These words, of William Bradford, governor of the Plymouth Colony, helped organize one of the earliest known American Thanksgivings. In light of all that had happened to him and his new colonists, he invited them, each and every one, to look around, see the goodness and faithfulness of God and join him in thanksgiving. He wanted them to open their eyes and see, then open their mouths and thank.
Similarly, in Psalm 118, the Psalmist invites us to join him in giving God thanks for His goodness. And we are to do this, not just one day a year, but every single day of the year. We need to exchange a solitary day of Thanksgiving for an ongoing lifestyle of “thanks-living.”
In short, the Psalmist reminds us that God’s continual goodness is the basis for our continual gratitude. In other words: as soon as God stops being good to you, then you can stop giving thanks to Him. Psalm 118:1-4 reads:
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 2 Oh let Israel say, “His lovingkindness is everlasting.” 3 Oh let the house of Aaron say, “His lovingkindness is everlasting.” 4 Oh let those who fear the LORD say, “His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
The author begins with an invitation. He invites anyone reading his words to “Give thanks to the Lord.” The Psalmist (presumably David) feels that he alone cannot sufficiently express his thankfulness to God, he alone is inadequate to honor God with what He deserves. David feels that his one tongue is not enough to thank God and so throughout this Psalm he is pleading like Charles Wesley, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing My Great Redeemers Praise!”
So, he invites, not only the nation of Israel, but he invites you and me to join Him in thanking God. The king of Israel is inviting us to join him in giving thanks to the King of Kings. While there are many important truths about thanksgiving that we can learn from these few verses, let me highlight just one key idea: We are invited to thank God verbally.
Three times, the Psalmist employs the action verb “say,” that is to speak or to vocalize. Just thinking that God is good is not enough. We are to say it out loud. We use our hands to serve Him, we use our ears to hear Him, we use our minds to meditate upon Him, and we must use our mouths to praise Him.
Our mouths could be used for many things. The believers in Ephesus were not all using their mouths for all the right things. That’s why Paul wrote, “there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” (Ephesians 5:4)
You may think to yourself,” I can’t pray very spiritual sounding prayers…I can’t sing a beautiful song”…rest assured, when it comes to our verbal expressions of thanksgiving, God is not looking for eloquence. He is looking for reverence and sincerity. How do I know that God is not interested in our eloquence? The Psalmist very plainly says, “He is good.” That isn’t very eloquent? It’s so simple a child can understand it and yet, so profound, the greatest of theologians cannot exhaust it.
One evening, after a very demanding day, DL Moody asked a visiting Christian to lead in family devotions. The man waxed eloquent as he expounded the Bible after which he prayed at great length, presumably to impress the great preacher DL Moody. When the worship was over, Mrs. Moody and the guest got up from their knees, but Moody remained bowed in prayer. The guest thought that he was praying, but Mrs. Moody soon detected that her husband was–asleep! Let the politicians and poets wax eloquence, you and I need only to speak plainly and sincerely to God in your thanksgiving.
When it opens its mouth a dog can do nothing other than bark. When a cow opens its mouth it can do nothing other than moo. And when they open their mouths, the redeemed men and women of God should regularly and naturally praise God.
Hebrews 13:15 says that we should “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise which is the fruit of our lips.” The verb, there, implies a habitual, ongoing action. That is, “make it your lifestyle” to give thanks. When you receive a paycheck, give thanks. When your kids and grandkids tell you that they love you, give thanks. When you are driving down the street, give thanks. We are to “continually offer up” praise.
There once was an old Scottish minister who was known for his prayers of robust thanksgiving. On one dreary, gloomy, stormy day his congregation could be heard whispering about the fact that, on a day like this, he would never be able to find some reason for gratitude. The preacher began his opening prayer with these words, “Lord, I thank you that not every day is like this one.”
Like the Psalmist, the author of Hebrews is calling us, not just to give thanks mentally, but verbally. He says, offer up “a sacrifice of praise.” God is no longer asking us to give him a sacrifice of rams, a sacrifice of bulls, or a sacrifice of lambs. Christ is our abiding, permanent sacrifice. All that He asks from us is a sacrifice of praise.
This week, as you gather around the table with your family and friends, will you take time to verbally, openly, and audibly give thanks? Gratefulness must not simply be realized, it should also be verbalized. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good!”