Giving Thanks to the Lord
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 5:00PM
Jeff Smith

They were finally completing the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem when Ezra found the remnant people overcome with emotions of gratitude and bittersweet sentimentality. They were a thankful people because they had lost everything with not much hope of getting it back. Now, they had been restored to their homeland and had a place to worship, even if it wasn’t anywhere near as grand as what the old folks remembered from their youth. In many ways, we are too spoiled to embrace gratitude as deeply as we should, or as the new generation of Jews did in Ezra’s time, but if we can begin to understand how much we lost by sinning against God, and how much we regained through faith, perhaps our thankfulness can be restored, too.

I. Ezra Gives Thanks

    A. Back to Jerusalem

        1. Jerusalem had fallen to Babylonian invaders decades before; they destroyed the city and the magnificent temple of Solomon, even deporting most of the useful people to other parts of the short-lived empire

        2. the Persians had ascended to world dominance by the time of Ezra, and a kinder policy of repatriation had replaced the genocidal exiling of Nebuchadnezzar

        3. now the Jews were allowed to return to their native land and to rebuild their ancient way of life, but with limited funding and manpower compared to the time of Solomon (Ezra 1:1-4)

        4. when, in the second year of their return, they laid the foundation for the new temple, they could not contain their gratefulness and optimism, nor their melancholy nostalgia (Ezra 3:8-13)


    B. Steadfast Love

        1. the responsive singing is an impressive, if not entirely lost, expression of community thanksgiving; some of our hymns employ a touch of responsiveness, but just a little hint

        2. in responsive singing, the people are truly speaking to one another (Ephesians 5:17-21)

        3. in Ezra’s day, the sight of a slab and the imagination of what it will become and what it represented about victory over the past was sufficient to provoke an outpouring of emotional gratitude:


And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. (Ezra 3:11)


        4. when was the last time that you felt so grateful to God or to somebody else that you shouted or wept?

            a. if someone donated an organ to save your life or your child’s, wouldn’t you be emotional?

            b. if someone paid off your debt and made it a free gift, wouldn’t you be excited?

            c. if someone saved you from slipping over the edge of a cliff, wouldn’t you do more than utter a few trite words or extend yourself beyond careless monotones of spoiling?


II. Christians Give Thanks

    A. Thanksgiving

        1. Americans give thanks once a year, on the fourth Thursday of November and in between the Detroit and Dallas games on television

        2. more dedicated Christians can probably be expected to express thankfulness a bit more frequently, but we are just as concerned about the depth and emotion of our gratitude, as we seek to relate to God according to both spirit and truth

        3. the danger we face in a time of relative prosperity, when even the unemployed and aged can get by, is that we begin to take past blessings and future promises for granted, and those are the ones that should inspire the most excitement otherwise (Colossians 1:9-14)


    B. Thankful at Jesus’s Feet

        1. the true place of thankfulness is not confined to a rich table, decorated with cornucopias of bounty, but is at the feet of Jesus where blessing flows (Luke 7:36-50)

        2. didn’t you ever plead for mercy, whether before you obeyed the gospel or since? (Luke 17:11-19)


    C. Make a Joyful Noise!

        1. decency and order are essential to a proper worship assembly, just as they are healthy in everyday life, but nowhere does the Bible suggest that decency and order preclude us from expressing deep emotion in our praise – in our prayers, our singing, our teaching, especially

        2. consider Psalm 100:


Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!

    Serve the LORD with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the LORD, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the LORD is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.


        3. it is good to be thankful for our food, but only if we are addressing ourselves to God as the giver of good things who can also bless what we consume 

            a. Paul, when he was adrift at sea on the way to a Roman trial, “took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat” thus encouraging his fellow travelers along the way (Acts 27:35)

            b. it is as he told Timothy, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (First Timothy 4:4-5).

        4. it is just that we ought not allow ourselves to become so calloused by our blessings that we take them for granted and express thanks in weary flaccidity (Colossians 3:15-17)



Christians should be able to get beyond the cliches and monotones, reaching down where thankfulness is deep and meaningful. It is not that we should adopt phony emotionalism for dramatic effect, but that we should experience and confidently express our gratitude, confidence and hope without self-defeating restraint.


Questions For Review

  1. Why had Jerusalem fallen to invaders?
  2. Why did the older folks weep at the foundation?
  3. What is the effect of responsive singing?
  4. What deeds elicit the most gratitude? The least?
  5. Why was the sinful woman thankful at Christ’s feet?
  6. What distinguished the one Samaritan leper from the rest?
  7. Distinguish emotion from emotionalism.
Update on Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 4:29PM by Registered CommenterJeff Smith

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