Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving: Come Into God's Presence

The upcoming Day of National Thanksgiving should not be taken lightly or routinely by the people of God.  If we are not careful, we will get pulled into a cultural viewpoint of the day and not fulfill one of our greatest privileges and responsibilities—that of giving thanks to God.

Psalm 95 exhorts us:

O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.  Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

It is hard to differentiate between singing, praising, worshiping and giving thanks.  Theologians and Hebrew scholars would, no doubt, have a different viewpoint, but from my perspective of this particular psalm, they are all synonyms.  What I do wish we Christians would contemplate is that tiny, stubborn verb:  “come”. 

It is stated twice in these two verses, underscoring a need for movement from us toward God.  The psalmist implies we are not where we should be, so let us come into His presence.  Once you are in God’s presence, it’s fairly easy to sing to Him, to make a joyful noise to Him and to offer Him thanksgiving.  It is while there is distance between us and the Rock of our salvation that these things are difficult and intrusive.   And there is simply too much distance between the modern church and our God.  Psalm 95 will later call us “the sheep of His hand” and Isaiah 53:6 reminds us of a sad fact about God’s sheep—they stray.

The sad reality of this upcoming Thanksgiving is that the only difference between unbelievers and God’s people is that the Christians will pray before their meal.  For 120 seconds someone will “say grace”.  The other 23 hours and 58 minutes will be lived out just like every other American—with no notice of God and no acknowledgement of His blessings.

And that is why the Bible says “O come…come into His presence”.   Come.  It is such a beautiful word.

 It is what Jesus said to Peter one very early morning, probably around 4 a.m. after the disciples had spent a fearful night fighting for their lives on a storm-ravaged sea.   There was Jesus, the Eternal Creator, the Sovereign of the Seas, walking on top of the waves, subduing the laws of nature, drawing near to them and their boat of exhaustion.  “Do not fear” he said.  “It is I…come.” (Matthew 14:27-28).

And who could forget the invitation of Him who loves us that none other.  “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28).  Jesus is, of course, not talking about physical exhaustion, though some Thanksgiving Day chefs might take refuge in him after a long day of cooking.  There is nothing more exhausting than trying to make your life acceptable to God all on your own.

And that’s the heart of thanksgiving.  We aren’t alone.  God has been, is, and will be there for us.  He has provided for our spiritual salvation through Jesus Christ.  And, He has journeyed with the United States of America since the pilgrim landing of 1620.  Shouldn’t we as a nation, and particularly as Christians, give Him much thanks this Thanksgiving?