Online Worship for Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday November 24, 2021
Sermon for Thanksgiving Eve
Calvary/Marquette ● Original 2007 ● Soli Deo Gloria
O Give Thanks unto the Lord, for He is Good,
for His mercy endures forever. Amen.
Acts 14:14-18 (NKJV)
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” 18 And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.
In the Name of Jesus Christ,
In whom the Greatest Gifts are ours,
Dear Fellow Redeemed by His Blood –
Why did he do that? This is a question asked, in many different contexts.
It’s asked by the sports fan who questions his team’s coaches…. “What was he thinking? He took the wind not the ball? Why did he do that?”
It’s asked by parents when their children do stupid or unfortunate things… “Why did he put the screwdriver in the outlet? Why did he touch the hot burner? Why did he do that?”
In Lystra, during the first century, Paul and Barnabas asked a similar question, for an entirely different reason. The people of Lystra came to them with garland and an ox in tow. They intended to sacrifice the animal to them. They intended to treat them as if they were one of their gods.
Why did they do that?
Well, the verses that lead up to this tell us the rest of the story (Acts 14:8-13):
8 And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. 9 This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked. 11 Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.
So now you know the rest of the story. The people of the city of Lystra in ancient Galatia were about to sacrifice oxen to them and worship them as gods because of what had happened.
God had just done something through the Apostle Paul that was literally supernatural...outside of the limits of nature. The people of Lystra knew the man lying at the gates of their city. They knew that he had been crippled since birth.
But now, inexplicably, with a word from this man Paul, he was on his feet leaping and walking! So the people of Lystra did what they thought was right. They assumed (incorrectly) that Paul and Barnabas were their gods, and prepared to offer them gifts of thanks.
They might have completed their task...
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out…
Wait, why did they do that? Why did they tear their clothes?
Well, tearing your clothing was a sign of mental anguish and sorrow. While some might have basked in the glory and received their sacrifice, Paul and Barnabas did not want to be thanked or glorified for what God accomplished.
They were NOT their gods in human form; they were only human beings, messengers, instruments of the One True and Living God. They were ordinary human beings, sent by God with an extraordinary message. They proceeded to explain why they didn’t deserve or want their sacrifice.
“Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them,
The people of Lystra were making a terrible mistake. They had been misinformed about who God really is and what He expects of human beings. They thought that they were doing the right thing...but they had it all wrong.
First: The gods that they worshipped were not real and the things they prescribed were useless things. After all, Paul and Barnabas were flesh and blood, just like them. They did not desire to be worshipped but only that they listen to the truth about the Living God.
Second: there were not many gods as they imagined, but one. The things they worshipped they named Zeus and Hermes were imaginary beings created by other men. The Greeks and Romans knew that they were not alone on earth because they looked at the creation and saw order, God’s wisdom and power. But instead of seeking God...they made up gods.
Third: their gods were nothings, useless, impotent. Zeus and Hermes were idols that could neither hear nor heal.
The people of Lystra had been given life by the Living God who gives life to all things...but instead of giving Him thanks...they glorified statues of cows and other things created by human hands. What was worse, they were about to credit and praise two human beings for what God had mercifully done.
Thank God...that He also put Paul and Barnabas into this troubling situation, so that they might reveal to them the Truth. For all their religious rites and ideas, the True God was unknown to them by name. Worse yet, the way to His favor was also unknown to them. He is not appeased by the sacrifice of bulls and goats, but has been forever satisfied through the sacrifice of His own Son.
But they didn’t know…and God allowed them to continue in their ways…until that very day...when He sent Paul to explain that God:
.. in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.
Why did God do that?
Why did God allow the nations of the earth to go their own ways, and worship things that were not gods without swift and sudden judgment? Why did God allow the people of Lystra to offer sacrifices to figments of their imaginations without striking out from heaven with lightning bolts?
That’s a good question!
God allowed this to occur without judgment because He is merciful and longsuffering. He did it because He was carrying out His plan to make things right.
17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”
God did not leave himself without witness. Year after year, God proved himself to be kind and gracious, providing rain and fruitful seasons.
Moreover, God gave his Old Testament Word, which pointed the people to the Coming Savior.
God sent out His people and His prophets to speak about the great Savior and King that was to come from among the Jews. Men like Daniel were carried off into captivity and then told their captors about what the Living God promised to do.
Then when everything was ready, everything right, as the Apostle would later write to these very Galatians (Galatians 4:4-5):
4 …when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
But once the Living God had revealed His Savior and plan of salvation to the world, He could no longer tolerate the worship and praise of false gods.
The Spirit of God directed Paul to explain to the people of Athens (Acts 17:29b-31):
“…we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,
31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
After all this lesson...the people of Lystra still wanted to offer sacrifice.
18 And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.
Why does God still provide for the bodily needs of all? Why does He continue to send the rain on those who worship figments of their imaginations? Why does God send the rain on the just and the unjust? Wouldn’t it be a more effective witness if good things only came to those who believe?
It is Thanksgiving Eve…and it seems at times that the ungodly have much more to be thankful for than we.
We live in the richest country of the world, but it is also one of the world’s ungodly nations. Our society at large supports the sanctioned murder of the unborn for various reasons.
Many openly oppose God’s will, reject His Word as outdated, live in open sin and approve of evil.
Why doesn’t God just strike them down, one and all?
Why does God still graciously provide every need when He is rarely thanked but openly opposed? Hollywood types, sports figures, business CEOs have what they need and more. They are almost worshipped for their money and they themselves may trust in it.
Why does God continue to give? Because He is longsuffering and merciful. He gives because He is gracious. He provides because He has a plan, to save them.
Behind it all…there is a spiritual purpose (1 Timothy 2:3-4):
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
God’s ultimate purpose and desire for every human being…is that they come to know His Son Jesus and trusting in Him have eternal life. With this in mind, He grants every human being a time of grace. He provides physical life, food, clothing, and all the necessities of life. He provides and preserves all…because He wants to give MORE.
The millions that he gives to the wicked are nothing when compared to what He has already given you, and still would give them.
40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Instead of being covetous, instead of looking with wanting eyes…remember the spiritual purpose behind it all.
The Living God, who created all and sustains all…would through YOU…give to others blessings beyond comprehension, and eternal life.
Thank God for the gifts He gives you and praise Him for the work that he gives you, the opportunity to serve Him by speaking His Word. Draw your strength from the Cross of Christ, and wonder not “how could He do that” but rejoice to know that He did it for you.
Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is Good,
and His mercy endures forever.
To us and to all.