Do you believe that God is worthy of your thanks? The Lord is worthy of your thanks and He is also worthy of your praise. It is the season of Thanksgiving and I want to focus again on what we have to be thankful about. Last week, I preached about how we should be thankful for the open access that we have to the Lord today. I want to continue this thought of Thanksgiving in my message for today.
Israel’s Appreciation for the Lord
In my key verse for today’s sermon, we see a very jubilant Israel. We see in that verse, that they “sang responsively” and praised the Lord – they were giving God thanks. Specifically in their praise, we see them say that God is good and that His mercy endures forever. These were a people who were incredibly thankful for the Lord’s mercy. For those of you that may not understand the jubilation recorded in this scripture, let’s dive into the book of Ezra for a moment.
Why they were filled with joy
The book of Ezra was written at the end of Israel’s time in Babylon. You may recall that earlier this year I preached a few sermons that referenced Israel’s kingdom years. Let us remember that the northern kingdom (10 tribes) had been conquered by the Assyrians and that the southern kingdom was conquered by the Babylonians. In the southern kingdom was the tribe of Judah (the Jews), Benjamin, the priests, and Levites. After being conquered, many of them were taken captive to Babylon. (This included people like Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.)
The exile to Babylon lasted for 70 years before those Israelites were allowed to return back to Jerusalem (Jer. 29:10). Even after 70 years, there were Israelites who still remained in Babylon because there were three separate groups that returned to Jerusalem at different times. The first group was led by Zerrubabel (Ezra 2:1-2); Ezra led the second group (Ezra 7:1-10); and Nehemiah the third group (Neh. 2:1-11). (Our scripture today is with the first group that returned to Jerusalem.)
Understanding their joy
So, I share that quick history lesson with you so that you can have some idea of why they were filled with so much happiness and joy. In case you still may not understand why they were so thankful, happy, and joyful, let’s understand what they went through in Babylon. In Babylon, they were living in a foreign land (Gentile land) with many different customs. The book of Daniel shows us how the king of Babylon tried to make (to force) the Israelites conform to those customs (Dan. 1:2-5) and even for them to participate in idolatry (Dan. 3:1-5). So, these were very difficult days for the Israelites!
So, in their joy with returning to Jerusalem, we are seeing people with a sense of freedom. In their joy, we understand the great difficulty of those days for those Israelites. We are told in scripture (Ezra 3:12-13) that the priests, Levites, and chief of the fathers were filled with so much emotion at seeing the foundation of the new temple being laid. (These were people who lived during the days before the destruction of the temple.) We are told that they were so excited that they wept with a loud voice and shouted for joy.
The old temple was something that they had taken for granted. Yet, simply at the laying of the foundation of the new temple, they were filled with great joy, happiness, but most importantly, with great appreciation and thanksgiving for God. Question: Have you ever gone through something so difficult or lost something you once took for granted – something so small – yet, you were filled with so much joy when it was regained or when you overcame what had gone through?
I certainly have. We should be filled with much joy and appreciation – thanksgiving – for all that we overcome in living. God is worthy of your thanks! Scripture declares we should rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks (1 Thess. 5:16-18). Some may ask, why should I give thank? That same passage of scripture gives us the answer – this is the will of God in Christ Jesus. You see, everybody likes to be appreciated for their work, and though God does not need our praise, it is good to thank God for His work!
Psalm after psalm, proclaims, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!”. What often makes me sad is that we do not take the time to appreciate the Lord. God is worthy of your thanks! Yet, this is a saying that not all people believe. Many believe that they are doing all of the work and that God is doing nothing. Others do not believe God is worthy of their thanks because of where they may be in life.
Frustration holds some back
For some, there is frustration with the Lord – their job may not be great or the career may not be panning out as expected at the moment. Life may be spiraling and going downhill uncontrollably for some, and so this has led to much frustration with God. Many ask the question: How can I thank God when things are going so terribly in my life? I certainly understand this thought.
We often end up taking for granted the many blessings that God has bestowed upon us and like the Israelites, we overlook them. People often do not realize just how much God has done for them in their life because we assign sizes to the Lord’s blessings. You see, we will thank God for what we deem to be big (or large) blessings, but “small blessings” we choose not to value because they are tiny. As I preached a few years ago, I do not believe in such a thing as a small blessing from the Lord – I have grown up in my faith! If you think that way, frankly, it is time for you to grow up in your mindset.
Appreciating God for Everything
You see, again I say to you, God is worthy of your thanks and appreciation! Let me show you why you should be thanking Him this very minute. Let us consider what we have gone through in just this year of 2020: COVID-19 and the sickness and death it has brought; the high amount of loved ones lost this year, not even to COVID-19, but to something else; the continued killings and lynchings in our society that led to much unrest and many protests; the loss of work, loss of a dwelling place – essentially the loss of living – for many, many people. I am not trying to equate what we have gone through in this one year to Israel’s 70 years in Babylon, but we have gone through much!
Yet, in all that we have gone through in just this year, somehow, someway, we have made it to this season — we are not destroyed! Ask yourself, how?! How have we overcome all that we have gone through in just this year? Many of us will not gather together as we are accustomed to for this Thanksgiving, but we will overcome! Another wave of the virus appears to be on the rise, but I know, again, that we are going to overcome!
Ask yourself, how have you made it this far year after year, after year? What have you done to still be standing here today? Nothing.
God is worthy
Every breath you take is a blessing from God. Every step you take is a blessing from God. Even every thought you have to send the signals to your mouth to speak, your fingers to move, and your toes to wiggle is a blessing from God! You see, we take these small things for granted, but these are some of the most important blessings you and I can receive while we live! As I preached earlier this year, we must cherish this life and we must start cherishing these things that God has done for us.
We somehow, someway make it through every single storm that this world can throw at us, that is a blessing from God. Paul wrote in his letter to the people of Corinth, “WE are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed! (2 Cor. 4:8).” Again, I ask you the question, have you ever gone through something so great that once you came out of it, the “smallest” blessing made you shout out for joy?
You may count some blessings as a small blessing, but there is nothing small about being able to overcome all obstacles before you. One day, the blessing of this life will draw to an end. We will be called home to our Creator and Savior one day, but until that day comes, we will continue to overcome in this world; not because of anything that we have done, but because of all that God does for us. For this very fact, God is worthy of our thanks and our praise while we yet live and breathe.