Summary: In the Bible, giving of thanks goes far beyond an annual American celebration on a day we remember to thank God for a multitude of blessings. It is a preoccupation of every Christian and extends even to those elders who are "before the throne" in heaven.
Note: I have some simple, not fancy textual slides I used with this sermon. If anyone is interested, I'll send them directly by email if you'll send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: Thanksgiving slides.
I. In his 2nd letter to the Corinthian church, Paul told of an extraordinary experience.
He was caught up to the 3rd heaven (which he also called paradise).
Inexpressible things were revealed to him–unutterable either by their celestial characteristics or by a prohibition against describing them.
So great was the experience that his inability to tell them to others occasioned a “thorn in the flesh,” to torment him – for the rest of his life, as far as we know - preventing him from being lifted up with pride by the singular privilege he had enjoyed.
Fourteen years passed before he told even that much.
About 50 years after Paul’s experience in Paradise, John was taken in to heaven, into the very presence of God on his throne, with 24 elders around the throne, seated themselves on thrones, and 4 “living creatures” on either side of the throne.
John records, “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.”
John saw many other things and unlike Paul, was not only allowed, but commanded to write and tell them – one exception being what the 7 thunders said, about which he was told,
Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down. (Rev 10:4).
A. In this scene, I want to focus on the 24 elders before the throne of God.
What were they doing?
Rev 11:16-18 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, "We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.
Thanks for what, specifically?
And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth."
THE 24 ELDERS WERE GIVING GOD THANKS FOR HIS JUSTICE, and as far as I know, they are still, and forever will be, before the throne, thanking God.
Today I want to offer some thoughts that come to mind as we approach the Thanksgiving season.
B. One of the offerings under the law was specifically a thank offering.
All of them, implied, or explicitly expressed, thankfulness to God.
The instructions for the “thank offering” were given in Lev 7:12-15; 22:29
Like all the offerings, thank offerings were to be given at the place God chose for his name to dwell.
After the Israelites entered the promised land, it was over 400 years before that place was shown to be Jerusalem.
During about 380 years of the Judges and for years afterward, Shiloh was the center of worship.
It’s where the boy Samuel served under the tutelage of the priest Eli.
Years later, when Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem, the glory of the Lord filled it, and the Lord spoke directly to Solomon:
2 Chr 7:12 Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: "I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice.
“The place chosen for the Lord’s name to dwell,” then, was the temple Solomon built in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem became the center of worship and was where offerings were to be made, unless the person was too far away.
And that unless will be significant later this morning.
C. When the ark of the covenant was finally brought to Jerusalem, David assigned Asaph and his relatives to give thanks to the Lord.
Asaph was one of David’s chief musicians. At least 13 psalms were titled “A Psalm of Asaph.”
Asaph’s duty was to lead the Israelites in giving thanks to God when the ark was brought to Jerusalem.
1 Chr 16:7-8 Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers. Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
1 Chr 16:7-36 is that prayer of thanks, closing with:
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (v34)
Then all the people said, "Amen," and praised the Lord.
D. At the dedication of the rebuilt wall of Jerusalem 600 years later under the leadership of Nehemiah, we see two great choirs standing on top of the wall, giving thanks.