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A Spirit of Thanksgiving

by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
Keynote Speaker, CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries

Thanksgiving: A Call to Worship God with Joy

Psalm 100 starts with “Make a joyful noise.” Yet when we thing about have a “spirit” of thanksgiving, we tend to think more along the lines of “meditative” or “reflecting” on the many blessings that God has given us. Yet, here, David tells us to make a joyful noise.

When I used to lead music at church, I would encourage the choir members to sing out and not worry if the person next to them could hear them. I would tell them that God didn’t tell us to sing in a whisper but to make a joyful noise. However, when David penned this psalm, he was not writing about our ability to sing. Nor was he telling us to be “noisy.” The NIV says we are “Shout for joy,” and that is the idea that David had. It is the idea of the people entering into a large hall and they see their great king standing before them. It is the cheer and celebration given to a victorious hero.

So here in this first verse, as we develop a spirit of Thanksgiving, we are to make a joyful noise with our shouts for joy as we acknowledge the Lord’s goodness in our lives. We are to shout for joy to our Risen King, Yahweh, who is Lord over all the earth.

Thanksgiving: A Call to Worship God through Service

Worshiping God is Serving God

Verse two of Psalm 100 tells us to serve the Lord with gladness. So so far, a spirit of thanksgiving is full of joy and gladness as we worship and serve God. To worship God is to serve him. And when we serve Him, we are worshipping Him. Worship is our highest form of service. Do you support your local church in its worship to the best of your ability? In what ways are your supporting them. God never called us to be “bench warmers.” He called us to serve Him with gladness.

Worshiping God is obeying God

Not only is worship serving God, but worship is also an act of obedience. Hebrews 10:25 tells us “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” In the 10 Commandments, we are told to “Keep the Sabbath Day holy.” So the first thing we should do to support our local church is to attend church. God calls us to worship him and when the church doors are open for opportunities of worship and service, you should be there – with a heart full of joy and gladness to be in the house of the Lord!

Somehow an attitude took hold in the church that feeling is secondary in how one worships and serves God. It seems as if we have come to the conclusion that it is more noble to serve when one doesn’t feel charitable and to worship when one doesn’t have the heart for it. It is as if we believe that God is primarily pleased with our obedience. Truly God does desire obedience. 1 Samuel 15:22 does say, “To obey is better than sacrifice”. However, as any parent knows, how much better when one obeys out of love and joy than a sense of duty or because one wants something in return.

What Does God Expect of our worship?

For most of us, how we worship is determined more by what we like, then what God expects. We choose how we dress for church based on comfort or personal preferences. Many church now offer multiple times for services so we can choose which one best fits into our schedule. We will even choose where we attend church based on the music style more so than on whether or not the pastor preaches sound doctrine that leads us to spiritual growth. If we are honest with ourselves, most of how we worship is based on personal taste with little thought given to what God wants from us.

If we received an invitation to appear at a White House banquet to honor the Queen of England, would we not want to know everything that is expected of us? Would we not want to dress in our very best and participate with the program for the evening? You would not attend such an event based solely on “this is what makes me most comfortable.” Do you enter the doors of your church with the awe, wonder, and reverence of entering to God’s presence with a concern for what the King of kings desires of your worship?

In this psalm, David is very clear about what is required for a worship service of Thanksgiving – joy, service, gladness, and singing. There are certainly times in worship for solemn observance and even expressing grief, but not in a service of thanksgiving. For this service, we are to Shout with joy, serve with gladness, and come with singing.

Thanksgiving: A Call to Worship God by Singing

Verse two also tells us to enter into his presence with singing. Omnipresence means all-present. This term means that God is capable of being everywhere at the same time. It means his divine presence encompasses the whole of the universe. So wherever we are, God is present. Yet David tells us that when we enter into the presence of God, we are to come with singing. When we gather together within our local church for corporate worship, we should have the sense that are there before God for the purpose of worshipping Him and when we realize we are in His presence, it should control both how we appear for worship, and how we worship.

Do you think God delights in our muttering hymns and songs that express joy for his greatness? Do you think he delights in our stern and indifferent expressions as we sing of his salvation? Or do you think he is pleased when we sit or stand in silence throughout the music portion of the service? He is no different from us. We would rather nothing be said than to receive thanks from a person who is clearly going through the motions. If we are going to give thanks to God, then express it like we mean it. God does not want us to merely do the right things; he wants us to enjoy doing them! He wants our hearts as well as our obedience.

Thanksgiving: A Call to a Relationship with God

In verse 3, David writes, “know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” If we are going to have a relationship with God, we need to know God. And to know him is to experience him at work in our lives and in the world around us. When we truly know him, we will not be able to help but worship him.

Israel had a problem with idolatry because they did know have a relationship with God

Israel had a big problem with idolatry. No matter how many wonders God did, they continually chose to forsake God and turn to the idols of Baal, Asherah, or Marduk. In fact, God accuses Israel of playing the harlot because they broke their covenant with him and turned to these false gods made by human hands out of stone and wood. In Jeremiah 3:6, God asks Jeremiah, “Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.”

Israel chose to break their covenant relationship with God for nothing more than wood and stone shaped by human hands. Objects unable to hear, see, smell or eat. None of these object parted the Red Sea, nor fed them with manna, nor gave them water to drink our of rock. None of these objects brought them safely to the Promised Land and fought their battles for them. Yet they chose these objects over the LORD — because idols is what they knew.

However, it is interesting to watch them through the pages of the Bible. Each time they end up in trouble because another nation is attacking them, they then turn to the God who did many wonders for them and want him to save them. Then when they felt safe and secure, they turned back to their idols. For them, God was more like a genie in a bottle, than the God of the universe.

We do not get to choose how we worship God

We do not get to choose to worship God on our terms, or as we see fit, or in the way we perceive God. Rather we are to worship the LORD because he is God. We were made by his hands and when we place our faith in Jesus and ask Him to save us from our sins, we become his people and the sheep of his pasture.

A Relationship with God means Knowing God

We are to know that the LORD, he is God! When we read LORD written in capital letters, we know that the Hebrew name “Yahweh” is being used. “Jehovah” is another version of the name. Discovering the meaning of “Jehovah” can deepen your understanding of God, and enrich your worship.

The literal meaning of the name is “I am the one who is” or, more simply, “I am.” This short definition carries a sense of the eternal. In other words, God was, God is, God will always be. Seen in light of Scripture, it also hints at His all-present nature: seeing, knowing, and actually being with us. This is what David wants us to know about God. So in this psalm he is declaring that Yahweh is the one true God, not Baal or Asherah or Marduk.

A Relationship with God means we are faithful and loyal to Him

The LORD is serious about us knowing that He is the only God. In Isaiah 45:5-7, God says, “I am the LORD, and there is no other, beside me there is no God; and I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

In Isaiah 45:21-23, Gond continues, “Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none beside me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.'”

If we allow idols to creep into our lives, then we are just as guilty as Israel was in playing the harlot. Today, our idols may not be carved images of stone and wood, but we do make idols out of many things, including hobbies, careers, family, money, relationships, and desires. Anything that we make more important in our lives than God, is an idol. What idols are in your life?

Thanksgiving: A Call to acknowledge our Creator

The LORD is our Creator and Lord. He has made us. We are not our own creators. It is impossible for us to exist apart from God. We cannot credit ourselves for our existence nor for our sustenance. Because we are made by God, we belong to God, and like a Shepherd, he watches over and provides for us.

When David speaks of being “his people,” he is thinking as an Israelite of God’s covenant made with the Hebrews to be God’s people. It is not only as creatures that we belong to the Creator, but as people brought into a covenant with him that he has a special claim on us, and, for that matter, we on him. Yahweh, the one true God, is our God who has made us, sustains us, and places his claim on us.

Isaiah 54:5 says, “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.”

Thanksgiving: A Call to Enter His Gates

Verse 4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” Can you imagine, just for a moment, entering the courts of heaven and seeing God? What would you feel? What would say? How would you act?

This is how we should come to worship God both privately and corporately. We are called to worship the LORD with joy as his people and to give Him thanks and praise and bless his holy name.

Imagine the people of David’s day walking into the tabernacle. They have entered the gates and are moving into the temple courts. The psalmist calls out, “Give thanks to him; bless his name!” That is the spirit of thanksgiving in which the people are to come. And it is the same spirit of thanksgiving in which we are to come to the LORD today. God is worthy of our honor and thanks. It should be our intent to bless him with the joy and gratitude we express. He is to receive the glory. He is to be the center of attention.

Enter His Courts with Thanksgiving

Too often, we attend church out of a sense of duty or because we want God to grant us something in return for our obedience. But is the true obedience? Is it true worship?

True worship comes out of a heart that acknowledges that God has graciously granted us favor and the result is that we worship with thanksgiving. The service we are rendering to God in worship is the service of a heart that acknowledges the blessings of God. It is the service of delighting in God and his blessings. And that is the spirit of thanksgiving that should mark God’s people and set them apart from the world.

Psalm 7:17 says, “I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.”

Paslm 9:1 says, “I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”

Psalm 28:7 says, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am heped; my heart exults, and with my song I have thanks to him.”

And in Psalm 97:12 the psalmist wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!”

Thanksgiving: A Call To Remember the Goodness of God

Why do we make a joyful noise, serve him with gladness, come into his presence with singing? Because of the very character of God. We give him that because of who he is. Verse five of Psalm 100 says, “For the LORD is good; his steadfast loved endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” But what does it mean that God is good?

When we think about people being good, we usually mean that they have treated us fairly, taken care of us, they are there for us when we need them, and they are willing to help us when we are in need. Certainly, God does these things for us as well. We know that God is morraly good, righteous and holy. We know that he does not sin. But when the pslmaist penned, “the LORD is good”, he was reflect on God’s doing good for his people. God is a do-gooder. He instructs us to know the right way; we can turn to him for refuge. He provides for us so that we lack no good thing.

Psalm 25:8-9 says, “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

Psalm 34:8-10 tells us, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! oh, feat the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.”

Thanksgiving: A Call to Remember God’s Steadfast Love Endures Forever.

Verse five of Psalm 100 also tells us that God’s steadfast love endures forever. The King James says, “His mercy is ever lasting,” the 1995 NASB says “His lovingkindness is everlasting.” The Message Bible says, “For God is sheer beauty, all-generous in love,” Holman Christian Standard Bible says, “His love is eternal.”

God’s love to man is always mercy because it is an undeserving love. But the particular trait of this love, and which is what the Israelites’ hope was placed in, is it being steadfast, unfailing, everlasting, all-generous, eternal. It is steadfast because God made a promise; he made a covenant with his people to love them. It is steadfast because love is who God is (1 John 4:8). 52 psalms – over one-third – speak of God’s love, 123 times altogether, and 178 times in the Old Testament.

Thanksgiving: A Call to Remember God’s Faithfulness

The last part of Psalm 100 says, “His faithfulness endures through all generations.” The Hebrew word for “faithfulness” is often translated “truth.” You can see their close link. A man who is true to his word is one who is faithful. God is faithful because he is true to his word which endures forever. He does not lie, nor does he change his mind or falter. What he says he will do, and certainly that is worth giving thanks for.

Yet, how difficult it can be for us to be faithful to God. There are those who make promises but deceive; there are those intending to be faithful but lack strength, courage, or wisdom to remain true. But God’s promises never fail; he does not grow weary; he does not lose heart or patience, nor does he err in his decisions. We can count on him.

Thanksgiving: A Call to Remember the Price of the Cross

In David’s day, the people looked forward to the Messiah. And if they had reason to shout with joy and serve with gladness, how much more so do we have reason today to be thankful with our knowledge of the cross and the great price and sacrifice that Jesus made for us. If we truly want to understand the steadfast love of God, we only need to remember the cross because it was there that God chose to make his only Son the sacrifice and payment for our sins. Without the cross there is no relationship with God. Without the cross we are still enemies of God, lost in our sin, bound for hell.

As we celebrate thanksgiving, let’s remember to shout with joy, serve God with gladness, enter His courts with singing and be thankful. Give thanks for the blessings in your life, for the beauty of God’s creation, for family and friends, for health and life, and for the cross that paid the price for our redemption from sin so that we can have eternal life. May we never take for granted the greatest blessing – our salvation. May we serve with with gladness because Jesus, the Son of God, became our servant when He died in our place, paying our sin debt for us. Gives thanks to him. Bless his name!

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Psalm 100

Psalm 100