As we prepare for Thanksgiving, it’s important to remember the history of this holiday. The first Thanksgiving in America was celebrated among the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians in 1621. Over a century later, President George Washington proclaimed Thursday, the 26th of November 1789, a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. However, Thanksgiving became an official federal holiday when President Lincoln declared it as such during the Civil War, 156 years ago. Thanksgiving is rich with American history.
And while nothing is more American than abandoning our diets and fighting each other over discounts the day after we remember what we’re thankful for, Thanksgiving is not exclusively American. The Bible tells us that the Israelites celebrated their own “thanksgiving” nearly 3,000 years ago, and it was much more than a holiday—it was an act of worship.
Three millennia ago, Psalm 100 was written as a guide for the Jews as they gave thanks and expressed gratitude for their blessings, much like we do at Thanksgiving. It is, as the superscript of the psalm says, “A Psalm for giving thanks.” It provides guidance and instruction regarding thanksgiving. And as Thanksgiving approaches, you can use this psalm as a manual for how to give thanks to the Lord.
Psalm 100 tells us four things about thanksgiving:
(1) Giving thanks can be done through song. In the first two verses, it says, “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” Singing is essential to giving thanks (Acts 16:25; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; James 5:13). Sing a song to the Lord as an expression of your gratitude for who He is and what He has done.
(2) Giving thanks is personal. The psalm continues, “Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (v. 3). In order to give thanks to God, you must have a personal relationship with Him—you must know Him as Lord. You must be among His people—a sheep in His pasture.
(3) Giving thanks should be corporate: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (v. 4). You cannot fully give thanks to God unless you are in the presence of other believers. Thanksgiving happens in His “courts” and “gates.”
(4) Giving thanks should be done because of God: “For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever; and his faithfulness to all generations” (v. 5). You are to give thanks because God is good, loving, and faithful.
Let Psalm 100 guide you this week—honor the history of Thanksgiving by honoring the Lord with your thanksgiving.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.