This meditation is from the pen of the late Rev. Herman Hoeksema and is a reprint from Volume 4.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
O, Lord, our God!
Unto Thee would we give thanks!
And we would bring unto Thee, at the close of another season, in which Thou didst spread the beauty of Thy goodness over all Thy works, a sacrifice of thanksgiving that is pleasing in Thy sight!
For Thou, Lord, didst lavish Thy goodness upon us, and the benefits Thou didst bestow upon us are without number. And we would remember before Thee this day all the abundance of Thy grace and the inestimable riches of Thy lovingkindness!
As we look about us on this autumn-day and behold the trees of the woods, now shedding the last remnant of their foliage that recently clothed them in a rich garment of beautifully variegated green; and cast a last glance at the fields, now barren, from which we might gather into our barns a golden harvest of barley and oats, of corn and wheat; and consider the now stripped branches of the fruit tree and the vine, a while ago offering us their rich and luscious products; then, O Lord, shame covereth our faces, because of the doubts and fears, the moments of distrust and the times of murmuring and rebellion against Thee, that so frequently caused us to sin against Thy grace in the season that is now past.
How often did we, anxiously and full of worry and care, lift up our eyes, when day after day the sun rose with golden brightness and the firmament spread itself over us in clearest blue, and fearfully scan the horizon, to watch for a promise of rain! How often did we criticize Thy work, O Lord, and complain that there would be no pasture for our cattle, no fruit on the vine, no crops in the field, when abundant showers did not come at our bidding and in our time! And when the clouds did gather and the rain did descend, refreshing the thirsty creature, how we grumbled that it was too late! And how soon, when the clouds did not scatter and were not dispersed according to our schedule, did we complain that whatever might still have been saved of the harvest now would drown and rot! How distrustful we were, O God, of Thy faithfulness and lovingkindness; how ungrateful we were in the midst of abundance; how small and faithless we revealed ourselves when clouds of trouble lowered!
And now, O Lord . . .
Now, as we have reached the close of this season and count the blessings Thou didst bestow upon us in Thy grace . . .
As we consider our benefits and remember Thy works, how Thou didst do all things well, giving rain and sunshine, cold and heat, causing the seed to sprout and the trees to bring forth their fruit, making the season abundantly fruitful and filling our barns with Thy good things; how Thou didst amply provide for man and beast, giving food to the hungry, refreshment to the weary, labor for the strong, abundance for all, bread and wine and oil; how Thou didst help in time of trouble, wert our shield against the enemy, our comfort in sorrow, our strength in affliction; how Thou didst reveal Thy Name unto us, always near to help and lead us, and how Thou didst cause all things to work together for our good . . .
Lord, our God! then we must cover our faces with shame. Then, on this thanksgiving day, as we remember our own smallness and weakness and frequent murmurings and distrust, we dare not lift up our eyes to heaven!
Yet, Lord, we would praise Thee for Thy goodness.
And bring Thee thanks for Thy mercy.
A sacrifice of gratitude!
Lord, our God!
But, O Lord, how shall we?
How can we express our gratitude to Thee in a manner that may meet with Thy approval?
How shall we appear before Thee in the holiest? What sacrifice, what gift of thanks shall we bring that is acceptable in Thy sight?
Shall we, on this day of thanksgiving prepare our feasts and rejoice, filling ourselves with the good things Thou didst bestow upon us in such rich abundance? And feasting shall we commemorate before Thee how great were our efforts and how hard we have labored and toiled; how well re deserved Thy bounties and how wisely we dealt with them? Shall we bring into remembrance before Thy face our good works, our marvelous achievements and mighty accomplishments, our charity and brotherly love, in order to prove how worthy we were, in distinction from many around us, of the abundance of Thy grace?
How foolish would be the attempt, for we have corrupted our way before Thee!
How abominable we would become in Thy sight, before Whom no flesh may or ever can glory!
Shall we, then, attempt to remunerate Thee? Shall we bring unto Thee our bulls and goats as a sacrifice of thanksgiving? Shall we take with us to Thy house our money and our possessions and lay them at Thy feet as a reward and. recompense for all Thy goodness toward us? Or shall we pledge ourselves, our talents and power, our time and our service, to requite Thee for all the wonders of Thy lovingkindness?
But, O Lord, how shall we bring what is not Thine?
How shall we take into Thy sanctuary a. sacrifice of thanks which Thou didst not first bestow upon us?
Is not all the world Thine? Are not the cattle on a thousand hills Thy possessions? Is not all the gold and the silver Thine own? Where shall, I search among my possessions for something with which I could increase Thy riches? Nay more. Even I am Thine. My body and my soul belong to Thee, for Thou art the Lord my God. And Thou rightfully requirest of me that I shall love Thee with all my heart and mind and soul and strength. Thou wilt that I shall serve Thee with all that I am and possess. And if I should most perfectly comply with all Thy holy precepts and keep them to the very last, I would still have nothing wherewith to recompense Thy love and goodness and all the bounties Thou lavishest upon me. I would still be an unprofitable servant and would have accomplished merely that which was required of me! How then could we render unto Thee anything in reward for all Thy benefits toward us?
Lord, our God, how contemptible in Thy sight must be the pretentions of the creature who would remunerate Thee with Thine own! How displeasing in Thy sight must be the man who would offer unto Thee gifts of gold and silver received out of Thine own store!
No, Lord God, Thou art God and Thou alone! All sufficient art Thou in Thyself and no creature can bring ought to Thee to increase Thy great riches!
Thou art the sole Fountain of all good. An outward gift we cannot bring to reward Thy kindness.
Lord, we would bring unto Thee a gift of thanks . . .
But how shall we?
What shall we render unto the Lord?
How shall we appear before Thee so, that Thou wilt not despise us and cast us off?
What is the sacrifice of thanksgiving that is pleasing in Thy sight and upon which Thou wilt look down in love and good pleasure?
A broken spirit!
A broken and a contrite heart!
It alone can please Thee, Who hast no respect to that which is merely external, Who despisest the foolishness of insignificant and sinful men, as they exalt themselves and would requite Thee for Thy goodness and grace, Who desirest truth in the inward parts.
A broken spirit! A spirit, cured of the stiff necked pride and haughtiness of sin! A contrite heart! A heart that is crushed and overwhelmed in deep humiliation, because of a deep sense of Gods greatness and power, of His righteousness and holiness, and of our own insignificance and smallness, our corruption and our guilt.
A heart filled with the sorrow after God!
It alone is the sacrifice, O Lord, that is pleasing to Thee!
We will, then, approach Thee, bringing this sacrifice of thanks!
We will acknowledge that Thou only art God and the Fount of all good. We will not rejoice in things, but in Thee alone. We will make mention of Thy Name as we consider our filled barns and our bounteous blessings. We will count them before Thee, one by one, not forgetting any of all Thy benefits. .And as we count them we will mention the glory of Thy Name, we will sing of the marvel of Thy grace and of the wonder of Thy mercy toward us. We will speak of all Thy virtues to Thee. We will mention all Thy wonders before one another. We will speak of Thy glories and of all Thy wondrous works in the midst of the world.
Lord, our God, we will do so, in humility and contrition of heart and mind.
For we will acknowledge before Thee how helpless we are without Thee, and that only when Thou dost provide for us we can live. It is Thou and Thou alone, we will confess, that didst send the rain and the sunshine, that didst cause the grass to grow and the seed to sprout; it is Thou that feedest us out of Thine hand, that providest bread and water, oil and wine; that carest for us, Thy people, in covenant-grace, that leadest us in ways of joy and sorrow, of prosperity or adversity; it is Thou that doest all things well. We will confess, O Lord our God, that it was not our power or ingenuity, our labor or toil, our wisdom or efforts that brought even the least of all these things to us. For even these, our talents and power, our labor and efforts, our wisdom and insight, were Thine, Thy gifts to us.
Like all Thy helpless creatures, we all wait upon Thee!
And, therefore, we will not boast in Thy presence!
We will humble ourselves before Thee, O Lord our God, on this day of thanksgiving and confess in dust and ashes our own sin and transgressions, and that we had forfeited a thousand times all Thy goodness toward us. For we are guilty in Thy sight. In sin we are conceived and in iniquity we are shaped, and also in the season, now past, in which Thou didst display the wonders of Thy grace toward us, we only could increase our guilt daily. Our transgressions witness against us. Evil we are and evil we did. And, O God, if Thou shouldest mark transgressions and bring into remembrance our sins, how could we stand before Thee?
Thus, Lord, we will come to Thee, with nothing of self and all of Thee, pleading and boasting on nothing we might be or do for Thee, but only in what Thou hast done for us, clinging, even as we come to Thee to give Thee thanks and praise, to the accursed tree of our Lord Jesus Christ, lest we should be cast out from Thy presence.
Thus, Lord, we would come.
For we would bring unto Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
And praise Thy holy Name!
But, O Lord, how shall we?
How shall we be able even to bring to Thee this sacrifice of a broken spirit, of a broken and a contrite heart?
We are by nature proud, rebellious, haughty.
And even while we were speaking unto Thee words of contrition and humility, words of sorrow after Thee, we felt how hard and stiff necked we are by nature, how totally incapable of humbling ourselves before Thy countenance.
Sinful we are and in darkness. Inclined to maintain ourselves over against Thee, to seek self and our own glory, to forget Thee and trample the glory of Thy Name in the dust. Even while our mouth would speak words of contrition and humility, our heart would exalt itself against Thee. For so deceitful and wicked we are. And we know that Thou demandest truth in the inward parts. Even as the outward sacrifices of bulls and goats, or of our vows and gifts could not please Thee and be acceptable in Thy sight, so Thou hatest the mere word of our lips if our hearts do not humbly seek Thee.
And, therefore, O Lord God, even here we are helpless.
We have no humble heart to offer unto Thee!
We cannot appear in brokenness of spirit before Thy face! Unless even this contrite spirit and heart Thou wilt first bestow upon us by Thy Almighty grace!
And, therefore, Lord, God, we pray Thee: humble all our pride! Renew us by the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ! Create within us, even now, a broken heart, filled with sorrow after Thee. Search our hearts and minds, and see whether there is any remnant of this evil haughtiness within us, and cleanse us from all our horrible corruption.
Then, Lord, we will come!
Then we will bring to Thee our contrite hearts, Thy gifts to us!
Then we will thank and praise Thy holy Name for all Thy wonders and the abundance of Thy 1ovingkindness.
And having brought our sacrifice we will thank Thee still.
Praise Thee that we might express our gratitude!
Thank Thee for the offering of thanks we might bring!
And thine be the glory alone!