Theme: Knowing God
In this week’s lessons we are reminded of the many reasons for which to thank God.
Scripture: Psalm 100:1-5
Yesterday we looked at three imperatives in this psalm. The fourth imperative is “know” (v. 3). It is very important, which is why I have set it apart. By including this word, the psalm tells us that our thanksgiving to God must be intelligent; we must know whom we are thanking. Do you remember Paul’s words to the Athenian Greeks? They had been worshiping “an unknown God.” But when Paul stood on Mars Hill to address them, he said, “What you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23). We cannot rightly thank or worship a God who is unknown to us.
So we ask, what is it about God we should know? Verse 3 gives two answers: 1) He is our Creator; and 2) He is our Redeemer. The words are: “It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”
We should notice a number of things about this verse, and the first is the connection between knowing God as Creator and knowing ourselves as his creatures. This is the point John Calvin made in the opening chapter of his Institutes of the Christian Religion when he pointed out that the natural result of knowing God is to know ourselves, and that the only way we really know ourselves is by knowing God. Knowing God and knowing ourselves always go together.
But there are two specifics:
1. Knowing God as Creator. What happens to us when we do not know God as Creator? The answer is that we imagine that we are our own creators. We do this in a variety of forms. Sometimes we do it scientifically. This is what lies behind the surprising persistent appeal of evolution, a theory that has very little if any true evidence in its support. The appeal of evolution is that it does away with the need for God. It explains how things got to be as they are without any divine creative force behind them. Of course, if we do not need God as our Creator, then we do not need to be thankful. Why should we? We got here by ourselves, thank you. We have no one but ourselves to thank.
Another way we imagine that we are our own creators is by an inordinate admiration of our abilities or achievements. This is what the humorist meant when he described the Englishman as “a self-made man who worships his creator.” It is only when we know God as our Creator that we know ourselves as his creatures and find ourselves appropriately thankful to him.
2. Knowing God as Redeemer. Even more important than knowing God as Creator is knowing him as Redeemer, which is what the words “his people” and “the sheep of his pasture” ultimately refer to. It is hard at this point not to think of David’s moving, personal expression of faith in God as his shepherd in Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing” (v. 1).
Or we think of the way the Lord explained it to the disciples in his extensive discourse on himself as the good shepherd, recorded in John 10:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away….I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:11, 12, 14-16).
If there is no other reason why we must be thankful to God, it is because he has both made us and redeemed us. No one should be more thankful to God than the sheep who are cared for by the Good Shepherd.
How can thanksgiving be intelligent?
How do knowing God and knowing ourselves go together?
List and describe the two things about God that we should know.
Application: What can you do to increase your knowledge of God?