Why Thank God?
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
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At first glance, Psalm 136 is a psalm of thanksgiving. In the New Living Translation, this psalm exhorts us 12 times to "give thanks" (yadah) to God. (In the original Hebrew, the imperative form of the verb yadah shows up only four times, but it is implied in many other verses. No other psalm uses this imperative as often.)
What does it mean to give thanks to God? Commonly, we give thanks to someone who has done something for us. Thanksgiving acknowledges a person for acting in a positive way. We see this sense of thanksgiving in Psalm 136. Verse 5, for example, reads, "Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully." Our thanks acknowledges God's action in creation and gives him appropriate credit.
Yet the use of "give thanks" in Psalm 136 goes beyond our ordinary sense of thanksgiving. Consider the psalm's first verse, for example: "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever." Though one might rightly note that God's goodness and faithful love are communicated through his actions, this verse doesn't specifically connect thanksgiving to what God has done but to who God is. We are to give thanks not just because God has done good things for us, but because God is good.
Thus, Psalm 136 takes us beyond thanksgiving to a deeper acknowledgement of not only God's actions but also of God's nature. The Hebrew verb yadah, translated here as "give thanks," means more than "acknowledge someone when that person does something good for you." It has the sense of speaking out what is true. Thus, beyond saying "thank you" to God when God blesses us, we are to confess his goodness, his grace, his beauty, his grandeur.
Practically speaking, thanksgiving often leads us to deeper praise. When we think of what God has done for us, we can't hold back our gratitude. But, even more, our consideration of God's actions helps us to reflect upon God's nature. God does good for us because God is good. Thus, thanksgiving opens the door to praise by bringing to mind God's character.
Adapted with permission from the original article "Beyond Thanksgiving" at TheHighCalling.org. All rights reserved.
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