With Thanksgiving to God
November 22nd, 1964 @ 8:15 AM
WITH THANKSGIVING TO GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-22-64 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing a Thanksgiving message entitled With Thanksgiving to God. The Sunday before Thanksgiving is always a tremendous day in our church. This is the day that we make our final commitment, what we shall do for the kingdom of God here in this church, in our beloved nation, in our ministries beyond the sea; this is the day we make our final commitment to God. And at the evening service our stewardship chairman, Jim Cantrell, will report to us how much we come to when God adds us up.
In behalf of that great victory for Jesus, our men, as Mel Carter has announced, our men will break bread together at noon today, here at the church. And then for those who have forgotten, or have neglected, or have been hindered from turning in their pledge cards, our men will come and visit you in your home. These men are doing this out of the love of their hearts; so receive them graciously and kindly. And the great throng of men who are present in this early morning hour, you come back at noon and share with us this bountiful repast, a Thanksgiving dinner on the Lord’s Day before this glorious anniversary.
Our text and our passage of Scripture is in the one hundred sixteenth Psalm, beginning at verse 12. Psalm 116, beginning at verse 12:
What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?
I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.
O Lord, truly I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant, and the son of Thine handmaid: Thou hast loosed my bonds.
I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people,
In the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah.
Or translated, “Praise ye the Lord.”
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” [Psalm 116:12]. To render to our great and holy God praise and thanksgiving is the sum of true religion. Was it not our Lord Himself who said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”? [Matthew 22:21]. As rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s is true and noble patriotism, so rendering unto God the things that are God’s is the sum of true piety. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” Number them; think of them, God’s remembrances toward us: they are like the stars in the heavens for multitude; they are like the sands on the seashore for number. Yet in our thanksgiving to the great God, we would not omit or forget a single one. Like skipping over a note in music harms the melody, so for us to forget one of God’s mercies renders our thanksgiving the less full and appropriate, All of them, Lord, all of them: the heritage into which we were born, the gift of our parents, the country in which we are citizens, the Holy Scriptures, and the church God placed before us, the marvelous promises by which the Lord hath encouraged us, and the daily providences of God’s fulsome remembrance. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” [Psalm 116:12]. Then he names four of the things that he can do to show his thanksgiving to God.
First he says, “I will take the cup of salvation” [Psalm 116:13]. That refers to an ancient Jewish custom. After a deliverance, after a victory, the priest or the elder would gather the people together, and the presiding elder or the priest would raise a cup before the people, and he would say why they were gathered together and recount how God had given them a glorious victory. Then in thanksgiving to God, he and all of the people would drink together the cup of deliverance, or here translated “the cup of salvation.” In keeping with that tradition, on the evening of the Paschal Supper, our Lord took a cup and held it up; and after He had given thanks, He said, “Drink, all of you of it; for this is the blood . . . of remission of sin” [Matthew 26:27-28]. And they all drank of that cup of salvation and deliverance. So the psalmist says, “What shall I render unto God for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation” [Psalm 116:12-13]. It is obvious why that is a token of his thanksgiving to God: for a soul to refuse the deliverance of the Lord, and the mercies of Christ, and the atonement of our Savior is to dishonor the Lord who died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. But for us to receive it, and to accept it, and to love the Lord who thus delivered us is to honor and glorify His incomparable name. That is why the unusual construction and response: “What shall I render unto the Lord? I will take,” what an unusual thing. “What shall I give to God? I shall take from His gracious hands salvation, and forgiveness, and deliverance. I will drink it to the full” [Psalm 116:12-13].
A little boy taken out of a poverty-stricken home, afflicted with malnutrition, was in a charity hospital. And the nurse brought the little hungry, starving boy, a glass, a tall glass of milk. And when she placed it in the little lad’s hands, he started to drink, then stopped; and looking up into her face, said, “Nurse, how deep may I drink?” What a revelation of poverty. For heretofore when the little boy had a glass of milk, it had to be shared, just so much, with a large family of little children, and he could only drink just so much. “How deep, nurse, may I drink?” And the nurse replied, “My child, to the full; all of it.” So with the salvation of God for our souls: we may drink to the full, we may take all of it; this glorifies God.
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will call upon the name of the Lord” [Psalm 116:12-13]. The psalmist revels in that. One, two, three, four, four times in this brief psalm he repeats that: “I will call upon the name of the Lord.” And the Lord bows down His ear from heaven and is honored and delighted when His people call upon His glorious name. In the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts, the Lord appears to Ananias, and bids him, “Go to the street called Straight, and there minister to one Saul of Tarsus.” And Ananias demurs and hesitates, and says, “Lord, but Lord, we have heard of many of the wrathful persecution of this bitter man.” And the Lord said, “Go thy way, Ananias, go thy way: he is a servant chosen unto Me. Go thy way, for behold, he prayeth” [Acts 9:10-15]. And the apostle years later wrote in Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The Lord is delighted to bow down His ear from heaven and to hear His children call upon His name.
To me there is no more beautiful passage in the entire Word of God than these words in the third chapter of Malachi:
Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and caused a book of remembrance to be written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name.
And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, even as a father spareth his own son that loveth him.
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I shall call upon His name” [Psalm 116:12-13] And the Lord is delighted to hear His people name His name.
I haven’t time to speak, calling upon the name of the Lord in hours of need, in hours of necessity, in hours of direction; oh, in how many ways and in how many places does God open wide the door and bid us welcome. “I will call upon His name.”
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? [Psalm 116:12]. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of His people” [Psalm 116:14]. And the psalmist repeats that in the verse below, “I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people” [Psalm 116:18]. There is not one of us but has made commitments to God. Sometimes in hours of agony and distress, we have promised God; sometimes in days of ecstasy and thanksgiving, we have made promises to God; sometimes needing direction and help, we’ve made promises to God; and sometimes in hours of great consecration and commitment, we have made promises to God. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will pay my vows now.” Now, beginning this day and this hour and this moment, those promises and commitments I have made to God shall be remembered and treasured and implemented; now. And I shall do it openly, publicly, in the presence of all His people [Psalm 116:14]. Why could not he do it privately, clandestinely, furtively, secretly? Why could he not make it a thing just between himself and God? You know the more I read this Book and the more I seek to understand its spirit and its message, the more am I convinced that the open, unashamed, unreserved avowal of a man’s commitment to God is at the very heart of religion itself. Coming forward, kneeling in His presence, standing up in testimony, a spoken and public avowal is at the very heart of true religion, the kind that honors and glorifies God. “I will pay my vows now in the presence of all His people,” where men and angels can hear and look upon it.
Then he says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15]. What has that to do with an open, public avowal of one’s faith and commitment to God? Apparently, in this marvelous deliverance that God had vouchsafed His people, some had laid down their lives. And when the psalmist thinks of a public commitment to God, one unshaken and unmoved, he thinks of these who have fallen asleep in the Lord, and adds, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” The Lord saw it, and the Lord watched it. He whose eye is on the sparrow [Luke 12:6-7], how much more certainly shall that same loving God watch over these who fall asleep in Him? He attends their bedside, He smoothes their pillow, He sustains their laughs, He receives their souls. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15].
One of the dear, sweet daughters of this church, attending the bedside of her mother a few days ago, this last week, there by the bedside, watching over her mother, without announcement, the mother just quietly slipped away. She exhaled, and the daughter waited for her to inhale, but breath never returned. She was just asleep in Jesus. That’s the Lord in whose sight the death of His saints is precious [Psalm 116:15].
And sometimes God’s children fall asleep on foreign strands, where no eye beholds and no sympathetic heart beats. Does the Lord watch over them? He never forgets. And His presence attends His children wherever they are in the earth. And that missionary martyr that fell where no sympathetic eye did behold, the Lord looked upon him and remembered. In the second chapter of the Book of Revelation, in the city of Pergamos, the Lord speaks of, “My faithful martyr Antipas, who was slain among you” [Revelation 2:13]. Who was Antipas? Nobody ever heard of Antipas—nobody but God. He laid down his life for the Lord, and the Lord remembered it. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15].
Sometimes at Arlington Cemetery, when you stand at the sarcophagus of the Unknown Soldier and read the inscription, “Here in honored glory lies an American soldier known but to God,” and I think of that, “known but to God.” You know, somehow I’ve always felt that for that honor and for that glory, that unknown boy who lies asleep in that tomb was a Christian lad who shall be known publicly and openly at the great resurrection day of the Lord. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15].
Isn’t that a beautiful thing for the psalmist to be inspired to say? “Precious, precious, precious,” look at that word. When God beheld all of the glorious works of creation, He said, “It is exceeding good. It is exceeding good” [Genesis 1:31]. But at no place when God looked upon His marvelous works did the Lord say, “They are precious.” Then why is it, then why is it, that God would look upon death, the destroyer of His works, and say of death, that death is precious? For very obvious reasons: death, the death of God’s saints is precious because this shall be a demonstration, and is a demonstration of the power of Jesus, God’s Son, to deliver and to save. Is not the most triumphant chapter in the whole Bible the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians?
This I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither shall corruption inherit incorruption.
But I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound . . . and we shall all be changed.
[1 Corinthians 15:50-52]
O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?
Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
[1 Corinthians 15:55, 57]
Death is the occasion of the marvelous deliverance we have in Jesus [1 Corinthians 15:55, 57].
Another thing: it is precious in God’s sight, the death of His saints, because of the testimony of God’s sainted children. Beginning with Stephen, and then James, and then Ignatius, and then Polycarp, and then Savonarola, and John Huss, and Hubmaier, and a thousand martyrs, how precious the testimony of God’s children: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15]. And once again, death shall be the occasion of God’s greatest miracle: the resurrection of the dead [1 Corinthians 15:50-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. When heaven and earth have passed away, and when the very monuments to the glory of nations have crumbled into the dust, God’s saints shall live and reign forever. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”
Then last, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” One, “I will take the cup of salvation” [Psalm 116:13]; two, “I will call upon the name of the Lord” [Psalm 116:13]; three, “even unto death, in the presence of men and angels, I will reavow my commitment to God” [Psalm 116:14]; and last, “I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving” [Psalm 116:17]. All of us are priests unto God. And what shall we offer, for a priest must have somewhat to offer? In Hebrews 13:15, “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.”
“What shall I render unto Thee Lord, for all of His benefits toward me? I will offer to Thee, O God, the sacrifice of thanksgiving” [Psalm 116:17]. Bless Thy name, O God, for Thy goodnesses that reach even unto me.
There was a construction worker in the days of the Depression, who found difficulty finding work. He had a large family, he had six children; and the time came for school. And two of his boys and his one little girl needed shoes; and he had no money with which to buy shoes. And when he saw his boys playing out in the street, they’d use their shoes for brakes as their scooters went down the hill. And the little girl skipped the rope on a rough sidewalk. And every time he looked at them, he kind of winced—wearing out their shoes. And while he was contemplating the prospects of school without shoes, his wife came and said that the washing machine had hopelessly, irreparably broken down, it couldn’t be mended, and they had to have a washing machine. So in despair that construction worker, with no work, looked through the pages of the newspaper for a second hand washing machine. He found an address. He made his way to the place and stood before a beautiful home. Standing there, further resentment built up in his soul, “Some people have all the luck and all the good fortune,” and he has nothing but poverty and distress. He rang the doorbell. He was graciously invited in. Inside of the beautiful kitchen, resentment built up in him still deeper, “Some people have it all,” and he has nothing. He looked at the washing machine. The couple graciously offered it to him for just a few dollars. They were so kind and sympathetic he began to pour out his need to them and finally mentioned the two boys who wore out their shoes for brakes on scooters going down the street and the little girl skipping rope on the sidewalk; and then asked if maybe the couple didn’t have some worn-out childrens’ shoes that he might use. When he said that, there was an awkward and painful silence in the kitchen. And the wife looked at her husband, and then, as she quickly left the room, suppressed a sob as she walked through the door. And the construction worker said, “Well, well mister, I don’t know what I’ve done, but I didn’t, I didn’t mean to do it. I don’t know what I’ve said wrong, but I didn’t mean to say it. I ask your forgiveness.” The man looked at the floor a long time, swallowed hard, and said, “Why friend, you didn’t say a thing wrong. You didn’t say anything wrong.” He said, “It’s just that my wife and I have one little child, a little girl, and she can never walk. And you just don’t know how we’d give everything we possess for a little pair of worn out shoes.” The construction worker said, “That night I got out three pair of worn out shoes, and I laid them before the Lord. And on my knees I thanked God for my boys who could use shoes for brakes when their scooters went down the street, and I thanked God for a little girl who could skip rope on a sidewalk.”
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will offer to Thee, O God, the sacrifice of thanksgiving” [Psalm 116:12, 17].
This is an anonymous poem, but I can tell by the tone of it a godly woman wrote it.
Today upon a bus I saw
A lovely girl with golden hair
I envied her, she seemed so gay,
And wished I were as fair.
When suddenly she rose to leave,
I saw her hobble down the aisle
She had one leg, and used a crutch;
And as she passed, she smiled.
O God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two legs, the world is mine.
Then I stopped to buy some sweets;
The lad who sold them had such charm
I talked with him—he seemed so glad—
If I were late, ‘twould do no harm.
And as I left, he said to me,
“I thank you, you have been so kind.
It’s nice to talk with folks like you.
You see,” he said, “I am blind.”
O God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two eyes, the world is mine.
Later, walking down the street,
I saw a child with eyes of blue.
I stood and watched the others play
It seemed he knew not what to do.
I stopped a moment, then I said,
“Why don’t you join the others, dear?”
He looked ahead without a word.
And then I knew, he could not hear.
O God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two eyes to see the sunset glow,
I have ears to hear what I would know,
I have feet to walk where I would go,
O God, forgive me when I whine.
I am blessed indeed, the world is mine.
[“Lord Forgive Me When I Whine”; pub. Lamberth News Star, Ontario Canada, 1983]
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving” [Psalm 116:12, 17].
Dear God, if ever I am ungrateful, forgive. Help me to remember to be thankful for the blessings by which the Lord doth enrich my life.
Now while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you, give himself in comfort and strength to the Lord. I want you to come and stand by me, taking the Lord as your Savior, putting your life and letter into the church. On the first note of the first stanza, come and stand by me. While we stand and while we sing.
WITH THANKSGIVING TO GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. “I will take the cup of salvation”
A. A way in Israel
B. Our Eucharistic cup
C. To accept pleases, honors and glorifies God
II. “I will call upon the name of the Lord”
III. “I will pay my vows”
IV. “I will offer to Thee the sacrifices of thanksgiving”