A Psalm of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is easily one of the busiest holidays in the year. Turkey is in the oven, friends and family are traveling to and from homes, the TV is turned to the parade in New York, and let’s not forget about football! We stuff ourselves with stuffing (see what I did there?) and then start pulling the Christmas decorations out from their dusty spaces in the attic and garage. The day can certainly be a hectic one.
In the midst of it all, we pause for about 30 seconds to pray before the feast. We thank God for His provision, His care, and His protection over the past year, and we take time to recognize that even the food on the table is a gift from God. Looking around the room at loved ones, it is apparent that we have been blessed.
But allow me to draw your heart and mind to a higher view of thanksgiving. In Scripture, there are many Psalms that are listed as a Psalm for being thankful, or for thanking God, but there is only one psalm that is simply titled “A Psalm for Thanksgiving,” and that is Psalm 100. Spurgeon comments on this psalm saying, “Nothing can be more sublime this side of heaven than the singing of this noble Psalm by a vast congregation. It is all ablaze with grateful adoration.” Other writers call this the “summit” of the Psalms, culminating in praise and thanksgiving to God. So widely appreciated, this psalm is the text to the beloved hymn, “All People that on Earth Do Dwell,” which was later adapted by Thomas Ken for the Doxology that we sing today.
Serving as the culmination of the previous 5 psalms, Psalm 100 is a call to praise and thanksgiving for God’s people as they come into His presence for worship. You can picture it: the Israelites walking into the temple square singing loudly of the majesty and glory of God (Psalm 100:1–2, 4). Looking around, you can see the heights of the Holy of holies—a beautiful stone structure with gold overlaying it, demonstrating that precious metals are just building materials for God’s house. There is no comparison to God Himself, and the people laud Him because He is their God, and they are His people. He formed them as His own, and He cares for them as His sheep (Psalm 100:3).
Throughout the generations of Israel, parents would have recounted to their children the early days in the wilderness, how God gave them food, how He demonstrated His holiness to all other nations, granting victory after victory to His people as they dwelled in the land that He gave them. Parents also would tell (maybe with a twinge of sadness) of the sacrifices which are necessary to atone for their sins, and how they continue to that day in the temple.
Yet, there is joy, for God has shown Himself to be a loving God, one who declared Himself as “Yahweh, Yahweh God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus 34:6–7). The praise of the people would reflect the same sentiment (Psalm 100:5), for God does not change. He remains the same forgiving, holy, loving, and caring God that He always has been.
There is much to be thankful for this season, but for the people of God (that is, those who have put their faith in Christ as Lord and Savior), nothing can fully encompass the joy and thankfulness in our hearts to God. It is not simply gratitude for a good job or a nice home, but it is an eternal praise that God deserves, for He alone has granted to us salvation from our sins. He alone has justified us that we might be adopted into His household. And He alone is the fulfillment of our longing when we will one day stand before Him in glory. There is no greater reason for thanksgiving than this.