November 28, 2013

Give Thanks

The First Sermon Ashore
Jean Louis Gerome Ferris
There is no better way to praise and thank God than with His own words through His own self-revelation in the Bible. We see something unique in Psalms 8. A Divine set of bookends (figuratively speaking) to hold man and give him importance the way only God can. This is a Psalm of thanksgiving or a Todah Psalm. The function of a Thanksgiving or Todah Psalm, or Psalm of Declarative Praise (Westermann) is to praise God for something He has done for the Psalmist, to offer thanksgiving in the form of worship. This is what Thanksgiving is all about. A person communion with God giving God the utmost credit for things that we really didn't deserve since sinners are only worthy of death.

There are three main aspects to Todah Psalms: 
1) Praise for a deed God has done or an experience of God by the Psalmist.
2) It is an immediate response evoked by God’s action.
3) The tone is one of joy. 

A todah is really a kind of praise offered to God that arises out of personal or communal experience yet in the context of overall commitment to God. The experiential dimension of todah psalms is easily seen in the middle section of the psalm as the worshipper recounts or gives testimony of his experience. In the case of Psalm 8 it is a highly specialized form of Todah/Thanksgiving Psalm sub-catagorized as a Salvation History Psalm that recounts in some way the story of God’s creation of the people of Israel and concluding with praise to God for his deliverance, or calling the people to respond in praise and faithfulness to God’s grace. These tend to be more theologically reflective than other psalms, since they move to exhortation based on Israel’s experience of God in her history.

God is clearly being viewed in verse 1 & 2 as majestic and thereby He is being praised.

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger. ~Psalms 8:1-2

As we know from the second part of verse 1 God’s creation (the heavens) is also glorious. Although not has majestic and amazing as God Himself His creation is none the less impressive in its own right. The grandeur of celestial objects like the moon and stars are admired for their beauty.

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place... ~Psalm 8:3

The Hubble Space Telescope over the last 15 years has produced some of the most beautiful images of space ever seen. Images that were always there but invisible until now. Just because you can't see things doesn't mean they aren't beautiful or don't exist ;). God here is being given a rightful position above the heavens.

Man is being given a dignified position as God’s creation, not necessarily because of something man has done to warrant it. The truth is that man is rightfully deserving of punishment and ultimately death because of his sins. This is what verse 4 & 5 dwell on. Why would the Lord take any concern for such a lowly singular creature as opposed to other aspects of creation. The concept of why is easy to tell but impossible for a human to explain. It is by God’s grace or unmerited favor that man is looked upon as having value. It is God who has given us our value...because He chose too, just as God chose Israel to be his chosen people. It wasn’t because they were the largest among people, the most deserving or the most righteous.

What is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor. ~Psalms 8:4-5

We then see an indirect reference to Adam and man in general in verse 6, 7 & 8 and his dominion over creation.

You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet
all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas. ~Psalms 8:6-8

God is again in clear view in verse 9 as majestic as he was in verse 1 & 2, again He is being praised.

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! ~Psalms 8:9

Another way of viewing this chapter is :

• The Lords Majesty (v. 1) His name and the revealed character of God. Praise to the Lord.
• The Lord’s Strength (v. 2) Strength in humbleness of children’s praise stills the enemies of God.
• The Lord’s Creation (v. 3-8) Man’s glory is indicative of how God made him and how he positioned him.
• The Lord’s Majesty (v. 9) The praise ends were it rightfully began, we go full circle back to God

God is completely surrounding man here in love just as He does bookends. Not only that, where man is being mentioned in this Psalm, God is working through man with sovereignty and providentially. Giving man his self-worth, giving him his purpose. God crowned man with glory and honor. Please note it says God crowned man, not man crowned man. This becomes important when thinking about the fact many people find their self-worth in other people.

He is divine and we are not. He is perfect and we are not. He is our creator and we should praise Him and thank Him if only for this fact. Not only for our own existence but also for his other works of creations such as heaven, heavenly objects and even each generation of children that comes. God is everything and without him nothing exists. All believers know this and to some extent so do non-believers whether they chose to acknowledge it or not. If they do not acknowledge it.

So thank Him today. If we are to give thanks today which is the whole point of the day…give thanks where it belongs…with God.

Westermann, Claus., Praise and Lament in the Psalms, John Knox, 1981.

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