Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Command of the Covenant: Give Thanks

“The Mighty One, God, the LORD, has spoken, and summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth. May our God come and not keep silence; fire devours before Him, and it is very tempestuous around Him. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, to judge His people: ‘Gather My godly ones to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.’ And the heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is judge” (Psalm 50:1-6). Our God, brighter than the sun and much closer (feel His purifying fire in the air), summons His people. Who are His people? “Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” His people by relationship, yes, but a relationship with contract – boundaries, blessings for obedience, curses for disobedience. Sealed with blood, the blood of the sacrifice. He summons His people to judge them. Yes, judge them.

“‘Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you; I am God, your God. I do not reprove you for your sacrifices, and your burnt offerings are continually before Me. I shall take no young bull out of your house nor male goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all it contains. Shall I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of male goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High; call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me’” (50:7-15). The blood of symbols has been poured out, but this isn’t enough for the righteous Judge of His people. Where are their “sacrifices of thanksgiving”? Where are your sacrifices of thanksgiving, dear Church, purchased with the blood of the covenant – the blood of God Himself (Acts 20:28; Revelation 5:9)? You proclaim the words of this blood-sealed relationship at the Table: “This cup is the new covenant in My blood” (1 Corinthians 11:25). How can we take the cup of the blood-bought covenant and not then offer “sacrifices of thanksgiving”?

“But to the wicked God says, ‘What right have you to tell of My statutes and to take My covenant in your mouth? For you hate discipline, and you cast My words behind you. When you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you associate with adulterers. You let your mouth loose in evil and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done and I kept silence; you thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes. Now consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver. He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God’” (50:16-23). What a people we can sometimes be! We teach His commands and rest in covenant security but refuse to be corrected or actually live by the commands we ourselves teach! We are kinder to unbelievers than we are to those purchased with the blood of the Son of God! Grace, acceptance, unconditional love to those who refuse to confess and believe in Jesus, but judgment, anger, slander, disassociation with those with whom we have been bound eternally?! To do such things is to think God is just like us; to do such things is to “forget God” and enrage the Lion. Instead, repent, “order [your] way aright,” and offer the “sacrifice of thanksgiving”!
  • “ filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-21).
  • “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
  • “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father(Colossians 3:15-17). In unity, teaching, and action, give thanks. This verse is the "holy, holy, holy" of thankfulness with its triple repetition of the command.
  • “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
  • “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:12-15). Even homeless pilgrims who are exiles from the City of Man gives thanks!

Revisit the blood of the covenant at the Table of the Lord, dear Church. There remember the boundaries of your relationship with the Father through the Son by the power of the Spirit: teach and obey His commandments, live in actual love with those who share your confession and faith, and offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving to Him Who alone is worthy!

“And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.’ And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him Who sits on the throne, to Him Who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him Who sits on the throne, and will worship Him Who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created’” (Revelation 4:8-11).

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.’ Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He Who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:9-17).

Thanksgiving is commanded (not invited or suggested) from God’s people, is deserved by God alone, is the creed and lifeblood of our fellowship as the Church, and is the joyous cry of eternity. Lift up your fallen faces, silence the complaints of your idolatrous self-centered hearts (the “sacrifice of thanksgiving” is a sign that you are actually in covenant – ungratefulness is a sign to the opposite), and train your lips to speak grace and thanks in the great Congregation! The righteous Judge has summoned you there and is present. So prepare for Meeting now and every moment this day by giving thanks, letting it build in your heart and mind and words until the Gathering of God’s blood-bought thankful ones in Christ!

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