A Psalm for Thanksgiving
A Psalm for Thanksgiving (Psalm 100)
This is the only psalm with the original title indicating a psalm of thanksgiving. Its five verses ring out with the universality and gladness of gratitude towards God. It is one of a series of psalms beginning with Psalm 93 which emphasize "The Lord Reigns." This song was sung at the gates of the temple itself by those who longed to express to God their gratitude. There are several imperatives in the psalm—things you can do to express thanks to God. There are also seven descriptions of the joyful praise we can give Him. The psalm resounds with two ringing calls to praise, each followed by the reason we should give God the praise. Let us offer such glad thanks to God in this season of gratitude.
Thank God for His Relationship to His People
There is a call to praise: "Shout for joy to the Lord" (v. 1). This has the blast of a trumpet about it. It is the equivalent of a fanfare accompanied with shouts of homage to a king (95:1; 98:6). The emotion of this praise is to be joy. Joy is the aim, the motive, and the spirit of the praise given to God. The direction of this praise is to God Himself. We are not making a noise to impress the church or one another. The actual direction of our gratitude should focus on God Himself. There is a longing for an inclusion in this thanksgiving of "all the earth." There is to be no one who sits mute and silent. It is God's intention that every voice in each nation one day thunder back to Him His praise.
This call to praise refuses to divide worship from service. This first service we owe to God is worship. Both prayer and activity go stale in isolation. We serve Him when we come before Him with thanks. There are times for minor keys and low notes, but thanksgiving is not one of them. Every note in this psalm is one of unabated joy.
There is the content of praise. The praise of thanksgiving is the very nature and person of God Himself: "Know that the Lord is God." Thanksgiving is the actual acknowledgment that God alone is God. Human self-assurance and independence vanish in the face of this confession. Everything human takes its proper place in the face of this one confession. Because of this, we thank God for His creation—we are His because He made us. We thank God for His redemption—we are His people. We thank God for His protection—the sheep of His pasture. The focus of this Thanksgiving season should not be first the obvious material benefits, but the person and nature of God Himself.
Thank God for His Revelation of His Character
There is again a call to praise. "Enter his gates with thanksgiving" (v. 4). The psalmist pictures a throng of people pressing into the temple through its massive gates. As they enter, he calls them to shout words of thanksgiving. The accompaniment of every right approach to God should be the attitude of gratitude. It is to be the background music of every other request and petition in His presence. The Christian not only comes to the outer courts of a visible temple, but we can stand in the holy of holies itself because of the new and living way of Christ. Our thanksgiving penetrates where the psalmist could never imagine.
There is again the content of praise. We praise God because of His nature. His very essence is only and always that which is good. He is what James 1:17 claimed Him to be, a Father of lights from whom only good and perfect things come to us. But the faithfulness of His love is not based on some emotional whim. To know God is to know One who is in covenant with us. He does not love us with some arbitrary mood of a heavenly despot. His love is based on His own nature which never changes. This is the basis of gratitude indeed. I may change but He never does.
With this background, why not make this Thanksgiving a time for genuine expression of joyful gratitude to God? Thank Him for the persons, provisions, institutions, and groups that bless you. Do it this week with urgency and daily. Do it at God's house and your house. Do it out loud and verbally. Do it musically. Write down a letter to the Lord expressing your gratitude and read it to high heaven above. Make the words of this psalm your words.