Beckett: Give Thanks to God for His Steadfast Love

Psalm 138
I give You thanks, O Yahweh, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing Your praise;
I bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness, for You have exalted above all things Your name and Your Word.
On the day I called, You answered me; my strength of soul You increased.
All the kings of the earth shall give You thanks, O Yahweh, for they have heard the words of Your mouth,
and they shall sing of the ways of Yahweh, for great is the glory of Yahweh.
For though Yahweh is high, He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life; You stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand delivers me.
Yahweh will fulfil His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Yahweh, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of Your hands.

In worship, the focus is and must always be what God does for us, not what we do for God or what we “get out of” worship. Even though David begins with several I statements, the focus is nevertheless not on him, but on God. David’s I statements are descriptors of his actions—giving thanks, praising, and bowing down (prostrating), all of which are ritualistic religious acts of worship directed toward God. David’s actions are not focused on himself, but rather on God and who He is, namely, His steadfast love and faithfulness. Thus, all worship is to be directed toward God, not you and what you “get out of it.”

Using his eschatological eye, David sees the kings of the earth eventually giving thanks to God and singing to His glory not only because of His exaltation, but also in spite of His exaltation. He says, “For though Yahweh is high, He regards the lowly” (v. 6). This is a powerful characteristic of God. It is enough that God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent—that He is “Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9). In spite of God’s unreachable heights over all created things, this most exalted Being considers the lowly—all the things beneath Him.

This is in stark contrast to deism, which postulates God is like a watchmaker who has “wound up” the earth and has set it to run its course without getting involved in the affairs of man and the rest of creation. (This is what the founding fathers of America believed as deists. In this way, then, America has never been a Christian nation in the truest meaning of the word. America has always been a deist nation—a people believing God is disinterested in the lives of human beings and doesn’t get involved. Why else would our pews be so empty? A people who believe God is disinterested in His human creatures are disinterested in God, and it shows.)

This supposedly uninterested God is not whom the Scriptures describe God to be. God is actively involved in creation, especially His human creatures. God Himself forms human creatures in the womb; He knows each human creature before they’re even formed (Psalm 139:13-16)! God still cares for the other creatures of the earth; therefore, He most certainly cares for His human creatures whom He has formed in His image (Matthew 6:28-32). That the most exalted Being in the entire universe involves Himself in creation—and corrupted creation at that—is a tremendous extension of His mercy.

Not only that, but that God, the most exalted Being in the whole universe, involved Himself in the fate of mankind that God the Son was born in human flesh to live, suffer, die, and rise for us is the ultimate extension of God’s mercy. What can we do with this except give thanks, praise, and prostrate ourselves before God? “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus says (Matthew 5:3). Who are the poor in spirit? All of us.

Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would bring good news to the poor (61:1). The poor is every single human creature, including you. Jesus came for the poor in spirit, not the middle class in spirit, and not the rich in spirit, but the poor in spirit—these lowly people (many thanks to Rev. Dr. Jeff Gibbs on his Lectionary at Lunch lecture on the Beatitudes text).

This is you and me. Jesus stepped down from His most exalted throne to come to poor, lowly people like you and me. Why are the poor in spirit blessed? Because “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus brought on the reign of the kingdom of heaven and makes us members of this kingdom that has come, is among us now in Christ, and is to come.

What else can we do but give thanks to God for His steadfast love—or His steadfast love to humiliate Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8)? The hymn that comes to mind for me is LSB #790 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty:

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation! / O my soul, praise Him, for He is your health and salvation! / Let all who hear / Now to His temple draw near, / Joining in glad adoration!

Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things is wondrously reigning / And, as on wings of an eagle, uplifting, sustaining. / Have you not seen / All that is needful has been / Sent by His gracious ordaining?

Praise to the Lord, who has fearfully, wondrously, made you, / Health has bestowed and, when heedlessly falling, has stayed you. / What need or grief / Ever has failed of relief? / Wings of His mercy did shade you.

Praise to the Lord, who will prosper your work and defend you; / Surely His goodness and mercy shall daily attend you. / Ponder anew / What the Almighty can do / As with His love He befriends you.

Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore Him! / All that has life and breath, come now with praises before Him! / Let the Amen / Sound from His people again; / Gladly forever adore Him!

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