O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. Ps. 51:15
Open my lips!
The prayer of the psalmist stands very definitely in the singular.
Emphatically personal is this outcry, personal in its longings to proclaim the praises of Jehovah, in its profound sense of unworthiness and incapability of praising the Lord, in its consciousness of lips that are irrevocably sealed unless they be opened by the grace of the God of his salvation.
But the prayer and praise that leave our lips on Thanksgiving Day are a united expression of the whole Church.
On that day we gather to unite in grateful praise.
Unite, let it be clearly understood, not as a nation, but as the people of God. It is not the wicked and’ the righteous, unbelievers and believers, that meet on that day before the throne of grace to pour out their hearts before the Most High. Even though the occasion for this day is the end of the harvest; and even though it is true that the Lord caused His sun to rise over the righteous and wicked alike, and sent rain on the just and the unjust; even though, on this day we are, therefore, emphatically reminded of the truth that in this world there is something promiscuous in God’s providential dealings with men, so that the righteous and the unrighteous have all things in common, and the latter even receive more of earthly riches and abundance than the former; yet, even on Thanksgiving Day the distinction between them that fear the Lord and them that fear Him not is not obliterated, but clearly maintained, and it is only the former that unite in praise.
To give thanks one must not taste things, but the favor of the Most High.
And for the wicked this is impossible.
They taste many things, but not the grace of God. Even in their prosperity the favor of Jehovah is not upon them: His face is against them that do evil. Even in their abundance they receive no token of the lovingkindness of the Lord toward them, for He is angry with the wicked every day, and when they prosper He sets them on slippery places, that they may be cast down into destruction. Even on Thanksgiving Day, though it be proclaimed by the president of our nation, it remains true, that there is only one access to the throne of grace, and that the way into the inner sanctuary leads along the blood-sprinkled way, through the veil, that is the flesh of Christ that was broken for us. But in that Christ the unbeliever has no part. Even on Thanksgiving Day, the sacrifices of the wicked are an abomination to Jehovah, and it is only the prayer of the upright that is His delight. And even on that day of national rejoicing, the wicked but open their lips to eat and to drink, but the prayer that their lips may be opened unto the praise of the Lord is foreign to them.
How, then, shall they praise Him whose favor they do not taste?
How shall they give thanks to Him, Whose truth they hold under in unrighteousness, and for whose glory they care not? Is it not true that even on Thanksgiving Day:
“Thus speaks the Lord to wicked men:
My statutes why do ye declare?
Why take my covenant in your mouth,
Since ye for wisdom do not care?
For ye my holy words profane
And cast them from you in disdain.”
“Consider this, who God forget,
Lest I destroy with none to free;
Who offers sacrifice of thanks,
He glorifies and honors Me;
To him who orders well His way
Salvation free will I display?”
But unite we do, as God’s people in Christ, the Church of the living God, in order that “the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.” II Cor. 4:15.
Unite so, that in oneness of heart ‘and mind, in the one Christ, by the one Spirit, without a single discordant note, we sing the praises of the’ God of our salvation!
The contents, the ground, and the object of our thanksgiving must be such that not one of the saints, no matter what his station and position in life, no matter what his earthly way and lot may be, is excluded.
It must at once embrace and transcend all things!
Embrace all things, for the Lord reigneth over all.
On Thanksgiving Day, nor on any other day, you dare not find the reason for your praise in an abundance of things, in earthly prosperity and joy. You dare not let mere things be the measure of your gratitude and adoration. For, if you do, you must needs divide your “things” and your experience into two classes, and pile them into two heaps. And you will regard the one heap, the pile of what you consider “good things,” with a certain carnal joy, and conclude that “you have still many reasons to be thankful,” while, with regard to the “evil things,” you will desperately attempt, at least for one day, to forget them, and to smother the murmur of rebellion that rises in your heart.
And how small the pile of “good things’ ’then becomes for some of us!
Who, even in the midst of the present unreel prosperity is able to forget that it is war-prosperity? Who as we take our places at the family table covered with abundance, can fail to see the empty place of husband or son or brother, that is, perhaps, even on that very moment, in the heat of battle, homesick, miserable, in fear of death, utterly perplexed because of the “hell” that is let loose all about him? Who, even for one day, can be oblivious of the place that is left empty for always, concerning whom we received the formally cold, but for us heart-rending report: “We regret. . . . killed in action”? . . . .
And where, then, if “things” are the ground of your thanksgiving, is your joy and peace?
No, we shall not divide our experience into two piles, but our thanksgiving shall embrace all things!
But while it embraces all the experiences and vicissitudes of this present life, it shall transcend them all!
For with them all, we shall lift up our hearts to the God of our salvation, and understand and acknowledge that all these things come to us, not by chance, but by His Fatherly hand!
Peace and war, joy and sorrow, prosperity and adversity, plenty and scarcity, sickness and health, life and death,—they are all His work!
And considering that they are the work of the God of our salvation, we know that they are good, though we understand it not.
And knowing that He doeth whatsoever He hath pleased, we are prepared’ to praise Him in all His works!
And so we unite in thanksgiving!
Yet, if we are thus to embrace all things in our adoration, if we are thus unitedly to transcend them all, and rejoice in the lovingkindness of our God, in the midst of the sufferings of this present time, we may well humble ourselves before the throne of grace, and implore Him for His mercy!
For who is able unto these things?
Before we unite in thanksgiving, we may well enter our closet, and each in his own position utter this intensely personal prayer:
O Lord, open thou my lips!
That I may show forth Thy praise!
Such is the purpose of the prayer for the opening of our lips.
To be sure, the shewing forth of the praise of God is also the result of that grace whereby our lips are opened, the fruit of it. And the psalmist, no doubt, also intends to confess that he is incapable and unworthy of shewing forth the praise of Jehovah, unless the Lord by His irresistible grace opens his lips.
Yet, that which is the fruit of God’s grace is also the purpose of the psalmist’s prayer, the end which he has in view, and which he longs to attain, so that the prayer may be rendered thus: “O Lord, open thou my lips, in order that my mouth may shew forth thy praise!”
And this, to shew forth the praise of the Lord, is true thanksgiving!
Let us beware, lest our deceitful heart substitute anything else for this shewing forth of His praise!
Beware, lest you imagine that in any sense you could remunerate Him for all His benefits to you-ward! What would you give Him? He is the ever blessed God, the fullness of all good, the absolutely self-sufficient Lord. And He is the sole proprietor of the whole universe, the Creator of the heavens and of the earth. The silver and the gold; the cattle on a thousand hills, the earth and its fullness, belong to Jehovah! Always he speaks:
“I will receive from out thy fold
No offering for my holy shrine;
The cattle on a thousand hills
And all the forest beasts are Mine;
Each mountain bird to Me is known,
Whatever roams the field I own.”
“Behold, if I should hungry grow,
I would not tell My need to thee,
For all the world itself is Mine,
And all the wealth belongs to Me;
Why should I aught of thee receive,
My thirst or hunger to relieve?”
Beware, lest your evil imagination makes you feel pious and religious in the thought that you give Him something when you offer Him a dime of His own dollar! Beware, lest you become abominable in His sight, when you foolishly would pour a little drop back into the Fountain from which your cup was and always is filled! You can give Him nothing! He is always the Giver, never the Receiver! He is the ever flowing fount of all good. Even your thanksgiving is His gift to you, not yours to Him! And as soon as you have rendered thanks unto His Holy Name, you are already under obligation to fall back on your knees, and thank Him for your gratitude!
No, but to shew forth His praise,—that alone is thanksgiving!
His praises, you understand, are His marvelous virtues!
God is GOD!
And He is the LORD!
And He is GOOD!
He is the implication, the fullness of all infinite perfections! He is a Light, and there is no darkness in Him at all! He is pure and infinite goodness! He is righteousness and holiness, truth and faithfulness, love and grace and mercy and lovingkindness, justice and power and might, the only Potentate of potentates, the only Lord, who dwelleth in the light no man can approach unto, the Creator and Redeemer, who calls the things that are not as if they were, and who quickeneth the dead!
And this PRAISE He reveals to us in many praises in all the works of His hands!
He reveals them in creation, for the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handiwork; day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge! He reveals them in all the works of His providence even in this cursed world, in which all things are made subject to vanity, and we lie in the midst of death. He reveals His praises in rain and sunshine, in devastating floods and scorching heat, in abundance and in famine, in our prosperity and adversity, in peace but also in war, in health but also in sickness, in joy but also in sorrow, in life but also in death! He reveals them to His people centrally in the death and resurrection of His only begotten Son, through whom He revealed His everlasting love and purpose of salvation, and in the light of whose cross and glory you may be assured that all other things shall be added unto you, and shall work together for your salvation!
That is His praise revealed in many praises!
Shew them forth!
Point to them! Include them all! Exclude none of them! Do not put your “things” on two piles to praise Him for some of them, but point to them all, and confess that they all show forth His praise, and that they all reveal that the Lord is good, that His mercy endureth for ever! Say it to Him in adoration and worship! Tell it to your children, to one another! Declare it in all the world, before a boasting and vaunting and wicked world that speaks of chariots and of horses, that the Lord is God, that He reigneth over all. . . .
And that He is ever GOOD!
Unto this ye were called!
He called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, that you might shew forth His virtues!
His marvelous praises!
Lord, open thou my lips!
How else shall we ever declare His praise?
O, how utterly impossible this is without His grace! For, on the one hand, with our natural eye we do not see His praise. We see war and destruction, madness and confusion, suffering and death; we see that the wicked prosper, and that the righteous suffer, and that the ways of the Lord are not equal. . . .
And, on the other hand, we are carnal and sinful by nature, and are neither worthy nor capable and willing to shew forth the praises of the Most High! We are inclined rather to rejoice in things, and to rebel when things are against us!
Thanksgiving, the shewing forth of the praise of Jehovah, is the fruit of His marvelous grace in the Beloved!
Lord, open thou my lips!
My lips, yes, but from within! Open my heart, whence are the issues of life! Work mightily, constantly, irresistibly, in my inmost heart, that I may have eyes to see thy glory and thy everlasting mercy over me in all things, a will to adore thee, joy in Thee!
Then, and then alone my mouth shall be opened!
To declare Thy glorious praise!