Summary: Empower and Encourage the beleivers to live their lives as living sacrifices to the God that lived and sacrificed for them.
NIV Psalm 103:1 Of David. Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-- 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Now Thank We All Our God With hearts and hands and voices!
Who wondrous things have done, In whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mother’s arms Has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.
For more than three hundred years Protestant churches of Europe and America have resounded to the stirring tune of Martin Rinkart’s great hymn of thanksgiving, “Now Thank We All Our God.” The opening lines express the thoughts of the truly thankful Christian: “Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices.”
When you hear the song, you never realize that this poetic hymn of praise was forged under the weight of extreme tragedy and suffering. From one of the most severe human hardships imaginable during the “Thirty Years’ War” (1618-1648) came this grand hymn, often times called the national hymn of Germany because it has been sung so many times on occasions of national rejoicing.
Martin Rinkart, born in 1586, in southern Germany, was the son of a poor coppersmith. He grew up ion the same church that J.S. Bach would later become their musical director. Martin Rinkart worked his way through the University of Leipzig and was ordained to the ministry of the Lutheran Church. At the age of 31 he was called to be the pastor in his native town of Eilenberg. He arrived just as the dreadful bloodshed began. Because Eilenberg was a walled city, it became a frightfully overcrowded refuge for political and military fugitives from far and wide. Throughout these war years deadly pestilence and famine swept through the city just as methodically as the various armies marched through the town, leaving death and destruction in their wake. The Rinkart home served as a refuge for the afflicted and dying, even though it has been said that Martin Rinkart had difficulty in providing clothing and food for his own family.
The plague of 1637 was particularly severe. During this year Rinkart became the only pastor to survive the pestilence, often conducting as many as 40-50 funeral services daily. The toughest and most demanding of the funeral services, Martin Rinkart watched the plague take his own wife. In honor and memory of her, he wrote the most beautiful hymn of Thanksgiving that I have ever sung. In the midst of his feelings of anger, loneliness and sadness, he thanked His Creator and Savior.
What a great man? What a great pastor? What a great husband? What a great Christian? What a great faith that took over his life and raised him above the sights of pain, death sadness and poverty. What a great faith that set his sights on spiritual blessings of forgiveness, salvation, resurrection, heaven, eternal joy and living hope.
A common tradition for a Christian family at Thanksgiving is to list or count their blessings. My thanksgiving list starts with my wife and family. They bring me so much joy to my life, without them I think life would be miserable. Where does your list start? Or maybe it starts with your health, like my Grandfather’s list? Or maybe your list starts with your friends like my daughter’s list? Or maybe you begin with your toys – car, house, boat, land, and entertainment center, like my son Nathanael’s list? All of these thanksgiving lists are flawed. Yes mine is as well. They do not start where Martin Rinkarts’ list started. Rinkart lost his wife to the plague; yet he still gave a beautiful thanksgiving song to his Heavenly Father. Martin Rinkart had a good thanksgiving list that started “at the top” of God’s blessings: forgiveness.
Martin Rinkart is in good company with his list. King David starts his Thanksgiving List the same way in Psalm 103 “Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits: who forgives all our sins.” With Rinkart Let us “Now Thank We All Our God” with our hearts, deep from within, because in our Christian hearts we know that all his benefits include more than outward peace, prosperity, health and companionship. The greatest of all blessings is being called a child of God and sharing in the inheritance of the saints. Let our thanksgiving begin at the top. Let us remember and not forget, this greatest benefit: through Jesus Christ he has forgiven you all your sins. He regards and treats us as his dearly loved children. He daily forgives; He daily protects and He daily leads us heavenward. We always are in his blessings, from the moment of our first twinkling of faith in His Word to our last words of faith in our dying breath; God blesses his children with forgiveness and the gift of eternal life in paradise. Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices!