************ Thanksgiving Day Sermon on 1 Chronicles 16:1-36 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 24, 2011
1 Chronicles 16:1-36
"A Psalm of Thanks"
On this Thanksgiving Day I want to hold before you this week's TIME magazine article on poverty in the U.S. ("BELOW THE LINE," TIME, November 28, 2011, p.35-41). I suspect TIME magazine wants to remind most Americans of why they should be thankful.
Who are the poor? They are low-wage workers, single mothers, disabled veterans, the elderly, immigrants, marginalized factory workers, the undereducated, and the fallen middle class.
And they are growing in number. Last year, 46.2 million Americans lived below the poverty line, the most since the U.S. Census Bureau began keeping track in 1959.
Where do the poor live today? We all know about Appalachia and the inner city. But today they also live in the suburbs. You heard me right: today, many of the poor live in the suburbs – a location we normally do not associate with poverty. Last year, for instance, 33% of the nation's poor lived in suburbs while 28% lived in cities.
The article presents five pictures of poverty. There is a picture of Eric, 3, who lives with his two siblings, their mother and grandparents in a trailer park for migrant farmworkers in Firebaugh, CA. His grandmother often walks 2 miles with him to pick up free food from the local community center to supplement the family's $350-a-week income.
There is a picture of Darla, 48, and Todd Rooks, 46 who now live on their fishing boat. Their home was destroyed by Katrina, and after BP's oil spill devastated fish stocks, they could no longer afford to rent.
Another picture is of Dakeia Johnson, 30, and her daughter on the porch of Dakeia's mother's house in New Orleans. They family lost their home during Katrina. Their replacement house had toxic drywall; they now suffer from health problems that have required hospital stays.
The fourth picture is of a 13 year old girl in South Dakota. Her family of six until recently survived on $3,500 a year. Both parents have worked part time in on-again, off-again jobs.
The last picture is of a recent mother in Fresno. Before her baby was born she was a home service aide to the elderly. Until she goes back to work she receives $200 a month in food stamps.
According to government standards, some of our members are classified as being poor. Others are anything but. Yet, as Paul puts it, you are to "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess 5:18).
So, on this Thanksgiving Day I want to look at David's psalm of praise in 1 Chronicles 16.
I Ark of God
A Notice the occasion for the psalm: the ark of God was finally brought to Jerusalem.
Before this point in time, the location of the ark was a bit like playing "Find Waldo." You had to look for the ark and it showed up in the most unexpected of places. At the time of Moses and Joshua and Samuel everyone knew the location of the ark: it was in the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting. Then came the sons of Eli and a battle with the Philistines who captured the ark in their version of "Capture the Flag." Under the Philistines, the ark started off in Ashdod but the Lord afflicted the people of Ashdod with tumors. The ark was moved to the Philistine city of Ekron; the Lord afflicted this city, too, with tumors (1 Sam 5). After seven months the ark of the Lord was sent to Beth Shemesh in Israel. Seventy men of Beth Shemesh were struck down by God because they looked into the ark (1 Sam 6). The men of Kiriath Jearim were asked to take the ark and they brought it to Abinadab's house and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord; the ark remained there for twenty years (1 Sam 7).
It was King David who decided to move the ark to Jerusalem. Remember his first attempt? The ark was put on a cart. Uzzah was killed when he reached out his hand to steady the ark because the oxen stumbled. The Lord's anger burned against Uzzah, and Uzzah was struck down. David was afraid of God that day and brought the ark to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite where it remained for three months (cf 2 Sam 6, 1 Chron 13).
In our passage we see David's second attempt to bring the ark into Jerusalem. But do you remember the reaction of David's wife, Michal daughter of Saul, when she saw King David dancing and celebrating at the return of the ark? She despised David in her heart (2 Sam 6, 1 Chron 15).
B Why is so much attention given to the ark? To remind the people of Israel – and us – of the vital importance of worship. We, with all of God's people, are being called upon to worship and praise and thank the Lord God Almighty.
Why is so much attention given to the ark? We are being told that our focus is to be God – the God Who is enthroned between the cherubim (1 Chron 13:6).
When we look at the history of the ark we see too often that the focus has been man rather than God. Why did the sons of Eli bring the ark into battle with them? Because their attention was not the Lord but man. Why did the men of Beth Shemesh look inside the ark? To satisfy their curiosity. And, where did Michal daughter of Saul look when the ark was brought into Jerusalem? Michal does not notice the ark but sees only David and she despises him. This is exactly the sin that caused her father Saul to fall: he just couldn't see the importance of worshiping God (1 Sam 15).
How easily our attention is distracted from the Lord! And how much we need to keep our hearts focused on Him. In this season of Thanksgiving we can easily moan and groan about the economy. We can moan and groan about feed prices and milk prices. We can moan and groan about government regulations and budget deficits. Our focus can too easily be ourselves and our problems and diseases and struggles instead of the Lord.
Remember the text from Paul I quoted earlier? You are to "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess 5:18).
David's attention was on the Lord. So, it was a glorious day indeed when the ark of God was safely lodged in the tent David had pitched for it in Jerusalem. In fact, this was so much on David's heart that he was not able to get a good night's sleep until it was done (Ps 132:4,5).
I suspect that the editors of TIME deliberately chose an article on poverty for the week of Thanks-giving. But do you see and hear what is wrong with this article from a Christian point-of-view? What is wrong is that the focus is all on us, on man, on people, on circumstances. And, there is no focus on God. Not even one mention of God and all His blessings. True to today's culture, it is all about me.
C By way of contrast, David's focus is on God and David's intent is to honor and glorify God. So, notice the three things David does. First, David dances and celebrates before the Lord (1 Chron 15:29). We are told that David danced before the Lord with all his might (2 Sam 6:14). Second, David offers sacrifices to the Lord. Our Bible reading says "they presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before God" (1 Chron 16:1) – burnt offerings in adoration of God's being and God's perfection and fellowship offerings in adoration of God's blessings. Third, David sings to the Lord; we are told he appointed Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to make petition, to give thanks, and to praise the Lord (1 Chron 16:4).
Did you notice how David included the people in his celebration? David blessed the people in the name of the Lord – as a father or prophet (1 Chron 16:2). Furthermore, David found God to be gracious to him so he, in turn, was gracious to the people – he gave a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each Israelite man and woman. In that time and place dates and raisins were delicacies – something like the cake and cookies we serve in honor of an anniversary or birthday. So much so that they became symbols of prosperity, beauty, and victory.
II David's Psalm of Thanks
A That day David first committed to Asaph and his associates the psalm of thanks to the Lord that we read this morning.
The words of David's song are taken from Psalm 105, Psalm 96, Psalm 136, and Psalm 106. So, this psalm of thanks was composed before the ark was brought to Jerusalem. But now, for the first time, it was delivered into the hand of Asaph. Asaph was the choir director of Israel. He led the people in song, he taught them song, he composed songs (Ps 50, 73-83), and he did his own share of singing.
David delivered his psalm of thanks to Asaph. Asaph and his choir sang it as the ark of the Lord first entered the tent prepared for it. The same song was used daily after the temple was built – day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year.
B This whole psalm has one intent: to thank the Lord (1 Chron 16:7). Take note of all the expressions of thanks and praise:
-(1 Chr 16:8-10) Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. (9) Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. (10) Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
-(1 Chr 16:23-25) Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. (24) Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. (25) For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.
-(1 Chr 16:28-29) Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength, (29) ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
-(1 Chr 16:34) Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
-(1 Chr 16:36) Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said "Amen" and "Praise the LORD."
Do you hear the focus? Do you see the focus? Not David, not the people, not the circumstances, but God. God is the focus. God is Whom David praises and thanks – from beginning to end.
On this Thanksgiving Day, and every day, let us be like David. Our focus is not to be ourselves; it is never to be ourselves. Our focus is not our circumstances. Our focus is not our trials and temptations and cares and concerns. Our focus is to be God. As Paul puts it,
(1 Cor 10:31) So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
As you gather with family and friends today, as you sit down to a table groaning under the weight of turkey and potatoes and gravy and corn and creamed onions and pie and ice-cream, think on God. Think about Christ. Think about grace and mercy and blessing. And, like David, give thanks to the Lord.
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