In ancient Israel the nation had 2 holidays that centered on Thanksgiving. These were times of national celebration for the goodness of God. The first feast was the feast of harvest or perhaps better known as the feast of Pentecost. This feast was seven weeks after Passover and generally marked the end of the wheat harvest. The feast of Tabernacles, which we recently considered in our preaching series on the Jewish holidays from a Christian perspective, corresponds somewhat to our Thanksgiving celebration. The eight days that the nation took to dwell in tents or booths outside their homes reminded them of God’s great deliverance during the 40 years of wilderness wandering. Thanksgiving is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to God. It is acknowledging Him as the provider of salvation to mankind and the giver of every good and perfect gift. We need to work on developing an attitude of praise and thanksgiving to our God. We also should be working on a pattern of thanks-living in our lives. Thanks-living is the concept of developing an attitude of gratitude towards God and going through our daily routine with a sensitive awareness of God’s kindness and grace extended to us on a daily basis.
In the 95th Psalm the psalmists encourages us in this direction when he writes: “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with Thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great king above all gods”, (v.1-3 NIV). In this psalm the psalmist tells us how we should sing unto the Lord. First, he tells us that we should sing with “joy to the Lord”. Jesus is worthy of all of our praise. We should lift His name up with great joy and celebration. Nowhere in the literature or poetry of the neighbors of Israel can we find any expression of pure praise and joy which equals that which is contained in the book of Psalms. If the Old Testament saints had joy in their walk with God and they were under the heavy burden of the law shouldn’t we, who are under grace, have an abiding joy and a celebrative attitude for what God has done and is doing? Secondly, the psalmist tells us that we should sing loudly for the great things that God has done. Sometimes people complain during the worship music being too loud. But here we are told to “shout loudly” our praise to God. I believe it is a right and scriptural attitude to give loud praise to God. Sometimes people need to adjust their attitude to realize that God is working through things that might not be exactly what they prefer. But we should have hearts that are truly rejoicing even as we see others celebrating their relationship with God, even if it isn’t exactly like we would do it. Then the third way that we are to sing onto the Lord is that we are to sing thankfully “with Thanksgiving”. At our Thanksgiving eve service sometimes I feel like I have the pull thanks out of people when I ask the question, “what are you thankful for?” We should be abounding in Thanksgiving for the grace that God extends to us each day. We should especially be thankful to God for the unspeakable gift of his salvation.
These three items, joyfully, loudly, and thankfully answer the question of how we should sing unto the Lord. But why should we sing onto the Lord? Again the psalmist tells us because the Lord is “the rock of our salvation”. Jesus Himself is our salvation and this salvation is as firm as a rock. When we place our trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ we are safe. The rock gives the imagery of shelter, support, indwelling and supply Jesus has provided. Jesus is described as the spiritual rock in the New Testament (1Cor.10:4). If you are building on the rock of the Lord Jesus Christ know that you are building on a firm and established foundation. But the psalmists also tells us that we should “sing onto the Lord for He is great” (v.3). The greatness of our God is an awesome and amazing thing. He is the everlasting God and loving King and He gave Himself for us. The Lord Jesus Christ is great in goodness, power, and glory. His domain is over all the powers of heaven and earth. Our worship is utterly due onto Jesus who is great above all gods. So this Thanksgiving let us lift up our voices in praise and adoration to the great God whom we serve. Don’t forget that the true reason that we celebrate Thanksgiving is not because of the turkey or because of the football games (of which now there are three), but it because God has provided salvation for us in the Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life so that we could have eternal life. There is no greater source of Thanksgiving than the gift of eternal life. All praise be to our great Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s reason for Thanksgiving.
Happy Thanksgiving, Pastor Rich Sivo