Thanksgiving Sermon on Psalm 67
Text: May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us — 2 so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
3 May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you. 4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth. 5 May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.
6 The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us. 7 May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.
Today we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. It is proper for us to set aside this day to pause and thank our God for all of the blessings that he has given to us. Part of our thanksgiving is contemplation. We take the opportunity to think about how truly blessed we are. The other part of thanksgiving is to be filled with joy at all of God’s blessings. We stop and praise our God for all that he has done for us. As we study the text before us, we see that “praise” is the central theme of the psalm. Not once, but twice, all the world is called upon to praise our God. On this Thanksgiving Day, we join this encouragement and sing MAY THE PEOPLES PRAISE YOU, O GOD 1. For The Harvest That Has Been Brought In and 2. For The Harvest That Will Be Brought In.
Psalm 67 is a very fitting section for us to look at today. There are three times in these seven verses that the psalmist speaks of God’s blessings. For example, we look at verse 6, “The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us.” It’s kind of interesting to note this psalm’s place in the book of Psalms. In Psalm 65, two psalms earlier, the psalmist praises God for the crops that were in the field and the way that God watered them and cared for them. Now, in Psalm 67, the harvest has happened. The growing season had come to an end and the crops were brought in.
This is something that many of you can appreciate. You planted your crops in the spring. There may have been some setbacks as that took place, but the seeds were planted. You watched as they grew. You prayed that the Lord would water your fields and take care of them. Now, most, if not all, of you have finished your harvesting. It is amazing to me to see the yields that God gives. When you drive past the elevators, you even see mounds of grain on the ground, waiting to be trucked elsewhere. It is easy for us to sing with the psalmist, “The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us.”
The same could easily be said for those of us who are not directly involved with farming. The fact that we have the opportunity and the ability to work and earn a paycheck is a blessing that comes from God. All of us can speak of the physical blessings that God has showered us with. In a few moments, we will be reminded of some of them as we speak the words of the explanation of the First Article of the Apostles Creed. We will highlight such things as the food and drink that nourish our bodies, the roof over our heads, and the protection that God gives to us. As we are reminded of all of these things, it is easy for us to want to praise God.
There are still greater blessings that can be highlighted for us. In verse 1, we read: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us.” These words are similar to the blessing that God told Aaron to pronounce upon the people and that we hear at the end of some of our worship services: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.” There is a slight difference in the two verses. In the blessing that is spoken at the end of the service, the direction is from God to us. Here in Psalm 67, the thought is that God is among us with his blessing. This, truly, is our greatest blessing, for it showcases the grace and mercy of God. It certainly isn’t one that we deserved. We are reminded of this in verse 4, “You rule the peoples with equity.” Here we are reminded of the fact that God is a just God. He will judge all people according to his holy standards, not showing partiality to anyone. He holds all people to the standard of perfection. If you and I were left to our own devices, we would be judged and declared “Guilty.” There is much evidence to convict us. For example, today is a day of thanksgiving. Can we always say that we are thankful for everything that God brings into our lives? He richly blesses us, but we complain that it’s not good enough or exactly what we wanted when we wanted it. Rather than giving credit to God for all that we have, we start to think that everything that we have is a result of our hard work. These are just a few examples of sins that we commit. Because God is a just God, we deserve to hear that guilty verdict.
However, our God is also a God who has been gracious to us and blessed us. He sent his own Son into the world to bring us back to himself. Jesus came to be our Savior. This meant that he would live a perfect life in our place. Everything that he had while he was here on this earth, he received with thanksgiving. He didn’t complain that life wasn’t fair. He lived a perfect life in our place. Because our God is a just God, Jesus went to the cross where the penalty for our sins was exacted. He suffered the torments of hell in our place. Our debt to God has been paid in full. We know that payment was accepted, because Jesus rose from the dead. Instead of seeing the face of a just God, who is angry with us on account of our sins, we see a God who looks at us with love. We are his dearly loved children. God has richly blessed us. He has blessed us with the harvest that has been brought in, a harvest of physical blessings and a greater harvest of spiritual blessings, such a forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life. For these reasons, it is fitting that we raise our voices in praise to God.
The psalmist, as he looks at the harvest that has been brought in, sees another blessing that flows from it. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us — so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.” (Verses 1&2) He prays that, as the nations surrounding them saw all of the blessings that God gave to Israel, they would want to learn more about Israel’s God. They would learn God’s ways.
The same is true as we talk to others about the blessings that God has given us. We don’t show off what we have in a bragging fashion. Rather, we give credit where credit is due. We talk about the blessings that God has given us. This gives us the opportunity to highlight the greatest blessings that God showers upon us. Then, we can point them to the Way. The world is in constant search of trying to find a way to get right with God and quiet troubled consciences. They try this way and that, but never find the relief that they are looking for. You have the opportunity to tell about the one Way to salvation and rest for their souls.
There is another benefit to being as physically blessed as we are. None of us has to scrounge around, trying to find the basics of existence. We aren’t worrying about what we will eat or where we will sleep, etc. This frees us up to giving our attention to telling others about Jesus and what he has done for them. We have the opportunity to use some of the physical blessings that we have been given to support gospel ministry both at home and around the world. This is the prayer that the psalmist concludes with: “May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.” (Verse 7) This psalm, in addition to reminding us of the many blessings that we have received, is also a Mission Prayer. May God continue to bless us, so that we might go and tell others about God’s amazing love. This is the future harvest for which we praise our God.
It is only natural that, when someone does something nice for you or gives you a special gift, that you thank that person. Often, we will tell others what they did for us. In essence, we praise them to others. Today and always, may we do just that. God has richly blessed us. He has given us everything that we need for this life. He has given us everything that we need for the life to come. We pause and thank God for his many blessings. May we also praise him by telling others what he has done for us and done for them. We do this while we are here on this earth, until that day when all people will join together in praising God for all eternity. On this Thanksgiving, it is our prayer, “May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.” Amen.
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