Why Be Thankful?
                                                             Psalms 103
By Dr. Tom Berry

When the Pilgrims proclaimed the first Thanksgiving they did so after the bitter cold had decimated their number from 120 to 25.  Only five of the women had survived.   All they possessed materially were a few miserable huts, a few pitiful patches of maize and a few wild turkeys.  Someone observing the outward circumstances might well ask, "Why be thankful?"

Fanny Crosby was blinded for life at 18 months of age when a doctor made the mistake of putting acid into her eyes instead of  a healing salve.  Many would have been very bitter over such an experience and raised the question, "Why be thankful?"  Yet, at eight years of age Fanny Crosby wrote:
                             "Oh what a happy soul am I Although I cannot see.
                               I am resolved that in this world contented I will be.
                               How many blessings I enjoy that other people don't
                               To weep and sigh because I'm blind, I cannot and I won't."
Fanny went on to write over six thousand hymns which grace the hymnbooks of Christians around the world.  Her very favorite was:
                              "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.  O what a foretaste of glory divine
                               Heir of salvation, purchase of God.  Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
                               This is my story; this is my song.  Praising my Savior all the day long."

David also had a thankful heart.  He wrote, Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits..."  Psalms 103:1, 2.  David proceeded to name some of the benefits for which he was grateful.  Perhaps God will enable us to share the same gratitude.

The Purging of Our Sins.
"Who forgives all your iniquities. . ."   (verse 3a).
Although David was an honorable man he knew he was a sinner.  In an unguarded hour he sinned as greatly as a man can sin.  Yet, David understood that all Old Testament sacrifices were pictures of the coming "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"   (John 1:29)  On that basis he asked God to forgive him.  The 51st chapter of Psalms gives us an insight into his prayer of repentance.  Then we hear him exult, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity. . ."  (Psalm 32:1, 2a).  David went on to say, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."  (Psalm 103:12).  Other scriptures tell us what God has done with the sins of the repentant believer: 

            Buried our sins in the depths of the sea; (Micah 7:18, 19) 
            Cast our sins behind His back.  (Isaiah 38:17) 
            Laid our iniquities on Christ.  (Isaiah 53:6) 
            Nailed our sins to the cross.  (Colossians 2:13 -14)
            Remember our sins no more.  (Hebrews 10:17)

May God help us to be grateful to God Who has forgiven us our iniquities and not be one of those who "has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins."  (2nd Peter 1:9).

The Preservation of Our Bodies
". . .Who heals all your diseases."   (verse 3b).

David was undoubtedly a very strong man.  We wrote, "He teaches my hand to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze."  (2nd Samuel 22:35).  Yet, David also knew what it was to be taken down to the sickbed.  From thence he cried, ". . .My strength fails because of my iniquities and my bones waste away."  (Psalm 31:10b).  He also proclaimed, "But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord. . ."  (Verse 14).  As a result he enjoyed healing and renewal of strength.

My wife and I have a friend who held the Pan-American Master's Championship for his age group in the shot put and the discus throw.  Just as he was preparing to defend his titles in the fall of 1983 he came down with a virus that took away his involuntary muscle nerves.  In a brief time he was unable to get off his bed.  Thank God he has enjoyed a recovery, albeit very slow.  This emphasized that the strongest among us can be taken down with a virus so small it can barely be seen under a microscope.  May we be grateful that Jesus is the Great Physician and heals diseases as well as forgives sins.  May we be even more grateful if we have been spared from sickness.  May we also rejoice in the fact that someday for the believer, all diseases will forever be healed and will be no more.

The Protection of Our Lives
"Who redeems your life from destruction. . ."  (verse 4a)

David knew what it was to live under the sentence of death from king Saul.  There were times when death seemed imminent.  Times when he crossed swords with the enemy amidst the battle yells, rolling dust, and dying cries of the battlefield.  Untold times God had redeemed his life from destruction.

Although much less dramatic we can say that God also protects us.  A thousand people are murdered across our land each month.  Nearly fifty thousand are dilled on our highways each year.  Every day the obituaries report those whose life came to an early end.  Every believer can claim this promise from God:  "The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them."   (Psalms 34:7).

The Privilege of Loving Kindness and Tender Mercies
". . .Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies..."  (verse 4b).

David had been exalted from the life of a shepherd boy to the throne of Israel.  He experienced the ultimate in material and physical luxuries.  He was honored loved as Israel's greatest king.  He was invincible on the battlefield.  As great as those blessings were David was thinking most about being a child of God and enjoying the fellowship and spiritual blessings of God through his life on earth and then eternal glory with God in eternity.

What great loving kindness and tender mercy from God we enjoy in America!   Should anyone doubt it, let them go where God's truth has not penetrated and they will find ignorance, fear, demonic control, disease, and despair.  Go where God's truth has been rejected or stifled and there is oppression by despots, limited conveniences, shortages of food and other essentials and very little purpose for living.  Beyond all this however, the child of God can rejoice in being an heir of God, a spiritual brother or sister to every believer, and an ambassador of Christ to a lost and dying world.  We too, have been exalted to enjoy the loving kindnesses and tender mercies of God. 

The Pleasure of Good Things To Eat
"Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."  (verse 5).

David enjoyed good things to eat.  He praised God that his mouth was satisfied with good things.  How different this is from the puritan who was given an ice cream cone and after one lick he gave it right back.  "Is something wrong with it?", asked the giver.  The puritan replied, "Anything that tastes that good has to be sinful.!"  In some quarters we have stretched out of proportion the Bible truth that we are to deny self and live for Jesus.  Somehow we must make room in our theology for such verses as these: "...Trust...in the living God Who gives us richly all things to enjoy."  (1st Timothy 6:17).   "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, . . ."  (James 1:17)

As we sit down to the Thanksgiving meal let us also praise God that He satisfies our mouth with good things so that our strength is renewed like the eagle's.  What about those times we go through the valley.  Was Job a religious fool when, upon receiving word that he had lost all of his possessions and his ten children were all killed, he responded, "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed by the name of the Lord."  No, for Job knew God had a purpose even though he did not understand it.  His statement,  ". . .But He knows the way that I take;  when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold"   (Job 23:10) reveals that he knew God was developing spiritual qualities in him that would endure forever.  On earth God did give him twice as many material possessions as he had in the beginning, and ten more children.  In the glory he shall have twenty children because he had never really lost the first ten.  They had just gone beyond the veil that separates this life from the next one.

Was the Apostle Paul a religious fool for pressing on in his ministry when he was lied about, rejected, beaten, jailed, stones and left for dead?  No, for he could say, "...But we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope.  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts. .  ."  (Romans 5:3-5).  Paul knew that even the worst of life's adversities were a tool used by God to produce great spiritual values in the believer.  This is the reason he could write the Thessalonians so confidently, "In everything give thanks!"  (1st Thessalonians 5:18.).


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