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This is the 3rd of a 3-part series for Thanksgiving, 2011.  

Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!” (1 Chronicles 16:8). 

From the background of the 2 previous posts we now tackle the psalm of praise that occupies 1 Chronicles 16:8-36. The Ark of the Covenant, and all that it symbolizes, has been brought into Jerusalem and a worshipful frenzy ensues. David has created a song for his musicians to play; a psalm of thanksgiving to communicate the goodness, greatness, and ultimately, the presence of God that should necessarily spark uninhibited gratitude. There is much we can learn from the outpouring of David’s heart, a heart after God’s own heart. 

This thanksgiving hymn (I urge you to read it for yourself) is a cry of remembrance, praise, and victory. It speaks of the adoration of God’s people but it’s also a prompt to the whole world and creation that God is to be (and will be) worshipped. David beckons all people and things to recall God’s wonderful acts. The term used in this song is “judgments.” But judgment here indicates more than displays of wrath or condemnation. The term implies the act of God doing as He pleases. He is acting to fulfill his own purposes and to set things right as He sees them.  “His judgements” refers to God making things the way He wants them to be.  

This psalm is a command to all the world to recognize what God has done – to celebrate that their God is the living God, the creator of all things, and sovereign over all. The earth, and all that is in it, is called ascribe glory to the Lord that He alone is worthy of. The Ark’s coming to Jerusalem is a picture of the Lord enthroned above all peoples, His dominion unhindered. As such it is a foreshadowing of far greater things that God is yet to accomplish. One day He will come again; this time to visibly rule and make all things right. On that day the entire creation will rejoice just as David and the Israelites celebrated on this day as the Ark was brought into Jerusalem. On that day the Lord God will manifest His reign over every known people and thing.  

But today we don’t see things this way. The world in which we live appears to be out of control and in utter chaos. And, in a sense, it is! Often we wonder, “What is God doing?” Even the writer of Hebrews recognizes that Jesus is Lord of all but simultaneously he acknowledges that this is not evident in the current state things. He concludes, “At present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus … crowned with glory and honor.” (Hebrews 2:8-9).  In other words,  Jesus is Lord, by virtue of his death and resurrection. He is enthroned over all the earth. And one day this will be revealed to all when He comes again in glory and power to set all things right. On that day the entirety of His creation will dance and rejoice at his coming. 

So all of this points us back to Jesus…and the Ark. This thanksgiving psalm express the longing that God would gather His scattered people from all the nations and establish His everlasting kingdom, just like the unification of the nation of Israel culminated with the Ark’s return. Ultimately this cry finds its answer only in David’s greater son, Jesus Christ. It is only by Him that this prayer is fulfilled: “Say also: “Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise” (v. 35). 

All of this reaches a climax on another day in Jerusalem hundreds of years later. Instead of a wooden chest being carried into that city with psalms of celebration, this is the day when Jesus carried a wooden cross on His back.  On “that day,” instead of joyous songs, there were shouts of murder and mockery, and the sounds of great suffering. Let’s contemplate that day when Jesus was nailed to that cross and then was raised up from the earth. For here, like the Ark’s storied return, is also a day of triumph and of enthronement. Here is the event marking the defeat of all the powers opposed to God’s kingdom. God was putting things right in Jesus. Our Lord, reigns from that tree, for it is by Christ that God is pleased to gather to himself a people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. As Jesus prophesied, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32). 

So what do we learn from this? First, what God has done for us in Christ calls us to jubilant thanksgiving. It beckons us to celebration that is marked by marvel, amazement, and praise! The Creator, the God of the entire universe, has remembered His people and has come to save us through his Son, Jesus. We are invited, even commanded, to join the rejoicing as we recognize that Christ is King, the Lord of all creation. And that, above all, He is our God! 

Second, what God has done for us calls for an announcement. We must let all the world know that He working all things according to His own good pleasure. We are prompted to share with all the earth that God is King over all and has demonstrated this most fully in what He has done in Jesus Christ. We must trumpet to all peoples the invitation to be joined with Christ and join in the celebration.

May our hearts be full of anticipation and thanksgiving as we await the day when God will finally comes to set all things right. When His children, along with all of creation, will sing and worship in His presence. And may the celebration and rejoicing begin today.

Author’s note: I have drawn upon many sources for this 3-part study. As this study has developed over time and my research and writing for this piece has been intermittant, unfortunately, I can’t find the original sources in order to properly cite them. If I have overly borrowed for someone’s work (and I may have), I apologize. I pray, however, that God still uses this series and He alone gets the glory no matter where these thoughts originated. 

This is the 1st of a 3-part series for Thanksgiving, 2011.  

“And they brought in the ark of God and set it inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD and distributed to all Israel, both men and women, to each a loaf of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel. Asaph was the chief, and second to him were Zechariah, Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel, who were to play harps and lyres; Asaph was to sound the cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers” (1 Chronicles 16:1-7). 

What a sight of uninhibited thanksgiving! The Ark was Covenant was now in Jerusalem and this sparks a scene of dancing, offerings, blessings, physical provision (a meal) praise, music, banging cymbals, and trumpet blasts. All of this was in an exuberant spirit of gratitude over this momentous event – the returning of the Ark to its rightful place. But why all the hysteria and joy over this religious artifact, something almost like a piece of sacred furniture? 

Basic research tells us that the origin of the Ark is to be found in Exodus 25:10-22. God ordered Moses to construct it to hold the tablets on which He had written the Ten Commandments. The Ark was a box that was approximately 4 feet long, 2 1/2 feet wide and 2 1/2 feet high. It was made of acacia wood and was overlaid with gold inside and out. The lid that covered the box was called the “mercy seat” and it was also made of pure gold. Two angel-like creatures called cherubim were mounted on the top, one on each end. These worshipful figurines faced each other and their wings were spread out toward each other, thus overlooking the mercy seat. 

This wooden chest pictured God’s presence with his people. Symbolically it represented the throne of God (see 1 Chronicles 13:6). This Ark had been carried ahead of them during their time in the wilderness and as they crossed the Jordon to entered the Promised Land. We are told the Israelites had been able to possess the land Yahweh had promised them because God was with them, “enthroned between the cherubim.” 

Later the Ark was housed in the Holy of Holies, the innermost chamber of the Temple. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies and sprinkled blood on the mercy seat. This ritual was to atone for his sins and the sins of the Hebrew nation (Leviticus 16 and Hebrews 9). Because God had promised Moses that He would fellowship with Israel “from above the mercy seat” (Exodus 25:22) the concept developed that God Himself was present above the cherubim of the Ark (see 1 Samuel 4:4 and Isaiah 37:16). 

So what does all of this mean? Well, the Ark symbolizes many things that would illicit thankfulness and gratitude. It symbolized the presence, greatness, and works of God but, for us, is most fully understood in light of how it points to Jesus. Much has rightfully been made of the symbolism of the Ark. In other words, most scholars believe nearly every aspect of the Ark prefigures Jesus in some fashion. 

Biblical interpreters would tell us that the acacia wood symbolizes our Lord’s humanity. The gold overlay denotes His deity. The Ten Commandments and the Pentateuch (at one point) inside the Ark pictured Jesus as the of law of God in the flesh, living in perfect obedience to it. The pot of manna that once was laid in this chest spoke of Jesus as the Bread of Life and our sustainer. At one point Aaron’s rod that budded was encased there – which conceivably prophesied Christ’s resurrection.  

The mercy seat is seen as a symbol that points to the prophesied Messiah. It was representative of the work of Jesus on the cross that would atone for the sins of His people, making it possible for those who put their faith in Jesus to be reconciled to God. The mercy seat is also possibly an illustration of how God’s throne was transformed from a judgment seat into a place of grace by the cleansing blood of Christ that was figuratively sprinkled on it. Christ was the ultimate fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, which foreshadowed the permanent cleansing of sin that would come through Jesus’ shed blood and the sacrifice of His death. 

Can we now see how this picture should spontaneously spark our thankfulness? For this Ark was no ordinary artifact or piece of religious furniture – it speaks of God’s mighty work of salvation that was eventually fulfilled in the crucifixion of Christ and His sacrifice for sin. It speaks to God’s permanent presence with His sin-covered children. This is why Jesus is called Immanuel, which means God with us. Can anything touch us more than this? Could anything cause our hearts more celebration and gratitude? For His redeemed, I would think not.

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:9-14).

As Paul writes to the Colossian church, although he didn’t know them all that well, he had heard of their faith and love (Colossians 1:3-8). This compelled him to pray nonstop for them. He desired spiritual maturity for these fellow believers and this is my prayer for all of us for 2010. I beseech God that we:

  • are “filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (v. 9). The Greek word for “knowledge” in this passage is epignosis and it signifies practical, personal and experiential understanding and not just academic or intellectual knowledge. I desire that we all become imitators of Jesus (Ephesians 5:1-2) and thus spread the sweet fragrance of His beauty (2 Corinthians 2:14). How do we do this? “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
  • live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way (v. 10). The  Lord we serve, and the calling we have received, is certainly a worthy one! In Ephesians 4:1 Paul considers himself to be a slave to the Lord and this worthy calling. In a similar vein, Paul writing to the church at Thessalonica says, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
  • are bearing fruit in every good work (v. 10). Not just “one” or “some”, but “every” good work.  What sort of good works? Empowered by the Holy Spirit we demonstrate His fruit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25). These attitudes and attributes should permeate our every effort to please God.
  • are growing in the knowledge of God (v, 10). We need to grow in the knowledge of God Himself, not just His will. Knowing Him is man’s highest pursuit and the essence of seeking after Him as our greatest treasure. Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death(Philippians 3:10). These are the desires of those so in love with their Lord that they are obsessed with knowing Him (in the most intimate sense) and all about Him. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).
  • are being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might (v. 11). It is God’s desire that we demonstrate His strength in our living for Him. There is indescribable supernatural power available to the Christian. By trusting in Him and reliance upon the Holy Spirit Paul says we can “…be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10).
  • may have great endurance and patience, with joy (v. 11)  Paul captures the essence of joy and patience in enduring for Christ when he says “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;  in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love (2 Corinthians 6:45-6). Endurance with patience and joy is the mark of those that are “in Christ”.
  • are joyfully giving thanks to the Father (v.12). The Psalmist captures this so beautifully: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.  Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 100:1-5).

And why can we receive all of these marvelous requests? Because God “has qualified [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (v. 12). Because our Savior “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (v. 13). And, most importantly, because “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (v. 14).  Furthermore, how can we have the full experience of this New Year’s prayer?  Abiding in Him and His Word – “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).

“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him–and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19).

From what little I know about leprosy it is truly awful and would be similar to having AIDS today. Leprosy is an infectious disease that is characterized by disfiguring skin sores, nerve damage, and progressive debilitation. Also, in Jesus’ era, it was incurable. So lepers were, for all practical purposes, socially and physically quarantined and up to this very day there remains a stigma associated with the illness. The life of a leper was truly terrible. I’ve never been healed of leprosy but I’m sure it is a huge deal. Clearly it was for these 10 men who were touched by Jesus’ power of healing. For one it seemed to be of special significance – for he was one of the Samaritans so detested by the Jews. The Hebrews scorned them as dirty to begin with and I imagine the disease compounded this man’s ridicule and isolation.

The lepers’ address of Jesus, while standing at a distance, as Master indicates they knew Him to have great power. So when He commanded them to go they listened. But also they did something to receive their gift. In an act of faith this Samaritan, along with the other nine, obediently went to the priests in response to the Lord’s direction. To underscore Jesus’ divine nature, the scripture says that the healing took place even before they could show themselves to the teachers of the law, the place they needed to go to be “declared” clean. It was a miracle! Yet a real part of the miracle had to do with them acting upon the promise of Christ. I’ve always wondered if their restoration would have occurred it they had chosen not to act. I doubt it. But, in the end, they went and they were healed.

Yet this Samaritan was the only one to be compelled by a thankful heart to return and praise Jesus. This passage suggests that all ten were healed. I think it safe to assume that all were appreciative given their dire circumstances. But only this one visibly demonstrated his gratitude to the giver of this supernatural cure. It is clear that with this Samaritan that his appreciation for Jesus’ benevolent act impassioned him to return to Jesus and display his affection and praise. In this I believe we see that gratitude is inextricably linked to love and to a visible exhibition of its effect on us.

Gratitude is much like love in that it means little unless it prompts us to act upon it. Love motivated gratitude should be verbally expressed and outwardly demonstrated. This is not about the debtor’s ethic we so often see associated with a works-based religion. This Samaritan would have been cleansed whether he returned to Jesus or not. He did so out of a heart that recognized the magnitude of Jesus’ deliverance and healing and not from a desire to show himself worthy or out of a sense of pure obligation. Just the opposite – when he returned to His deliverer the Samaritan did so with loud shouts of praise for the Master and worshipfully thrust himself at the feet of the Lord.

I doubt that anyone who reads this will ever be cured of leprosy. But His children have been cured of something far greater – the disease of our sin and its destructive power. Analogous to the Samaritan’s plight, God, through Christ, has removed from us the ugliness, spiritual alienation, and ultimate death caused by our transgressions. Because He had declared us “clean”, we can, by grace through faith, come close to our Master who has delivered us – the one, Jesus, who “took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). And due to this, like the grateful leper, we should be moved to honor and praise Him.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches I pray we become more like this Samaritan. May our appreciation for our Savior be more than an attitude. Let’s all ask God for such a love-saturated gratitude for Him that we seek after Jesus with loud praises and worship at His feet with such authenticity that it permeates all of who we are, our every thought and, accordingly, the way we project and exhibit His beauty through worshipful living (Romans 12:1-2). That, I believe, would be genuine Godward gratitude in its highest form.

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