Grace For Today
November 23, 2008 / No. 3438
Dear radio friends,
How do we magnify the God of our salvation? Do we do that with singing? Yes. That is why it is very important to sing, and always from the heart.
Do we magnify God by telling others of our God and of His glorious work? Yes.
Do we magnify God by keeping our bodies and our lives, the temples of the Holy Spirit, pure from sin? Yes.
But our text, that is, God, tells us that we magnify Him, we show forth His greatness, especially with thanksgiving. I will magnify, that is, I will show the greatness of who God is through my thanksgiving.
To understand that, think of the opposite. Turn it upside-down a moment. If our lives are filled with grumbling; if our lives are filled with complacency and we do not take any notice of all that God has done for us and we become indifferent to His blessings; if our lives become bitter and resentful with the way of the Lord, then what are we saying about God? We are saying that God is not good, that God is not wise, that God is not loving, that God is not faithful. If our lives are lives of complaint, God is blasphemed.
But the psalmist looks at it the other way, the right way: How shall we declare that God is good and wise and faithful and loving? It is through the thanksgiving of the children of God that God’s greatness is revealed.
So thanksgiving must be understood by God’s children, not as an appendage, not as an add-on to their Christian life, but as the very purpose of the Christian life. For why did Jesus die? He died that we might be a people who magnify God with thanksgiving. “I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.”
Under inspiration, David is speaking in Psalm 69 on our behalf, on behalf of all of God’s children, but he is speaking here out of a very fresh experience of the power of salvation. Psalm 69, you might remember, has much to do with suffering for the sake of God, the suffering foretold of Jesus Christ at the hand of his enemies. But in the Psalm David says that God has heard him. He says in verse 29, in the midst of that suffering, “Let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high.” God has saved him, set him up on high, has shown him mercy. Therefore, in the light of that salvation, David, now, is going to respond to that salvation. And he says, “I will respond in this way: I feel within me, by God’s grace, a deep resolve that God must be magnified by me in my life.”
Now, let us pause for just a moment to understand that desire to magnify God. It is that desire in our lives (and I believe that you know this after a little reflection on your own life) that sweetens life. It is this desire to magnify God that gives happiness. It is this desire that gives comfort. Look at any day when you are finished with your work. What is it that gives you happiness as a child of God? What is it that gives you satisfaction? Is it how much money you made, how well the business went this year? No. The deciding issue at the end of the day is this: Was God glorified? If God was glorified in how I did my work, and how I conducted my business, then I have happiness.
Or we go through hard times and trials. What is it that comforts us? We ask this question: But is God glorified through this trial? If this is the way of God’s glory, then it is OK. Then I find comfort.
Or, today, we are going to be with our friends and with our families and with our relatives. We are going to have dinners and be together in our homes. But if there is a big fight and if it is all envy and jealousy, the day is spoiled, no matter how wonderful the food may be. But if God is glorified, if it can be said, though it be in weakness, that God is glorified in our relationships with each other and we deal with each other as Jesus wants us to deal with each other, then God is glorified by us, and we have a wonderful day in front of us.
It is the magnifying of God that is the sweetness of the Christian life.
David says, “I will magnify Him.” Now that word “magnify” can be used in two senses—the sense of the microscope, and the sense of the telescope. The microscope magnifies in that it takes something that is itsy-bitsy, something that is very little, and it makes it look big by the magnifying of it. Or, the telescope—that takes something that is apparently little but really is not) and reveals how big, how great, it actually is—the stars, the galaxies, the nebulae. That is what David means. When he says, “I will magnify God,” he means to say simply that he will reveal the greatness and the truth of who God is.
So, when we magnify God, we are called to be that proper telescope. When I declare to you as a minister that God is great and glorious, I am not a con man. I am not trying to make something bigger than what it is. But I, and all ministers, are but babblers. We cannot tell you how great God is. To magnify God means that we desire that it be revealed to us and to those around us exactly how glorious He is. To magnify God means that we act in such a way that God is revealed for who He is in His infinite and dazzling beauty and perfection. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,” we are to say in our lives. “His understanding is infinite, His mercies are everlasting.”
Magnify the Lord.
But we immediately sense that, although God has given us that desire, there is so much sin yet in our hearts and so much forgetfulness. Therefore our eyes must be opened and our hearts must be stretched and enlarged. For as we look back over this past year and we see His marvelous works and His loving faithfulness upon our lives, all of this can pass by our sight and does not even create a ripple in our hearts—so that seeing, we do not see, and hearing, we do not hear.
On this Thanksgiving Day, let us attach ourselves to the spiritual heart-monitor. Let us take the electrodes of the Holy Spirit to our spiritual heart and let the goodness of the Lord pass by throughout the whole year. Has He once been unfaithful? Think of His loving-kindnesses and His tender mercies and His grace to you in Jesus Christ in the pardon of all your sins. Think of His keeping you and caring for you and supplying for you far more than what you need.
All right, now, is there an impulse in that spiritual heart? Think today of food and clothing and homes and all that we have in abundance. Think of the Word, the Word of grace, the church of Jesus Christ. Think of the blessing of Christian schools. Think of the blessing of Christian homes, the blessing of our marriages, the blessing of our children with us. Think of all that and then think of the trials, too. Think of the setbacks, think of the heartaches, think even of death. And, yet, in all of these things, God is performing a glorious and a perfect way. All of these things pass by us. Do our hearts respond with a beat of thanks and praise to God for all that He has done for us? So that, with David, we are overwhelmed that He has set us up on high in His salvation and we say, “I will magnify Him! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits. I will magnify the Lord.”
So readily we forget. So readily we become unthankful. So readily we begin to say, “But He’s forgotten me.” Or, “His way is not right. His way is not good.” We are to magnify, we are to praise, the God of our salvation.
And we are to do that today and always with thanksgiving. The point of the Holy Spirit is that it is the thanksgiving of the child of God that is the revelation of the greatness of God. It is this activity of grace, when we return thanks, that magnifies or reveals the greatness of God. Or you can put it in these words: Gratitude glorifies God! The thanksgiving of His people glorifies God. It shows His greatness.
The word “thanksgiving” in our text (in the Hebrew) is a word that is figurative. It is a word that depicts a person pointing to everything in his life—every possession, every article of clothing, everything that he eats, every circumstance of his life—he points to them all and then, in the Hebrew way of worship, he takes both hands and lifts them up to God in the testimony that it was all of God. Everything was of God. Nothing, as David said, nothing of himself, but all of God. And it is this thanksgiving, this ascribing all things to God, that glorifies God.
Why is that? That is because thanksgiving is the confession that God is the giver. And the giver is ever greater than the receiver. The giver is ever more glorious than the receiver. To thank God is to praise Him and to acknowledge who He is.
Now just think on that point, because we know that instinctively. You children know that, and you parents know that. I would ask the question of us, Why is it so hard sometimes to say “Thank you”? Two little boys are at home playing, or your two girls are playing, and you want to teach them. You say to one child, “Say thank you to your brother.” But that child does not want to. He looks away and mutters, “Thank you.” You say, “No! Say thank you and mean it.” “Thank you.” And you say to the other, “You say ‘you’re welcome.’” A quiet: “Yer welcome.” “No! Say, You’re welcome, and mean it.” “You’re welcome!”
Why is that so hard? Why is it so hard for children and for us? This is why it is so hard, because the moment we say thank you to someone, we are saying that they have done something good for us, that we are in their debt, we acknowledge that they have given us something. But by nature we do not want to do that. By nature we are filled with envy and jealousy. By nature we do not want the other person exalted. We want ourselves to be exalted. We hate to think of someone as our benefactor. So if it is an enemy, or someone we do not like, who has done us a good turn, and someone else points that out to us, we will say, “You’re not going to find me saying thanks to him!” Why? Because we do not want him exalted.
Gratitude exalts God! Gratitude is the confession that magnifies God, that glorifies Him. And when we have difficulty expressing gratitude to God, it is for this reason. that we by nature love our own glory, we love ourselves, we are that little child who has to be told: “Say thank you! And say it right.” When the Lord hides His heart and sends His hand of difficulty into our life, we stand before Him and mutter, “thank you.” But that is not thanks. Then we exalt ourselves. The heart of all ingratitude in our lives is the exaltation of ourselves. By nature we love our own glory, we prize our own self-sufficiency and we refuse to see ourselves as sin-sick and helpless sinners. We do not want to express gratitude to God, because we know immediately that this shall glorify Him.
But now that has been changed, by the principle of grace. And so we ask, what is thankfulness? Thankfulness, in the root, is this: That I acknowledge before God that I am nothing, I deserve nothing, and God is everything, absolutely everything, to me! Thankfulness is the willing admission that I do not deserve anything. I am a cripple. I cannot walk, and I therefore need to lean upon the cross of Jesus Christ. Thankfulness is the confession that I am a paralytic, I cannot move, and I have to be kept alive with the iron lung of the mercy of God. God has to keep me alive with His mercy and keep the air of life in my lungs. Thanksgiving is the confession that “Lord, I’m just a little child, that is all. I’m in the stroller. I have to be fed and changed and diapered and given my food. I’m a helpless little child. Everything, Lord, everything, is of Thee!”
When we stand before God with that knowledge in our hearts, then we will offer to Him the gratitude that magnifies Him. And the psalmist says that this is more than the outward. “This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs” (v. 31). The reference is to the sacrifices. The idea here is not that we should not bring these sacrifices, or that they are not legitimate outward expressions of our thankfulness. We have the opportunity, provided by our deacons, to show outwardly, in a legitimate way, our thankfulness to God for His salvation and His blessings to us. Out of a heart of gratitude, we can bring a bullock, we can bring a tangible expression of our gratitude to God in the offering. But the Lord is saying, “That is fine, but this is far better.” Do not think that the mere outward ever is thanksgiving in itself. It must proceed from a heart of humble gratitude to God for all things. Offer unto God thy thanksgiving and pay thy vows to the most High. “Do not bring,” says God, “your offerings because you think that now you have enriched me. Do not think that it was something that I needed. Do not think that you have met My needs. Do not think that I could not do without what you did.” If we offer to God that way in our lives, we insult Him! If we say, “Well, Lord, I did my part. I gave, I went to church, I—I did this. You should be satisfied. Let the Lord take what I give Him.” Then we insult God!
The Lord says this is thanksgiving: that we offer from the heart the praise that we are nothing, and He is all. He hath given us everything. And, Lord, Thy name is glorious. Thy name alone is worthy of praise.
Thanksgiving that will magnify God requires spiritual humility. God is seen as most glorious, unspeakably glorious, when we are shown our helplessness, our unworthiness before Him.
The psalmist says, “The humble shall see this,” that is, the humble shall grasp it, they shall understand it, they shall see into it. The humble see into this immediately. Of course! Thanksgiving magnifies God! Of course it does. The humble shall see this. We need to have the stiffness of our arrogant neck broken and the hardness of our self-sufficient heart softened and be humbled before God in the acknowledgment that all that we are we owe to God.
Humility is freedom from pride, and freedom to thank God. Into empty hearts God has poured forth His goodness and His love. On those who deserve nothing God has showered His fullness and completeness. And, as a result, we will thank God. In our thanksgiving He will be magnified above that which any ox or bullock brought to Him can bring.
Let us join the psalmist today. Let us join him every day. Let us say, “O magnify the Lord with me. Let us exalt His name together.” Let us do this with a thankful heart. Let us do this today with all of His goodness before us: food and clothing and home and family. Let us do this with our hearts in prayer and our hands open to help the needy of His children in this country and throughout the world. Let us do this in our hardships. Let us do this in our sorrows. Let us confess that the God of mercy toward us is worthy of all thanksgiving. And, therefore, His name is to be declared as glorious and great. Declare His glory. Sing His praises. Thank Him.
And if we are to thank Him, then today and every day we must make our way to the cross. Go there. Bow down. And in the light of the cross, say, “Thanks, Lord. Thanks always. Thanks for everything. How great Thou art!”
And God will be magnified with our thanksgiving.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the precious Word of God. We pray that it may guide us in thanksgiving always. O magnify Thy name, O Lord. And remind us that it is through the praise and thanksgiving of Thy people that the greatness and grace of Thee our God is revealed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.