As human beings, it is in our nature to complain rather than to give thanks. It is so much easier to see what we don’t have and to grumble than to see what we have and count our blessings.
The God whom we worshipped is the Almighty and everlasting, sovereign God, and we are His creation, made from dust but created with so much love and thoughts. As James, the brother of Jesus Christ, says, we are like a morning mist, only here for a short while (James 4:14). As God has said to Adam, the first created human, to dust we shall return (Genesis 3:19). And we shall eagerly await the day when God will establish His Kingdom that never ends.
In the ancient Jewish context, Psalm 118 was most probably an entrance liturgy to the Temple, used at the Passover festival. This psalm proclaimed God’s deliverance from Egypt and then from the Babylonian Exile.
The psalmist then ended this psalm by praising God for His mercy. God had helped His people in the past, and God will help them in the future.
In this psalm, we can find many reasons to give thanks to the Lord.
Give Thanks to the Lord because He is with us (VV5-7)
“5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place.”
When you are hard pressed from every side, from the attacks of the enemy, from the pressures of life, when we cry out to God, He hears us because His love for us endures forever. His love endures forever because of the covenant He has made with His people. God will not leave us or forsake us. We can thank God because we know He hears our every word to Him and He is with us.
6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
There is this peaceful reassurance that God is with us. Our enemies may try to harm us. They may trick us with their schemes but if we make our Lord our refuge, He will lead us and protect us. Our God watches over us, His people.
7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
I look in triumph on my enemies. (v 7)
In our anguish and helplessness, God gave us confidence that He is with us. Think back to a time in your life when you were in a desperate situation. Did God deliver you and give you victory? Do you think that He will do that again?
Give Thanks to the Lord: because He is trustworthy (vv8-9)
We give thanks to God because we can trust Him. We can trust Him because He is a covenant-keeping God.
“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (vv 8-9).
When we face a problem, usually we will take it to social media to vent and get people on our side to support us. Oftentimes, God is our very last resort when we have failed to find help. We have gone through so much trouble and may even had got deeper into trouble before we finally consulted God. This verse reminds us that God is so trustworthy. He helps us. He is our refuge in difficult times.
I am not minimising the need for having a community who love us, pray for us and care for us, because God use people to encourage us. With all of their love, support and encouragement, we can carry on. My point is: bring your matters before God first and seek for His guidance. Find refuge in God first. Hear from Him first.
Give thanks to the Lord: because of His powerful Name (vv 10-12)
10 All the nations surrounded me,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
11 They surrounded me on every side,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
12 They swarmed around me like bees,
but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;
in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
The psalmist was in trouble and distressed. But God was with him. He called upon God, and God delivered him.
“The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10, NIV).
There is power in God’s holy Name. Don’t take it lightly or make fun of it. There is power in God’s Name.
Give thanks to the Lord because He is our strength (vv13-16)
This is a Hallel (praise) Psalm. Hallel means praise, and yah means (Yahweh or God or the Lord). When combined, it means “hallelujah”, praise the Lord.
This psalm is also one of six Egyptian Hallel Psalms that were recited during the Passover and other major Jewish festivals. It commemorated the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian slavery.
Verse 14 is directly taken from Exodus 15, where Moses celebrated the crossing of the Red Sea when God saved His people from the Egyptians pursuing them in chariots.
“The Lord is my strength and defense; he has become my salvation”.
According to the psalmist, the Lord who saved the Israelites from the Pharaoh was the same God who helped him. It is also the same God who is with us and helps us today. When you feel hopeless, and even defeated, look back at your life. How did God lead and guide? He was there with you through the darkest moments. He is still with you today.
Give thanks to the Lord, because He has been your strength and He is your strength. There is a difference between God giving you strength and God is your strength. The psalmist said, God is my strength. It is much more than He giving you strength. He has become your strength.
Give thanks to the Lord because of His purpose for us (vv 17-18)
“I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done” (v 17)
The psalmist realised that the length of his days was in God’s hands. He knew that God had delivered him from his enemies and he should not be wasting his days away. Rather, he would proclaim what God had done for him.
Our lives are not just for our own enjoyment. It is our duty is to proclaim the goodness, faithfulness and love of God. When you proclaimed what God has done, you could be encouraging and blessing others.
We don’t know how long we will be on earth, but trust that God has His own plan and purpose for each of us to accomplish.
In Psalm 90, Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (verse 12). May God give us wisdom, so that we will live wisely.
“The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death” (verse 18).
God chastens or disciplines us because He loves us and wants us to walk on the right path: the path of righteousness and justice, which are His attributes. As the psalmist had noted, our lives are in God’s hands. He does what is best for us. Even when the circumstances around you were not what you have imagined, trust in God.
The main theme of this psalm is that God’s love endures forever. It appears four times in the first four verses (one time in each verse) and in the last verse of this psalm. The message of God’s love is not just only in this psalm, but it is the theme of the whole Bible: from the very first word of Genesis to the last words in Revelation. His love endures forever.
The psalmist is calling the Israelites to remember God’s loving kindness. Time and time again the Israelites were unfaithful to God and yet, His love for them remained unchanged.
This is a reminder for us today. Our God loves us. Time and time again we took God for granted and thought we deserved more. We grumble and complain. Let us come back to God with repentance.
There are so many reasons to give thanks to God. And some of the reasons are expressed by the psalmist. We give thanks to the Lord because:
- He answers my prayer (VV5-7)
- He is trustworthy (vv8-9)
- He is our strength (vv13-16)
- His has a wonderful purpose for us (vv 17-18)
Let us give thanks to the Lord for His love endures forever.