1 A Psalm for Thanksgiving
Shout loudly to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before him with a shout of joy!
3 Know that the Lord is God; He made us, and, indeed, we are
His people and the sheep of His pasture.
4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with a song of praise;
Give thanks to Him, bless His name!
5 For the Lord is good, His lovingkindness is eternal;
And His faithfulness continues from generation to generation.
It would be enough for a devotion for us to just read and meditate upon this psalm of thanksgiving–possibly originally intended to be used during a thanksgiving offering (the Hebrew term in verse one can refer to both the thank-offering and the song of thanksgiving). However, I would like to make a few comments that will, I hope, draw our thoughts into this portion of Scripture.
First, notice that the psalm is addressed to the whole earth (or the whole land–it amounts to the same thing), not just the people of Israel. This reminds us that the Lord is God over all the earth, and all the earth’s inhabitants owe Him their praise (that being the nature of the shouting), regardless of whether they even acknowledge His existence. It’s because of this fact that the gospel call goes out to all the inhabitants of the earth: every living creature owes God his or her praise, worship, and adoration. Because they have disobeyed, all are in sin and under the wrath of God. This is why, just as the call goes out to every being on the planet to praise God (and we’re talking about Yahweh, here, not just any god), so the call to repent goes out to every being on the planet.
It’s not just praise that all of God’s creation owes Him; it’s also service, and with gladness, coming into His presence with a song of praise in the heart and on the lips. This is not the response of the world to God and, frankly, most of us who are Christians too often forget to have this attitude when we approach God. The world curses God, and rebukes Him in their hearts and with their mouths, again something for which the world will be judged. As Christians, we should be serving God, and doing so with an attitude of joyful praise.
The psalmist then commands us to remember who God is and who we are in relation to Him. His is God, and we are His creation. Most translations have something along the lines of “we are His,” or “and not we ourselves” at this point. There is some debate as to what the original Hebrew is here. A devotional is hardly the place for a long discussion of Hebrew textual variants, but suffice to say, I lean toward the suggestion that the reading that best fits the context is one that not only has support within Hebrew grammar, but also has a possible Ugaritic parallel: “indeed, we are His people.” Not only does this work with the context, but I think it also transitions to a narrowing of the audience. That is to say, the psalmist goes from saying “God made us” (i.e., everyone on the planet), to “indeed, we are His people” (i.e., those of us who know and love Him). Not only are we God’s own, but we are His flock, and under His loving protection.
The final command is to enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and His courts with a song of praise; give thanks to Him and bless His name. This is a bit of a recap on what’s already been said, but adding the call to give thanks. It doesn’t matter whatever our circumstances might be, God owes us nothing, and we owe Him everything. Even if we don’t have a lot, He deserves our thanks for whatever we do have. Given what we deserve, His mercy alone should be a cause for our praise and thanksgiving.
Indeed, the Lord is good, and His lovingkindness is eternal. The Hebrew word hesed, which I’ve translated “lovingkindness” refers to God’s abounding and never-ceasing love toward His people, and also for His general care over all the earth–even to those who hate Him. God is also faithful from generation to generation. It’s because of God’s lovingkindness and His faithfulness that we are able to know Him, that we are not immediately consumed by His wrath on account of our sin, and that we are even able to draw breath to praise His name. I pray we will take time frequently this week to praise and thank God for all He has done, and continues to do, for us.
Have a great week!