Rev. Slopsema is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High: To show forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.
Music is one of the many wonderful creations of God. Music is delightful. How our lives are enriched by music. Music is also powerful. It can lift our mood; it can inspire; it can excite; it can calm. It can do many things.
When we put words to our music there is song. Songs are delightful, whether we sing them ourselves or hear them sung by others. Songs are also powerful, more powerful than music alone without words. The words of a song carry a distinct message that music alone can not. Songs can be a powerful tool in the hands of God to edify and lift us up spiritually. Songs can also be a powerful tool in the hands of the devil to wear down our faith and to fill our soul with evil thoughts, desires, and feelings.
What are the songs that fill your heart? Are they the songs of God that edify? Or the songs of the world that destroy?
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High.
It is also a good thing to meditate on this for a while.
The lovingkindness and faithfulness of the Lord.
God’s lovingkindness is His mercy for His people. As the term itself suggests, God’s lovingkindness is God’s love for His people. How the Lord loves His own! He loves them with an eternal, electing love. And the Lord is no fair-weather friend. He also loves His people when they are in distress and downtrodden. In love His heart goes out to them so that He rescues them from their woes with many acts of kindness. Such is God’s lovingkindness.
Closely connected to this is God’s faithfulness. This is God’s faithfulness to His covenant. God has graciously established a covenant with His elect people, a covenant of love and friendship, a covenant that is mirrored in the covenant of marriage among us. In that covenant God promises many wonderful things to His people. He promises to live with them in intimate friendship, to care for them, to defend them, to provide for all their needs now and forever. God is faithful to this covenant, faithful to His covenant people, faithful to His covenant promises. That faithfulness shows itself in many acts of lovingkindness for His people in distress.
The Lord showed His lovingkindness and faithfulness to His people Israel. The Lord brought them out of the bondage of Egypt and into Canaan. In Canaan the Lord richly blessed Israel. He made Canaan to be for them a land flowing with milk and honey, so that Israel enjoyed the fatness of the land. This prosperity served as outward tokens of God’s love and favor upon His people. Also at the tabernacle and later in the temple the Lord showered Israel with the blessings of salvation, blessings that brought Israel into the joy of intimate fellowship and friendship with their God. The Lord also preserved and defended Israel from the attacks of her enemies, who with superior strength sought to take from Israel the land of promise and to destroy God’s covenant with Israel.
All of this was the lovingkindness and faithfulness of the Lord. The psalmist celebrates this lovingkindness and faithfulness of God in the rest of the Psalm. For he goes on to speak of the terrible destruction of Israel’s enemies at the hand of the Lord (v. 4-9), and rejoices in the great blessing of the Lord to Israel (vv. 10-15).
It was for this lovingkindness and faithfulness that Israel gave thanks. This Psalm was sung on the Sabbath day by the congregation of Israel at the temple after their return from the Babylonian captivity. Through the singing of this Psalm, Israel gave thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness and faithfulness.
As the people of God we today also enjoy the same lovingkindness and faithfulness.
In Christ Jesus we belong to the same covenant enjoyed by Israel in the Old Testament. For the covenant of God is with Abraham and his seed (Gen. 17:7). And all those who have the faith of Abraham and by faith belong to Christ are Abraham’s seed (Gal. 3:7, 29).
The form that the covenant takes today is quite different from the form it took in the Old Testament era. Gone is the earthly Canaan with its physical boundaries. Gone is the earthly temple. But the essence of the covenant remains. In Jesus Christ, God lives with us in intimate friendship and fellowship. In that covenant God promises to care for us, bless us, and provide for all our needs now and forever.
To that covenant God is also faithful. In Jesus Christ He richly blesses us according to His promises, showing us again and again His lovingkindness. In His lovingkindness God forgives all our sins for Christ’s sake, dwells with us in sweet communion, provides for all our material as well as spiritual needs, defends us from the powers of darkness that seek to destroy us….
And for this we must give thanks.
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.
How shall we give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness and faithfulness?
The answer is found in the phrase itself. To “give thanks” in the original Hebrew is one word, which expresses the basic idea of pointing out something to another. We give thanks to God for His lovingkindness and faithfulness by pointing them out. How richly God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness have blessed us! We thank the Lord by pointing these wondrous blessings out first to God, who gave them to us. But we point them out also to our neighbors: our children, our fellow saints, our fellow students, our co-workers, the unbeliever who opposes us for Christ’s sake.
There are many ways by which we can effectively point out the lovingkindness and faithfulness of God in thankfulness. We can do this in prayer. We can do this as we instruct our children. We can do this as we commune with one another in the fellowship of the saints. We can do this as we witness to the ungodly.
The emphasis of this Psalm is that we are in gratitude to point out God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness in song. For after proclaiming the goodness of giving thanks to the Lord, the psalmist speaks of singing praises to the name of the most High. Then the psalmist continues to speak of showing forth (bringing to light, telling of) God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness upon an instrument of ten strings and upon the psaltery. Clearly the psalmist would have us express our gratitude to God by bringing to light in song all that the Lord has done for us in His lovingkindness and faithfulness and then to praise Him for it. He would have us do this in the morning and every night. Songs of thanksgiving and praise should fill our homes and lives.
This is a good time to evaluate the songs that do fill our homes and our cars. What kind of songs are we listening to or singing?
There are a multitude of songs that differ drastically from the songs that express gratitude to the Lord. The world, for example, produces many songs that bring to light and praise, not the lovingkindness and faithfulness of God to His church, but the abominable sins of the world. And there are many songs produced in the church that point out and praise, not what God has done in His faithfulness, but what we will do. They are man-centered rather than God-centered songs. In keeping with this, many of the songs produced in the church grossly misrepresent God.
The songs that should fill our homes, our cars, our souls should be songs of gratitude that accurately bring to light the lovingkindness and faithfulness of the Lord and that praise Him for them. For that reason we should be singing the Psalms. No, the Psalms are not the only songs of the church that show forth the lovingkindness and faithfulness of God. God has led the church to produce many spiritual songs that praise God for His faithfulness and do so from the perspective of the fuller revelation of the New Testament Scriptures. These songs are also ours to sing. Nevertheless, the Psalms were given to the church by the inspiration of God as means to give thanks to the Lord and to show forth His lovingkindness and faithfulness. These Psalms must not be neglected by us. They are to be precious to us so that we sing them in the morning and every night.
How often do we sing songs of gratitude and praise to the Lord? We are so busy with our daily work, busy often with recreation and entertainment, that we have no time to sing songs of gratitude and praise to our Lord. The blessings of God are innumerable. We must be a people who show forth God’s lovingkindness in the morning and His faithfulness every night.
It is good to give thanks unto the Lord.
A thing may be good because it is right.
A thing can also be good because it is pleasant.
Here the idea is that it is good to give thanks unto the Lord in song because it is beneficial. Showing forth the lovingkindness and faithfulness of God contains the idea of joyful celebration. It suggests that when we bring to light the lovingkindness and faithfulness of God in song, we are led to celebrate God’s wonderful blessings. We are filled with joy and rejoicing in God’s salvation.
What a powerful tool singing is. The songs of the world are a powerful means in the hand of the powers of darkness to tear us down spiritually as they fill our souls with the lusts of this world. But songs of gratitude and praise to the Lord are a tremendous means in the hand of the Holy Spirit to lift us up in celebration of God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness.
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto His name, to show forth His lovingkindness in the morning, and His faithfulness every night.
What will you sing?