In 1 Chronicles 16:34-36 we find David's psalm of thanks. This song tells us that we are to give thanks for thanksgiving.
I. Give (v. 34)
Two of God's primary characteristics are celebrated in this verse: His goodness and His love. David said that God is good. What does that mean? It means God's essence and character are the epitome of goodness and righteousness. Because God is so good, we are to give thanks.
Why should we give thanks? Simply because we are God's creation, we should do nothing else and nothing less. We rejoice in God's goodness. We do this by giving thanks and by our worship. In the New Testament, the word for "thanks" gives us our words grace and eucharist. When we celebrate the Lord's Supper in remembrance of Jesus' shed blood and battered body, we give thanks. All of our existence and worship should revolve around giving thanks.
In addition, God's love endures forever. We experience His goodness because of His love that
Caused Him to create humanity
Involved Him in the affairs of His chosen people
Caused Him to provide redemption for us through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son
Compelled Him to extend His presence to all His people through the Holy Spirit
Enables us to give thanks
The central response of God's people is to give thanks through prayer, worship, and daily living.
John 4 records the story of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well. In response to her question about the proper place to worship, Jesus replied, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24, NIV).
Thanksgiving, like just about every other religious holiday, has been commercialized, secularized, and watered-down by segments of society that have little or no concern for the real meaning of the holidays. Isn't it interesting that what used to be "holy days" have become "holidays"?
Feasting and football sells well in a secular world order, but are a far cry from the biblical intention of focusing on God as the recipient of our thanks. David helps us understand and recover the meaning of Thanksgiving by focusing our attention on the true purpose of the day - to remember and rejoice in the goodness and love of God.
II. Gather (v. 35)
The focus of our concern is different from that of verse 35. In that verse, the people feared other nations from without; we have more to fear from within.
We need our Savior to do three things:
The Israelites celebrated significant experiences and victories. They did this because they saw and understood that everything came from God. If the experience was negative and harsh, it caused them to consider how they might have sinned against the Lord. If it was positive, they praised God and celebrated for joy.
The Israelites gave thanks for God's deliverance. This elevated Him above all neighboring people's gods. It served as a testimony of God's greatness to those people who would see and understand the significance of such thanksgiving. That further enhanced God's name and brought fear, awe, and respect on their neighbors who observed such celebrations in honor of a mighty, deliverer God.
A hen will gather her chicks and will cover them with her body when bad weather threatens. After the storm passes, the chicks will come out from under the protective wings of their mother and will get on with whatever chicks do all day.
We must be careful not to relegate Thanksgiving to a once-a-year celebration. Everyday ought to be a day for thanksgiving. Surely, even in the harshest and most worrisome days, we can find something to be thankful for.
As someone has said, "If you cannot be thankful for what has happened, be thankful for what has not happened." "God is our provider: be thankful to Him. Turn your table into an altar."
III. Glory (v. 36)
Things come full circle. Here God's people magnified and praised Him. They gathered together and directed all their praise, honor, and thanks toward Him for His grace that He had bestowed on them.
How did the Israelites praise God? Through worship, certainly! All that makes up a religious celebration - singing, feasting, sacrifice, speaking, rejoicing - these people did to glorify God. Just as we do what we do in worship to praise God, so did these people in David's time. What they did, what we do, is to celebrate and to glorify Him.
"Then all the people said 'Amen' and 'Praise the Lord.'" The word amen is "not simply approval but a solemn, formal assertion that the people accept and agree to [God's] covenant and its curses and blessings." (source: Kenneth Barker, ed. The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1985)
Thanksgiving is more and more squeezed between Halloween and Christmas, where it loses its identity and purpose. Nowadays, the entire season, including Halloween and Christmas, is referred to as the holiday season. Your Christmas tree now is a holiday tree. Your kids don't take Christmas break; they take winter holidays.
What's happening? We are allowing the sacredness of the Thanksgiving season to be sacrificed on the altar of profit, where it has been turned into a folksy, warm, fuzzy, secular holiday.
We need to recapture the specialness and sacredness of Thanksgiving and Christmas. We must be especially concerned that our time of thanksgiving not slip the moorings of its spiritual heritage.
Over and over again, we are encouraged in Scripture never to cease giving thanks and praise for:
Who God is
What God does
God's very "Godness" from everlasting to everlasting
We need to conclude this Thanksgiving message as the children of Israel declared in verse 36 with their twofold: "Amen" and "Praise the Lord!"