With Thanksgiving to God
November 19th, 1967 @ 10:50 AM
WITH THANKSGIVING TO GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-19-67 10:50 a.m.
On this television, Channel 11, and on the radio KIXL, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled With Thanksgiving to God. It is an expounding; it is a following of the text in one of the most beautiful of all of the Psalms in the Psalter. Psalm 116 and if you would like to follow it, you can easily do so, or better still let us just read it out loud. We shall begin at verse 12 and read to the end of the chapter, verse 12 of the one hundred sixteenth Psalm [Psalm 116:12-19]. And the sermon will be just following these verses ad seriatum, one after another—recounting God’s goodnesses to us. All right, you ready? Verse 12, Psalm 116, and on the television and on the radio, read it out loud with us together:
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 I 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. Praise ye the Lord.
Or, “Hallelujah! Praise ye the Lord!” That’s the translation of “hallelujah.” And the spirit of that psalm is seen in every verse, every stanza, every syllable, every sentence. It is a psalm apparently sung by Israel upon the occasion of some great deliverance, some wonderful blessing.
So he starts off, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” [Psalm 116:12]. And to give to God thanksgiving, and praise, and gratitude for His mercies abounding, would be the chief aid of religious worship. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” [Psalm 116:12]. It would be right, Jesus said, to render to Caesar, to the state, the things that belong to the state. It is no less right and good to render to God that pious, and holy, and heavenly sense of praise, and gratitude that rightly belongs to God [Mark 12:17]. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” [Psalm 116:12]. How innumerable they are, nor would we leave out one for all His benefits towards me. As in a beautiful anthem or song, if you skip a note, you ruin the melody. If we are forgetful or unpraising before God for any one of His mercies, it is not good and right on our part; we shall thank Him for all of His benefits toward us [Psalm 116:12]. .
I come down the steps there, as you know, into this auditorium. And a little boy, the least little fellow, he had something wadded up in His hand, and on one side is all of the rings and markings of a little boy’s crayon, and on this side in big block letters, he writes up there first “JERRY.” Now Jerry, whoever you are, I want you to come up to me and tell me, Jerry. Then he writes in big block letters, “WE ARE THANKFUL. We are thankful in 1967 for food and our friends. The Lord is in our homes. He loves us and sent His Son. Fear”—and his moma has written “F E A R” and he has spelled it F I R—“Fear not, for He loves us,” maybe someday some of the boys will be a preacher. Well, I pray so, too. “The Lord is God. He is the One who made us, and not ourselves” [Psalm 100:3]. Now isn’t that the spirit of a precious and thankful heart?
We shall thank God for all of His benefits. Nor will we leave out one. Now how shall we do it? “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” [Psalm 116:12]. First, “I will take the cup of salvation” [Psalm 116:13], which is the imagery of a habit in Israel that goes back forever. Upon a mercy or upon an unusually blessed and significant deliverance, the priest or the elder in the home would lift up a cup and thank God for the blessing, the remembrance, the deliverance—then they would all drink out of that cup of deliverance, and salvation, and blessing. It is the exact thing that our Lord did, when at the Last Supper, He raised a cup. He lifted up a cup, and prayed a Eucharistic prayer. It is called the Eucharistic prayer, the thanksgiving prayer—that’s a Greek word meaning thanksgiving—and He prayed a thanksgiving prayer, the Eucharist, the thanksgiving service, the memorial of the Lord’s death—and He lifted up a cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Drink ye, all of you, of it” [Matthew 26:27].
As Paul wrote, the cup of blessing, which we blessed, is it not the koinonia, the fellowship, the sharing in the marvelous victory God hath given us in the blood, the sacrifice, the pouring out of the life of our Lord? [1 Corinthians 10:16]. What a beautiful thing! I will take the cup of salvation [Psalm 116:13]. . To refuse it grieves our Lord, hurts our Savior, but to receive it and to take it, all God’s mercies and remembrances makes our Savior glad.
Now have you noticed this, it’s an astonishing thing, what shall I return unto the Lord? What shall I offer unto the Lord? “What shall I give unto the Lord, for all His benefits toward me?” [Psalm 116:12]. I will take”—that is the opposite of what you would have thought for what shall I return? “What shall I give to God? What shall I offer to God, for all of His benefits towards me? [Psalm 116:12]. I will take,” [Psalm 116:13], I will take of the Savior’s love, and mercy, and grace. And that pleases our Lord, to the full, to the deep.
There was a half-starved, emaciated little boy, who was taken to a charity hospital. And in the morning, a nurse brought the little fellow a tall glass of sweet milk and the famished and starving little creature took it in his hands and began to drink, then stopped and looked up into the eyes of the nurse and said, and asked the question that told a thousand things about the little fellow and the home in which he lived. He looked up into her eyes and said, “Nurse, how deep may I drink?” For in the household where that starving little fellow was being reared, one glass of milk had to be shared with so many little children, and each one could drink only so much. And when the little lad said, “Nurse, how deep may I drink?” the nurse replied, “Son, drink to the full, drink it all.”
So with us, how deeply shall we drink of God’s cup of mercy, and love, and salvation? We shall drink to the full, and it pleases God for us thus to take His mercies from His gracious hands. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me? I will take the cup of salvation” [Psalm 116:12-13]. He just begun, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?….I will call upon the name of the Lord” [Palm 116:12-13]. Well, whoever this psalmist was, and he was not named, but whoever he was seems to have been fond of that occupation of calling upon the name of the Lord. For in this brief psalm, he names that four different times. In verse 2, in verse 4, in verse 17, and here in verse 13 [Psalm 116:2,4,13,17]. . “I will call upon the name of the Lord” [Psalm 116:13] and that pleases God. And the Lord bows down His ear to hear His children when they pray. It pleases our Lord to name His name and to call upon Him.
Do you remember in the conversion of the apostle Paul, Saul of Tarsus, the Book says: “The Lord appeared to one Ananias in Damascus and said to him, Ananias, go into the street that is called Straight, and inquire in the house of one Judas for Saul of Tarsus”; then the Lord added, “for, behold, he prayeth” [Acts 9:10-11].
God was looking at him and this man who just before had been breathing out threatenings and slaughters against the people of God [Acts 9:1], now blinded and led by the hand into Jerusalem, into Damascus [Acts 22:11], is down on his knees praying [Acts 9:11] and the Lord heard it and looked upon him. I wonder sometimes if that is why Paul wrote in Romans 10:13: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
“For, behold, he prayeth” [Acts 9:11] and God looked upon him. I don’t think there is a more beautiful passage in all God’s Book than this one in the third chapter of Malachi:
Then they that feared the Lord spake often in His name: 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 called upon His name…
And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up Mine jewels; and I will spare them, as a father spareth his own son that serveth him.
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will call upon His name” [Psalm 116:12-13].
Third: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will pay my vows now in the presence of all His people. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now, in the presence of all His people” [Psalm 116:12, 14]. This is an experience that every one of us share. There have been times in our lives of agony and distress, and we have made vows unto God. There have been times of superlative blessing, and we have made vows unto God. There have been times of illness, and disaster, and distress, and we have made vows unto God. There have been times of great dedication and commitment, and we have made vows unto God. This is an experience that every one of us shares.
“What shall I render unto God for all His benefits towards me?” I shall be faithful and true. I shall pay that vow now in the presence of all of God’s people [Psalm 116:12, 14]. . And isn’t that an astonishing thing? “In the presence of all—and the word all—in the presence of all His people.” Now I do not invent this message, it does not originate in me, I am but an echo, a voice, I just read what is in the Book and do my best to make it known, to say it. Now one of the things that is a part of the characteristics of God is this, that what we do for God in our love, and commitment, and dedication, is never to be secret, or furtive, or clandestine. It is to be open, unreserved, unashamed. Now I didn’t invent that. Sometimes I wonder why God so insists upon it, but He does and there is no exception to it.
Whosoever is ashamed of Me and of My words, in this evil and adulterous generation; of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of the Father with His holy angels.
If thou shalt confess Me before men, I will confess thee before My Father in heaven.
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart, thou shall be saved.
Now I do not invent this. That’s God’s. There is something about God that demands in His heart from us an open and unreserved and unashamed commitment of our lives to Him. And these vows of dedication, and consecration, and commitment, we are to make and to reaffirm in the presence of all His people. And that brought to the mind of the psalmist, the remembrance that some in that open and public commitment had laid down their lives for God.
You would think the next verse is unrelated: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15]. It is not unrelated, the psalm as I said, the psalm is one that arises out of some great deliverance for Israel on the part of the great Jehovah God. And in that defense of the faith some had laid down their lives, and he writes, precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of those who died for Him, and in His love and grace. Isn’t that a glorious thing? God is standing by when one of His saints dies. The least of His saints, the Lord is there; He smooths the pillow, and He receives the soul—God is there! It can be the least of His saints, but God is there[Psalm 116:15].
I do not know of a song more beautifully moving than “The Love of God is Greater Far Than Tongue or Pen Could Ever Tell.” The third stanza of that song was scribbled on the wall of the cell of an insane asylum, and when the poor wretch of an inmate died, the keepers of the asylum saw that scribbling on the wall. It is this:
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade.
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
O love of God, how rich and pure,
How measureless and strong,
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.
[“The Love of God,” Frederick Lehman]
God was there when that wretch died miserably in a cell in an insane asylum. Do you ever think of these who lay down their lives, and they perish like autumn leaves—many of them on foreign strands, many of them filling unknown graves? But God was there. In the second chapter of the Book of the Revelation, in the city of Pergamos, where Satan has his throne, God says, “Where My faithful martyr, Antipas, died—laid down his life” [Revelation 2:13]. Do you know who Antipas was? Did you ever know anybody who ever saw anybody who knew Antipas? Nobody knows who Antipas was, absolutely unknown and unheard of, but God wrote it down in His Book when Antipas died.
Have you been to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and do you know those words written on that sarcophagus? “Here in honored glory lies an American soldier”—and what is that last verse there? “Known but to God.” He was there when that unnamed boy fell in some foreign field beyond the seas. And what an unusual way to say it, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15], precious.
When the Lord made this glorious world, there will be a little refrain repeated, “And God saw that it was very good” [Genesis 1:4, 12,18, 21, 25, 31]. But He does not say in the Book, “and when God saw it, it was precious in His sight,” He said it was “very good” [Genesis 1:31]. This, the death of God’s saints, is precious in His sight [Psalm 116:15]. Well, that’s an astonishing thing, for death is the destroyer of the works of God, and death is our last bitter enemy [1 Corinthians 15:26], yet He says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15]. How could such a thing be, how could it be?
Well, I will tell you how. First, because in this Jesus hath won for us His greatest victory, the victory over death and the grave:
This I say, my brethren, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nether does corruption inherit incorruption.
But I show you a mustērion—something God kept in His heart until He revealed it to His apostles—I show you a mustērion; We may 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 the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
And when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death, Death is swallowed up in victory.
O Death, where now is thy sting? O Grave, where now is thy victory?
Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
[1 Corinthians 15:50-57]
This is our Savior’s greatest triumph, death. Again, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15]. This is the grand occasion for the noblest testimony the world has ever seen. What God’s martyrs have said as they have laid down their lives for Jesus:
I saw the martyr at the stake;
The flames could not his courage shake
Nor death his soul appall.
I asked him whence his strength was given,
He looked triumphantly to heaven
And answered, “Christ is all.”
[“Martyr at the Stake,” John Edmund]
Think of it, when Stephen laid down his life and said, “Lord, receive my spirit” and fell asleep in Jesus [Acts 7:59-60], when Peter and Paul were martyred, when Savonarola was burned, when Latimer was burned, when Huss and Hübmaier were burned—the testimony of God’s martyrs; “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15].
And once again, this is the ground and the occasion for God’s greatest victory yet to come. When the very heavens and earth have passed away, when the monuments of men have crumbled down into the dust, God has said, “I will raise out of the heart of the earth and out of the dust of the ground My saints” [Psalm 113:6- 7; Ezekiel 37:1-14]. And we shall in resurrected glory live with Him for ever, world without end. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15].
Then the last: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all of His benefits towards me?” [Psalm 116:12] First: “I will take the cup of salvation” [Psalm 116:13], and drink to the full. Second: “I shall call upon the name of the Lord” [Psalm 116:13]. Third: “I will give my life to Him here in the presence of all of His people, before men and angels unashamed” [Psalm 116:14]. Last: “I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving” [Psalm 116:17]. No longer do we come before the Lord with the blood of bulls and of goats, of bullocks and whole burnt offerings, libations, oblations. No. We come before the Lord now, as the author of Hebrews so beautifully says; “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually” [Hebrews 13:15], every day, every hour. That is the fruit of our lips giving thanks in His name [Hebrews 13:15]. .
This is the sacrifice by which we will come before God, bless His name, how good He is, how wonderfully precious He is; thanking God everyday of our lives, thanking the Lord when we rise in the morning, thanking God when we lie down at night, thanking God when we walk out through the door, thanking the Lord when we come back in, in our goings out, and in our comings in, in our down sittings and in our risings up, thanking God. This is the sacrifice of praise whereby we offer our gratitude to the Lord. O Master, help me to be that way! [Hebrews 13:15].
As many of you know, for several years I was president of our Sunday School Board and made the frequent journeys to Nashville, Tennessee. In the Sunday School Board was the business administrator Mr. R. L. Middleton, and one time at a meeting there of the board he told a story of a working man. And Mr. Middleton wrote a little book, and the story he included in that little book. It was back in the days of the Depression and this man named Clarence Powell, named Clarence Powell was a construction worker—that is he was a construction worker whenever there was anything to construct, but nobody was building in those days and he was facing starvation, he had nothing. In his house was a wife and six little children. And to his dismay, those boys, those little boys of his would take their shoes for brakes, and scrape them on the sidewalk, and on the concrete as they would go down the hill. And to his dismay, his little girl would skip the rope on that sidewalk and wear out her shoes. So he had three pair of worn-out shoes, and no money to buy new ones. And while he was thinking upon that disastrous plight, his wife came in and said the washing machine has hopelessly broken down and is not repairable.
Well, thinking of his misfortune and thinking of all of the disasters that were besetting him, he picked up a newspaper to look for a secondhand washing machine and found an address, went to it. Then that made him all of the more furious in his soul. Things just aren’t right, and things are all wrong with him at least. There is this beautiful house, beautiful lawn, affluent, and here he is with a wife and six little children and no work and trying to find some beat up washing machine he can buy for almost nothing. [He] went up the walkway, the porch, pushed on the button, the door bell rang and a gracious and kind man came to the door and he said to him why he was there, to buy a secondhand washing machine. And the man graciously invited him in, and his wife came in, and they visited together and he poured out his story, and they gave him the washing machine for practically nothing.
And because the man and his wife were so kind and so sympathetic, why, he had the temerity to say about his children and how those rough boys wore out there shoes using them for brakes on the scooters and how that little girl wore out her shoes skipping rope on a sidewalk. And then asked maybe if they had some worn-out children’s shoes they could give him. And when he asked that—some worn-out children’s shoes that maybe they could give him—the wife looked pained and hurt and in a moment rose and left the room, but the man heard a sob when she went out the door. And looking at the man in the house he said, “Oh, sir, I’ve said something wrong, I have said something wrong. I did not mean to, I don’t know what I have done, but what I have done, I ask to be pardoned.”
Well, the man in the house looked a long time at the floor, then cleared his throat and said, “No sir, you said nothing wrong, you said nothing wrong, no, no.” He said, “It’s just this, it’s just this, we have one child, a little girl. She has never been able to walk; she’s never taken a step in her life.” And he said, “When you asked if we had a pair of worn-out children’s shoes, sir, I suppose we’d give everything we have if we had a pair of worn-out children’s shoes.”
The construction worker said that he went back home and he got out those three pairs of worn-out children’s shoes and laid them before the Lord, and thanked God for boys who could ride a motor scooter, and thanked God for a little girl who could skip rope, and he thanked God for three worn-out pairs of children’s shoes. Man, don’t forget the blessing.
The dear Christian woman wrote these lines:
Today upon a bus, I saw
A lovely girl with golden hair.
I envied her, she seemed so gay
And I 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,
But as she passed she smiled.
O God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two legs, the world is mine.
And then I stopped to buy some sweets,
—she is an English girl that wrote this—
And 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 is nice to talk with folks like you,
you see,” he said, “I’m 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.
He stood and watched the others play;
It seemed he knew not what to do.
I stopped a moment and 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 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.
[“The World is Mine,” Ruth Fink Leamer]
Lord, Lord! Lift me out of that doldrum, that despair, that despond, where I linger in murmuring and complaining. Lord, whatever my lot, may I be triumphant in it and glorify God with the sacrifice of thanksgiving [Psalm 116:17]. All this hath God bestowed upon us and heaven beside.
As we sing our hymn of appeal, what a glorious day to give you heart to the Lord! [Romans 10:8-13]. What a glorious hour to come down this aisle! “Here I am, preacher, this is the Sunday before Thanksgiving and here I am, and here I come.” A family you, a couple you, somebody one you, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, come, decide now and on the first note of the first stanza make it now. Do it this morning, and may the angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.