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Sermon Message


"Thanks to our 'Always Good' God"

Psalm 92
Theme: It is always good to give thanks to our God, because our God is good in all His ways.

(Delivered Thanksgiving Sunday, November 20, 2005 at Bethany Bible Church. All Scripture quotes, unless otherwise indicated, are from the New King James Version.)

This morning, I'd like to draw your attention to Psalm 92, and to the very first thing that is affirmed in that psalm - that "It is good to give thanks to the LORD . . ." (v. 1).

* * * * * * * * * *

Sometimes, it takes a great deal of faith to believe that. Some people, in fact, DON'T believe it. Some people, who have undergone great trials, don't see any reason why He should be thanked. In the really tough times of life, it requires more of a forward-looking confidence in God than many people have.

Think of it. When you're undergoing a trial of sickness and pain, "giving thanks to the Lord" right then would require that you believe He is making something good and eternal out of the pain you're enduring; something that you won't perhaps see until later - or even until after this lifetime. It takes great faith to thank God at times like that.

When your business fails, or you suffer a financial reversal of some kind, "giving thanks to the Lord" right then would require that you believe He is sustaining you and providing for you in ways you can't see - and perhaps wont see until some time in the future. Perhaps He will allow you be just on the other side from 'destitute', and allow you to remain in such a place of pressing need that it seems 'crazy' - in strictly human terms - to thank Him right then. It would take great faith to do so at such times.

When someone behaves maliciously toward you, and does something to you out of an evil motive, "giving thanks to the Lord" right then would require that you believe that God sees what's happening to you, and is able to stand as your Defender and Protector. Thanking Him would require you to believe that He will make things right in the end. It takes great faith at such times to leave the matter in God's hands, love and pray for your enemy, and express thanks to God for what's happening. You can only do so if you genuinely believe that God will prove Himself later on.

When you are broken-hearted over a family member or friend who is going in the wrong direction of life, "giving thanks to the Lord" right then would require that you believe God is at work in their life in unseen ways - and that, sometime in the future, His work will show itself. It requires that you believe God hears your prayers for them; and that your prayers are not in vain; and that God will one day show that He heard you. But you have to wait confidently for what He'll show you then, as you thank Him now.

Many of you are approaching this coming Thanksgiving holiday with some of those very same kinds of things pressing in on you. And it's hard at such times to give thanks. That's why I believe that, at such times, "thanks to God" is one of the boldest and most courageous acts of faith we could ever perform. It requires that we truly believe - in spite of what we may feel or see - that God truly is good, and that He will prove Himself to be good in the end. Only if we really DO believe such a thing can we truly thank Him in such trials.

With all of that in mind, I invite that we look together at Psalm 92. It tells us much about this God that the psalmist tells us it is good to give thanks to. This psalm assures us that, in all things, He will prove Himself to be good all the time and in all ways; and therefore that it is always good and appropriate - no matter what - to give thanks to Him.

Let's read it together. As we do, please allow it to minister to you. Let's let God show us, from this psalm, what we need to know about Him in order to give the thanks that is due Him in our present trials. I believe it gives us a lot of reasons why we should give thanks to Him.

* * * * * * * * * *

A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath day.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning,
And Your faithfulness every night,
On an instrument of ten strings,
On the lute,
And on the harp,
With harmonious sound.
For You, LORD, have made me glad through Your work;
I will triumph in the works of Your hands.

O LORD, how great are Your works!
Your thoughts are very deep.
A senseless man does not know,
Nor does a fool understand this.
When the wicked spring up like grass,
It is that they may be destroyed forever.

But You, LORD, are on high forevermore.
For behold, Your enemies, O LORD,
For behold, Your enemies shall perish;
And all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.

But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox;
I have been anointed with fresh oil.
My eye also has seen my desire on my enemies;
My ears hear my desire on the wicked
Who rise up against me.

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebenon.
Those who are planted in the house of the LORD
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,
To declare that the LORD is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him
(Psalm 92:1-15).

* * * * * * * * * *

Let me point out some general things about this psalm. First of all, notice what is told to us in the preface. We're told that this is a psalm that was to be read on the Sabbath day. This is the only psalm in the Bible that is identified as having been written FOR the Sabbath day - that is, for the day that God has appointed for our rest. That's the day He appointed for us to cease from all the regular business of life, and give special attention to Him. And so, here's a psalm that was written just for that day - written to give us some good things to meditate on concerning Him during that wonderful and very necessary time of rest.

Second, notice that it is a psalm that is a prayer. It's words are addressed to God. There are twelve times when God is directly addressed in this psalm. And there are seven of those times when the very sacred name of God - YHWY (translated LORD, in all capital letters) - is used. There are several points in this psalm where God is praised as if in the third person; but even those times are in the context of a prayer to Him. This psalm of thanks, then, is a very sacred prayer. We should study it prayerfully; and even pray along with it.

And third, notice that it concerns itself with God's good grace toward His people. Near the end of this psalm, it refers to God's man or woman as "the righteous" (v. 12) - and as "those who are planted in the house of the LORD" (v. 13). And clearly, they are not "righteous" because they became that way in their own power. After all, who could make themselves to be "planted in the house of the LORD" by their own power? Rather, this speaks of those to whom God has shown saving grace; that is, having pardoned them of sin, and having graciously "planted" - or literally, "transplanted" - them into His house.

If you are a man or woman who is the recipient of God's saving grace - that is, that you have confessed the truth that you are a sinner in the sight of God and that you are in need of a Savior; and have placed your faith in the cross of Jesus Christ, God's own Son, who took your sins upon Himself and paid the debt of your sins on the cross; and are trusting today in God's favor and acceptance by faith, and are seeking to live a life of holiness and righteousness on the basis of that acceptance - if all of that is true of you, then this psalm should be very important and precious to you.

Here, God - through His word - gives you the reasons why it is appropriate for you to give thanks to Him all of the time and all circumstances . . . even in the hardest of circumstances. It teaches us that it is always good to give thanks to our God; because our God will prove to be good in all His ways.

* * * * * * * * * *

Let's begin by looking closer at that initial affirmation; that . . .


The psalmist writes, "It is good to give thanks to the LORD . . ." And then, notice how it shifts right away into prayer; ". . . And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High . . ." (v. 1).

It's right that our songs of praise to God and our declaration of His character be in the mode of prayer. Our prayers should be praises; and our praises should be prayers - always consciously expressed as in His hearing. And what's more, thanksgiving should be a prayer/praise; and our prayer/praises should be expressions of thanksgiving!

* * * * * * * * * *

As we go on, notice when the psalmist says we should give thanks. ". . . To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night . . ."

What a great approach to each day that is! When we wake up in the morning - about to face a day, and not knowing what that day may hold - it's good that the first thing we do is thank Him in advance for His "lovingkindness", or His "tender-mercies" toward us. We may not know what the day holds in store for us; but we know that, whatever it holds, He is the one who holds the day for us. He promises to fill it with His lovingkindness. As it says elsewhere in the psalms, "My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up" (Psalm 5:3). And why? It's because ". . . His compassions fail not. They are new every morning . . ." (Lamentations 3:23).

And then, at the end of the day, it's good that we thank Him by declaring "His faithfulness every night". It's good to look back at the end of the day, recount the ways that He has proven His faithfulness to us, and thank Him for each of them. I notice that, in the original language, "night" is in the plural; which may suggest many "watches of the night". There may be many times in the night when we awaken - perhaps to fret over the events of the day, or worry over what may happen tomorrow. It's good, at such times, to declare His faithfulness - even at every watch of the night!

In other words, our expressions of thanks are to be offered to Him all the time - morning and night.

* * * * * * * * * *

Then, notice how we are to give thanks; "On an instrument of ten strings, on the lute . . ." (v. 4). We're to express our praise and thanks to Him skillfully, and thoughtfully, and purposefully, and - perhaps - even publically; through music and song.

The "instrument of ten strings" was something like a guitar; and the "lute" was a hollow-bodied instrument. These suggest to me that loud, hardy praise is to be offered to Him. But then, the psalmist also says, "And on the harp, with harmonious sound" (v. 4). The word used suggest the idea of meditative or instructive kind of music; and perhaps the "harp" was a softer kind of instrument that was suited for this. I notice that the King James Version has it that we are to give thanks "upon the harp with a solemn sound".

This suggests that we are to offer praise and thanks to God in a variety of ways and musical moods - sometimes with enthusiastic and loud praise; and sometimes with quiet, meditative melodies. Now, perhaps you can't play a musical instrument well; but that shouldn't stop you from giving such praise and thanks to Him. God has given many talented people to the church, who are able to serve us by expressing praise to Him - with musical skill and variety - in ways that we can't. How grateful we should be to them for their ministry to us.

* * * * * * * * * *

And finally, notice why we are to give thanks; "For You, LORD, have made me glad through Your works; I will triumph in - [or, "give a ringing cry because of"] - the works of Your hands" (v. 4). And this, dear brothers and sisters, is why it is that we can give thanks to God in times of trial and trouble. Our thanksgiving has content. It has reasons. We are to be glad for, and triumph in, the works of God's hands.

One of the great misunderstandings we have about God's call for us to give thanks to Him in a time of trial is that we think He's calling us to give thanks to Him FOR the troubles of life. But I don't believe He is. He tells us to 'count it all joy' WHEN we fall into various trials (James 1:2); but He isn't necessary calling us to thank Him FOR the trials. He tells us to 'IN everything give thanks' (1 Thessalonians 5:18); but He isn't necessarily telling us to FOR everything give thanks.

Frankly, I'm not thankful for my trials. I'm not thankful for suffering and pain and the experience of sorrow. I don't believe God calls me to thank Him for such things in and of themselves. But He does call me to be thankful IN suffering and pain and sorrow; and WHEN I fall into various trials. It's the work of His hands that I look to; and it's those works for which I give thanks to Him - even in the midst of those trials.

* * * * * * * * * *

The psalmist says that the Lord has made him glad through His work - for the things He does; and that he triumphs in the works of God's hands. And now, he goes on to tell us what some of those mighty works are. Here, we're given . . .


The first reason I see that I should give thanks to God in a time of trial is because . . .

a. His works will always show themselves to be profound (vv. 5-6).

The psalmist says, "O LORD, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep" (v. 5). The word that is used isn't referring just to the idea of God's "thoughts" and "notions". Rather, the word refers to God's thoughts as expressed in well-thought-out plans and purposes. He shows that the plans and purposes that He has designed for His redeemed people are much deeper and more profound that they could possibly imagine.

The apostle Paul wrote about the profound plan of God for His redeemed people in the book of Romans. In it, I believe the apostle has searched out and expounded on that plan in more depth than any other human being has ever been able to do. And yet, when it was all over, here is the expression of praise he burst into:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to Him?" For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be the glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:32-36).

I believe that, when we're in a time of trial, that just might be the best way to give thanks to Him - that is, to admit the profound depth of His plan for the good of His people; and to thank Him for how far beyond our grasp His good plan is! I believe that when we stand before our Savior in heavenly glory - after the trial is all over, and the dust has all cleared; and after we finally see what He was doing through it - we will say, "Oh, the depth of Your wisdom, O Lord! How unsearchable Your wisdom truly is, and how profound Your ways truly are! Your thoughts and plans and designs for me are deeper than I ever could have known!"

If we believe that's what we will say then, we should - by faith - give Him thanks now!

* * * * * * * * * *

The psalmist goes on to say that "A senseless man does not know, nor does a fool understand this" (v. 6). And here, the psalmist isn't speaking of someone who simply has a low I.Q. Rather, he's speaking of those who sinfully and willfully reject true knowledge - those who, as the Proverbs tell us, "hate knowledge" (Proverbs 1:22), and who have "no delight in understanding" (18:1). Such persons have no reverence toward God; and so the works of God inspire no thanks to Him in their hearts.

And in the light of that, I personally can't help but think of what a wonderful grace of God it is that I am no longer a senseless fool! (I know that some may disagree, but . . .) I admit that - apart from Christ - I was a senseless fool before God! It used to be that I didn't love Him, and didn't want His answers to the issues of life; so I often made up my own! But by His grace to me through Christ, God has graciously given me a new heart - a heart of reverence toward Him; a heart that bows to the mystery of His plan and purpose; a heart that doesn't demand the answers to things that I cannot fathom, but that is content to rest confidently in the mystery of God's goodness and love and wisdom; a heart that loves Him and trusts Him with a sense of awe and wonder.

As the apostle Paul again says elsewhere;

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).

We may not know all the particulars of our trials; but we can be absolutely confident of the end that God has for us through them. And real, reverent faith doesn't need anything more than that from Him. And when we are in glory, we will see that His works toward us will have been proven to be profound indeed!

This hope alone is reason to thank Him always in all things!

* * * * * * * * * *

A second reason is that . . .

b. His holiness will always stand supreme (vv. 7-9).

We live in a time when our God's holy standards are made out to be irrelevant. People live pretty much as they please - and sadly, the way they please to live is in rebellion against His holy standards. It's hard to be "thankful" at a time when the world makes you feel like a loser for seeking a righteous life before God.

But it's then that we read these very sober words from the psalmist: "When the wicked spring up like grass, it is that they may be destroyed forever" (v. 7).

The Bible lets us know that the wicked will have their day in the sun. They'll "spring up" or "sprout". But their glory is only like "grass" - it's very short-lived, and is easily vanished. As Psalm 90:6 says, "In the morning it flourishes and grows up; in the evening it is cut down and withers." As Psalm 103:15-16 says, "As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more."

That's generally true of the temporal glory of man, of course; but in this psalm, it is particularly expressed of the wicked - those who aggressively rebel against God's holy standards. They may "flourish" in this world for a time; but the psalmist says that they flourish for that short time only that "they may be destroyed forever." He says, "For behold, Your enemies, O LORD, for behold, Your enemies shall perish; all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered".

* * * * * * * * * *


And here's the thing for which I believe we are to be thankful. By contrast, the psalmist says, "But You, LORD, are on high forevermore." God's holy standards may be rebelled against, but He Himself never changes. He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever; and He remains forever "on high". None of it alters Him or His holy reign.

We live in a very dark world; and sometimes that darkness seems overwhelming and overpowering. But how thankful we can be that, even in the midst of such great darkness, God Himself never changes. He always remains "on high forevermore." One day, His Son will take His seat upon the throne of this earth and rule as it's righteous Judge. His holy standards will prove to have never been set aside. We can be assured that one day, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow; and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).

Our confidence, then, is that all wickedness will one day be put down - even that wickedness which still remains in us! - and that God's holiness will stand supreme. This is yet one more reason for us to thank Him today!

* * * * * * * * * *

A third reason we can be thankful is because . . .

c. His people will always prove to be preserved (vv. 10-11).

In contrast to the wicked, the psalmist praises God and says, "But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil" (v. 10).

In the Bible, the "horn" is a mark of power and strength. A wild ox is already a strong animal; but its strength is symbolized in its horn. And the anointing of oil is a mark of God's appointment and call. So, here we see the symbols of the high call of God upon the life of those He redeems. While they are in the midst of this dark and sinful world; He has exalted their horn like that of a wild ox; and He has placed His anointing upon them as if with fresh oil. What a great privilege it is to be His!

But though we may have God's call upon us, we will nevertheless be greatly opposed - so long as we are in this world. Jesus has warned us that just as the world hated Him, it will hate us also because we belong to Him (John 15:18-19). What's more, we must always be sober and vigilant; because our ultimate adversary - the devil - walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

* * * * * * * * * *

And yet, we can be thankful - even when under attack; because God will always preserve His people, and bring them to victory in the end. I see this in verse 11; "My eye also has seen my desire on my enemies; my ears hear my desire on the wicked who rise up against me."

I don't believe that the psalmist is inviting us to wring our hands in delight over the idea of the wicked being punished, or our enemies being destroyed - as if such a thing should be our desire. In the original language, the words "my desire" are not present. And so, the idea is that God will so preserve us that we will out-last our enemies and their hostility toward us. We will still be there to look upon our enemies who watched for opportunities to bring us down. We will still be there to hear our enemies who plotted and schemed to bring us to destruction.

God's preservation of His redeemed people - this is another reason to thank Him in a time of trial!

* * * * * * * * * *

A fourth reason to give Him thanks always is because . . .

d. His favor will always result in prosperity (vv. 12-14).

The psalmist describes God's favor to His people beautifully in these verses. He says, "The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon" (v. 12). A palm tree is a symbol of richness and beauty. And a cedar is a symbol of strength and stability. And together, they give us a picture of the wonderful, future state of glory that we who are God's redeemed people - those He declares "righteous" - will one day enjoy. We will flourish and be beautiful. We will remain strong and stable.

What's more, we will be greatly privileged and honored. The psalmist goes on to say, "Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God" (v. 13). We wont be just any old trees growing in just any old place! We will be growing and flourishing in God's house - in God's very courts! We may not be much to look at right now. We may at times feel very weak, and very unglorious, as we suffer under the trials of life on this earth. But we have a great and glorious destiny assured to us. We will be raised from the grave to dwell forever with Him in His house, and flourish before Him in His courts!

And that glorious prospect in eternity is not the only thing we have to be thankful for. Those things also describe who we are right now. We are the recipients of His favor in Christ today. And a life that is lived in the blessings of His favor in Christ will prosper - even now. The psalmist says, "They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing" (v. 14). I know many dear "senior saints" who have walked in God's favor through Christ for many years; and what a blessing they are! They are still fruitful, and fresh, and flourishing. They are still "young" in the Savior's love. They demonstrate that, at the end of many long years, His favor still results upon them to prosper their soul.

I want to be such a person, don't you? Here, then, is another thing that we can be thankful for - even in a time of trial: God's favor through Christ will always - ALWAYS - result in prosperity. Some of it we may experience now; but we will certainly experience the full abundance of it throughout eternity!

How much we will have to be thankful for then! How much we should be thanking Him now!

* * * * * * * * * *

And finally, we have one more reason to always give thanks to God; because . . .

e. His dealings will always declare His righteousness (v. 15).

No matter what we may experience in life; no matter what trial may come our way; we can be assured that all of it eventually prove that God was righteous in all His dealings with us. The psalmist says that we - God's redeemed people - will be flourishing in His house, "to declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him" (v. 15).

All that He does with us, or through us, or allows to happen to us, will result in proving that He is upright and good and righteous. It will all prove that there is no unrighteousness in Him. He will glorify Himself through our trials and struggles - and also though the eternal prosperity He will pour on us when it is all over.

What a privilege! - to forever be the living proof of God's righteousness! How we should thank Him for this!

* * * * * * * * * *

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we will be remembering the many material things in life that we ought to be thankful for. It is good and right that we do so. But even if all of them should be taken from us, we still have - in Christ - constant reason to be thankful to our Father.

It is always good to give Him thanks; because He is always good!

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