Eight months into the pandemic and we see no light at the end of the tunnel. Many have been sick; many have lost loved ones. Many are scraping through financially because of work shut downs. Others have fraught nerves as they juggle working at home and helping their children with online school. All of us are weary of the restrictions that have changed our lifestyle.
The difficulties and suffering of 2020 is like a heavy weight on the soul. However, even though no respite seems in sight and that light at the end of the tunnel is a shadowy mist, there is light, if we just look for it.
The idea of thanksgiving to God may seem ironic to some considering the above mentioned struggles, yet as we approach Thanksgiving in 2020, we may need to consider more deeply the idea of thanking God.
I read scriptures each week with a woman who recently had half her lung removed due to cancer. Recently, we selected a few Psalms that focused on giving thanks to God. She read the passages with a weak voice and halting breath, but with genuine thankfulness. Looking at who God is and meditating on his wondrous deeds increases faith and radiates light and hope.
Giving Thanks Brings Light
These readings caused me to consider studying about thanking God. The deeper I went into studying thanksgiving to God, the more layers to it I found to this concept. As I read I became more hopeful and more faithful. Thanking God brings things into perspective, at least for me it does.
The Praise and Thanksgiving Connection
The concept of thanksgiving to God and praise are interrelated. Some writers of scripture use the two words interchangeably. We see this in Psalm 100:4:
- “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”
The three words: thanksgiving, praise and bless are used as parallel structures while there are shade of difference in each meaning, these words are used in a poetic sense to repeat the same idea. In so doing each defines the other by adding a slightly different dimension.
A similar parallel structure is found in the passages below.
- “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” Ps. 69:30
- “I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise” Ps. 35:18
- “I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.” Ps. 7:17
A facet of praising God is thanking God, so when I thank God, I am praising him as well as showing my need for him and dependence on him.
The Thanksgiving and Sacrifice Connection
In my studies I came across an intriguing passage about thanksgiving.
Hebrews 13:15 infers that giving thanks is equivalent to offering a sacrifice to God.
- “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” (NKJV)
This image of our thanks to God being a sacrifice is found in the Old Testament.
- “I will offer to You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.” Ps. 116:17
- “And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” Ps.107:22
- “Sacrifice a thank offering to God, and fulfill your vows to the Most High.” Ps. 50:14
- “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” Ps.141:2
These passages refer back to one of the types of sacrifices that the Israelites made to God. It is referred to as the “thank” offering and was offered in association with the “peace or fellowship” offering which celebrated having peace and fellowship with God. (Leviticus 7 provides specific details about these sacrifices.)
These sacrifices lead us to Jesus, our “peace” offering. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of God, we have peace with God and are brought into His presence. (Read: Romans 5:1; 1 John 1:3, Eph. 1:4.-7).
Thanksgiving in Approaching God
When I was a young girl, attending church was a big deal. We got washed up and put on clean clothes, “Sunday best.” After all, this was serious business we were coming to worship God.
We really don’t need special physical clothes to come before God to show him respect and give him honor. The scriptures talk about an attitude of the heart that we need to wear to come before God, and that is a thankful heart. This idea is illustrated in the passages below:
- “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Ps.100:3-4
- “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” Ps.95:2
- “Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.” Ps. 118:19-20
In the New Testament we see the same attitude when approaching God in prayer.
- “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phil. 4:6
- “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful…” Col. 4:2
- “First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all men,” 1 Tim. 2:1
- “Rejoice at all times. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess. 5:16-18
As I meditate on all these verses, I ask myself is giving thanks to God a primary characteristic of how I approach God. Hebrews 4:15-16 states that we can approach God with confidence because of what Jesus has done for us, but do I also approach with awe and a grateful heart?
Thanksgiving and the Life of a Disciple
As I study about giving thanks to God, I learn that thanksgiving characterizes the life of a disciple. Genuine thanksgiving characterizes how we receive the kingdom to how we should be talking to one another in the kingdom.
- Receiving the Kingdom:
“Therefore, since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be filled with gratitude, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” Hebrews 12:28
- Growing in Faith:
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Col. 2:6-7
- Communion: Fellowship with the Jesus and the Body
“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.” 1 Cor. 10:16-17
- In Generosity:
“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” 2 Cor. 9:11
- In Purity and Speech
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” Eph. 5:3-4
- In All of Your Life
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col.3:17
From my study I see that thankfulness is valued by God. A thankful heart and mindset will transform our relationship with God and with one another.
Thanksgiving and praise to God changes my perspective, my feelings, my interactions and my actions. Thankfulness increases my faith and shines light and hope in these dark times.
I am encouraging you to meditate on the passages in this study over the next few days, add new passages that you discover, Share what you are learning with others by thanking them.
As you talk with God ask him to open your eyes to the ways he is currently blessing you and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to him.