The Song of Thanksgiving
1 <<A Psalm of praise.>> Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
2 Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
Psalm 100 was the first passage of scripture I committed to memory. I was a fourth grader in a public school and my Christian teacher demanded that her entire class learn Psalm 100 for Thanksgiving. This was in the 1960s before political correctness ruled the day. We recited the psalm every day all through November, first reading it, then by heart. I was an unchurched boy who knew nothing about God or the Bible. Still today, when I hear Psalm 100 read aloud, I think back and can almost hear the childlike voices reciting again this wonderful psalm.
Thanksgiving Day in America is unique in that it began as truly a Christian holiday. The concept of "giving thanks" comes directly from the commands of scripture. The first celebrations were Christian in nature as the Plymouth settlers praised God for His blessings to them. It is hard to understand the great Christian history of the holiday by examining our modern celebrations. Thanksgiving is called "Turkey Day" by many people and most families pay no attention to God or spiritual things on this day. Family, food, and football are the activities of the day.
On this occasion when we pause for a holiday of thanksgiving, let us examine what the Word of God says about giving thanks. Psalm 100 teaches us some things about being thankful.
I. The Principles of Thanksgiving v. 1-2
It seems that we are nation of ungrateful people. This assertion is proven to be accurate by people's behavior in the home and in public places. "Please" and "thank you" are unknown phrases around most dinner tables. The once common "Hello, how are you?" among passersby are almost extinct. It is easy, however, to chastise society and modern day culture. In all honesty, Christians are just as guilty. Are we thankful to God? Do we praise Him for His goodness? There is no certain day that believers are to give thanks. We should give thanks every day.
Shouts of Joy The verse tells us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. The literal rendering of the phrase is "to shout in triumph" or "to applaud." As a celebrity or president is cheered at his appearing, so we should cheer for our God. As a college football fan, I have seen the excitement build as the fans await the team to take the field. When the players appear, the fans shout and cheer as one. This is precisely what the verse is speaking of here. I can hear some of you saying, "But I am reserved in my worship." It is true that many find it difficult praise God, but some of these same people are not so reserved away from the church-house. A foundational principle of thanksgiving is that God's people are to shout for joy. All ye lands signifies that these shouts are not part of some regional or ethnic mode of worship. It is for everyone!
Service With a Smile Another principle of thanksgiving is that we are to serve the Lord with gladness. The word serve means "to labor as tilling the ground." Thanksgiving is a full time job. It is not just something for the church service, but for our daily lives. God's providence has put us in our present situations. To complain about our lot in life is to be ungrateful and unthankful for God's care and concern for us.
Singing Unto Him ...come before his presence with singing. Have you ever noticed the number of people in a church service that do not sing during the congregational numbers? Part of a heartfelt thanksgiving is to lift our voices in praise and adoration of our Lord. Music was designed by God as an emotional response to Him. Man has changed and distorted singing and music to celebrate human love or tell stories of the human experience. But singing, in its proper place, gives glory to God.
II. The Perception of Thanksgiving v. 3
Ignorance inhibits thanksgiving. It is impossible to be thankful for blessings that you are not aware of. Verse three tells us that we are to know some things. The word means "to distinguish or to recognize." There are three great truths that we must know to be able to give proper thanks to God.
His Authority Know ye that the Lord he is God. We must realize His authority. Our society today will not acknowledge the authority of God on the earth. Man has made up the answers to the questions of life rather than admit that the Lord rules and reigns. Evolution, situation ethics, ecumenism, and political liberalism provide a cover of darkness to those who would refuse to allow God His proper place. There is no way to be thankful with such a mentality.
His Authorship It is he that hath made us and not we ourselves... Our world revels in the image of the self-made man. This verse tells us that there is no such thing. Can the painting rise up and chide or correct the painter? Can the building deride the architect? Can the novel mock the author? How then can God's creation rise up and ignore Him? How can man refuse to acknowledge God as his Maker? An important perception in the process of thanksgiving is to acknowledge His authorship.
His Assurance We are his people and the sheep of his pasture... Not only do we belong to God in creation, but we also are His by birth. We are His kindred, His family. What a joy to realize that the great fashioner of the universe is our friend, neighbor, and family. We are also the sheep of His pasture. That is, we are His special possession. In John 14, we learn about the intimate relationship of the Shepherd and His sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:14-15) What a blessed truth to realize that our God takes such a special care for us.
III. The Progression of Thanksgiving v. 4
Verse four shows us a great truth concerning giving thanks. There is a progression to thanksgiving. Notice how it is mapped in the verse.
Public Praise Enter into his gates... The gates are representative of the entrance to a city or public place. We are to enter into the gates of salvation with thanksgiving. This deals with our public lives. Do people see us as thankful people? Do we exude praise and thankfulness to others?
Personal Praise ...and into his courts with praise. The courts are representative of the home or abode. We could apply this to our own homes, but a better application would be the house of God. It is ...his courts. Praise means heartfelt adoration. Our thanksgiving should be personal to us. It should be heartfelt and moving. It is not an imitation or just an outward show of emotion. It comes from deep inside the soul, and merges with the Spirit of God.
Privileged Praise ...be thankful unto him, and bless his name. The final phase of the progression can be found here. We go from the gates of the city to the courts of God's house. Now we find ourselves in His presence. We are to be thankful unto Him. How many of God's people actually enter into this privileged place of thanksgiving? This is as private and personal as worship can get. It has no audience or co-worshippers. We are to bless his name. This means "to kneel in adoration." Again, we see the private nature of thanksgiving.
IV. The Person of Thanksgiving v. 5
Our last verse in the psalm brings the thought to its logical conclusion. He is the object of our praise and the center of our thanksgiving. The psalm closes with an impassioned description of our great God and some of His special attributes. These attributes have a special connection with the giving of thanks.
His Goodness For the Lord is good... The goodness of God leads us to give thanks. Only those who personally know God can understand His goodness. The unsaved person is continually focusing on the evil in the world and asks, "How could God allow it?" The Christian sees the personal aspects of His goodness. We are in the family and therefore come under God's protection.
His Mercy ...his mercy is everlasting... We are certainly unworthy servants. It is good that our God is merciful. He does not attribute our rightful punishment to us. He shows mercy! If there was no other reason for the Christian to be thankful, God's mercy would be enough to demand it. His mercy is perpetual, never-ending. His goodness and mercy are great reasons to give thanks.
His Truthfulness ...and his truth endureth to all generations. The final reason listed for us to be thankful is His truthfulness. Where would we be without the truth of God's word? We know our purpose and God's plan for our individual lives. God's truth is our anchor and our spiritual food. We should be thankful that it endures, it will stand as long as God Himself stands. We can be sure that we can order our lives after His word, for it is unchanging and unyielding.
This Thanksgiving season, let us resolve to be more thankful to God for our blessings and our benefits. Let us never forget that the act of thanksgiving is not some hokey American tradition, but a spiritual tradition and command that many Christians have ignored down through the years. May our thanksgiving celebration be heartfelt praises to God.