A Call To Thanksgiving

“O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever. Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever. “

Psalm 118:1-2

Another season has passed . . . 

The harvest has been gathered in . . . 

And we will have been called once more to our respective places of worship to give thanks. 

Many there were who did not heed this call, but they used the holiday seeking their own pleasure! 

Many no doubt frequented the house of prayer, only to rejoice in the abundance of the things they possess! 

What was your response? Was it such that it could bear away the approval and blessing of God? 

And being assembled in the house of God, what did you say? 

O, indeed, when we come into the house of the Lord, we must say something! And on Thanksgiving Day we ought to say something as to the now! 

Let Israel now say . . .! 

Let the house of Aaron now say . . .! 

Let them now that fear the Lord say . . .! 

Indeed, we have here an earnest call to thanksgiving! 

Most beautiful and full of meaning is the word “thanks” which is found in this text! It comes from a word which means literally: to point out with an extended hand, and then to praise and celebrate a certain benefactor. Incidentally the name Judah is a transliteration of this word, and that name means: praise. 

Now one who does this shows by implication at least three things. First of all, his deep dependence on his benefactor. He senses that he has nothing of himself, but he seeks all in his benefactor. Secondly, he confesses thereby that he has a sense of unworthiness. He humbly confesses his forfeiture of all right to the benevolence bestowed on him by his benefactor. And thirdly, it implies that he knows his benefactor, and would praise him for his goodness. He acknowledges that the benevolence he has received came solely from his benefactor. 

And special attention should be paid to the object of this praise and thanksgiving! 

The psalmist is not speaking here of some vague and mysterious being whom he really does not know. Nor has he in mind some supreme being whom he philosophically is forced to acknowledge, but whom he, in his practical life always denies. He is not speaking here in terms of some kind providence, or merely of a beneficent governor of the universe, whom he deistically daily puts out of his universe, but on the special thanksgiving day is forced to admit. Nor is it so that the psalmist here would have us understand that his prosperity is due most of all to self and his own wise manipulation of things at his disposal, with perhaps a little help of the father of nations. 

Not an idol, the figment of his own imagination, is the object of his praise! The psalmist is not a heathen, a deist; he worships not a blind force, a vague super being who hovers somewhere in outer space. No; the object of praise and thanksgiving is Jehovah, the only true and living God, the God of the everlasting covenant, and the God of his salvation! 

O, indeed, He is the Lord Almighty! Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe is He! Who by the Word of His power called all things into being according to His eternal purpose! Surely, too, He is the God of providence, Who upholds all things by the Word of His power, and so governs all things that they do His bidding. He it is, Who sees to it that nothing is left to chance, but all things, good and bad, righteous and wicked, prosperity and famine, rain and drought, angels and devils, yea, all things serve His purpose, the glory of His Name; while at the same time they work for the good of them that love Him. 

But even so, He is not some vague, mysterious super-being, so imposing that He forces you against your will to serve Him with the fear of fright, and to acknowledge somehow on Thanksgiving Day, if at no other time, that He ought to be thanked. 

Jehovah, the I AM THAT I AM, is He Who is the object of the psalmist’s praises! 

The perfectly Self-Sufficient One in Himself! The eternally independent God! Who is in need of nothing, and to Whom nothing can be given, not even our thanksgiving as a payment for the things He gives. To Whom nothing can be added, and from Whom nothing can be subtracted. Who always remains what He is, the overflowing Fountain of goodness! 

The unchangeable God! One Who is “I AM THAT I AM” is immutable! The mutable must always say, I am what I became. But God says, “I am Jehovah, I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” 

He is Jehovah, the Covenant God! In this Name He appeared unto His people, as to none other. With them He establishes His covenant. And though they break it, He always maintains it. And He blesses them with all the blessings of His covenant. They who by nature were not a people. He, Jehovah, by His grace, makes to be His covenant friends. And in that covenant He bestows upon them His goodness, and His mercy, the acknowledgement of which, on the part of that people, is true thanksgiving. 

O, give thanks unto Jehovah! The psalmist feels that he cannot adequately give thanks alone. Though thanksgiving is indeed personal. It begins with one’s soul. Therefore you hear the psalmist in another place say, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all within me bless his holy Name.” And in still another place, “I will offer to thee the sacrifices of thanksgiving.” And even in the congregation, thanksgiving is a matter of each individual, — “I will praise thee with my whole heart in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.” “I will pay my vows unto the Lord in the presence of all his people.” 

Yet the child of God can never really stand alone when he gives thanks. “His grateful heart is greedy of men’s tongues, and would monopolize them all for Jehovah’s glory.” It is quite inconceivable that he can be grateful and hide his gratitude. He must tell others and call them to express with him his praise to God. 

Let Israel now say . . .! 

Surely in this call to thanksgiving, the ungodly are excluded! The ungodly, according to Romans 1, are unthankful. They know God, even to the extent of His power and Godhead; but they hold the truth under in unrighteousness and are unthankful. 

Only Israel can give thanks! And Israel is they who fear the Lord. Israel is Jehovah’s covenant people. Israel is that people whom the Lord forms for Himself; they shall show forth His praise. Israel is Jehovah’s chosen people, His redeemed people, from both the Jews and Gentiles, out of all nations, kindreds, and peoples. Israel is that people that overcomes through weeping and supplication, who by grace have learned to see that in themselves they are lost and undone, unholy and depraved, but that in Jehovah alone is all their salvation and glory. They therefore extend the hand away from themselves, and point it toward Jehovah, from Whom is all their goodness. 

O, give thanks unto Jehovah, for He is good! 

Not merely give thanks unto Jehovah for the good things you have received! Thanksgiving is never merely a rejoicing in things! 

This does not mean that when we give thanks we are to be totally insensitive with respect to the blessings received. Fact is, that Jehovah’s goodness is reflected in the good things He gives us. Therefore when we give thanks we count our blessings, naming them one by one, and seeing what the Lord has done. And let us learn the lesson that blessings are not only good things, but also what we call evil things, which God also makes work for our good. In other words, all things are good when they flow to us from the hand of Jehovah. But we say again, the psalmist is not calling us here to give thanks to Jehovah for the good things He has given us. Rather, he points us away from the things given to the Giver! 

Give thanks unto Jehovah; for He is good! 

Let that be the contents of your thanksgiving — Jehovah is good! 

This means, first of all, that He is purest perfection. He is the sum of all perfections. His being is pure goodness. And it means, in the second place, that He is immaculately beautiful! He is light, pure light, and there is no darkness in Him. He is truth, righteousness, holiness, love, and grace; and in Him is no lie, corruption, or evil. Even to say that He is the highest Good, might leave room for comparison. But Jehovah is the incomparable, the infinitely Good God. This He is in Himself. And therefore is He also the overflowing Fountain of goodness for His people, to those who fear Him. 

Understand well, this is not intended to be a cold dogma., and abstract truth, a mere objective fact; but this is a subjective experience! It is as the psalmist expresses it elsewhere: “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” True thanksgiving is created and expressed when we taste spiritually Jehovah’s goodness. And it is always the expression that Jehovah is good. 

Let Israel now say, that Jehovah is good! 

The psalmist is not primarily interested in what Israel will say when they get to heaven. There he knows they will for ever be praising and thanking God for His goodness. Rather, the psalmist urges us to say something now, that is, in the present evil world where we dwell, in the midst of all the vicissitudes and exigencies of life. Whether our barns are full or empty, whether we be in health or in sickness, whether we be at war or in peace, whether it be in life or in death; always say: Jehovah is good! 

But the question arises: on what basis will we be able to say that Jehovah is good, especially when in the now I experience evil, when all things seem to be against me? Won’t I then of all times draw a distinction between the evil and the good? Won’t I be tempted to rejoice when my way is prosperous, and won’t I murmur and rebel when evil is upon me? Won’t our thanksgiving die on our lips when our way is dark? 

The answer is to be found in the repeated assertion in the text: 

For His mercy endureth for ever! 

Mercy is that goodness of God, according to which in the midst of all our distresses He pities His regenerated and justified people, and desires to make them perfect as He is perfect. Mercy is that unchangeable desire of Jehovah to deliver from the greatest possible of all miseries, sin and death, and to make us partakers of the highest good. 

And this is not simply a passing whim, and ineffectual desire that is never realized. Rather, His mercy is for ever. It is as eternal as God is. And in history, in the moments of time, He reveals His everlasting mercy. He showed it when He sought out our fallen first parents, Adam and Eve, and covered their nakedness with skins of animals whose blood had been shed. He disclosed His mercy to righteous Noah, when He saved him from the wicked world by the waters of the flood. He displayed His everlasting mercy when He saved His beloved Israel from the arms of Pharaoh and Egypt by the waters of the Red Sea. He remembered His mercy when He delivered His people from Babel’s bondage, and resettled them in their own land, and visited them in temple and sacrifice. The central manifestation of that eternal mercy He clearly demonstrated in the cross of Calvary, when He laid on His only Begotten Son the iniquity of us all, and covered us with His own righteousness through the resurrection of His Son, our Lord, from the dead. And so unto the end of time as we know it, He will show unto us the goodness of His eternal mercy, in prosperity and adversity, in war and peace, in health and sickness, in life and in death. That goodness of Jehovah whereby He purposes through all the changes of time and circumstance to deliver us and make us blessed as He is blessed. 

O, indeed, Jehovah is good! 

And His mercy endureth for ever! 

Give thanks, therefore, O people of God, who are as the apple of His eye! 

Stretch out the hand, and point with the finger, and exclaim with your tongue, — O Jehovah, how great is Thy Goodness! 

Thy mercy is an everlasting mercy! 

Thanks be unto Thy Holy Name! Amen!