Have you ever received something so great that you just didn’t know how to respond? Perhaps it was a gift that was beyond what you expected or perhaps someone did something for you that took them a lot of time and was just what you needed. How do you say thank you to them when just saying the words seems so inadequate? How do we say thank you to God adequately?
The phrase “give thanks” occurs 34 times in the New International Version of the Bible. Twenty of those times are in the Psalms. This morning, I would like to look at one of those Psalms, Psalm 100. This Psalm shows us different ways to say thank you to God and also some of the reasons why we can say thank you to God. Our goal for today is to say thank you to God enthusiastically because we recognize that we have reason to do so.
How do we give thanks?
When I was a teenager we had a saying. I wonder if anyone here has ever heard of this saying before or was it just in my circle of friends? We would turn our forefinger in the air and say, “Double whoopee ding ding.” The implication was mock enthusiastic response to something someone said or did.
What is the tone of our thanks to God? Do we offer it with mock enthusiasm, with little enthusiasm or great enthusiasm? I have to admit that my praise and thanksgiving of God is quite reserved. Why are we that way? There was a fellow I knew who was from Trinidad. He could not understand why we didn’t move when we were singing. His culture was more enthusiastic in worship, our culture more reserved. I wonder if that is a good thing. I wonder if we are afraid to be enthusiastic because we are afraid of what others might think or perhaps we are afraid that it might get out of hand. Whatever our reason, Psalm 100 is quite clear that we are called to an enthusiastic expression of thanks. It calls for us to “shout to the Lord.” Have you ever done that? I know that some of the young people do it, but what about the rest of us?
Of course, this expression of enthusiastic praise is to be “to the Lord” as the text says. This reminds us that the enthusiasm must be not for the sake of enthusiasm, but as an expression of our joy in the Lord. As we think of this, we must also remember that it is the Lord we are thanking and that means we must do it with respect. But an enthusiastic joyful shout and reverence are not mutually exclusive. We can reverently shout to the Lord. May we learn to do so!
In how many languages can we say thanks? Let’s give it a try. Saying thanks to God in many languages is appropriate as we read in this verse where this call to shout for joy is made to “all the earth.” The whole world is to joyfully and enthusiastically give thanks and praise to the Lord. Will we join in whole heartedly?
We are also called to serve the Lord. The word serve is sometimes translated worship because it was a word used to describe service in the temple directed at worship. Both ideas are included. In fact, I don’t think it would be far out for us to see all of our service as an act of worship. Is it possible to do homework, to work at our job, to do dishes, to serve meals as acts of worship? What a wonderful expression of thanksgiving when we do so because we are serving the Lord as an expression of our worship of Him.
Once again, just in case we didn’t get it the first time, the writer calls us to do so “with gladness.”
When jokes exist in which the joy of Christians is questioned, we know that something is wrong. You have heard them. Why would a horse make a good Christian? Because he has such a long face. Or the quip that some Christians are so joyless it seems as if they have been baptized in vinegar.
We have so much reason to worship the Lord and give thanks to Him that we must use our whole life as an expression of thanks and do so with much joy.
If we have thankful hearts, let us allow our face and the rest of our body know. I wonder if our conviction about the goodness of God would increase if our declaration were more enthusiastic.
The third line in this part of the Psalm invites us to “come before Him.” It is very likely that this Psalm, as many others, were sung by pilgrims making their way to the temple in Jerusalem. They were in procession, going to the place where they could worship God and offer sacrifices to Him. So the invitation is to come into the presence of God in order to declare His praise.
Today we can come before Him in any place. Corporate worship is important and we will talk about that in a moment, but we don’t have to go to Jerusalem, to church or be with anybody else in order to come before Him. In a quiet place in our home, when we are walking or driving or working, we can come into God’s presence and thank Him.
We have already noted that God’s invitation is to show a little enthusiasm in our thanksgiving. If showing enthusiasm in public is difficult for us, why not begin by trying it at home. When you are alone in the presence of God, why not shout? Why not sing to Him, even if you have trouble finding the notes? Why not actually get up and jump in His presence and loudly declare your thanks to God.
Why is such thankful noise appropriate?
It is appropriate because of whom we know. Verse 3 calls us to “know that the Lord is God.” This is an imperative and so something we must do. Psalm 46:10 also invites us, “Be still and know that I am God.” How do we obey this command?
Tate suggests three possible ways of understanding this. He suggests that it might be a summons to learn. It would therefore be an invitation to discover and learn about who God is. But know could also mean to have confidence, to be assured that Jehovah is God. If this is what is intended it is a call to have no doubt about God. A third way of understanding the word “know” is that it means to acknowledge or confess. Although it could mean any one of these things, perhaps it would be best to consider all three. As we take time to learn to know who God is, we will become more and more convinced of His wonderful attributes. As we do that, we are called to acknowledge and confess our faith in God.
Spurgeon says, “Our worship must be intelligent. We ought to know whom we worship and why.”
What do we mean when we confess that the Lord is God? Spurgeon suggests the following: that the Lord is God the only living and true God, our creator, our rightful owner, our sovereign ruler, our bountiful benefactor, a God of infinite mercy and good and a God of inviolable truth and faithfulness.
These are the things for which we give thanks to God.
The rest of the verse gives us some specific things to think about when it says, “He made us.”
God is the creator of everything. The farthest stars are thousands of light years away. The tiniest living thing in the universe is microscopic. In between the vastness of space and the tiniest creature God has created human beings hold a special place. We are made by Him and, we are made in His image. He is our creator and Psalm 139:14 affirms, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
He made all things, but of all the things which God has made, we are the only ones who can make a conscious decision to praise Him. So often we fail to do so but because He made us we have reason to thank Him.
The next phrase is “we are his” in the NIV, but in some other translations it is “not we ourselves.” In the Hebrew Bible, what is written is “not we ourselves.” Interestingly however, the Hebrew scholars had a hard time understanding why that idea would be included in this place. Although it makes sense in one way, it also seems like a concept that is out of place. So, in the Hebrew Bible there is a note in the margin which calls for those reading to actually read, “We are his.” The phrase “we are his” fits much better in the context. This is, of course, a reason to thank Him and what the specifics of this thanks includes is explained in the following two phrases.
We thank Him because He has redeemed us. The text says we are His people. We have become His people by the work of redemption. 1 Peter 2:9 says, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." God has made us His people by calling us out of darkness through His Son and bringing us into the kingdom of His Son.
We thank Him because He preserves us. The text says we are, “the sheep of His pasture” which implies His shepherd care. Isaiah 40:11 encourages, "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." The Bible uses this imagery often including John 10 where we learn that Jesus knows His sheep.
So as we know these things about God, we know that we have good reason to give thanks to Him and to praise Him.
In verse 4 we once again have an invitation to give thanks.
The words “his gates” and “his courts” have a very specific reference. He is talking about the temple. Of course, when this was written, the temple was the paradigm of worship. The synagogues did not come into being until after the exile to Babylon. Many Scriptures tell us that the temple in Jerusalem was the place where they would go and worship. This was where the community worshipped.
Although it is true, as we saw earlier, that we can worship God anywhere, this verse reminds us of the importance of worshipping in community. Some people find that solitude is their preferred way to worship and solitude is good. Some people prefer to avoid church and all the potential problems of worshipping with other people. Yet the Bible is very clear that we are called to give thanks to God in community. We must come together as His people to worship Him. There is something very important about entering into God’s presence together and lifting our voices to God. It not only encourages us when we know that we are not alone in our Christian life, it also gives glory to God when His people are unified and declare His praise together. In heaven the worshipping community will be very important and we will join thousands upon thousands of the saints in declaring His praise.
So we must continue to gather in church as a community in order to give thanks. As we worship each week, as we serve together and as we observe the Lord’s Supper together, that is what we are doing. God has called us into community not only to do His work together, but also to worship Him together.
Three words are used to describe what we as a worshipping community declare: thanksgiving, praise and blessing God.
Although their meanings overlap somewhat, they do have shades of specific meaning. Thanksgiving is a response to what God has done. It is seeing, recognizing and declaring all the works of the Lord. Praise is more about what God does. It is not so much a recognition of specific acts of God, but rather the character which stands behind those specific acts. These are the things which God always does because that is what He is like. To bless God is not so much to wish Him well, which would be meaningless in the case of God, but rather to declare His excellence. God is worthy and as we recognize that and enthusiastically declare it, we bless Him.
`We are to declare what God has done, who He is and to declare His worth. May such thanksgiving be a regular part of our life!
The Psalm concludes with three reasons why we need to give thanks to God. It brings together three common words describing God’s relationship with His people: goodness, loyal love and faithfulness.
We have probably all heard the saying, “God is good” and the response, “all the time.” This verse gives us the Scriptural foundation for that statement.
God is good which means that He isn’t going to mess with us, He isn’t going to change His mind from day to day. In other words, He will be consistent. He is not good one day and bad another day. We can always expect that whatever God does He will do because He loves us. God is always good. It is true that we don’t always understand how everything that happens is good. It is true that He doesn’t always give us what we want, but it is also true that He is always good.
Tate says, “The goodness of Yahweh is the ‘unshakable foundation’ on which all faith and hope rest.” For this we give thanks to Him.
One of the best words in the Bible to describe God is the word “loving-kindness.” It appears quite often. One of my favorite places is Exodus 34:6, 7 where we read, "And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’”
The people of Israel were God’s people. Most of the Old Testament is a record of how they rebelled against God and rejected Him. Their rebellion was serious and wicked. In spite of that, God repeatedly redeemed and restored them. That is one of the greatest demonstrations of the loving kindness of God.
It is because of His loving-kindness that we have reason to give thanks to Him.
And we can be sure that he will always be good and always be filled with loving kindness because the other characteristic mentioned here is that He is faithful. The Hebrew word means “a state or condition of being dependable to a person or standard.”
Most people let us down at some point. They forget to keep a promise. They create inconveniences for us because they change their mind. God is not like that. God does not change, but can be counted on.
Because He is faithful, we can joyfully give thanks to Him.
When I get discouraged, when life doesn’t make sense or when things go wrong one of the things I try to do is to give thanks. I have met many people who do the same thing. When I give thanks I make a list. I start thinking about all that I know about God. Who He is, how He has revealed Himself, what He has done in human history and what He has done for me. We have a start in this passage to begin to do just that.
But we must do more than just make a list in our mind. We need to express our thanks. That is what today is about. We are invited to stop, to think, to make a list, but then also to declare His goodness so that others may know and so that God will be honored as He deserves.
This passage also invites us to declare thanks enthusiastically. I know that this is the aspect that I have most to learn about. How could we be just a little more enthusiastic in our thanksgiving?
As this is the thanksgiving weekend, let us not only take it as a day for ourselves, but as a day to say thanks to God.
May today be a time to recognize who God is and declare His goodness enthusiastically!
May today be a day to give thanks enthusiastically and form a habit of life, the habit of joyful thanksgiving!