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Summary: A Thanksgiving mesage from Psalm 65.

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John Reynolds, in his Anecdotes of the Rev. John Wesley (1828), tells the story of Wesley’s student days at Lincoln College in Oxford. A porter knocked on Wesley’s door one evening and asked to speak with him. After some conversation, Wesley noted the man’s thin coat (it was a cold winter night), and suggested that he had better get a warmer one. The porter replied: "This coat ... is the only coat I have in the world - and I thank God for it."

When asked if he had eaten, he replied: "I have had nothing today but a draught of spring water ... and I thank God for that."

Wesley, growing uneasy in the man’s presence, reminded him that the headmaster would lock him out if he did not soon return to his quarters. "Then what shall you have to thank God for?" Wesley asked.

"I will thank Him," replied the porter, "that I have dry stones to lie upon."

Deeply moved by the man’s sincerity, Wesley said, "You thank God when you have nothing to wear; ... nothing to eat ... [and] no bed to lie on. I cannot see what you have to thank God for."

The man replied: "I thank God... that he has given me life and being; a heart to love Him, and a desire to serve Him."

The man left with a coat from Wesley’s closet, some money for food and words of appreciation for his living testimony. Wesley later wrote these words in his Journal: "I shall never forget that porter. He convinced me there is something in religion to which I am a stranger."

Impressive, challenging, and begs the question, “Do I offer that kind of thanksgiving to God, or am I, as Wesley put it, a stranger to that side of religion?”

I. INTRODUCTION

1. We’ve gathered this evening as a community of faith; though we represent four congregations (or more), we share a common bond…we are children of God, brothers and sisters in like faith, and joint heirs with Christ.

2. Tonight we have come to worship the Almighty God: to thank him for [1] his presence in our lives, [2] his saving and enduring mercy, [3] his protection, and [4] providence to us.

3. Interestingly, the people of Israel were accustomed to the same practice. They often gathered as a community to do the very same thing. As I prepared for this service, I thought it would be fun to look back to the nation of Israel, and how she gave thanks as a community. (READ Psalm 65)

II. BACKGROUND

1. In the back of your hymnal, you will likely find a topical index, which directs you to songs befitting any occasion: songs of joy, of lament, of God’s grace and providence throughout history; and even into the future. You will also find songs appropriate to certain holidays, both Christian and national.

2. One might say that the hymnal represents the whole of Christian experience; elation of joy, cries of lament, grief for the lost, prayers for the dying. That is exactly how I want you to understand the Psalms. It is the hymnal of the Jewish nation.

A. Within this book of Hebrew poetry, we find writings that encompass the whole of human existence: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

B. We hear shouts of joy, cries of despair, praise and thanksgiving. We see the whole of Israel’s history portrayed in the psalms (or hymns) that she sings in her worship.

3. When the community of Israel gathered (as we have) to give thanks, they would sing hymns of thanksgiving; tonight’s psalm is one such hymn. TWM to Ps. 65 as we discover the Magnificence of His Providence: God of Grace, God of Might, and God of Plenty.

III. GOD OF GRACE (vv. 1-4)

1. Praise awaits you (lit. “To you, silence [is] praise). A difficult phrase; it may imply “silence is praise”. It may sometimes be the height of worship, in other words, to fall silent before God in awe at his presence and in submission to his will.

A. Our vows will be fulfilled is Israel’s response to God, for the blessing of answered prayer and forgiveness that he gives them.

B. The Israelites believed that blessing was reciprocal; as God blessed them they had to respond in order to complete the cycle. Therefore, in this verse, they respond to his blessing by honoring the vows they made (at time of their prayer of need).

2. To you all men shall come. All humanity can find grace and forgiveness from God.

3. [How fortunate] are those you draw near to you. This implies that not everyone accepts God’s grace, though it is available to all. God fills those who draw near to him with the good things of your house (i.e., abundantly blessed).

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