Give Thanks to God
Psalm 107 (Rev. Ahn Choongsik)
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say this– those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, 3 those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south. 4 Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. 5 They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. 6 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 7 He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. 8 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men,
Welcome Rev. Ahn Choongsik
This is today, between Thanksgiving (last Thursday in November) and Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day). This is a time to wait for the coming Jesus Christ. During this time, some people of faith fast, don’t eat meat, don’t pleasure themselves in some way, but pray for dependence and purity.
You may know this prayer/hymn about the long awaited news:
O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel…
To us the path of knowledge show and cause us in her way to go.
O Come desire of nations, and bind all peoples in one heart and mind…
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
In the history of Israel, they had been waiting for the Messiah for hundreds of years. Isaiah prophesied, “A child is born to us and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace.” The Lord is determined to do all this. He is the reason that people of faith should examine our pasts as well as our futures to receive him.
Because of receiving Jesus Christ, John the Baptist said, “Turn from your sins, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
What is sin? A wrong relationship with God. How many people today have a right relationship with God? Who brought us out of slavery?
Too many Christians seek a God who provides Material Possessions. Too many Christians worship idols (Baal – in old Israel, Jezebel worshiped and brought his idols into Israel). The Israelites worshiped the gods of the Gentiles and the ruler of the country used the religion as a means to control his people. Jeroboam worried about his people going back to the other kind Rehoboam (1 Kings). He thought if they had to go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, they might go back to Israel and follow Rehoboam (this was at the time that Israel was divided into Israel and Judah). Rehoboam led Israel and Jeroboam led Judah. So, he set up idols (two calves) for the people to worship in Judah.
However, the Lord was angry with this and sent them into exile in Babylon, Assyria, and Syria for 70 years.
“Comfort my people” says the Lord, “Tell them they suffered long enough and I have forgiven them. I have punished them enough for their sins.” (Psalm 105 mentions the eternal love and forgiveness of the Lord).
All of these events lead up to the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah concerning the Messiah.
Jeremiah says, “I will show you wonderous things you cannot know. I will purify them from the sins they committed against me. And I will forgive their sins and rebellion.”
This is not because of the righteousness and worthiness of the Israelites, but his grace, Deut. 7:7 “The Lord didn’t choose you because you outnumbered the other peoples, but the Lord loved you and wanted to keep the promise he made to your ancestors. This is why he saved you from the king of Egypt. Remember this: That the Lord your God is the ONLY God and that he is faithful.”
Sung MyungHee = a poet, 1953? born
Doctor’s mistake = her brain stopped for a whole afternoon when she was only one week old.
Because of her parents’ financial burden, she couldn’t get any care. So, the first 17 years of her life was absolutely miserable – suffering in pain in all parts of her body.
Finally, she found hope and purpose in Jesus. She had no formal education – even elementary level. Because of this, writing was not an easy thing to do, but she began to write anyway.
Despite all of this, she’s written 25 volumes of poetry so far.
Here is one of her most popular poems. I did my best to translate this into English – try to understand the gist of this:
Even I don’t have any treasures, no knowledge, no health that other people have, but I have something that others don’t have, what they can’t see. I heard the voice others couldn’t hear. I experienced the love and wonder of God that others couldn’t. I don’t have the things other people have. God, help me have the love you have that other people don’t have.
#2: We should sing thanks to God all together as a people
The Lord brought us up out of a foreign country. Did he do it because we were righteous or faithful or obedient? NO, just he loved us.
For the married couples:
- What was the criteria to choose your spouse?
Maybe model beauty, smooth skin, big muscles, tight waist. If God used the same conditions, we would NOT now be his children.
Remember the prophecy that God told Samuel? He said to go to Bethlehem and choose one of seven sons of Jesse to annoint as the next king of Israel. He immediately thought “Surely the biggest, oldest, strongest is the one God has chosen.” The Lord said, “Nope~ I don’t judge as men judge – you look at his face and muscles, I look at his heart.”
Isaiah, “My thoughts are not like yours, and my ways are higher than yours.”
He has something different to see, some different way to look at us. This is why God’s salvation is his MOST PRECIOUS work.
I was a teenager in North Korea. One month in April, I met two South Koreans in the West Sea on an island. The same two brought my father to that island just two weeks sooner.
I had to choose whether or not to stay in North Korean or try to escape with them to the island.
After a few weeks, I realized what a refugee’s life was like: not enough food, no extra clothes, no dwelling place.
Later I met a South Korean student: He was so proud of his uniform and fancy hat, and the shoeshine boys who shined his shoes. I totally didn’t understand – I was like an alien in outer space. But now, I’m so thankful for who I am and what I’m doing. This is all because of God’s blessing.
I’m sure you also have heard the Thanksgiving story of the pilgrims – from England to America. During the voyage, 102 people struggled against wind, waves, disease, lost loved ones. Finally, they arrived on Dec. 21 in America.
Surely only winter and hunger would welcome them. Even on the last day of hopelessness, Spring would come. With the help of the Native Americans, they cultivated the wilderness and planted corn and shared something together.
Because of these serious difficulties, the crisis situation, they were so disappointed, and frustrated, they did praying and fasting, but their minds and hearts were not changed so much.
One farmer stood up and said, “Dear friends, we crossed the Atlantic Ocean and lost many friends. But God has provided more than we expected. We planted, he provided. Let us stop fasting and change our minds and hearts and be thankful to God.” They did. And invited the Native Americans, and they celebrated the first Thanksgiving together.
This shows the mercy and liberation of God from a crisis situation. This is a communal festivity. Psalm “Sing to the Lord all the nations, sing to the Lord with joy,… he made us and we belong to him, he made us and we are his flock.”
Nelson Mandela – in jail 27 times because he was opposed to apartheid. One journalist asked what his motivation was. He replied, “I don’t want a black country. I don’t want a white country. I want a country for all the people.” This is our problem in Korea as well. We’ve been divided by politics, families are divided, groups, churches, religions, and the whole nation is divided still.
What do you think of Korean thanksgiving? Is it good for God? Is he happy with it?
“Once I prayed to God that he might change the world. However, today I’m looking down at the Hudson river from my house. It’s surrounded by beautiful trees and mountains and I’ve never felt so marvelous as I do now. During my darkest time in life, I would read the Bible so many times, but today I feel so much peace in my heart. I’m able to hear the spiritual voices through my spiritual ear. All of them were with me all the time, they are the source of my comfort whenever I need them.”
Dear friends, whether in Thanksgiving or Advent (waiting for Christ), THANKS is the foundation to worship Christ.
Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.