I read an article last week by a lady who was just tickled pink that Wal-Mart was beginning the Christmas shopping season 2 full months in advance of the holiday. You just don’t see that kind of sentiment expressed about Thanksgiving today. It’s just “Turkey Day” to some people, like a speed-bump on the way to December’s big party.
But giving thanks to God is a hugely important concept, and not just on a certain Thursday in November. Thankfully, we have a Bible full of examples of how the true servants of God gave thanks and offered praise to the great God beings who make up the God family today.
O, Give Thanks
Probably the greatest of thanks-givers is King David, who really raised thanksgiving to an art form in practice in his kingdom, and in his writings for those of us who would follow. In particularly, there is one often used phrase that caught my eye this week in psalms.
That phrase reads like this, “Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.” It is fist found in 1 Chronicles 16:34 in a special psalm David wrote for the entry of the ark into the holy city, Jerusalem. Lets start at the beginning of the chapter to set the stage.
So they brought the ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord. Then he distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins.
And he appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the Lord God of Israel: Asaph the chief, and next to him Zechariah, then Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, and Obed-Edom: Jeiel with stringed instruments and harps, but Asaph made music with cymbals; Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests regularly blew the trumpets before the ark of the covenant of God.
On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the Lord: “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 wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! (1 Chron. 16:1-10)
So David spared no expense, and really put a great deal of effort into praising God and giving thanks to Him
Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. …
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; let the field rejoice, and all that is in it. Then the trees of the woods shall rejoice before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth. Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. (1 Chron. 16: 23-24,31-34)
The word “thanks” is from the Hebrew word yada (H3034). The root word means to throw … especially to revere or worship with extended hands. So figuratively, we are to be throwing our praise and thanks up to God. David focuses this on two particular attributes of God’s character: that He is “good” and His “mercy” is forever.
“Mercy” (H2617) is chesed in Hebrew. It means loving kindness, gentleness, steadfastness, love, faithfulness, goodness, justice, righteousness. The word “endures” is in italics (though you can’t see it in this quote), meaning the translators inserted it to clarify the meaning, but I don’t know that word “forever” in the Hebrew needs much clarification. Olam (H5769) means ever-lasting, limitless, and eternal. God’s mercy is forever! It knows no limitations.
This phrase, coined by David, is used 12 times in the Old Testament, and David’s style of thanksgiving seems to have been somewhat legendary among the prophets of God. Take Ezra for example, at the time of the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem.
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord: “For He is good,
For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. (Ezra 3:10-11)
When we look at Nehemiah 12:22-24, at the time of the dedication of the wall, we see that there were genealogical records kept so they never lost track of the courses of the priests and Levites established by David. There were whole family groups appointed specifically for the purpose of praising and thanking god, and they alternated so that the praise would be continual before God, “According to the command of David, the man of God”.
So I brought the leaders of Judah up on the wall, and appointed two large thanksgiving choirs. One went to the right hand on the wall toward the Refuse Gate. … The other thanksgiving choir went the opposite way, and I was behind them with half of the people on the wall, going past the Tower of the Ovens as far as the Broad Wall, and above the Gate of Ephraim, above the Old Gate, above the Fish Gate, the Tower of Hananel, the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Sheep Gate; and they stopped by the Gate of the Prison. So the two thanksgiving choirs stood in the house of God, likewise I and the half of the rulers with me (Neh. 12:31, 38-40)
Here again we see another great occasion with a great deal of effort and thought put into thanksgiving and praising God. It must have been a grand thing to participate in, and to behold.
The God beings we worship today are the same ones Who were the subject of all of David, Ezra, Nehemiah, and others great words and deeds in giving appropriate and proper praise and thanks to God in their day. He saw all of their efforts, and obviously looked upon them with favor.
We aren’t living in ancient Israel today. The priests and Levites are long gone, and we just don’t have the numbers to muster large thanksgiving choirs. The culture of our day – by and large – doesn’t seem to have much, if any inclination at all to thank God for all of His goodness and His limitless mercy, but He is still good and His mercy is still without end.
You and I are individuals called out of this world to know that good and merciful God, and each of us can have within us the mind and heart of a David, an Ezra, or a Nehemiah that can make us shine out to God as a light in a dark place.
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:15-20)
These verses in Ephesians tell us how we are to express our gratitude to God in our day and age. It doesn’t seem grand and showy by comparison with what we read about in the Old Testament, with large choirs and groups of Levites offering continuous praise. It is more personal, between ourselves, the brethren, and God, in our hearts.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:4-7)
We see here a very desire able result of giving praise and thanksgiving to God. It supplies us with something to be even more thankful for – to have the peace of God (which we don’t even fully understand) on guard over our hearts and minds. To put it in David’s words again, “Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good, and His mercy endures forever”