Thanksgiving is a natural element of Christian worship. It is intertwined with praise, and I believe that these two cannot be separated. Praise is the way that we respond to God's revelation of Himself. The word praise comes from a Latin word that means to value. When we praise God we proclaim His worth, give Him honor and glory, express admiration and pay Him tribute. Praise of God is a major theme in the Bible and terms used to express that praise are thanksgiving, blessing, glory and hallelujah (meaning "praise the Lord").
When we give thanks we express our gratitude to Him and our appreciation for who He is and what He has done. There is nothing like the book of Psalms to help us in our expression of thanks. In fact, the Hebrew title Psalms has the same root as hallelujah—praises. The Greek word psalmoi means songs. Therefore, Psalms are songs of praise.
Psalms were written for Israel's use as they worshiped in the temple. The book of Psalms has been called the Hymnbook of Israel. King David realized the importance of giving thanks and praise to God and appointed Levites to do so. "He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to make petition, to give thanks, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel." (1 Chronicles 16:4) 1 Chronicles 16:7-30 is the Psalm of Thanks that David wrote for them to use. The first 15 verses of Psalm 105 are the same as 1 Chronicles 16. The Levites were to help Aaron's descendants (the priests) with the service of the temple. "They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord. They were to do the same in the evening and whenever burnt offerings were presented to the Lord on Sabbaths and the New Moon festivals and the appointed feasts." (1 Chronicles 23:30-31)
The verses of Psalms cover a thousand years from Moses to 5th century B.C. David wrote most of them but there were also contributions from Solomon, Asaph, the Sons of Korah and Moses. The Psalms are a reflection of these men's encounters with God and the resulting meditations of the heart that were inspired by those encounters. They give us instructions on how to worship God. God's characteristics are affirmed throughout the Psalms and include righteousness, justice, goodness, faithfulness, generosity, grace, compassion, holiness and love. We are given a revelation of God in nature and in His Word. We see that He is a covenant-keeping God. There is also a prophetic revelation of our Messiah with descriptions of how He was to live and die on earth and reign in heaven.
Thanksgiving is meant to be an attribute of every part of our lives. "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." (Colossians 2:6-7) Praise and thanksgiving should be a part of our everyday life in addition to our corporate readings, songs and testimonies.
Through thanksgiving and praise we begin to open up the heavenly realm. "Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations." (Psalm 100:4-5) Psalm 136 is a compilation of all that the Lord did for the Israelites in creating the earth, bringing them out of slavery in Egypt, and leading them through the desert into the Promised Land. After every remembrance there is a declaration: "His love endures forever." This is the greatest reason to give Him thanks and praise. We can rest in the truth that the Lord's love will never end and is always with us. Let us remember the Lord's goodness, faithfulness and enduring love as we gather around the Thanksgiving table this week. We have innumerable reasons to give Him thanks and praise. I pray that you will sense His great love for you as you give Him thanks and praise.
Joan E. Mathias