I just finished eating roasted turkey, dressing, corn, mashed potatoes and . . . now I’m going to have to get another plate. So while we are feeding ourselves this Thanksgiving Day, I want to offer you a plate of theology to enjoy on this great holiday. There is much to learn from the Scriptures about thanksgiving, that is, giving thanks. We’re going to glean from Psalm 100, and see a couple of principles to use while we give thanks not only today, but in our daily lives.
In Psalm 100, we have what you might call a manual for thanksgiving. In this chapter, the people of Israel were called to give thanks to the Lord. It serves as both a song and instruction on giving thanks. The Israelites would gather for worship, and this would be one of the things they would sing. This psalm/hymn was likely sung during one of their many festivals. The Israelites had a ton of festivals, and this was one of the psalms that was likely sung during one of those. This Psalm will show us how we should give thanks to the Lord, and why we should do so.
So let’s begin by reading it together.
The Text: Psalm 100, ESV
“A Psalm for giving thanks.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 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.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
1. A Celebration of Song (100:1-2)
Giving thanks should be expressed in song/gladness.
In verse one, we see that the whole earth is summoned to make a joyful noise to the Lord. It is an invitation to worship and give thanks that is extended to anyone: “A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (vv. 1-2)
Here, a joyful song is to be sung to the Lord. When the Israelites would gather for worship, this is one of the many ways they would express their worship of God. They used several instruments in their worship (Psalm 150:3-5). So according to this psalm, one way that we can express our thanksgiving to the Lord is by a song. Do you ever sing to the Lord? You don’t have to sing aloud to the Lord, because a song can also be in your heart.
We are also called to serve the Lord with gladness. Gladness is a feeling of joy or pleasure, to be delighted in serving the Lord. Since we are approaching the Christmas season, I want you to think back with me to Christmas when you were a kid. Now remember that gift you really, really wanted as a kid. Remember the Christmas when you actually got it? You were probably like me, and deserved coal from Santa or a bag of switches. But anyway, man opening that gift you really wanted was a joy wasn’t it? It was what you asked for, and when you opened it up, your heart was full of gladness and delight. That’s how worshiping and giving thanks to the Lord should be. We should have that same kind of gladness when we think of all the gifts God has given us.
2. A Celebration of Covenant (100:3)
Giving thanks should be intimate.
We’ve already seen that giving thanks should be expressed in song, and in this verse we see that giving thanks should be intimate. The psalmist writes, “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). As we give thanks with joyful song, we are called to know the Lord. This only makes sense, for giving thanks to the Lord can only be done if we know Him. Giving thanks to the Lord includes knowing the Lord we worship. You can’t properly worship Him without knowing Him—that is, in a personal relationship.
That’s exactly what the author of this psalm is trying to say. In fact, the Hebrew word for “know” here is yada, which means to know intimately, or to have a deep intimacy. Much like the intimacy between a husband and a wife. Isn’t it interesting that the term knew is how Genesis describes Adam and Eve’s intimate relations? In Genesis 4:1, it says that “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” If you’ve ever heard someone ramble on and say yada, yada, yada, in actuality they’re saying know intimately, know intimately, know intimately!
Our relationship with the Lord is that way. In fact, the New Testament describes our relationship with Him in terms of a Bridegroom, who is Jesus, and the Bride, the Church (Matt. 25:1-13; Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 19:6-10). So the idea here in this psalm is that we must have an intimate relationship with the Lord, and our giving thanks to Him should be personal, ongoing, and one-on-one. Our giving thanks to Him needs to be something we do in our private lives. When we get an A on a test, we should thank Him in our hearts. When we wake up, we should thank Him. When we’re about to go to bed, we should thank Him. When we read His word we should thank Him. It’s one-on-one.
Not only must we know the Lord, we also must know that we are accountable to Him: He created us, He owns us, we are His people, and we are His sheep. The psalmist talks about the ownership of God, saying that He created us, we are His, we are His people, and we are the “sheep of his pasture.” He tends to us like a faithful shepherd. These are terms that describe, once again, our closeness to the Lord. We must know Him, and because we know Him, we are His completely. So when you give thanks to the Lord, is it weak and heartless, or is it passionate and intimate? Do you understand your relationship with Him like that?
3. A Celebration of Thanksgiving (100:4)
Giving thanks should be corporate/together.
We’ve already seen that thanksgiving should be expressed to the Lord in song, and that our thanksgiving should be intimate with the Lord, but notice also that our thanksgiving should be expressed together—it should be corporate. This is another call to praise, like vv. 1-2 above. The psalmist says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (v. 4). Notice the terms gates and courts here. This is clearly referring to corporate worship that would take place in the Old Testament temple. It is an invitation to community worship. It is a call to enter the temple of God with an attitude of thanksgiving—to enter his courts with worship and praise. This was the purpose of the Israelites’ gathering—to give thanks to the Lord. They were to give thanks as they prayed, as they read the Scriptures, as they sacrificed, and as they gave. Even Jesus did this, as we see recorded in Luke 4. Luke writes there, “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read” (v. 16). He went to the Jewish place of worship on the Sabbath day and took part in the service by reading the scroll of Isaiah (see v. 17). Basically, Jesus went to church. He valued corporate worship, and so should we.
It bothers me when people say, “I’m a devoted Christian, but I don’t go to church because I don’t believe in it.” Corporate worship is laced throughout the whole of Scripture; Jesus attended corporate worship; it is how we grow in our faith and are equipped to do God’s will (Eph. 4:12-16); and the local church is the representation of the worldwide church of God scattered throughout the earth. When we gather for worship in our local churches, our services should be saturated with thanksgiving. We are to enter our sanctuary doors with thanksgiving, and as we fellowship, sing, and learn from God’s word, we are to do so in His courts with praise and thanksgiving.
4. A Celebration of God (100:5)
Giving thanks should be done because of God.
So we know that our thanksgiving should be expressed in song, it should be intimate, and it should be corporate. Finally, we see in this manual of thanksgiving that our giving thanks should be done because of God and who He is. The psalmist writes, “For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” (v. 5). Three reasons are given for giving thanks to the Lord. First, we are to give thanks because “the LORD is good.” I love the old saying, “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.” There is so much truth in that statement. God is completely good in His nature and everything He does. We are to give thanks because He is a good God. Second, we are to give thanks because “his steadfast love endures forever.” Because He is a good God, His love for us endures forever. It is a constant love that never ends. That should definitely be a reason to give thanks to the Lord! He loves you with an eternal love! Finally, we are to give thanks because “his faithfulness [extends] to all generations.” God’s faithfulness never runs out, they are in fact new every morning (Lam. 3:23-33).
We’ve seen in this Psalm that our thanksgiving should be expressed in song and gladness. It should also be intimate, one-on-one with the Lord. It should be corporately expressed, together as we gather for worship. And it should be done because of our good, loving, and faithful God.
If you’re like me, every time I get new tech, I always throw away the manual. Heck, I can figure it out for myself . . . until there’s a problem. Then I have to go to the professionals and have them check it out. And most of the time it’s a simple problem that could’ve been resolved easily if I had only read the manual! Well, let us not make the same mistake in our thanksgiving lives. We have in this Psalm the very manual for thanksgiving, instructions on how to give thanks. So let us use it, cherish it, and use these principles in our lives so that our thanksgiving won’t need to be fixed or repaired.
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