St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

We Give Thanks For The Kingdom Of God

Thanksgiving Sermon on Psalm 117

Text: Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.
2 For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD.

On Thanksgiving, it is normal to pause and thank God for all of the ways that he has blessed us. Usually, the first things that come to our minds are the many physical blessings that we have been given. The list goes on and on in this regard. From the food in our stomachs to the roof over our heads to the clothes on our backs to our means of income, we have to admit that we have been truly blessed. We join with those in our country to pause and give thanks. However, we realize that, as wonderful as these blessings are, they are not the most important. We thank our God for all of the spiritual blessings that he has showered upon us. Today, we are going to focus on one specific blessing that we have been made a part of. WE GIVE THANKS FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD. We thank God for 1. Its Strong Foundation, 2. Its Inclusiveness and 3. Its Endurance.

Every kingdom needs to be stable. Otherwise, it will quickly fall. The kingdom of God has a very strong foundation. It is made up of two parts. The psalmist writes, “Great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.” The first part of this foundation is God’s great love toward us. When we think of the word “love,” we think of having a strong attraction to something. We think of our spouse, our parents, or our children. We are part of a family, so we love one another. We also use the word “love” for something that is near and dear to our hearts. We love to watch TV. We love to eat turkey. We love our sports team. We use the word “love” in many different ways.

However, all of those ways that we use to define “love” fall far short of the love that God has shown to us. The word for love here has the idea of a choosing to love. It is a love that reaches out to the object of affection. We might use the word “grace” to describe the love that is spoken of here. That would certainly be fitting when it comes to God’s feelings toward us. We did not deserve to be shown God’s love. Instead, we deserved his wrath for our sins. The list of our sins goes on and on. Today, we might especially think of the times when we have not been content with what God has given us. We complain about what we do have and we complain about what we do not have. We are quick to ask God for things, but ever so slow at remembering to thank him for all that we have been given. Sometimes, we forget that all that we have and enjoy comes from God. Things are going well and we pat ourselves on the back for all of the hard work that we have done. For our ingratitude and complaining, we should be separated from our God for all eternity.

It is here that the word “love” shows itself in all of its beauty. Where we deserved God’s wrath, instead he chose to love us. His love moved him to send his Son into the world to be our Savior. Jesus chose to love us so much that he willingly came to this earth to do all that was necessary to save us. He followed his Father’s will throughout his life, including going to the cross. There he suffered the punishment of hell. He was punished in our place. His resurrection from the dead was the final crushing defeat for sin, death, and the devil. In his love, he shares that victory with us. Through the faith that the Holy Spirit creates in our hearts, we become a part of this kingdom of God. We thank God for his grace, for we can be sure of our salvation. If it depended on us, we would certainly be lost forever. Because of God’s grace, we know that we are saved.

The other part of this sure, solid foundation of the kingdom of God is spoken of when the psalmist writes, “the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.” We are reminded of the fact that God will never leave us or forsake us, when we hear the word “faithfulness.” It is interesting to note that the word for faithfulness in the Hebrew has the idea of “truth.” We could also translate this part of the verse as “the truth of the LORD endures forever.” When God says something in his Word, you can count on it. Mankind goes running after this and that, trying to find something that is the truth. They try science or philosophy or self-help guides. The problem with all of these so-called truths is that they are not based on something that is solid. Science changes with each new discovery. Philosophy may help me ask the questions, but I never find the answers. Self-help principles change depending on what is the latest craze.

However, “the truth of the LORD endures forever.” When God says it in his Word, it is the truth. Jesus says this in John 17:17, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” So, when God tells me that he created the world in six twenty-four hour days, I know it is true, because he tells me so in his Word. When he tells me about angels, though I have never seen them, I know that they are there. What is more important, when it comes to my salvation, I do not have to worry that God is going to change his mind and say that there is still something that I must do to be saved. If that were the case, I would always wonder if I was doing it correctly or will there be future conditions that I must meet. When he tells me that those who believe in Jesus as their Savior will be saved, I know that it is true. The truth of the LORD is part of the foundation of his kingdom, which he has made me a part of. We thank God for the sure foundation of his kingdom.

Psalm 117 was sung at the time of the Passover celebration in the nation of Israel. We remember that the Passover marked the time when God, in a miraculous way, rescued the nation of Israel from their slavery in Egypt. For this reason, this time was not only a time of thankfulness, but also of national pride. It was a time when the people would pause and thank God for all of the blessings that he had given to their nation. Yet, this psalm reminded the people that the blessings that God had in mind were not only for the people of Israel. It says in the first verse, “Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.” The LORD is not a God for the nation of Israel alone. He is the one and only God for all people.

This verse also gives us great reason to give thanks today. I am quite sure most, if not all, of us are not of Jewish descendent. If the promises of God were just for the Jewish people, we would be out of luck. We would be lost forever. However, the Lord is not just the Lord of one nation or one people. He is the Lord of all. He is the Savior for all nations. Paul says the same thing in 1 Timothy 2:4, when he says that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” God does not discriminate when it comes to a person’s nationality or ethnicity or gender. He wants all people to be saved. Jesus came to die for all people. This includes you and me. We thank God that his kingdom is big enough to include us, as well.

We look forward to the time when God is honored under every sky and his name is praised in every language. This is partially realized right now. There are people around the world whom you have never met, yet they are your brothers and sisters in the faith. They may have different languages or songs of praise, yet they join with you in praising our God for the fact that Jesus is their Savior, as well. We thank God for the inclusiveness of his kingdom. We also pray that many more might come to know and trust in Jesus as their only hope for salvation. We want this song of praise to get louder and louder.

As I said, this praise is partially realized now. It will be fully realized in heaven, which brings us to the third reason that we thank God for his kingdom. We thank God for the fact that his kingdom will last forever. Many nations and empires have come and gone since the creation of the world. There have been great civilizations that have risen to the forefront of the world’s stage. We might think of the Roman Empire, for example. They were the leading power at the time. They had a vast empire. They influenced life around them. They were responsible for many achievements in many different areas of science, language, and architecture. Yet, they eventually fell. Now, all you see of their civilization are ruins, giving silent testimony of their empire.

However, as the psalmist reminds us that the kingdom of God is “to everlasting.” There is so little in our world that we know will last and last. We do not need to be concerned whether or not God’s kingdom is still going to be around. This kingdom comes from God, who is eternal. He will not end, nor will his powers decrease with age. This kingdom comes from God and meets all of the deep needs of mankind. It brings pardon for his sin, peace to his burdened heart, comfort in his sorrow, sanctity to his joy, steadfastness in time of temptation, reliability to his life, and hope in the hour of his death. The blessings of being a part of this kingdom are partially realized now. We will completely enjoy them for all eternity. In the book of Revelation, we hear the songs of triumph from heaven’s residents, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” We thank our God that his kingdom will last and last. We thank God for the endurance of his kingdom.

We are proud to be called American. There is a sense of national pride that is ours. Our country is another of the blessings for which we give thanks to God today. We also thank God that he has made us a part of his heavenly kingdom. Its foundation is sure. God loved us so much that he made us a part of it. We pray that his kingdom would grow as more and more people are brought into it through faith in Jesus Christ. We thank God that his kingdom will last forever. This is one more thing that we thank God for today. Amen.