Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Why We Give Thanks

Dannah Gresh: Even when it’s difficult, we need to remind ourselves of God’s covenant-keeping love. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Tomorrow morning, when you get to work and find out that your job is being terminated, or you get a call that your mom has been in a serious accident, or you learn that your boyfriend has cheated on you, or you feel overwhelmed by unexplainable anxiety and depression, that’s when you remind yourself of God’s promise: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for November 17, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Did you know there’s a mindset that changes the way we view every circumstance in life? Today Nancy’s going to help us look at a specific promise in the Bible that shapes our outlook on any situation.

We’re continuing in a series based on Psalm 136. Of course, this was recorded last February before coronavirus restrictions on studio audience sizes. And if you missed yesterday’s program, catch it on ReviveOurHearts.com or through the Revive Our Hearts app. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Well, in our last session, we memorized half of a Psalm that has twenty-six verses. And if you were with us yesterday, you remember, that’s because each of those twenty-six verses has two lines, and the second line of each verse is the same: “For His steadfast love endures forever.” I don’t know how many times we said that together yesterday, but we’re going to say it a lot more together before this series is over.

Yesterday we read through the entire psalm, and the rest of this week and next, we’re going to be walking through it one verse, one paragraph at a time. And I’m going to need your help. I need you to be the choir that responds at the end of each verse: “For His steadfast love endures forever.” Do you have that line? Let’s just try it together: “For His steadfast love endures forever.”

Now, if you’re able to have your Bible open or your phone open to Psalm 136, let me encourage you to do that because I want you to see for yourself the progression in this psalm. There are two bookends. The first verse and the last verse. So let me read those verses, and you help me out with that chorus.

Verse 1: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

And then move down to the last verse, verse 26: “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

So that’s the frame. Those are the bookends for this psalm. The Lord is worthy of our thanks because He is good, and His steadfast love endures forever. This is where we start. And this is where we end: The Lord is good, and His steadfast love endures forever; therefore, we give thanks.

That’s the beginning. That’s the end. This is the mindset that needs to inform everything in-between in our lives. This is the mindset that needs to govern every circumstance that you could possibly face, not only today, but for the rest of your life. So we want to get this mindset branded in our minds and in our souls. “The Lord is good, and His steadfast love endures forever.”

Now, it’s one thing to say that around the Thanksgiving feast, as many of us will here in the United States next week. It’s one thing to say that when the sun is shining, and you’ve got a husband who’s crazy about you, and you’ve got money in the bank, and your kids are in good health. Anybody can say, “The Lord is good. His steadfast love endures forever” in those circumstances.

But most of life isn’t that way. Right? Even in a great marriage, there are hard days. Even with great kids, there are hard days. Single, married, widowed, divorced, older, younger—in every season of life there are challenges. There are hard days. There are days when it’s hard to believe that the Lord really is good.

When there are days when it’s hard to believe, when our emotions tell us, “The steadfast love of the Lord isn’t working for me right now,” that’s why we’re going to learn to counsel our hearts according to this truth even when it doesn’t feel like it is true.

Now, we want to look at the first three verses for the next moments here. In these verses we have a three-fold invitation—let me say, it’s more than an invitation. It’s an exhortation to give thanks to the Lord.

I’ll read it, the first line of each verse, and then you join me in the second line of each verse.

Verses 1–3 of Psalm 136:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

I think the psalmist and for sure the Lord, knew that we would forget to give thanks. There are some times when we’re just overflowing with thanksgiving. But there are other times when our thanksgiving bucket seems a little low. That’s when the psalmist says—that’s when the Holy Spirit says to us, “Give thanks. Give thanks. Give thanks.”

Now, let’s talk about that word for just a moment. In the original language, that’s a word that means “to confess; to acknowledge; to profess something.” It actually means, “To show or point out with the hand extended—‘Look at that!’”

You see something that’s in your view, you see a blessing of the Lord or an evidence of the Lord’s goodness or of His love, and you point it out. You show it. You say, “Look at that!” You acknowledge it. You confess it. You say, “This is true. Look what God has done.” 

But you don’t just notice it. You don’t just point it out. You say something about it. You give thanks, you praise, you celebrate because thanksgiving and praise naturally follow when you acknowledge or confess the benefits you’ve received from God.

So you see what God has done—you might have to look for it sometimes. You see what God has done, and then you confess. You give thanks to Him, and you say, “Lord, You are good. Your steadfast love endures forever.” You give Him thanks because you have seen, you have professed, you have acknowledged His good deeds and His good works.

Now, notice that our thanks has an object. If you see or find thank-you cards at your local store where you buy cards, you’ll find thank-you cards, but you don’t find many thank-you cards like the one in Psalm 136. There’s a direction to our thanks: “Give thanks to the Lord.”

This is not just giving thanks, sending it up in the air or to some nameless, nebulous benefactor or force. “Give thanks to the Lord.” We direct our thanks outward and upward to Him.

“Give thanks to the Lord”—the Lord. Jehovah is the word there—the self-existent one, the creator of the universe. That’s in verse 1.

Verse 1 tells us “Give thanks to the God of gods.” That’s the word Elohim—the all-powerful, all mighty God. Give thanks to Him.

And then verse 3: “Give thanks to the Lord of lords.” That’s that word Adonai. It speaks of His sovereignty—the Lord who rules over all. Give thanks to Him.

And then in the last verse of this psalm, verse 26: “Give thanks to the God of heaven.” He’s not just Israel’s God. He’s the God of heaven, the God of earth. He’s the God over all earthly gods. “Give thanks to the God of heaven.”

So these first three verses tell us what we are to do. We are to “give thanks to the Lord.” But it also tells us why we should give thanks to the Lord. And in this first paragraph, these first three verses, we find two never-ending streams for our thanks.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for (reason number one) He is good.”

“Give thanks to the Lord, for (reason number two) His steadfast love endures forever.”

Let’s look at those reasons to give thanks to the Lord:

Number one: He is good. That word in the Hebrew means “to be kind; to be upright; to be good.” This is a fundamental, foundational, theological truth. If you miss this in your life, you will miss everything in your relationship with the Lord.

We start with the reality that God is good. He is not only great—Jehovah, Elohim, Adonai, the God of heaven. He is also good.

  • He is not only powerful, He is also good. 
  • He is not only sovereign, He is also good. 
  • He cannot be anything other than good. 
  • He is good in all His ways. 
  • He is good in the midst of any and every circumstance or situation in your life.

Now, think about the hardest thing you’re facing right now. Got it? It’s in your head? Maybe you’re saying, “There’s so many, I don’t know how . . .” Think of the whole lot of them. Or think of the one thing that has just been consuming your thoughts, your sleeping hours, your waking hours. Or it might be a lot of little things that are driving you crazy. Think about those things. Then lay over that the reality that God is good. God is good. God is good. God is good. God is good. That’s what we need to be telling ourselves, reminding ourselves—over and over and over again.

We’re not making this up. We’re not trying to convince ourselves. This is not just telling ourselves something and then hoping that will make it true. It IS true. So we tell ourselves that is true so that we can come to believe by faith what already is true: God is good.

I was with some friends not too long ago who were telling us the story about when this woman was pregnant with her third child. That child was diagnosed in utero with some life-threatening health issues.

The child was not expected to live at all, barely survived, and had to begin dialysis at five days of age. This child is now thirteen and over the last thirteen years has had thirty-six surgeries, has been a special-needs child, so many needs, so many complications. These precious parents have grappled with, “Is God really good?”

I’ll tell you one thing: They have come out convinced, knowing that God is good in giving to them this precious child, this child who has so enriched their lives and their walk with the Lord and has pressed them into total utter dependence upon the Lord. And they would affirm with all their hearts what this psalm says: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.” They’ve seen it. They’ve tested it. They’ve proven it. He is good.

Now God is not only good, but we find a second reason for thanks here: “His steadfast love endures forever.” That word “steadfast love” translated in the ESV, “steadfast love” is the Hebrew word hesed. You might spell it in the English version: h-e-s-e-d. You’ll see it spelled different ways, but this is one of the most important theological terms in the Old Testament.

There’s no way for this Hebrew word to fully be captured, for its meaning to be captured, with one English word. That’s why you see it translated in different ways. In my Bible it’s translated “steadfast love.” In your Bible it may be translated “faithful love” or “lovingkindness” or “love”—“His love endures forever.” In other places in the Scripture it’s translated “kindness,” or “goodness,” or “favor,” or “mercy.” You see it translated “mercy” a lot, especially in some of the older translations.

His steadfast love—His mercy, His loving kindness—endures forever. What is this mercy? What is this love? What is this hesed?

Well, first of all, it’s undeserved. We don’t deserve the steadfast love of the Lord. It’s based on a covenant relationship that is not initiated by us, but it’s initiated by God. God has made a commitment to us. He’s made a covenant with us.

It’s a kind of love that is faithful and loyal and dependable. God commits Himself to His covenant people, and He is faithful to keep that commitment. 

  • He keeps His promises. 
  • He doesn’t break His promises. 
  • His character never changes. 
  • He will never love us any less. 
  • He never could love us any more. 

This is the hesed, covenant-keeping faithful love of God. We can count on it. We can be secure in it.

This hesed love is strong. There is nothing on earth or under the earth or above the earth that can break the hesed love of God for His people.

  • This hesed love is earnest. 
  • It’s fervent. 
  • It’s hot-hearted. 
  • It’s deeply devoted. 

This is not just God loving us out of obligation, because He has to. This is a generous, ardent, a passionate love that God has for His covenant people.

And this hesed lover is not just a feeling. God acts on behalf of those to whom He has committed Himself. He does something about their needs.

God doesn’t just dole out this hesed love in dribs and drabs. “You’ve been good today, so you get a little bit of this hesed love.” No. God is rich in steadfast love, in compassion. He’s generous with it. He lavishes us with this hesed love.

This hesed, steadfast love of the Lord will never end. It goes on forever and ever and ever. This is the hesed, the faithful, covenant-keeping love of God for His people.

Now, if you’ve ever been betrayed by someone who promised to love you, you may find it difficult to trust the hesed love of God. If you’ve had someone break his promise to you or someone who has not kept his vows to you, how can you be sure that God won’t leave you the way that your dad or your husband or someone else that you trusted that left you?

Well, Isaiah 54, verse 10, tells us, 

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you.

You can count on God’s hesed love even when you are unfaithful to Him. The book of Lamentations was written by the prophet Jeremiah when God’s people were being disciplined for forsaking the Lord. In the midst of that season, the prophet affirmed:

The steadfast love of the Lord [the hesed love of the Lord] never ceases;his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning (Lam. 3:22).

So tomorrow morning, when you get to work and find out that your job is being terminated, or you get a call that your mom has been in a serious accident, or you learn that boyfriend has cheated on you, or you feel overwhelmed by unexplainable anxiety and depression, that’s when you remind yourself of God’s promise:

“My steadfast love shall not depart from you.”

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.”

And this one in Psalm 23: 

“Surely goodness and mercy [that’s that word hesed—steadfast love] shall follow me all the days of my life” (v. 6).

That word for “follow me,” the hesed of the Lord will follow me, is actually a word that could be translated: “It will pursue me.”

Here’s what I read by one commentator about that word: 

The word pursue normally describes the action of pillaging armies and covenant curse, but the psalmist is convinced that instead of the covenant curse he deserves, the Lord’s faithful love and goodness will hunt him down relentlessly instead.

The covenant-keeping love of the Lord, His mercy, His hesed, and His goodness will pursue me all the days of my life. His love for us is faithful. It’s unchanging. It’s eternal. There is no end to His mercy and to His love.

So Psalm 136 tells us that His steadfast love, (His hesed), endures forever. The simplest translation of that verse from the original language would be, “His love has no end.” From infinity to infinity, His love has no end. “The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.”

Here’s what one commentator said about that word, as we find it in Psalm 136. He says, 

This psalm insists, literally in every verse, [Psalm 136] that the root of all of God’s activity in this world, beginning even with the world’s creation, is mercy—hesed. This mercy is eternal. It’s forever. Mercy is the cause and reason of all that God does. Mercy is the explanation of every single thought that God has with respect to us.

Let me just repeat that because some of you don’t really believe that. He says, 

Mercy is the explanation of every single thought that God has with respect to us. When we deal with God, everything is mercy. All we will ever discover of God will be the deepening levels of His great, abundant, overflowing, rich, and endless mercy. “For His mercy endures forever” is the eternal song of the saints.

“His steadfast love endures forever.” That repeated refrain here in Psalm 136 was a present reality for the Old Testament believers who sang it, but it was also a promise pointing to a future day when the Lord would come to this planet in human flesh, and He would make His covenant love visible to us. He would make Himself known to us here on earth.

So we read in Romans chapter 8, verse 35 and following, the New Testament version of “His steadfast love endures forever.” You know this passage: 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [nothing!] will be able to separate us from the love of God [the hesed of God] in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the 1800s, there was a Welshman named William Rees. And he wrote a hymn that became the best-known hymn in the Welsh Revival in 1904 and 1905. They say you could go through hamlets and towns and burgs all through Wales, and you could hear the Welsh people singing this hymn. You may have heard the words:

Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Lovingkindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout Heav’n’s eternal days.

(“Here Is Love by William Rees)

  • He is good. 
  • He is loving. 
  • He always has been. 
  • He always is. 
  • He always will be.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast faithful love endures forever.”

Now in a sense those are simple words—simple to learn, simple to repeat. But I want to suggest to you that we can’t repeat them too often. We can’t repeat them often enough. This is something we need to affirm over and over and over again in both the ups of life and in the downs of life. We need to say it when we feel like it’s true. And we need to say it when we don’t feel it’s true. We need to say it until we know by faith that it is true.

There may be times when you feel like you’re just repeating a line like this by rote, but if these words, this truth, are engraved on your mind and heart, when you find yourself in desperate straits—as you will—rather than spiraling down into despair and doubt, you will be steadied and supported by this rock solid truth: “The Lord is good; His steadfast faithful love endures forever.”

This is the believer’s glad chorus, the confidence that the goodness and the love of God undergird every moment and every season of his life. And knowing that this is true, that “the Lord is good, and that His steadfast faithful love endures forever,” what do we do? Give thanks to the Lord.

I had an unforgettable experience a number of years ago when I visited the Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, New York. It was on their Tuesday night prayer meeting. If you’ve never been there, that’s an amazing experience. The place was packed. tThe friends who had gone with me, we were sitting/standing on the very front row. This was during a time when a lot of people were out of work.

Pastor Cymbala at one point during the singing time, during the praise and the worship time, he wanted them to sing a song that Steve Green had taught them at the Brooklyn Tabernacle the week before when he’d been there for a concert.

It’s a song that probably is familiar to you now, but then it was new to most of it. I had not heard it before. It was the first time I had ever heard this song that we’re going to listen to in a moment. He said, “We’re going to sing this song.” They began to sing it with the instrumentalists and the people leading the worship and the congregation singing:

He is good, He is good,
His love endures forever;
Give thanks to the Lord,
For He is good.

For His unfailing love, and His wonderful deeds;
Give thanks, give thanks to the Lord.”

So they sang it through two or three times; they were getting familiar with this song. And then Pastor Cymbala said, “How many of you in this congregation are out of work? You’re out of work. You need a job. You want a job, but you can’t get a job. Lift your hands.”

And he said, “Now, I want all of you who have just raised your hands (there were many throughout that congregation), I want you all to come down to the front.”

I was standing on the front row, and there was this deluge of people just flocking down to the front. They filled that entire area between the front seat and the platform. They just came, and they kept coming, and they kept coming—men, women, younger, older—people out of work.

Then Pastor Cymbala said, “We’re going to sing that song again, and I want you to sing it.” And he looked at those people standing in front of him at the foot of that platform, and he said, “I want you to sing this. I want us all to sing this.”

And they began to sing it again.

He is good, He is good,
His love endures forever;
Give thanks to the Lord,
For He is good.

And then they would sing it again, and Pastor Cymbala would say, “Down there, you’re looking sad. You’re looking downcast. I want you to look up. I want you to give thanks to the Lord.”

And they would sing it again.

He is good, He is good,
His love endures forever;
Give thanks to the Lord,
For He is good.

And what a deeply moving experience it was to stand there just swamped with these people who were facing such hardships financially in their lives—not to speak of many other burdens that people had carried into that place that night. And then thinking of the few burdens, whatever they might have been at the moment on my own heart, and to sing together, loudly, with conviction, with certainty:

He is good, He is good,
His love endures forever;
Give thanks to the Lord, (we lifted it up that night)
For He is good.

Listen as we hear Steve Green sing this song, “He is good, give thanks to the Lord.” And perhaps wherever you are, just join in in singing and make this your hymn of praise.

Steve Green:

He is good, He is good,
His love endures forever;
Give thanks to the Lord,
For He is good.

He is good, He is good,
His love endures forever;
Give thanks for He is good.

For His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds
Give thanks, give thanks to the Lord.

He is good, He is good,
His love endures forever;
Give thanks for He is good.
He is good, He is good.

Dannah: That’s Steve Green singing about the promises of God’s love and why we give Him thanks. Isn’t that comforting? Do you feel like giving thanks to the Lord right now?

Today Nancy talked about times we don’t feel like being thankful. I don’t know about you, but this year, sometimes that’s been difficult for me. I’ve just needed to stop and write a list of all the times I have experienced God’s love and sovereignty in the past. And when I do, that nurtures thankfulness in me.

Maybe you need to do that today. Actively remember the reasons you can give thanks to the Lord. It reminds your heart of His love and goodness no matter what you’re facing.

I’m excited to tell you about a tool to help you actively remember God’s love and sovereignty—the new 2021 wall calendar for Revive Our Hearts. The theme is “Heaven Rules.” What a good reminder that you can trust God’s goodness and promises no matter what the coming year may bring. Each page of this calendar is filled with beautiful designs, a passage of Scripture, and a quote from Nancy about “heaven rules.” It’s a tangible expression on your wall to set your mind on the truth of God’s Word.

You can get one of these calendars when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. It’s our way to say “thank you” for your support of this ministry. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959, and be sure to ask for the calendar when you make your donation.

Well tomorrow we’re going to take a deeper look at creation and what it says about God’s love. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Encouraging you with the promise of God’s faithful love, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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