The Life of Praise and Thanksgiving
September 18th, 1983 @ 8:15 AM
A LIFE OF PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-18-83 8:15 a.m.
Thank you, young people, that is a beautiful song. Thank you, orchestra. And God bless the great multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us on the radio. You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled A Life of Praise and Thanksgiving. It is the last and the seventh in the section on economology, in the great series covering about three years on the doctrines of the Bible. This is the section on giving.
Our background text will be Psalm 96, verses 1 through 9. The ninety-sixth Psalm, Psalm 96:
O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth.
Sing unto the Lord, bless His name; show forth His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all people.
For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised,
Honor and majesty are before Him: strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come into His courts.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before Him, reverence Him, all the earth.
You could easily see why a message with a background text like that would be entitled A Life of Praise and Thanksgiving.
Israel responded to the Lord their God with songs, and with praise, and with gratitude, and with thanksgiving. Their response to God was always that. You see it in their moments of triumph and glory; in the Book of Exodus, the song of Moses – referred to in the fifteenth chapter of the Revelation, when we’re going to sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb – the song of Moses was a song of gratitude and triumph after the deliverance at the Red Sea, antiphonally responded to by Miriam and all the women of Israel; in the Book of Exodus, in the Book of Judges, the song of Deborah, after the marvelous victory over Caesarea and the Canaanites; in the Book of Chronicles, in the dedication of the temple, the glory of that hour and those days, full of thanksgiving and praise to God; that was Israel’s response to the Lord.
You see it in the Book of Psalms, when we will start, say, at Psalm 145: "I will extol Thee, my God, O King: and I will bless Thy name for ever and ever." Psalm 146: "Praise ye the Lord," that’s the translation of the Hebrew "Hallelujah," "Praise the Lord, O my soul." Psalm 147: "Praise ye the Lord: it is good to sing praises unto our God; it is pleasant; and praise is comely." Psalm 148: "Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise Him in the heights." Psalm 1: "Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise ino the congregation of saints." Psalm 150, the closing one, that’s all it is: "Praise ye the Lord. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord." Hallelujah! That’s Israel’s response to God.
You see it also in the Levitical offerings. There were five of them: two of them commanded, the sin offering against God, the trespass offering against our neighbors; those two offerings were commanded. But the other three, the burnt offering, the peace offering, the meal offering were called "sweet savor offerings." That is, they were voluntary. They were not commanded.
When a man just out of the fullness of his heart and the gratitude of his soul brought an offering to the Lord, God said it was a sweet savor, it was a fragrance coming up to Him; and it pleased the Lord, a sweet savor offering. What you call a peace offering, translated "peace offering" in the King James Version of the Bible, actually it was a thanksgiving offering. It was a gratitude offering. It was a praise offering, and almost all the offerings that the people brought before the Lord were sweet savor offerings. They were praise offerings, thanksgiving offerings.
You see that response to God in the life of Israel in their feasts. There were nine of them, and only one of them was a solemn fast, Yom Kippur. The rest of the eight, such as Passover, or Pentecost, or Tabernacles, or Dedication, Hanukkah, or Purim, all of them were joyous moments of gratitude and praise to God. You see it also in the worship services of the people of Israel.
Solomon built before the temple, separate and apart from it, two great beautifully ornamented columns. On the right was Boaz, and on the left was Jachin [1 Kings 7:21]; and the priests who represented the people, and the high priest who had on his breast the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, when they worshiped God they walked between those two great columns. They were – and I have as many translations of Boaz and Jachin as you have words in the language – but I think these are typical of them: "honor and majesty are before Him, honor and majesty"; or, "strength and beauty are in His sanctuary, give unto the Lord glory and honor." That was Israel; they came before the Lord with sweet savor offerings, Christian gratitude and glory and thanksgiving. That was their response to God.
Now our response also is just like that: coming before the Lord with sweet savor offerings, out of gratitude, out of thanksgiving, out of praise, out of an infinite, infinite gratitude to God for His abounding goodnesses to us, the Christian extra, voluntary, not commanded, just out of the fullness of our hearts, just because I love You. I think of that in my own life as a pastor. If somebody, for example, bakes a cake for me, or makes a jar of pickles for me, and gives it to me out of necessity, because I’m hungry, what you ought to do is to go to the deacons, and go to the budget committee, and say, "You’re not taking care of your pastor. You’re starving him to death. He doesn’t have enough to eat, and I’m giving him this in order for him to have bread on the table, or for him to have something to eat at the house." You ought to go to the deacons and the budget committee about that. How infinitely better is it if the church takes care of the pastor, and somebody does something for the pastor, and they do it out of the fullness of their hearts, just voluntary, "Pastor, baked this cake for you, just because I love you"; or, "giving you this just because I’m grateful to God for you"; a sweet savor offering.
When I was a young preacher, just starting, and people that were very poor would give me something, I wouldn’t take it. I wouldn’t take it. I learned when I was as youth, don’t ever do that. That hurts them and it makes it seem as though you’re unappreciative. So what I learned to do as a youth was, when somebody very, very poor gave me something, I just received it, "O Lord, how grateful and thankful I am"; then on the side and beyond, I would do something in return for them. But the voluntary sweet savor sacrifice was precious.
The same thing is true with regard to your wife. If you give a gift out of necessity, out of commandment, out of need, well, there’s nothing wrong with it. For example, you’re going to give her an anniversary gift, going to give her a scrub board, you’re going to give her a tub, you’re going to give her a new iron, you’re going to give her a new skillet, you’re going to give her a new washing machine, well, that’s all right, out of necessity, out of need. But how infinitely better to give a gift of a sweet savor offering: a new dress, or a necklace, or earrings, or a piece of jewelry, or take her to dinner, or to a vacation, something extra.
Now, God is exactly like that. When we come before God out of commandment, the Lord is pleased with that. It’s very evident that He is. When Abraham came before the priest of the most high God, El Elyon, and gave to Melchizedek a tithe of all that he had [Genesis 14:20], God was happy, I’m sure. When Israel, when Jacob said, "Out of everything You give me, I will give the tenth to Thee" [Genesis 28:22], I am sure God was delighted. And in the Book of Leviticus, the last chapter of Leviticus, God says, "The tithe is the Lord’s" [Leviticus 27:30]; and Israel was taught by commandment that the tithe belonged to God; it’s a debt we owe to Him. And when we pay the debt, the Lord is pleased.
Jesus said, in Matthew 23:23, talking about these Pharisees who so meticulously tithe, "These things ye ought to have done, that is right." And in Hebrews 7:8, "Here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth." Now, God is pleased with that. He is happy with that, and He says so. God rewards the man who is faithful in that indebtedness, who pays the tithe. Malachi 3:10 says, "The man that does that, I will open for him the windows of heaven, and pour him out a blessing that there is not room enough to receive it." Now, God is pleased with that. Righteous Job received twice of everything that he had lost in the financial disaster that overwhelmed him [Job 42:12]. But, if I can understand the Bible at all, as much as God is pleased with what we are commanded to do in our obedience, it seems to me that the Lord is doubly delighted and doubly pleased when our offering is a sweet savor offering: when it is voluntary, when it comes out of the deepest thanksgiving and gratitude of our hearts, the Christian extra, the over and beyond.
I think Jesus illustrates it in something that He said. In the fifth chapter of Matthew, in the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord says, "If a man compels you to go with him a mile, go with him twain, go with him two miles" [Matthew 5:41]. Now, what He is referring to is a law in the Roman Empire that the soldier, the Roman soldier, wherever he was, he could conscript, he could coerce any citizen to carry his pack, to carry his luggage, to carry the things that a soldier would carry. He could compel the man just by coercion to carry it a mile, a Roman mile. So there in Judea, where the people were subject to the Roman legion, why, a Roman soldier would be walking down the road and see a Jew over here, and by law he could say to that Jew, "Here, you come and carry this pack for a mile." Now the Lord says, "You can walk behind that Roman soldier and curse him and hate him, despise him contemptuously, follow him and carry that pack for a mile. But how much better," says the Lord, if when the Roman soldier says, "Here you, come and carry this pack," instead of walking behind him cursing him and hating him, how much better to walk by his side and say, "My name is Simon. What’s your name? And I live in the village of Charim, and where do you live? And do you have a wife? And do you have any children? And how do you fare? And how are you coming along?" and talk to him, and tell him about the Lord maybe. Then when you come to the end of the coercive mile, the Roman mile, say to him, "Could I walk with you a second mile and talk to you about the things of the Lord?" It changes the whole world; the Christian extra, the sweet savor offering, the over and above and beyond.
I think the same thing is illustrated in the Book of Luke, when the Lord saw ten lepers and He healed them, and under commandment according to the Levitical law they were to go to the priests, and that’s what the Lord commanded them to do: "This by commandment, you go to the priest," and the rest of those levitical ablutions. Well, one of them came back and fell down at the feet of the Lord, and the Bible says, "He glorified God for his healing" [Leviticus 17:15]; the Christian extra, the over and beyond. He didn’t have to come back. He didn’t have to thank God; he was on the way by commandment. He did that out of his soul, out of his heart, and the Lord noticed it, and it pleased Him. Now, that’s what pleases God aboundingly. When we do by commandment, say, "This tithe belongs to God, it’s a debt I owe," that’s wonderful, and the Lord blesses it. But how much and how infinitely sweeter and better is it over and beyond and extra, an offering to the Lord not commanded; just out of the fullness of our hearts.
In preparing this message, I came across one of the most astonishing things I ever read in my life. The pastor said to his men, "We can’t find anybody to be the sexton for the church, to be the janitorial cleaner-up of the church. Now, I don’t know anything to do but to hire that fellow Anderson, that young fellow Anderson." And the men said, "Well, he is the sorriest no-accountest, good-for-nothingest somebody in this town, but," the pastor said, "I don’t know anybody else." So they kept on searching, and finally they hired that ne’er-do-well Anderson. So he accepted the job, and he was the janitor, he was the sexton of the church.
Well, as time went on, people noticed a change in him. He began to clean himself up, to dress up. And he began to keep the church meticulously, shining well – just as we’re going to do this coming Saturday – he polished it; it shined, it was wonderful. And he began to attend the services of the worship hour, sitting on the back, and finally came out toward the front, and one day went to the pastor’s home and said he wanted to give his life to Jesus and accept the Lord as his Savior. And he came down the aisle the following Sunday and joined the church by confession of faith and was baptized. Then, as time went on, he came to the pastor, and he said, "Pastor, could I be entrusted with a group of little Sunday school boys and teach them the Word of God?" So he became a teacher in the Sunday school, teaching junior boys.
The pastor moved away and was gone ten years. And at the end of ten years, they invited the pastor back for some kind of an anniversary celebration. And the chairman of the deacons met the pastor at the train, and taking him in his car, said, "You’re going to be the guest in the home," and with a twinkle in his eye, the deacon said, "and his name is Mr. Anderson." And the pastor said, "The only Anderson I know was that ne’er-do-well whom we hired janitor, sexton of the church. That’s the only Anderson I know."
"He’s the one," said the deacon, "he’s the one." And when they got to the beautiful home, he wasn’t there; he had to attend a board meeting of the First National Bank. Well, when the pastor got acquainted with the Anderson family anew, he was the president of the First National Bank in the town and the most loved and respected of all of the citizens in the town. The pastor was overwhelmed. What had happened was an uncle found out about the marvelous Christian change in the life of his ne’er-do-well nephew, and had left him a large sum in his will. And the young Anderson had taken it, and had done well with it, and was now the president of the First National Bank; the most loved and respected of all the citizens in the town and in the county around. Now that is the story. But what impressed me was this: as the president of the First National Bank, he continued to teach his little class of junior boys, and he continued to be sexton and janitor of the church, as the president of the First National Bank.
So the pastor said, "I never heard of anything like this. You now affluent and president of the bank, and you’re the janitor of the church." And Anderson replied to the old pastor, "Yes sir. It’s the best way I know how to thank God for cleaning up my life and making it shine for Jesus. And when I clean up the church, it’s just that gratitude to God for what He has done for me." How do you like that? I say that’s great. That pleases the Lord. It’s that extra, it’s that something over and beyond.
And how much more beautiful is it when it involves a sacrifice? Psalm 116:12, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will offer to Thee," verse 17, "the sacrifice of thanksgiving." The sacrifice; how much more pleasing is it to God when the Christian extra, when the over and above involves a sacrifice?
When I was a youth in school, I went to hear Fritz Kreisler play the violin. At that time, he was the most famous violinist in the world, Fritz Kreisler, born in Vienna, reared in Vienna, one of the great musicians of the world. I listened to that Viennese play the violin. I was enthralled! I just clapped and applauded. I don’t how many encores, but every one of his encores, he played beautiful music that he had written, violin pieces. In the after years, I read this – I wish I had known it when I was there – I tell you, had I know this, I would not only have clapped and applauded, I would have stood up if I’d have been the only one there standing up, I would have stood up and applauded. I copied this from Fritz Kreisler:
I was born with music in my soul. I knew musical scores instinctively before I knew my ABCs. It was a gift of providence. I did not acquire it, so I do not even deserve thanks for music that came from God. Music is too sacred to be sold. I never look upon money that I earn as my own. It is only a fund entrusted to my care for proper distribution. I am constantly endeavoring to reduce my needs to the minimum. I feel morally guilty in ordering a costly meal, for it deprives someone else of a slice of bread; some child, perhaps, of a bottle of milk. You know what I eat. You know what I wear. In all these years of my so-called success in music, we have not built a home for ourselves. Between it and us stand all the homeless in the world.
I just can’t imagine a man like that. Never order a costly meal; there are too many who are hungry. Never own a home; there are too many who are homeless. Everything given to him, he gives it to somebody else.
"What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving." It’s a different world, isn’t it? That Christian extra, that voluntary sweet savor offering before God, it moves my heart even to think about it. I have to close.
Somebody said, "What did you do yesterday? What did you do yesterday?" And the man replied, "Oh, I had a full day. Yesterday, Monday, I taught in a CBI, in a class in our Center of Biblical Studies. And on Tuesday, I was down in the Rio Grande Valley working in a Vacation Bible school. And on Wednesday, I was in the Amazon jungle telling those people about the Lord. And on Thursday, I was operating in a hospital in Ogbomosho, Nigeria. And on Friday, I was building a church in the Philippines. And on Saturday, I was holding a street meeting in the Japanese city of Tokyo. And on Sunday, I was distributing Bibles in South Korea.
And the man looked at him in amazement and said, "Why, even in this jet age you couldn’t do that!" And the man said, "Oh yes, oh yes, because Sunday I gave an offering in the First Baptist Church of Dallas, and that’s just one of a multitude of things that I’m doing every day for Jesus." That’s great. That’s the Lord. That’s the sweet savor offering, pleasing to God.
We’re going to stand in a minute and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family, a couple, or just you, "Pastor, God has spoken to my heart, and this day I’m coming to Jesus." It’s the light, it’s the glory, it’s the most marvelous way that one could ever know in the pilgrimage of this life; and welcome. "I want to give my heart to the Lord," or "I want to be baptized according to His Word," or "I want to put my life in the circle of this dear church, and we’re coming, pastor." Do it, on the first note of the first stanza, and a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing; while we sing our song. "This is God’s time and God’s hour for me, and I’m on the way." God bless you, dear. God bless you.
THE LIFE OF PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING: THE CHRISTIAN EXTRA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Israelites responded to God with praise and thanksgiving
A. Response to great and victorious events
B. Seen in the Passover
C. Levitical offerings
E. Washing ceremonies
II. Our life of praise and gratitude
A. Sweet savor offering
B. Our offerings, gifts to God