The heart of Thanksgiving

I love eating and Thanksgiving is easily the best eating day of the year as far as I’m concerned. And with its leftovers that stretch over the following week, my joy is good food is well satisfied.

And tying all of this feasting with expressions of gratitude is a master stroke. We take in and we give out. It’s a model of how life ought to be lived on a regular basis.

Psalm 100 is designated as our thanksgiving psalm by its superscription and has become a regular go-to on Thanksgiving for me.

It begins with a bang and an exuberant flash. Passion is unleashed with shouts of joy.

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
     Worship the LORD with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.

Pretty much the only time I shout for joy is when my sports teams do something unexpectedly great. A long touchdown pass, an off-balance three-point shot, a brilliant shot on goal, a stunning defensive play. But the psalmist calls for this kind of expression of unbridled emotion in worship.

But what’s surprising in Psalm 100 is who is called to this over the top expression of joy. It’s the whole earth. And who the whole earth is called to shout for is Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel. Four times in the five-verse psalm, the name Yahweh is used and “praise his name” (v. 4) references it a fifth time. Whenever we come across the all caps LORD in the Old Testament, it’s actually the name Yahweh. And we’re meant to consider his intimate and passionately loyal relationship with his people. The final verse of the psalm pulls this relationship of love and faithfulness into focus.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

But it’s not just Israel, the covenant people of Yahweh, who are called on to shout. It’s the whole earth.

There’s something about worship that leads to mission. In worship, we encounter the vast greatness of our God and long for all peoples in every place to know him as we do. In worship, we experience the love of our God and long for it to spill over and drench all people. Our covenant God yearns for the same kind of relationship he has with us to extend to all people.

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.

As our Maker, we belong to God. As his sheep, we are in relationship with him.

Yahweh is the big God of the entire world and he’s the “small” personally loyal God of Israel at the same time. He’s the Jesus who saves the world from their sins and he’s my Jesus who hears my prayers and answers them.

Sheep imagery in the Psalms is only ever applied to Israel, according to Jeffrey Grogan. But here it is stretched to all the earth. The joy of worship draws in far-flung peoples into the intimacy of a tender relationship with out God.

We are to know that he is God. The God. The one and only. The God who hears us. The God who extends himself toward us. The God who saves us. The God who heals us. The God who is always and ever for us. We are to know this with our minds, with our hearts, with our everything.

And so we enter into worship. Our joy turns into thanksgiving and our thanksgiving turns into praise.

And that’s better than any turkey and stuffing I’ve ever tasted.

Tagged with: