The Origin of Thankfulness

Few traits demonstrate a combination of humility and joy better than thankfulness. Its very nature depends on recognizing others’ contributions to our well-being and happiness. Because of this, from a young age, most parents teach their children the importance of saying, “Thank you.” And yet, as we grow older, and perhaps because we lack the necessary humility or are missing out on the joys of life, we do not seem as ready to say it—even when the situation calls for it. However, Psalm 100 exudes thankfulness. Every phrase builds on the previous to express a crescendo of thanksgiving offered to the LORD Himself. This on its own bears imitation. But this psalm’s placement follows a poetic series that begins with man’s needs, shows God’s provision, points to the Messiah, and then marvels at the possibility of forgiveness the LORD makes available in the context of His judgment. As sinners needing all of these and yet incapable of creating any circumstance comparable to such a plan, thanksgiving ought to spring forth from within our hearts like a budding flower welcoming the sun. Indeed, the psalmist captures this very sentiment with this brief psalm’s joyful cry of thanks.

While the history of the United Kingdom records various times when David rightfully might express such appreciation, and while the Jews who returned from captivity most certainly would feel it, these should serve only as mere shadows to those who realize the forgiveness available through the blood of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the broad wording of the psalm allows the reader to consider all of these perspectives while encouraging him to internalize the psalm. Thus, all that God has done should motivate us to respond with thanksgiving—yet not simply a casual “Thank you” but rather a heartfelt gratitude that builds a relationship (2 Cor. 5:14). The reality of sin and its consequences should flood our soul with guilt and shame. Indeed, this makes the possibility of forgiveness all the more real and meaningful, which in turn causes joy to well up within us until it bursts forth for all to hear (Psa. 100:1; Phil. 4:4). More than that, it changes our behavior so significantly that we take joy in serving the LORD who made it possible (Psa. 100:2a; Rom. 12:1-2), worshiping (Psa. 100:2b; Jas. 5:13) and praising Him (Psa. 100:4; 1 Pet. 1:3-5) from a heart overwhelmed with gratitude. And yet, as the psalmist declares, this newfound passion has a specific focus: the LORD. Sadly, many people separate the opportunity of forgiveness from the will and character of the One who made it possible. But Psalm 100 so integrates thanksgiving with the One worthy of it that the personal character of real thanksgiving shines brightly. Indeed, couched within this song of thanks the psalmist points to the reasons why the LORD is so deserving. Yahweh, the Hebrew name translated LORD, means “the One who is there.” It is the covenant name of God signifying that He is by the very nature of His being but also that He is there for us (Psa. 100:1) as the offer of forgiveness so demonstrates. As our Creator, we owe our very existence to Him (Psa. 100:3a; Gen. 1:26-27; Col. 1:16-18). But He is also our Shepherd, caring for our every need (Psa. 100:3b; 23:1-6; John 10:1-10). He provides only what is good for us as part of His intrinsic nature (Psa. 100:5a; Jas. 1:17) and shows us mercy daily (Psa. 100:5b), disregarding our own character to offer aid because of His character. More than that, He does not allow us to wallow in our ignorance but reveals truth to us so that we might know Him and His will and be more like Him by doing His will (Psa. 100:5c; John 8:32; 12:48; 17:17). And because He is eternal so also can His forgiveness and blessings be bestowed on those who embrace that relationship with Him (Psa. 100:5; 1 Pet. 3:8). O how we should give thanks to the LORD—not only for what He has done for us, but also because of who HE is for us!

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