With Thanksgiving to God
November 22nd, 1970 @ 10:50 AM
WITH THANKSGIVING TO GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-22-70 10:50 a.m.
You are listening and sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled With Thanksgiving to God. It is an exposition of the last part of the one hundred thirty-sixth Psalm, and if you would like—of the one hundred sixteenth Psalm. Where did I get 136? I have got big ideas, that is where that comes from, not 116. One hundred sixteen, this is a part of that hallel that they sing at the Passover, Psalm 116 to 118. Now the passage that I shall expound is beginning at verse 12, Psalm 116:12:
What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?
I will take the cup of salvation, 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.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.
. . .
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, Praise ye the Lord.
[Psalm 116:12-15, 17-19]
Well, are you too stuffy to say that? Then let’s hear you say it. I’m going to ask you to say, “Praise ye the Lord.” Praise ye the Lord. Would you like to say it in Hebrew? All right, you know what the Hebrew word is, hallelujah. All right, hallelujah! Praise ye the Lord. That’s right. That’s the translation of hallelujah, “Praise ye the Lord.”
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” [Psalm 116:12]. I would suppose that there is not a higher or a holy dedication than to offer praise to our great High and Holy Lord; to say it, to feel it, to express it, surely is no small part of true religion—thanking, praising, loving the Lord. In that coin they brought one time to Jesus, He said in answer to their question concerning it, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” [Matthew 22:21].
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all of His benefits toward me?” [Psalm 116:12]. It is a beautiful and a worthy, a sublime inquiry. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” We will not leave out one of them; we will not overlook or forget a single remembrance. Like a note that you would leave out in a melody that you sing here in the choir, it would hurt it, it’d make it unbeautiful. So with us: we’re not going to forget one of the infinite, multitudinous mercies of God, all of them. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His blessings and goodnesses and benefits toward me?” [Psalm 116:12].
What shall I do? Then he answers his own rhetorical question, and he says four things will he do. Number one: “I will take the cup of salvation” [Psalm 116:13]. Now that’s the opposite of what I would have thought. “What shall I give to God? What shall I render unto the Lord? What shall I bring to the Great High Jehovah for all of His goodnesses toward me?” And I would have thought he’d have named some things he was going to bring, he was going to enumerate some things he was going to give, he would delineate some of those things he was going to return. He does nothing of the kind. “What shall I render unto the Lord? What shall I bring unto the Lord? I will take”—just the opposite of what I would have thought—first he says, “I will take the cup of salvation” [Psalm 116:13].
Well, what does that mean, “I will take the cup of salvation”? Evidently the psalm was written by somebody inspired by the Holy Spirit of God; evidently the psalm was written by an inspired singer, member of the choir or of the orchestra. Remember I tell you, in the service of the Lord they had [four] thousand Levites to sing [1 Chronicles 23:5], they had two hundred ninety-seven pieces of orchestra to play? [2 Chronicles 7:6, 8:14-15, 29:25-27]. And evidently, after some marvelous deliverance from God, one of the members of that Levitical group or of that orchestral group wrote this psalm of thanksgiving and gratitude. And upon that occasion he spoke, “I will take the cup of victory, of deliverance, of blessing, of salvation” [Psalm 116:13]. And what he was singing about was this: upon some glorious occasion of national deliverance for the nation, or some unusual and rich blessing for the family or for a village, the priest would take a cup, or the elder in the patriarchal group would take a cup, and he’d hold it up, and he would say what the victory was, what the blessing was, what the thanksgiving was, what the deliverance was, he would speak it as he held the cup in his hand. Then after he had described the occasion of gratitude and deliverance or blessing, or salvation, then he would drink of that cup, and all of those who were rejoicing would drink with him. And they called it “the cup of salvation, the cup of deliverance, the cup of blessing” [Psalm 116:13].
“The cup which we bless, is it not the communion of the body of our Lord?” [1 Corinthians 10:16]. What was he saying when Paul wrote that in the tenth chapter of 1 Corinthians? He was referring to our Savior who lifted up that cup, a eucharistic cup, a blessing cup, a cup of thanksgiving, of gratitude, of salvation, of the remission of sins, of deliverance [Matthew 26:28]. He lifted up the cup, and after He described it, “This is the cup of My blood, shed for the remission of sins,” the cup representing the poured out crimson of the life of our Lord, then after He described it, He said, “Drink ye all of it”; the cup of deliverance, of salvation [Matthew 26:27-28].
Now, the psalmist says, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, of God’s merciful deliverance and blessing” [Psalm 116:12-13]. I could think of nothing that would grieve the heart of God more than to refuse it. This has Jesus done for us. “We don’t care.” This has our Lord done for us. “We couldn’t care less.” This has God done for us: He died for our sins on the cross, He suffered, He poured out His life unto death that we might have cleansing and forgiveness and beginning over again our life, that we might have hope in glory [1 Corinthians 15:3]. “Nothing to me, I care nothing about it. Put the cup down, or spill it. Turn it over. Cast it aside.” I could not think of anything more grievous than that. It hurts God’s heart when, after He has done for us, even unto death that we might be saved [John 15:13], then we spurn it and count it as trash [Hebrews 10:29].
No! “What shall I bring to God for all of His goodnesses toward me? This will I do: I will receive His mercies. I will accept them. I will treasure them. I will love them. I will receive them. I will drink the cup of deliverance and salvation. I will take it, and I will drink it to the full” [Psalm 116:12-13].
In a charity hospital, a little, starving, emaciated boy was brought. And the nurse brought to the little lad a full cup of milk. Instead of drinking tea and coffee and stuff, why don’t you drink milk? Well, you say, “It makes me fat.” Well, why don’t you drink non-fat milk, then? The little starving boy, she brought a full cup of milk. Now when the little lad saw it—in his poor and wretched home, whenever a glass of milk was brought it had to be shared by all the children, and each one could only drink this much, just this much, just this much. And when the nurse brought that full glass of milk, the little starving boy said, “Nurse, how deep may I drink, how deep?” And the nurse answered, “Son, drink to the full. Drink all of it.” Yes. Drink to the full, drink all of it: “I will take the cup of deliverance and salvation and blessing, and I will drink all of it, to the full” [Psalm 116:12-13].
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all of His benefits toward me?” Second: “I will call upon the name of the Lord” [Psalm 116:13]. Evidently this psalmist loved that employment; four times in this song does he say that. In the second verse: “I will call upon Him as long as I live” [Psalm 116:2]. In the fourth verse: “Then called I upon the name of the Lord” [Psalm 116:4]. Then this thirteenth verse I have read: “I will call upon the name of the Lord” [Psalm116:13]. And in the seventeenth verse: “I will call upon the name of the Lord” [Psalm 116:17]. Evidently he liked that, and God likes it too.
Why, bless you, could you imagine anybody you love and you’d be with them, and you don’t ever talk to them, you don’t ever speak to them? That’s what’s the matter with so many homes and husbands and wives: they pout, and they don’t talk to one another. Do you deacons down here ever do that? Do you ever do that? You get mad and you pout, and you don’t talk to one another. Oh, that’s the worst no-accountest thing in the world.
In their presence, if you love them you talk to them, you speak about them, you call them; look. Sometimes you lay your problems before them, and sometimes you just talk about things just for the love of it. God likes that. Why, He likes for us to talk to Him, and to think about Him, and to speak of Him, and to call upon His name. He is pleased. He likes it. You like for your children to do that. You’re never offended by anything the child would ask for. You might explain to him, as God has to do to us, “Now you can’t have that,” or, “You must wait a while.” But God likes it. “Ask,” He says, “Call; speak.” Oh! the Lord is delighted when we think about Him.
There’s not a more beautiful verse in all the Old Testament than this one from Malachi, out of which you sang your song this morning, dear choir. Do you remember that verse?
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, as a father spareth his own son that serveth him.
Isn’t that a beautiful, isn’t that a beautiful thing? Choir, don’t you think that’s beautiful? If you think that’s beautiful, hold up your hand. Thank you, choir, you’re a faithful somebody. That pleases the Lord.
And did you know, we can do that all the time. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “Pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. He did not mean forever I was to be in the attitude of prayer. “Pray without ceasing.” What he meant was, the whole turn of my life is to be in an attitude of prayerful acknowledgement and intercession and thoughtfulness. Why, you can pray in the kitchen while you’re stirring up something to eat or washing the dishes. You can pray, talking, thinking about God while you’re sweeping the floor, while you’re going to work, while you’re lying down, while you’re getting up, while you’re working at a typewriter, while you’re selling things across the counter, things of God can enter your mind. And that pleases the Lord. He is delighted. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? [Psalm 116:12]. I will call upon His name [Psalm 116:13]. I will think of Him and speak of Him.”
“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]. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints [Psalm 116:15] . . . I will pay my vows unto the Lord in the presence of all of His people” [Psalm 116:14]. There’s no one of us but that in time has made a vow to God, all of us, all of us. Sometimes it’s in deep distress and despair; sometimes it’s in a moment of ecstasy and gladness and gratitude; sometimes it’s in perplexity, seeking guidance; sometimes it’s in the valley of the shadow of death; but all of us sometime or the other, all of us have made vows before the Lord. “What shall I render unto the Lord? I will pay my vows in the presence of all of His people” [Psalm 116:12, 14]. Well, why that, Lord? Cannot a man commit himself to God in the closet with the door shut? Cannot a man pay his vow before the Lord, nobody know, just he and God? Yes. But one of the things that I read in that Book from beginning to end, from start to finish is this: there is a public, open avowal and commitment on the part of God’s people that the Lord asks of us. He asks us to stand up, to be counted, to speak out. He asks us for that open and public commitment. I am to make that vow; I am to make that commitment in the presence of all His people. I am to do it publicly [Psalm 116:14].
Now I’ve been a pastor for a long, long time, and I’m not pretending to know all that God has in His wisdom for what He does; but there are some things that I can see as I see God work among the people. And there are two things about that public commitment [Psalm 116:14]. One is this: when I do it publicly, I am strengthened in the Lord. It helps me to walk down an aisle, take a preacher by the hand, stand before the congregation and say, “This day have I rededicated my life to God,” or, “This day do I take the Lord as my Savior,” or, “This day we’re putting our lives in the fellowship of the church,” or, “This day we are answering a special call from heaven.” It helps me to do it. Second: it helps the congregation. When I see you do it, I’m strengthened in the work. And when the congregation sees you do it, all of us rejoice together. Religion that is true is never clandestine or furtive or secret or ashamed of; it is open and public! “I am a follower of the Lamb, and I want my name written down as such. I’m on God’s side.”
Now, evidently whoever wrote this psalm and whatever the great national deliverance was he was celebrating, evidently in the commitment to God some of them had laid down their lives. And when he speaks of that open public commitment to God, when he speaks of it, he thinks of these who have laid down their lives, and he says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15]. These who have paid the price of life for their devotion to the Lord: “Precious in the sight of God is their commitment unto death.”
Day before last, the telephone rang at our house; I was in the study by myself. Most of the times I don’t answer it; it doesn’t ring in my study, and most of the times I don’t hear it. But I heard the telephone ring and I answered it. And it was someone calling me, saying, “Pastor, today we have just received word that one of our boys at the church was killed in Vietnam. Curtis Rogers, the son of Orville and Esther Beth Rogers, a Marine has lost his life in Vietnam.” I hung up the phone, and having thanked them for telling me, and bowed my head at the desk, and cried, and wept before the Lord. Do you suppose God saw that boy fall? Do you? Do you reckon God marked the spot? Do you suppose the Lord was present when that sweet lad lost his life for us and our country? The Book says that He did [Psalm 116:15].
There is no saint of God, not the least of us who put our trust in Him, who falls, who dies but that God is there. He smooths a pillow, and He receives us into glory. Even these of whom we know nothing, God knows, and God sees, and God cares.
Look at this. In the second chapter of the Revelation, in the Word of the Lord to the church at Pergamos, He says, “Even in those days wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you” [Revelation 2:13]. Who was Antipas? I do not know. Who was Antipas? I don’t know anybody who knows, nor did I ever hear of anybody who knew anybody who knows. I have no idea, nor for a thousand nine hundred years is there anyone who knows who Antipas, God’s faithful martyr, was. But God knows. And when he laid down his life, God saw it, and the Lord marked the place. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15]. God sees.
To me there’s not a more solemn or sacred emblem in America than the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, our national cemetery. Haven’t you been there? Have you read that sign on that sarcophagus? “Here in honored glory lies an American soldier…” and aren’t you glad for that last line: “…known to God”? “Here in honored glory lies an American soldier known but to God.” He knows. He sees. He was there. And it moves God’s heart to see His people suffer and die. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints,” precious [Psalm 116:15].
Dear people, by comparison let me show you that word, what God is saying. In the majestic first chapter of Genesis, God did this, and the Lord did that, and the Lord made the whole glorious creation [Genesis 1:1-30]; and when the Lord did this, He looked upon it and saw that it was good [Genesis 1:12]. And when the Lord did that He looked upon it and saw it was good [Genesis 1:18]. And when the Lord did it all He looked upon it and said, “It is very good” [Genesis 1:31]. But no time in that marvelous, majestic first chapter of creation will you find it said, “And the Lord looked upon it and saw that it was precious.” He just didn’t do it, and it’s not in the Book. Why then does the Lord say this is precious: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15].
Why, Lord, I think the opposite: death is an interloper; it was not intended. Death is contrary; God never intended it and planned it. Death, in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians [1 Corinthians 15:26], is called “an enemy of God.” Death is an enemy. And I live in that kind of a world. And all the pretty songs that are sung and all the pretty flowers that are brought cannot cover that awesome, horrible, ghastly visage of the waste of death. Death is contrary to God, an enemy of God; death destroys the work of the Lord. And yet the Book says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15]. What does he mean?
Here are some of the things that he means. “Precious in the sight of God is the death of His saints.” Here is one: it is in death that the martyrs glorify God. You know, it’s an unusual feeling when you take that New Testament and read it in Greek, and you come across that word “martyr,” martus, martyr, martyr, martyr, just a common ordinary Greek word, martyr, martyr. Well, when I read the word “martyr” I think of someone who’s laid down his life. He’s a martyr. He’s been burned at the stake, or he’s been drowned, or he’s been crucified, or he’s rotting in a dungeon; he’s a martyr! But in the New Testament, it’s just an ordinary Greek word meaning “witness, testifier, witness.” And you know from history how the word “witness” came to mean one who laid down his life: for those early Christians, they sealed their testimony with their blood and with their life; and the word martus, martyr, witness, came to mean somebody who died for the Lord. That’s the triumph and the glory, that’s the hero of faith: Stephen, and Paul, and Ignatius, and Polycarp, and Savonarola, and Tyndale, and John Huss, and Hubmaier, and Manz, and thousands of others who shall glorify God’s name in history and in eternity. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15].
Why precious? Because this is the great victory of Jesus: He came into the world to destroy the works of the devil [1 John 3:8], and the number one work of Satan is the sowing of the seeds of death. And into that dark region did our Lord Himself go and grapple with that vicious, vile, venomous monster, and overcame him! [2 Timothy 1:10].
And again, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15]. My brother, this is the occasion for God’s grandest, greatest, most glorious miracle, namely; the resurrection from among the dead [1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17].
I am such a literalist in believing the Word of God, that to me the resurrection of the dead means that God will take these very atoms, and these very molecules, and re-create, immortalize, resurrect this very body, this one, this one. Not some other body, this body. I believe in the literal resurrection of the dead. I think the body of our Lord was His body. It was the Lord Jesus Himself immortalized, glorified, resurrected, raised [Matthew 28:1-7]; even had scars in it. There were the stigmata in His hands, and there was the riven scar in His side [John 20:25-27; Luke 24:36-40]. It was the same Lord Jesus. I believe in the miracle of God in the resurrection of His saints from among the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]. That’s the greatest miracle yet to be. If God did it, it’s mystery and it’s miracle. That’s the signature of God. And the great, final, ultimate, glorious miracle of the Lord will be this: when God shall raise us up from among the dead [1Thessalonians 4:14-17]. That’s why, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” [Psalm 116:15].
Last, fourth: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all of His goodnesses toward me?” [Psalm 116:12]. Fourth: “I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving” [Psalm 116:17]. “I will praise God for His goodnesses” [Psalm 116:17]. Isn’t this a beautiful verse in the Book of Hebrews? “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” [Hebrews 13:15]. Bless God for His goodnesses to us! Thank the Lord for His remembrance of us! “I shall offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving” [Psalm 116:17].
A poem from England, evidently written by a dear, consecrated Christian woman:
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 wore a crutch,
But as she passed, a smile.
O God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two legs the world is mine.
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 tarried and 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’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, 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,
Ears to hear what I want to know,
O God, forgive me when I whine;
I am blessed indeed, the earth is mine.
[“The World is Mine,” Joy Lovelet Crawford]
I am rich. What would I take for my eyes? What would I take for my ears? What would I take for my hands? What would I take for my feet? I am a multi-billionaire: I would not sell them for all the substance in the earth.
What would I take for you? What would I take for the church? What would I take for Jesus? What would I take for my hope in glory? Am I not rich? And shall I not return to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving? [Psalm 116:17].
Bless You, Lord. Thank You, Jesus; both for me and for mine. Thank You, Lord, forever and as long as I live. And if You give me an eternity, Lord, it won’t be time yet enough to say thank You, Lord, for what You have done for me.
Do you feel that way? Do you? Yes, we do.
And in a moment we shall stand and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, does God say something to you? Does He invite you? Does He speak to you? If He does, answer with your life, come. In the balcony round, you, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, you, come today. A family, a couple, just you, “Pastor, I’m giving my heart to God today [Romans 10:9-10]. I’m taking the Lord as my Savior; drinking the cup of salvation, and here I come.” “Pastor, we’re putting our lives in the fellowship of this dear church, and here we come.” “We’re just giving our lives anew to the Lord,” you come. As God would open the door and press the appeal to your heart, make it this morning. In your heart, make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, you stand up coming down one of these stairways, into the aisle and here to the front. “Here I am, pastor, I’m coming now.” Do it, while we stand and while we sing.