“Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples!” – 1 Chronicles 16:8
What are you thankful for? It is Thanksgiving and it’s a time to give thanks. It’s a time when we remember the first thanksgiving and that the pilgrims set aside a special day of thanks to God. Some have redacted history to make it a day when pilgrims thank the indigenous people who helped them learn farming and food gathering and other survival skills. I’m sure the pilgrims were thankful for any help they got during those lean and harshly cold early years. And I’m sure they were properly thankful to the indigenous people who God provided and used to help them establish themselves in this new land. But no matter how you shape it, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the Lord.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Christmas has become so commercialized. It’s become more a time of greediness than appreciation for the incarnation of God in Christ. “Easter” has all kinds of pagan pollutants associated with it. I’ve chosen to refer to this time of recognizing the death and resurrection of Jesus as “Resurrection Sunday,” instead of “Easter Sunday.” We have to work hard during these holidays to keep Christ in Christmas and Jesus in Easter. The intrusions of Bogus Santa are colorful but unconsecrated to the LORD. And those cute distracting chocolate hippity-hoppity bunnies and their candy Easter eggs can get real aggravating, not to mention lead to cavities and unwanted fatty calories. What’s worse, is that they provide the loophole to the unsaved secularly minded to avoid the scriptural substance of these holy days and indulge their greed and gluttony instead.
Thanksgiving is, for the most part, purely a time to give thanks to the LORD. Oh, we get to feast in the process, (I do love that blueberry pie! and I love to make turkey soup with what’s left over), but it’s a time to gather with family and friends and to recognize the wonderful blessings bestowed upon us by the LORD. Yes, there’s the Thanksgiving Day Parades and the intrusive NFL games, and then there’s the stampede for special sales and Black Friday, but still, there’s something about Thanksgiving that is pure and holy. When the temperatures turn south and maybe the first snow begins to fall while you’re huddled inside with loved ones, it makes for a time of warmth and coziness. That’s a good feeling. And the aromas of a cooking turkey and its fixins’ caressing your nostrils, well, as far as I’m concerned, Thanksgiving just can’t be beat.
All of that is good, but the most important part of Thanksgiving, the part that makes this holiday my favorite, is the idea of freely giving thanks to God. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Maybe that’s why I love Thanksgiving so much. I don’t mean because I get something out of giving something to God. No. I just love the idea of setting aside a special time to highlight, as the Bible tells us, to “Give thanks to the LORD!”
Thanksgiving is first mentioned in Leviticus 7 as part of the purpose of the Peace Offering (Leviticus 7:12,13, 15). “Thanksgiving” (Hebrew toda) means to extend the hand. It is a word that expresses one’s appreciation to someone. It is a word also associated with adoration and of a choir of worshippers who offer a sacrifice of praise. It includes the idea of confession. It’s a rich word most appropriately used when thanking God for His many blessings.
From the very start thanksgiving was something to be offered of one’s own “free will” (Leviticus 23:29). It’s not appropriate to coerce thanksgiving from someone. Truly, “thanksgiving” that is coerced ceases to be thankful. Thanksgiving in essence is a freely offered show of genuine appreciation and thanks from one’s heart to another person.
Thanksgiving is next mentioned when David first brought the ark of the covenant and placed it in the tabernacle. When he brought the ark to be placed in the tabernacle, he did it with a psalm of thanksgiving (1 Chronicles 16:9-36; Psalm 105:1-15). It’s this psalm of thanks we will focus on in this teaching. It’s a beautiful piece by the inspired king of Israel. It begins, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wonderous works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD! Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face forevermore! Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgements of His mouth, O seed of Israel His servant, you children of Jacob, His chosen ones!” (1 Chronicles 16:8-13). It continues, “Give to the LORD glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!” (1 Chronicles 16:29). And it concludes, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. And say, ‘Save us, O God of our salvation; gather us together, and deliver us from the Gentiles, to give thanks to Your holy name, to triumph in Your praise.’ Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting!” (1 Chronicles 16:34-36a). Then it says, “And all the people said, “Amen!’ and praised the LORD” (1 Chronicles 16:36b).
There are ten exclamations of thanks to the LORD found in this psalm of David. Exclamations marks speak of enthusiasm, joy, energy, heartfelt expressions, and sincere devotion. And bundled up in these ten exclamations of thanks are ten aspects of thanks that we should consider when we offer our thanks to God. This will hopefully enrich and make even more meaningful, this special day of Thanksgiving to God.
First, Thanksgiving should be a time of thanksgiving to God! David begins, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD!” (1 Chronicles 16:8a). Thanksgiving should be a time of thanksgiving to God. Don’t let all the preparations for Thanksgiving rob you of the heart of thanksgiving. Come together and share all the preparation responsibilities for gathering on this holy day. Make the LORD the center of attention. Make God your focus. Guard that focus and thank the LORD. Too often plans and preparations for Thanksgiving distract us and rob us of the substance and joy this holiday should contain. Paul warned to not let a “religious” way of relating to God “cheat” or rob you of the substance of what we have in our relationship with God (e.g. Colossians 2:8, 18-23). Don’t let your Thanksgiving be reduced to a chore or work. Keep the main thing the main thing; give thanks to God. Keep the joy of Thanking God in Thanksgiving and ask others to help you not burn the turkey!
Second, Thanksgiving should be a time of boasting about God! David then says, “Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples!” (1 Chronicles 16:8b). When was the last time you boasted about God to someone? When was the last time you told someone how awesome is the name of Jesus is and all it stands for? When was the last time you invited someone to “call upon His name”? Thanksgiving is the perfect time to share God enthusiastically with others. We boast and get excited about our teams, special sales, and how good the food is we eat on Thanksgiving, but what about getting excited about the LORD and bragging a bit on Him? I’m not talking about pomposity or pride, I’m talking about bubbling over in praise of God to others. That’s what Thanksgiving should be all about.
Third, Thanksgiving should be a time of worship. David says, “Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works!” (1 Chronicles 16:9). You know, before I met Jesus and He saved my soul, there was no song in my heart. I hummed along and knew through repetition the lyrics to secular songs of lust, carousing and self-indulgence. But there was no song in my heart. I went to church as a young person and there was singing, but there was no worship! I sang like the others in my church, to not be heard too loudly! Now, as someone who has come to “know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent,” as someone who has been born again and indwelled by the Holy Spirit, I have a song in my heart. Now, as someone who has received forgiveness for my sins and the promise of eternal life as a gift of God’s grace received by faith, I’ve been given a heart of worship. Now I love to worship my God. Now I love to sing to Jesus. Now I love to worship and express my love to God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:30). And as a pastor, I encourage my flock to sing with all they’ve got to the LORD. Thanksgiving should be a time when we worship the LORD for all His many blessings.
Fourth, Thanksgiving should be a time to glorify God. David writes, “Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!” (1 Chronicles 16:10). The Bible says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). All that we do on this holy day should be to the glory of God. Coarse jokes, political arguments, infatuation with sports, drunkenness, gluttony, lusts of the flesh, and the like do not glorify God! Our heart is so often divided and preoccupied with people and things other than God. On Thanksgiving, lets’ purpose to give our hearts entirely to the LORD in thanks. I know it may be hard, but let’s at least try. Turn off the TV, put the phone away, put the knife and fork down for a second, set the apron aside, gather everyone together, and give glory to God.
Fifth, Thanksgiving should be a time to seek Him and thank Him for His strength. David continues, “Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face evermore!” (1 Chronicles 16:11). I was driving in my car the other day and got to thinking, LORD, you could reduce all humanity to dust if you wanted to. God could have done that when Adam and Eve sinned. He could have scrapped humanity and human history and created something or someone else. But He didn’t. Instead the “God of love” implemented His redemptive restoration project. God demonstrated “His own love” to us by sending His only Son Jesus to die for us on the cross to pay the penalty for our countless sins. And He did that “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). God’s word tells us that, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). God, God did that for us. For us! Let that sink in. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Let that sink in.
God did this all as a gift of His grace. And God’s grace always does “much more” than we expect of God (e.g. Romans 5:9, 10, 15,17, and 20). God not only provides a way for us to be forgiven our sins and reconciled to Him by grace through faith in Jesus (1 John 1:9; 2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 2:1-9), He provides us with “strength” and power in the Holy Spirit to live this life (e.g. Acts 1:8; Romans 6:14; Ephesians 3:14-19). We “love through Him,” through Jesus (1 John 4:9). Indeed, the only proper response to that is to give God thanks. We should worship and thank our God perhaps remembering the inspired words of the Apostle Paul who said, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:19-20).
Sixth, Thanksgiving should be a time to remember all that God has marvelously done for us and that He has chosen us. David says, “Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth, O seed of Israel His servant, you children of Jacob, His chosen ones!” (1 Chronicles 16:12-13). Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). Our salvation from sin and eternal life is a product of God’s grace. That is a marvelous work of God. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and need of a Savior (John 16:8-11). We are not saved by our “works,” or by anything we do (Titus 3:4-7). That is a marvelous truth.
We are created in God’s image and all that we are is a product of God’s work in us (Genesis 1:26). He has created us with the capacity to think, reason, and respond to His saving grace. Our capacity to choose to receive or call on the name of Jesus as Savior is a product of His grace. And when we receive Jesus as our Savior and benefit from His costly precious shed blood for our remission of sins on the cross, we can take no credit for that (e.g. 1 Peter 1:18-19). We are saved by grace. We live by His grace. “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). Truly, like Paul, all we can thankfully say is, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
David mentions, “the judgments of His mouth” as a reason to thank the Lord. He also mentions “the word which He commanded,” further on in the psalm. We need to be thankful to God for His word. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is devoted to the blessings that are found in and through God’s word. The psalmist said He thanked the LORD for His word especially in sleepless nights (Psalm 119:62). God’s word is God’s disclosure and revelation to humanity of Who He is and how we can have a personal saving eternal relationship with Him. God’s word is God’s means to build a people “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We should be thankful to God for His incredible word.
When we remember God’s marvelous work of redemption, and that He, “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,” all we can do is thank Him. God was pleased to ordain in His sovereign determination, His gracious criteria to solve our sin problem. He did that in Jesus and His redemptive work. It’s all about Jesus. And because of that all we can do is thankfully exclaim, “Blessed be the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
Seventh, Thanksgiving should be a time to rededicate ourselves to blessing God with living in the beauty of holiness. David is inspired to write, “Give to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!” (1 Chronicles 16:29). God’s plan for His people is, “that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4b). God is Holy, therefore, those who belong to Him are to be holy (e.g. 1 Peter 1:15-16). Holiness is loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). When we receive Jesus as our Savior and are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit works holiness into us. He pours out His love into our heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). He produces the fruit of the Spirit which is love in us (Galatians 5:22-23). And that love “never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8). For that we should be thankful to Him.
Holiness is being conformed to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). It is following in His steps (1 Peter 2:21). It is walking as He walked (1 John 2:1-6). Jesus is the most holy expression and revelation of the love of God to us (1 John 4:7-12). Jesus is the picture of “the beauty of holiness.” And to have God’s holiness worked in us by the Holy Spirit is a beautiful thing. For that we should thank the Lord. If we’ve gotten off track and lived more fleshly than holy, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to rededicate ourselves to holy living in the sight of God.
Eighth, Thanksgiving should be a time to thank God for His goodness. “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34). Justice is getting what we deserve. And because of our sin, we deserve the fires of hell. But God is merciful; He doesn’t give us what we deserve. Mercifully God provided His only Son Jesus to take our place in judgment on the cross. That is a “good” thing for us because apart from God’s grace all humanity “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But because of Jesus we can be “justified” or made just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned “freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
And it’s a good thing God’s “mercy endures forever,” so that throughout history people can avail themselves of God’s merciful provision to do away with sin through Jesus. And it is a good thing for us even after we have been forgiven our sins. That’s because even after we accept Jesus as Savior there are struggles of sin for us to battle against (e.g. Romans 7). God is “longsuffering toward us,” (Greek makrothymeo) He suffers long and puts up with our many failings and foolish ways. We should be very thankful for that.
Our sinfulness causes suffering to God. He hurts and grieves when He sees the pain caused by humanities’ sins. He puts up with our sin because He is, “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God hates sin because of the pain and suffering it causes. For Him, it’s too painful to even look at (e.g. Habakkuk 1:13). Sin separates us from our loving God (Isaiah 59:1). God takes no pleasure in those who choose to sin instead of to repent and be saved (Ezekiel 18:32; 33:11). God loves this world and desires everyone to live eternally with Him (John 3:16). But unfortunately, not all will receive the salvation God has provided by grace through Jesus (e.g. John 3:36). The sad condemnation of this world is that, “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” and therefore, they are “condemned already” (John 3:17-21). Thank the Lord if you’re not one of them.
Because of God’s mercy there is “a sin not leading to death” (1 John 5:16a). We may sin after we accept Jesus as Savior, but if we confess our sins and ask God’s forgiveness, God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Only that sin which we do not confess and do not repent of has the potential to be “leading to death” (1 John 5:16b). God has promised to provide a means of escape so that we don’t have to give into temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). But if we do sin, we have an Advocate in Jesus who defends us by virtue of His cross work (1 John 2:1-2). That is a good, no, a GREAT thing! For that we should thank the Lord.
Ninth, Thanksgiving should be a time to thank God for our salvation and the promise of ultimate victory. David triumphantly states, “And say, ‘Save us, O God of our salvation; gather us together, and deliver us from the Gentiles, to give thanks to Your holy name, to triumph in Your praise.’ Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting!” (1 Chronicles 16:35-36a). It’s a dark, mean, sinful world out there. Our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion. Thankfully, God provides power and strength and courage to “resist him, steadfast in the faith,” (1 Peter 5:8-9). Our prayer and hope is, “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:10-11). We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37-39). For that we should be thankful.
Tenth, Thanksgiving should be a time of coming together in unity. The writer of 1 Chronicles says that when David presented this psalm, “all the people said, ‘Amen!’ and praised the LORD” (1 Chronicles 16:36b). They came together and were united in thanking God. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reconcile with those with whom there are grudges, resentments, animosity, or some separating difference of opinion. The Bible says, “If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. . .. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:18 and 21). Christians should be falling over each other in an attempt to be first to reconcile with each other. And if there’s a family member or friend or someone who is a source of particular aggravation (and I know there can be), as an offering of thanks and obedience to the LORD, seek to be reconciled and to live peaceably with them. That will make the LORD very happy. That is what Thanksgiving is really all about.
What are you thankful for? I hope looking at this Psalm of David has put you in a thankful spirit. I hope and pray this Thanksgiving will be the most meaningful and thankful one of your life. I hope and pray this nation counts its blessings and thanks the LORD this year at Thanksgiving. But if it doesn’t or you run into some unthankful person this Thanksgiving, take the opportunity to punctuate a conversation with an exclamation of just how wonderful God has been to you and to all of us. Tell them about God’s grace and mercy, His love and longsuffering toward us. Tell them they should thank the LORD!