The following is the first 1/3 of a sermon that I preached to help us to prepare for Thanksgiving at OSBC. Many found it encouraging, so I’ll post it here over the next 2 days.
A model of Thanksgiving
Olney Southern Baptist Church
Sunday Morning, November 23, 2008
Speaker: Travis Peterson
Text: 2 Chronicles 7:1-10
2 Chronicles 7:1-10 (ESV)
1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
4 Then the king and all the people offered sacrifice before the Lord. 5 King Solomon offered as a sacrifice 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the people dedicated the house of God. 6 The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments for music to the Lord that King David had made for giving thanks to the Lord—for his steadfast love endures forever—whenever David offered praises by their ministry; opposite them the priests sounded trumpets, and all Israel stood.
7 And Solomon consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord, for there he offered the burnt offering and the fat of the peace offerings, because the bronze altar Solomon had made could not hold the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat.
8 At that time Solomon held the feast for seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great assembly, from Lebo-hamath to the Brook of Egypt. 9 And on the eighth day they held a solemn assembly, for they had kept the dedication of the altar seven days and the feast seven days. 10 On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart for the prosperity that the Lord had granted to David and to Solomon and to Israel his people.
Though we have a holiday set aside for us as a nation to give thanks to God for the ways in which he has blessed us, we are not actually very good at being a thankful people. Sadly, I’m not so sure that this is not true inside the church as well. Though we of all people have the most for which to be thankful, we do not always allow our lives to be marked by thanksgiving.
Just think for a moment. If I called you to stop and think of single words to describe the attitude of the people of Olney Southern Baptist Church, I’m guessing you could come up with several words. But I wonder if thankful would be one of the first words that would come to any of our minds. But it is God’s will that we be a thankful people.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
God wants us to be thankful. This week we have a holiday set aside to be sure to remember to be thankful. But we need help to learn to be a more thankful people. And this is why we are going to spend a few minutes this morning in the book of Second Chronicles.
Second Chronicles chapter 7 tells us of the events that surrounded the dedication of the temple that Solomon built. Chapter 6 contained a lengthy prayer of Solomon asking God to bless the temple that he was building. The end of chapter 7 contains God’s response to Solomon’s prayer, including the famous verse 14 where God says, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” But the beginning of chapter 7 is what we will study this morning.
The people of Israel are experiencing the height of God’s blessing in their national life. God, using King David, has brought Israel peace and victory over their enemies. Solomon has built the temple, and the nation has everything going well. And it is in this moment that we find the nation pausing to give God thanks. As we watch Israel’s thanksgiving at the temple’s dedication, we will learn six things about giving thanks that we can put into practice or pray for as we approach our own season of Thanksgiving.
Point 1: Before giving thanks, seek the glory of God.
2 Chronicles 7:1-2
1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house.
When Solomon finished praying, God did something amazing. God sent fire down from heaven and totally consumed the burnt offerings and sacrifices.
Right now, stop and make sure that you are picturing this. If you’ve ever seen a ceremony for the opening or dedication of a new building, I guarantee you that this is different. Instead of having a few photographers from a local paper, a ribbon, an over-sized pair of scissors, and a smiling person who wants to be seen as important making a speech, all we have here is the king praying and then, bam! Fire falls from heaven. The sacrificial animals that were on the altar are totally consumed in an instant.
And if the fire from the sky is not enough, the glory of God fills the temple. This brilliant, bright, glorious cloud covers everything. This picture has been seen in Israel before at the dedication of the tabernacle in the wilderness. And this picture serves to tell the Israelites that God is present and that he is setting apart the temple as special, a sanctuary.
The priests, the men whose job it was to work inside the temple making sacrifices and caring for the items in the temple, were unable to enter the temple. God’s glory was there. They knew that to walk into such holiness would be deadly. So, until the cloud went away, the priests had to do what the crowd did; they had to stand back and simply marvel at the presence of the glory of God.
Looking at what happened right here, we have our first lesson for thanksgiving. If you really want to be thankful as God wants you to be thankful, you must first be captivated by a picture of the glory of God. God has designed us all with a hunger to see and to be inspired by things that are amazing, that are beautiful, that are bigger than we are. The greatest thing we can ever imagine is the glorious presence of God. So, if you want to be truly thankful, you need to first seek a glimpse of the glory of God.
So, what should you do. Let me suggest a couple of ideas. If you want to see the glory of God, the first and best place you can look is the word of God. Our Lord has revealed his glory to us in the Bible. The Bible is where we look to hear the account of fire consuming offerings on the altar and the glory of God filling the temple. The Bible is where we look to learn about the waters of the Red Sea sliding apart, about entire armies being put to flight before tiny groups of men, about giants falling before teenagers, about the dead being raised to life, about the son standing still in the sky, and about so much more. The word of God shows us the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and all of the glory of God dwelling in bodily form. So, if you want to glimpse God’s glory before giving thanks, start with the scripture.
But you can look other places to glimpse God’s glory.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
God’s glory is seen in his creation.
We can also see God’s glory as we look back over our lives and remember the things that God has done for us in the past. Perhaps we can learn more about God’s glory as we talk to one another about the things that God has done in our lives.
And let me suggest that, if you want to see the glory of God, you pray that God show you his glory. God loves his children. He will answer your prayer to see him at his best. He will allow you to glimpse his majesty if you are genuinely wanting to know him more. He stands at the door of your heart and knocks as Revelation 3:20 says, and he is anxious to come in and fellowship with you. So, if you want to sense more of God’s glory, ask God to help you to see his glory. Before giving thanks, seek the glory of God.
Point 2: Express genuine worship as part of thanksgiving.
2 Chronicles 7:3
When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
The people did exactly what they should have done in their setting. When they saw the fire fall from the sky, they all hit the deck. They bowed down with their faces to the ground. They worshipped god. They declared that God is good and that God’s love endures forever. They remembered who God is, and they lowered themselves in his presence to display that he is higher and greater than them.
True worship involves us performing reverential acts. True worship involves us showing that God is our King and that we are submitted to him. True worship involves us bowing down and showing that he is greater than us. True worship involves us declaring God’s character for others to hear. True worship involves us doing what God has called us to do in his word in order to show that he is our king and we are his followers. True worship is what the people did in this passage, and it is what we need to do if we are going to be rightly thankful to God.
As this Thanksgiving approaches, do not neglect worship. It is easy to get caught up in the preparation of all the food and getting ready for the Christmas shopping. But make sure that you take time to worship your God. Seek his glory. When God reveals his glory to you either in his word, in nature, in your memory, in a sermon, or wherever, right there, bow your heart before God and declare him to be worthy. Honor him. Focus on him. Declare his praise. Worship God. Express genuine worship as part of thanksgiving.