens of that kingdom which is coming down from the sky.

Jesus is coming again as God’s anointed king.

This planet has lots of kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, chiefs and chairmen, lords and ladies, but it is destined to be ruled by one person: Jesus Christ “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (5).

Daniel had seen a vision of this coming king. He said “with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man was approaching” (Daniel 7:13). He said this king “was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is eternal and will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14).

Jesus said that when he returns, “the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).

When Jesus ascended, he was lifted up into the sky while his followers looked on, “and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Then two angels appeared and said “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). He left in a cloud, he will return in a cloud. When he left, everyone was watching. When he returns, everyone will be watching.

The first time our king came to earth, it was to serve, and give his life as a ransom. The next time he comes it will be to take his rightful place as king of kings. Our king is coming!


20201220a OUR KING IS COMING (audio)

OUR PEACE IS COMING

OUR PEACE IS COMING

OUR PEACE IS COMING

One of my favorite Christmas memories dates back when I was in the army, stationed in Germany. Penny and I had been part of the brigade Choir, and the choir put on a wonderful Cantata on campus. We were also invited to be part of a local Christmas celebration. We sang “Silent Night” and then a local German choir sang “Stille Nacht.”

That wonderful Christmas carol has been bringing us into the stable to watch the baby Jesus sleep in heavenly peace for over 200 years.

For even longer than that, people have been reading the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-7, and seeing a portrayal of Jesus as the Prince of Peace he prophesied. The question I want to consider today is: How could Jesus possibly be the Prince of Peace that Isaiah predicted?

I know, of course Jesus is who Isaiah predicted, right? After all, every year we get Christmas cards with this text on them. They all proclaim that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Not to mention – which is what we say and then go ahead and mention anyway – all the books that have been written about Jesus entitled “The Prince of Peace.”

But let’s just imagine that we were back there in the time of Isaiah for a bit. The first thing I would like to establish is the audience to whom Isaiah was actually talking when he predicted the words which eventually became chapter 9, verses 1-7.

If you had asked the average citizen of Judah in Isaiah’s day about the north country, the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali – Galilee beyond the Jordan river, their assessment would have been that it was a write-off. Isaiah had just talked about how paganism and idolatry had turned out the light in the holy land, and Galilee was considered the darkest of the dark. There was no hope for Galilee in the future. But, now Isaiah says that it is in this gloomy land of darkness that the light is going to shine first. What? Galilee… are you kidding?

And what is going to be the result of that light shining there first?

Isaiah prophesied honor in the place of shame.

Isaiah said that “in the future he will bring honor to the way of the sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations” (1). These citizens of that shameful corrupt land had no idea that some day millions would want to put their hand in the hand of the man from … Galilee! Our Lord chose to grow up in a place that was on the wrong side of the tracks. But Isaiah predicted that one day Galilee is where everybody would want to be.

Isaiah also said that Galilee was filled with “people walking in darkness” and “living in the land of darkness” but they would see “a great light” that light will dawn on them. The Bible equates darkness with sin, and sin with shame. The light that Isaiah predicted would bring honor to a land that had previously only been know for its shame and sin.

Galilee also had the reputation of being too Gentile to actually be counted as part of the Jewish nation. It had the nickname “Galilee of the nations” (1) and that word “nations” was the same word they used for Gentiles. In other words, Galilee does not count. It has too many Gentiles in it to be actually considered part of God’s kingdom.

Isaiah comes along and says “You have enlarged the nation
and increased its joy. The people have rejoiced before you
as they rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice when dividing spoils” (3). What would the inhabitants of Galilee think about that prediction? The harvest is a picture of revival. The rejoicing over the dividing of spoils was a picture of national growth due to warfare.

So, let me put it this way: What if I told you that Delco was going to be the starting place of the next great awakening, the next great revival? You might say, “not little old us.” And the Galileans would think the same thing about this prophecy. But Isaiah was right!

Isaiah prophesied freedom in the place of bondage.

Next, Isaiah predicted that God would shatter “their oppressive yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor” (4). These are all images taken from agriculture. The yoke, rod and staff are all ways that the farmer exercises control over his animals. As such, they naturally stood for political control of oppressive tyrants over the little guys.

Isaiah also adds these words to his prediction. He says God would bring this freedom just as he “did on the day of Midian” (4). He was referring to Gideon’s defeat of the Midianites with only 300 men. I think Isaiah was drawing attention to the fact that once those 300 men gained the upper hand, they sent messengers to the tribe of Ephraim to “come down against the Midianites” as well (Judges 7:24). In other words, Gideon’s miraculous defeat of the Midianites was the beginning.

So, what was Isaiah saying to the Galileans? He was saying that they were going to start the next move of God to bring deliverance from bondage to all his people.

Isaiah prophesied peace in the place of warfare.

But this is where it really gets interesting. You would think that if the Galileans were going to be a force for deliverance, that would mean Isaiah is predicting that they would be like the 300 men under Gideon – amazing warriors. But this is what Isaiah says instead:

“For every trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire” (5).

When I was a soldier, I had to keep a duffle bag ready. It had to contain load bearing equipment, a helmet, magazines for my m-16 rifle, a flashlight, cold weather gear, extra boots and a battle dress uniform.

If you are preparing for battle, you don’t burn your boots and battle dress uniform. But Isaiah told the Galileans not to prepare for war, but to prepare for peace.

He told them about a child who was going to be born “for us” and a son given “to us” and “the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (6).

So this victory that brings honor to the shameful and freedom to the oppressed is going to be won without a battle. It is going to happen as a result of a child being born.

Then Isaiah tells us that the child will have permanent dominion over a vast territory and “its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever” (7).

Now, Isaiah’s words become even more mysterious because he concludes his prophecy with “The zeal of the LORD of Armies will accomplish this.” The title “LORD of Armies” was usually used to indicate that God could change the world by moving armies to execute his judgment for him. But Isaiah was saying that the same passion that God uses to destroy using the armies of the world will now be invested in the peace he is going to bring about through that one child.

the gospel of Christ’s kingdom is the gospel of peace

When the apostle Paul told the Ephesians to put on their armor for spiritual warfare, he said that their battle boots were going to be “the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).

When we share the good news of the coming kingdom of Jesus Christ, we can tell people that he offers them honor instead of shame and humiliation. He offers them freedom instead of slavery and bondage. He offers them peace on earth, instead of war on earth.

But, let’s be careful when we tell people that. Jesus himself said that his first advent was not to bring peace to earth, but a sword (Matthew 10:34). It is his second advent that will bring peace by destroying all his enemies. At Christmas, we celebrate the peace with God that we can have in our hearts, and the permanent peace that is to come.

During the Advent season it is good to be Advent Christians. We can share the good news of the gospel. That news includes the fact that the Prince of Peace is going to return to set up his permanent kingdom. Our peace is coming.


Piney Grove Advent Christian Church, Delco North Carolina, USA.


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SHOWING GRATITUDE

SHOWING GRATITUDE

Psalm 100 (CSB)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name” (4)

When my family lived in the Philippines, we discovered that they do not have a national day of Thanksgiving, like we have in America. Instead, each church had its own Thanksgiving Day. It usually corresponded to the date when that particular church was established.

As Americans, we tried to keep our national Thanksgiving as well. One time we had a big spread with all the fixings, only to discover later that we had done it on the wrong week.

But we appreciated God and we enjoyed celebrating him and his connection to all of us. It just seems natural for us to show our gratitude. Showing gratitude is what this psalm is all about.

who should show gratitude?

The psalm is not too particular about who should celebrate their gratitude to God. In fact, note the expression “the whole earth” in verse 1.

Neither does the psalm limit the celebrants to the very old or the young. Verse 5 says that “all generations” should show their gratitude to him.

There is no age limit, no ethnic, geographic or cultural boundary to showing gratitude to the God of the Bible.

how should we show our gratitude?

We should show our gratitude to God by serving him. Verse 2 encourages us to “serve the LORD.” Do you know that is an honor to serve a great leader? People send in resumes and take proficiency exams in order to get an opportunity to be the president’s butler, or the queen’s maid. They don’t do that because they are slaves, but because it is their opportunity to express their gratitude. In the same way, our service to God demonstrates the level of our appreciation for him.

We should also express our gratitude to God with our worship. Verse 4 talks about entering God’s gates and his courts. It is talking about the gates and courts of the temple in Jerusalem. People had all kinds of reasons for entering into the gates of Jerusalem. But when they entered the gates of the temple, they were supposed to do it as worshipers. Our English word worship is a contraction for worth-ship. A worshiper is someone who is in the act of expressing how much God is worth to him or her.

The Jews had gotten too formal and materialistic about their worship. It had come to the point where people rated a person as a worshiper by the monetary value of the gift they brought with them. But this psalmist suggested that there are two things every worshiper needs to bring with him when he comes into the temple. note what comes after the word “with” in verse 4. The worship had to enter “with thanksgiving” and “with praise.”

We also need to check our emotional state when we dare enter God’s presence to worship him in public. What comes after the word “with” in verse 2? We are to serve “with gladness.” The way some people act in church, you would think that it said “with grimness.” They seem to regard the worship service as a chore. No sir. We will earn our living in ways that cause our brow to sweat and our back to ache and our feet to blister. But when we come into the presence of our God, we need to do it with gladness.

We have lots to be glad about. God has blessed us with a place, and a time, and a community like no other in history. We are overflowing with potential. And at the same time, our God has prevented so many disasters, diseases, pestilences and wars that we could have experienced. One of the advantages of learning history is that it gives a person perspective. For us, as believers in Christ, we have every reason to worship the Lord with gladness.

Also in verse 2, we are to show our gratitude “with joyful songs.” It does not say dirges, or mournful songs. There is a time and a place for singing the blues, but it is not this time and this place. God wants to hear our joyful songs. He is listening for the sweet sound of joy coming from his children’s throats. It brings a smile to his face.

And look at verse 1 again. It says we are to shout triumphantly. This is the first psalm I memorized as a kid. From my Rainbow edition of the King James Bible, I memorized “Make a joyful noise.” Saying those words, I think of Joshua and the Israelites attack on Jericho. They marched with their musical instruments, but they didn’t blow those horns until the last day of the march. Then they blew those horns, but not just that. Joshua told them to “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city” (Joshua 6:16).

Brothers and sisters, a triumphal shout is a sign of faith. It says my God is stronger than those city walls. It says God is the God of my coming triumph. The walls didn’t come down when the people marched. They didn’t even come down when the trumpets blew. The walls came down when the people shouted triumphantly!

So, I have exhausted all the ways we can show our gratitude from this text. No, I lied, there’s one more. Look again at verse 4. It says we can show our gratitude by blessing his name.

God has a name that is above all names. We cannot add to his greatness by anything we do. But we can bless his name. He allows us the privilege of demonstrating the greatness of his character by affirming it.

There is a world all around is which is gaining an ever-increasing gratitude for the planet itself, but has never learned to express its gratitude for the planet’s creator. When we bless God’s name, we complete the circuit. The world is not going to learn how to do that unless we demonstrate it.

Which brings me to my third point.

why should we show our gratitude?

Verse 3 challenges us to show our gratitude by acknowledging that the Lord is God. He is God and we are not. I, for one, am grateful that I am not God. I do not qualify. I don’t have the skill-set it takes to control this planet. I cannot even set my alarm clock.

Also, according to verse 3, “he made us, and we are his.” We are living in an age dominated by mechanical computers, but we are still not able to reproduce the computing capacity of the human brain. God is our creator, and we should show gratitude for that.

Also, in verse 3, the psalmist calls us God’s sheep, which implies that he is our shepherd. A shepherd guides and provides for the sheep. Without the shepherd, sheep tend to wander off and die by accident, predators, or starvation. Even stupid sheep learn this. They learn to respond the voice of their shepherd, obeying out of gratitude.

Now, look at verse 5. Here are three more reasons that we should show our gratitude to God. He is good. All the time. We don’t always know how God is manifesting his goodness based on what we are experiencing. But we know that he causes all things to work together for good to those who love him, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). If we cannot spot his goodness short-term, we know enough to expect it to manifest long-term.

God is also faithful, and that is another reason to show our appreciation for him. He is faithful to his promises, and for keeping his covenant. The word translated “faithful love” in verse 5 is a technical term for covenant faithfulness.

And finally, look at that word “forever” in verse 5. That is the word “le’olam” in Hebrew. It indicates permanence. I am grateful that God is not temporary like I am. I have a “use-by-date” but my God does not. My grandchildren’s grandchildren will be reading this same Bible and serving this same God long after I have expired. My only hope for permanence is his promise of a resurrection.

LORD, we want to show our gratitude because you are our good, faithful, permanent creator, guide and provider God.

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