As we think about saying thanks to the Lord, obviously, there are a lot of places in the Scripture we might go. But I want to take you to a place that you might not think about, but I found the Lord laying it upon my heart today and decided to draw your attention to it. The Old Testament, 1 Chronicles. The Old Testament, 1 Chronicles chapter 16. First Chronicles chapter 16. While certainly praise is referred to in this vast history that is written for us (probably by Ezra), this is the only place where praise actually takes place.
You will notice as you look at chapter 16, starting in verse 8, that the form becomes the form of the Psalms. It breaks out of paragraphs and it’s placed in psalm form. We’re going to look at that psalm in a moment, we’re going to praise the Lord through that in a moment, but before, just a little bit of history.
This history, 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles - one book, really, originally - was written about 450 years before Christ and about 500 years after David’s reign. It gives the history of God’s unfolding redemption from Adam to the Babylonian captivity. So it goes from the creation all the way down to Israel being taken into captivity in Babylon. And while it is the history that we already know because it’s recorded in 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings, it is a book that is unique. Fifty percent of what’s in 1 and 2 Chronicles is not in those other books; fifty percent, then, is.
But this history is a second telling of the history. After the history of the Pentateuch, after the history of the books of Kings and Samuels, the history is told again from Adam to the Babylonian captivity for a very specific group of people. Written in about 450, it was written for the Jews who came back from the captivity, written for them, they had returned from Babylon, and they were facing the reality that their nation was nothing like it used to be. It was a far cry from its great history under David, its great history under Solomon.
When they came back, they had virtually a city in ruins. They had no protection, no wall. Nehemiah then helped them construct the wall. They had no temple. Zerubbabel helped them reconstruct a temple that was very plain and very common, nothing like the glorious Solomonic temple that it attempted to replace. And even after they had reconstituted themselves in the land, they were small, they were weak, they were uninfluential, they were vulnerable, they were plain people. And frankly, they were struggling with whether or not they would ever ascend to the glory days that once was their history in the time of David and the time of Solomon.
When they came back, they even had a Persian governor and not at all a Jewish king. They thought about those days, 450 and 500 years earlier, when Solomon reigned and before him, his father David. They knew that all of this was a result of judgment, and they wondered if there would ever be any hope for them to become anything great again. And this history was written to encourage them, to encourage them that God had been faithful in the past and that God by nature is faithful and that God cannot alter Himself nor His purpose nor His plan nor can He be unfaithful to His Word, as we have just sung.
No matter how bleak it looked, this is to remind them of God’s faithfulness in the past, because it is God’s faithfulness in the past that is the foundation and the basis for our trust in His faithfulness in the future. And so very likely, Ezra penned this sweeping history to remind people of what God had done in the past and to restore their faith that God would fulfill His promise regarding the land, regarding the people, regarding the priests, regarding worship, regarding salvation, and that God would bring the great anticipated Davidic king, the Messiah, in the future.
The highlight of this history, I think, is in chapter 16, where the exiles are reminded of a great day in Israel’s history, a great day. During the time of Saul, who was a very evil king, the presence of God was symbolically away from Jerusalem. The Ark of the Covenant, which represented the presence of God, was away from Jerusalem. It was sort of a symbol of God’s displeasure with Israel. When David became king (as it’s recorded earlier in 1 Chronicles), one of the very first things that David wanted to do was get the Ark of the Covenant and bring it back to Jerusalem. And so David, who was now king, built a house for himself, and he prepared a tent, a tabernacle, for the ark of God.
They went to get the ark of God. The first time in chapter 13, they carried it wrongly, and a man touched it and died on the spot, a man named Uzza, because he had violated God’s standards for the holy transportation of that which symbolized His presence. But finally it arrived, chapter 16, verse 1. They were saying, in effect, we want God in our midst. We want His presence, we want His care, we want His power. They brought in the ark of God and placed it inside the tent, which David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God.
When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord. He distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread and a portion of meat and a raisin cake. He appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, even to celebrate and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel. Asaph, the chief musician. Second to him, Zechariah, then Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel, with musical instruments, harps, lyres. Also, Asaph played loud-sounding cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel, the priests, blew trumpets continually before the Ark of the Covenant of God.
This is one big celebration. They had a wonderful meal and they had loud praise with a full orchestra. And the people were offering sacrifices, burnt offerings - sin offerings, those would be - and even peace offerings. And then on that day - verse 7 - David first assigned Asaph and his relatives to give thanks to the Lord. I guess you could say this is the prototypical thanksgiving day because God is back, His presence is there, and the people are rejoicing over that.
Starting in verse 8 and running down to verse 36, you have this Psalm that they all sang that was led by Asaph, the chief musician and all the rest participating in it. Here is true worship. By the way, if you have any cross-references in your Bible, you will notice that the first half of it comes from Psalm 105 and then there are a whole lot of other Psalms scattered in. So this is sort of like a summation of some of the most beautiful Psalms of thanksgiving. And it was on that occasion that the people gave thanks.
Now, the thanks comes in three stanzas, and I just want to go through this with you, three stanzas. Each one begins with commands to give thanks and then follows up with reasons to obey the commands - commands, followed by reasons to obey the commands. Stanza number one runs all the way from verse 8 down to verse 22. But let’s start with the commands. Interestingly enough, between verses 8 and 12, there are ten imperative verbs.
Essentially, there are ten commands here: O give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the peoples, sing to Him, sing praises to Him, speak of all His wonders, glory in His holy name, let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad, seek the Lord and His strength, seek His face continually, remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and the judgments from His mouth.
Just that opening set of commands, those ten imperatives, let us know what is really the essence of praise. It is to extol God. It is to honor God. It is to thank God. It is to praise God. This is worship. This is what should happen on a thanksgiving occasion. This is a great thanksgiving event. The Ark was back. Enemies had been subdued. David was the new king. All seemed well. And this is their praise.
The reasons are given, then, in verses 13 and following. The first one is election. O seed of Israel His servant, Sons of Jacob, His chosen ones. Thank Him because He chose you. He is the Lord our God. His judgments are in all the earth. He is no local deity. He is the judge of all the earth, and we can brag a little bit, He is our God. He has chosen us. And remember, His covenant is a forever covenant. The word which He commanded to a thousand generations, meaning endlessly.
The covenant which He made with Abraham and His oath to Isaac. You remember, He made the covenant with Abraham and then He reconfirmed it to Isaac. He also confirmed it to Jacob for a statute. The Abrahamic covenant, the promise of salvation, a nation, a kingdom, blessing He gave to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And then through Jacob, of course, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying to you, “I’ll give the land of Canaan as the portion of your inheritance when they were only a few in number, very few, and strangers in it.” This is election.
They thanked God for choosing them to be His people, for giving them covenant promises that are everlasting. They thank Him first for election and secondly for protection, even though they were chosen, even though when only a few, Abraham and Isaac and the patriarchs. And they wandered about from nation to nation and from one kingdom to another people. He permitted no man to oppress them and He reproved kings for their sakes, saying, “Do not touch my anointed ones and do my prophets no harm.”
The record of Genesis, starting with Pharaoh, is the record of how God protected His people, took them out of Egypt, brought them back. That’s where praise starts, folks. It starts with a recognition of our election and protection. God has chosen us and He will keep us to the fulfillment of His promises.
Stanza number two comes in verses 23 and 24 and again begins with commands. Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Proclaim good tidings of His salvation on a daily basis. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. We are commanded here not only like in the early part to focus on God, give thanks to Him, sing to Him, but even back in verse 8, “Make known His deeds among the peoples.” So true worship is a combination of thanking God, praising God, and telling of His greatness to all people.
We are commanded then to sing to the Lord and to proclaim His salvation from day to day, telling of His glory among the nations and may all the people know through us His wonderful deeds. The reason for that, verse 25, “For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.” He also is to be feared above all gods, “For all the gods of the people are idols.” There’s a marginal note in the NAS that says non-existent things. That’s true. All the nations surrounding Israel had all their deities and they were all nothing. “But the Lord made the heavens” - the Lord made the heavens. “Splendor and majesty are before Him. Strength and joy are in His place.”
The background to this is all the false gods and false idols. And here, the people are told by the inspired psalmer that they are to worship and praise the only true God, the Creator, the one who alone is God. All glory to Him and to no one else because of who He is, because of His splendor and His majesty, His strength and His joy.
The third stanza comes in verse 28. Here are commands again. “Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. Bring an offering and come before Him. Worship the Lord in holy array.” In other words, come into His presence, arrayed in holiness, not on the outside but on the inside. “Tremble before Him, all the earth; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved. Let the heavens be glad.”
And now the thing begins to reach a crescendo where he calls all creation to join in the praise. “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns.’” Again, this is this great celebration. There’s only one true God. “Let the sea roar, and all it contains; let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord; for He’s coming to judge the earth. O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
If they knew that, how much more do we know that? They were saying that. Some of them were giving true worship. For some it was merely an external thing. But for us who are not the people of God by birth, physical birth, but rather the people of God by spiritual birth, we know whereof we speak. We are the true worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth.
So you have three stanzas. Stanza number one commands us to worship, gives us reasons. Stanza number two commands us to worship, gives us reasons. Stanza number three commands us to worship and gives us reasons. And after we have crescendoed out of praise comes a request in verse 35. “Then say, ‘Save us, O God, of our salvation, and gather us and deliver us from the nations to give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.’”
I think this is a great model for worship. All that praise, all that thanksgiving, and then a humble request. That’s why the Lord, when He taught His disciples to pray, said, “Pray this: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” It was the praise before the petition. Then we cry, “O God of our salvation, save us, protect us, deliver us from the nations around us so that we can give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.”
I think we sometimes forget that the testimony of the people of God then and the testimony of the people of God now in the world, should be that we are, of all people on the planet, the most grateful. Right? How can we not be? How can we not be?
Whatever you might think about what’s going on in the world, economically, politically, materially, whatever you might think about your circumstances relative to somebody else’s circumstances, whatever you might think are the issues in your life that steal your joy, you better get over it because you, of all people on the planet, have the most to be thankful for. All of this is just temporary stuff, right? Temporary.
You have been chosen, you have been elected and you are being protected until the Lord will hear and answer that prayer, He will deliver you, He will bring you that final salvation, and forever in His presence, you will give thanks to His holy name and you will glory in Him.
Verse 36 closes, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting. Then all the people said” - what? -“‘Amen’ and praised the Lord.” That’s real praise. That’s real worship, the way it should be.
The exiles who were reading this history needed to do that. Forget your circumstances, forget the fact that it doesn’t look the way you’d like it to look now. Forget the fact that once it was all glorious with David and Solomon. God will not change and His promises will not change. All His promises will come to pass - all of them will come to pass.
I want you to go to 17, and I want to end there. After the celebration was over, verse 43 ends the chapter. After the celebration was over, everybody went home. And David returned to bless his household. And David got home and he went to his house and his friend Nathan, the prophet, was there. And he said to Nathan, he said, “Behold, I’m dwelling in a house of cedar.” He had built himself a great palace. “But the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord is under curtains.” It’s in a tent.
“Then Nathan said to David, ‘Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.’” Well, what David was implying is, “I can’t live in a house of cedar and God in a tent. I’ve got to build God a house.” Now remember, he’s coming out of the euphoria of praise. He’s feeling these profound realities about God. And then he realizes that God’s in a tent; he’s in a house of cedar, a palace. Well, Nathan thinks it’s a great idea. “Do all that is in your heart for God is with you.”
Then it came about the same night that the Word of God came to Nathan. God woke him up in the middle of the night. “Nathan, go and tell David, my servant, thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not build a house for me to dwell in.’” A little reminder that before Nathan affirms something, he probably ought to check in with the boss. “‘For I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up Israel to this day. But I have gone from tent to tent and from one dwelling place to another.
“‘In all places where I have walked with all Israel, have I spoken a word with any of the judges of Israel whom I commanded to shepherd my people saying, ‘Why have you not built for me a house of cedar?’” (Before you say yes to building me a house, you might want to check with whether I want one.)
“‘Now, therefore, thus shall you say to my servant, David, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture from following the sheep”’” - that’s David - “‘“to be a leader over my people Israel. I’ve been with you wherever you have gone. I’ve cut off all your enemies from before you. I’ll make you a name like the name of the great ones who are in the earth. I will appoint a place for my people Israel and plant them so that they may dwell in their own place and not be moved again, and the wicked will not waste them anymore as formerly, even from the day that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, I will subdue all your enemies.
“‘“Moreover, I tell you that the Lord will build a house for you”’” - meaning a temple - “‘“when your days are fulfilled that you must go to be with your fathers when you die. I will set up one of your descendants after you, one of your sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for me and I will establish His throne forever.”’” What son do you think He’s talking about? Not Solomon, his kingdom didn’t last very long at all, fragmented and split it into the divided kingdom.
“‘“I will be His Father and He shall be my Son and I will not take my lovingkindness away from Him as I took it from him who was before you. But I will settle Him in my house and in my kingdom forever. And His throne shall be established forever.”’” That, dear friends, is the great Davidic covenant. When God (2 Samuel 7) gives the same record, when God promises a future king out of David’s line who will establish His kingdom forever, that eternal kingdom that could never be built on earth to satisfy him. Who is that King?
Who is that King? Listen to what Luke says, Luke chapter 1, verse 26. The sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph of the descendants of David. The virgin’s name was Mary, also a direct descendant from David. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you.” She was very perplexed at this statement, kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.
The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God and, behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you’ll name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father, David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. And He will be called the Son of God.”
Christ is the one promised in 1 Chronicles 17. Will God fulfill His promises to Israel? Yes, in the glorious kingdom of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. And He earned the right to that kingdom through His death - through His death. And by that death provided our salvation.
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