November has always been one of my favorite months of the year. When I was young, it was probably the anticipation of Christmas coming in just one month, but in the last couple of decades, Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday.
Giving thanks is such a joyful activity: It causes us to focus on our blessings (not our burdens), it blesses the one we give thanks to, and it is free (it costs me nothing). This is not to say we have no struggles or hardships in life – we invariably do! – but while there is a time to focus on those, giving thanks is an intentional act whereby we choose to not brood over whatever may be negative in our lives, but accentuate what is positive.
The biblical hymnal of Psalms contains much thanksgiving, along with a boatload of struggles! Often, in the midst of hardship, the psalmist would literally lift himself out of a ‘pit of despair’ by reciting God’s blessings, and giving thanks to the Lord. Other times, giving thanks prompted the psalmist’s awareness of God’s holiness. Psalm 95 is just such a psalm.
The psalmist begins with a call to joyfully give thanks to the Lord (vv1-2):
O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
He follows this with a brief recital of God’s omnipotence and wonderful creation (3-5):
For the LORD is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
What is the proper response to such a great God? It begins with worship (6-7):
Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker,
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
The expression of worship, however, is not the end; an obedient heart is. In the final four verses of the psalm, the writer exhorts his audience – who have given thanks to the Lord, remembered His wonderful acts, and joined in a chorus of worship, not to abort the process of true thanksgiving. His ‘Exhibit A’ is the nation of Israel in the wilderness, who had unbelieving hearts, who ‘tried’ and ‘tested’ God, and as a result, the whole generation of them never entered their Promised Land. How tragic, the psalmist suggests, that we might not experience God’s blessing because we do not give thanks with obedient hearts!
November is Thanksgiving month, and I urge you to embrace it to the full. We who know God know to Whom we give thanks. We shout joyfully to Him for saving us, and recognize Him for His marvelous creation. But as we do, let that thankfulness enter into your heart, and submit yourself in gratitude to the Lord who has forgiven your sin, and given you the free gift of eternal life. Give thanks to the Lord!