The substance of an address delivered by Bro John Martin on 1 October 1966, to the young people gathered at the Victor Harbor Study Weekend to discuss the psalms.

Brother Chairman, brothers and sisters, and my dear young people.

If someone were to ask you what was the highest form of voluntary worship that you could offer to God in heaven, what would you say?

No doubt, young people, the answer would be according to our temperament and in accordance with the facets of the Word which have been impressed upon our various mentalities.

If someone were to ask you further, is there anywhere in the Word of God which describes for us what that highest form of worship is—would you say that there is a verse that could describe that for you? We read in the Scriptures something profound and significant—that, without a shadow of a doubt, there is no higher form of worship which we as human beings can offer unto God, than that of thanksgiving. There isn’t any higher form than that, and God Himself has set forth in His Word this principle. You can’t offer anything higher than that, than thanksgiving.

And how do we know that? I want every one of you to turn to Leviticus 7, and I want to show you, young people, that this principle is clearly and beautifully set forth in the elements of the Law. Now remember this, that this verse of Scripture is going to put beyond all doubt the fact that as far as God is concerned, there is no higher form of worship than thanksgiving. This verse deals with what is known in the Law as the law of the peace offering. Now, you ask yourself the question, what has this got to do with the subject? I am going to show you it’s got everything to do with it, for I believe that many of the psalms were written on and around this very verse of Scripture.

What was the peace offering? It was the one offering under the Law of Moses which was offered as a spontaneous gesture on the part of the offeror. He had been called to offer the sin offering; he had been obligated to do that. He couldn’t escape it; he had to make a sin offering if he sinned. Under the various aspects of the Law, he was obligated to make a burnt offering, but one thing he could give of his own heart, which he was under no compulsion to give, was the peace offering. This was essentially the man’s own offering. Out of his own heart, he could give this offering, and there were three distinct types of peace offerings, and they were: (1) the thanksgiving offering, (2) the vow offering, and (3) the voluntary offering.

Now look at chapter 7:15-17 and note this point: “And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day that it is offered; he shall not leave any of it until the morning. But if the sacrifice of his offering be a vow or a voluntary offering, it shall be eaten the same day that he offereth his sacrifice; and on the morrow also the remainder of it shall be eaten: But the remainder of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burnt with fire.”

Now Israel were told that they could offer peace offerings, and the peace offering was offered, young people, because a person was so thrilled with the truths of God, and he was so bursting with thanksgiving, that God allowed him to offer this spontaneous, voluntary offering. He could offer a thanksgiving offering. He could offer a vow that he would do good, and he could offer a voluntary offering in which he exercised his participation in fellowship with God.

But God said, Look, mark the differentiation between the offerings. A thanksgiving offering must be eaten the same day that it is offered, a vow offering or a voluntary offering could be eaten after two days, but none of them could be eaten after the third day. In other words, God was telling them thanksgiving stood at the head of the list, followed by the vow and the voluntary, and that’s the order they took under the Law of Moses, and as far as God was concerned, thanksgiving stood pre-eminent as the highest form of voluntary worship that any person could offer to the Creator of heaven and earth, and the Jew had to understand that, in the very elements of the Law which were given to him.

What’s this chapter got to do with the psalms that we are considering this weekend? The psalms, young people, are the expressions of men’s hearts. They are the sentiments which well up in their hearts so that they are bursting forth to tell the people of what they have learnt from God, and the things which God has done for them. Spontaneously, they speak forth the glories of God’s Name.

David describes his reaction in the 39th Psalm. He was speaking about God’s Word, and his heart was getting hotter and hotter and hotter, until it BURST into flames, and his tongue spoke like the flame of a fire and spread the glory of God! That was the effect of the Word of God in David’s life.

And the highest form of worship in the psalms, what is it? It is already there; it’s all through the psalms, it permeates the whole—it is thanksgiving. Look what David says—now mark this, he’s speaking about the peace offering—he’s bringing this principle of the peace offering into the psalms, and he’s saying that as far as he’s concerned this is the highest form of worship. He recognises it, and he pours forth his heart unto God.

Now look at these references. Psalm 50:14. Firstly, notice how David speaks of the glorious principle which has been set forth to Moses through the Law. What is the greatest thing we can offer God? David knew, and so in Psalm 50:13, he says, “Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” No! Those things are mere formalism. “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High.” They are the two things, young people. Will God eat and drink our formalism? Will He eat and drink our attendance at Victor Harbor? Will He accept the fact that we have gone out of our way to come down here to enjoy ourselves, as an offering? Does God look upon these things in a mere formalistic way and say, “I am pleased?” Not a bit of it! David says, “Will He eat the flesh of a bull?” Is He interested in the blood of the goats of the offerings? “No”, says David. Offer unto God thanksgiving, and then pay your vows unto the Most High. Thanksgiving, vow, voluntary—David knew the order, and he saw that this was the highest form of praise.

Again, in Psalm 107 (and there are many references which we can multiply on this particular theme) David calls upon us to offer unto God that which is most acceptable to him, and in Psalm 107:21-22 he says, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices ofthanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.” And David saw, didn’t he, the whole fundamental element of praise. “Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness”; if they would only offer that which was pre-eminent under the Law, the sacrifice of thanksgiving, says David. And these are the things of which the psalms are full—the offering of thanksgiving.

Look at what the apostle says in Hebrews 13, also using this principle of the Law, and speaking of this wonderful principle of praise and of thanksgiving. In Hebrews 13, the Apostle Paul is also dealing with this principle of which we are speaking. He speaks of two offerings. He speaks in verse 10 of the altar, the Lord Jesus Christ, upon which the sin offering has been made. You can’t make a sin offering; I can’t make a sin offering. God has made the sin offering. Jesus Christ is our altar and upon that altar the sin offering has been made, and we are obligated to that offering. But there’s one thing you and I can give, and that’s our peace offerings.

Hence in verse 15 the Apostle Paul, like the beloved David of old, saw that this was the essential thing under the Law of Moses; that this is what God requires. He says, “By him therefore, let us offer…”. What can we give? Will God be pleased with ten thousand rivers of oil? The cattle upon a thousand hills are His. But Paul says, “Let us offer…”. And what are we going to offer? “…the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.” And there’s Paul’s exposition of praise. The sacrifice of praise, that is, giving thanks to His Name. There’s your offering, and he follows it with two others: to do good and to communicate, or as the word literally means, to have fellowship one with each other. And there’s the three offerings under the Law of Moses: the thanksgiving, the vow to do good, and the voluntary offering to participate in fellowship. But note the order—to give thanks to His Name comes first because the apostle knew that this is what God demanded above all else, and that God was respected in men’s offerings. Oh, that man might praise the Lord for His goodness and offer thanks unto the Most High is the way David saw this principle.

And as a final reference, come back to Psalm 119 and see how these things were uppermost in David’s mind. The peace offering was also called the free will offering, because it was a voluntary offering and David says in Psalm 119:108, in speaking of this very principle, “Accept, I beseech thee the free will offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me thy judgments.” Now how often do you offer that form of worship? How often, young people, do we offer that form of worship? Prayer to God in trouble—oh, very easy! We are very quick on our knees when we are oppressed and under trial. But when the benefit has been conferred, when the trouble is passed, and deliverance has come, what about offering thanksgiving? How often? You answer that question for yourself. And yet as far as God is concerned, there is no higher, and the psalms are full of that, from 1 to 150. Thanksgiving is the theme of those psalms, where a grateful man pours out his heart in deep thankfulness to God. Now that, I think, is the essential idea which is contained in these psalms: praise in the sense of giving thanks to His Name as the apostle describes it. That’s praise. It’s not praise to mouth platitudes concerning God, and to say that we revere Him, that we worship Him, that we love Him, if we are not prepared young people, with our heart to THANK Him.

That’s the highest form of worship, and which will test the sincerity of every young person’s heart and mind; and David’s psalms are full of it.