Maybe you noticed that the Bible is enthusiastic about giving thanks. In that connection, it seems appropriate to have a national Thanksgiving Day. It’s not necessary, of course, but that it exists provides an opportunity.
You may not be sure of what opportunity I write. It is not necessarily the opportunity to eat turkey or to watch football. It is, surprisingly, the opportunity to give thanks!
Why should you give thanks? There may seem to be scant reason, especially this year. For example, I lost a cousin in the pandemic. He was a second cousin once removed, but he was only five days older than I am, and we were classmates. He had several health conditions, so he may not have died of Covid-19, but it was a contributing factor. Fortunately, I did have a nice visit with him about six weeks earlier.
But there is thanks to be given that is outside ourselves, outside what I get that makes me happy. And my cousin did agree with this, even though his earlier life was far from trouble-free.
Our verse today is Psalm 118:29 from the Webster Bible of 1833. It says, “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endureth for ever.” I had difficulty finding a translation I preferred, but I chose this one at least partly because it italicized the words that do not exist in the original Hebrew. Hebrew is an efficient language, so often words that are obviously understood are just left out. So “he is” is clearly understood, and “endureth” could be rendered simply as “is.”
This happens to be the last verse in Psalm 118. We could have looked at the first verse of the psalm because it reads exactly the same. So do yourself a favor, and read Psalm 118. It is fitting to begin and end the same, and you might discover some additional reason to give thanks as you read.
I do need to comment on some of the words. The word “O” is actually not in the Hebrew. Some translators use it. I suppose they felt it to be an attention arrestor to the fact of a command beginning the verse. Yes, the verse commands you (plural) to give thanks.
We are to give thanks because of what the LORD is and for what He expresses to us. God is good. This is stated in an absolute way as though He would be good even if it had nothing to do with you or me. The Hebrew word for “good” has a very broad usage in the Bible. It certainly is the opposite of evil, but it includes virtually all the ideas we might have when we use “good.”
I knew a pastor who, because of various circumstances, had doubts as to whether God was good. His condition had the potential of ruining his ministry. So he and his wife together studied the Bible to discover more about God. What he discovered was that his idea of success was suspect. His life was revolutionized, and he went on to serve in the pastorate a long time, now believing that God is certainly good!
In what was the most difficult time in my life, from various directions God kept impressing me with His goodness. That awareness was a wonderful support in my trials.
The English versions do not reflect this, but the Hebrew places the expression “for ever” first in the last phrase. That way the characteristics of the LORD and of His mercy are back-to-back for emphasis. They may have translated as they did for reasons of sound, because if those words were placed as in Hebrew it would read “for for ever is His mercy.”
The Hebrew word for “steadfast love” is often rendered “mercy,” but is much bigger than what we think of as mercy. It is one the Old Testament’s love words. Some render it as steadfast love or lovingkindness. Often it takes place in the context of covenant, so I like the rendering “covenant love.” It describes God’s loyal love toward His people, and the qualifier says there is no end to it.
I recently met someone online who thought God was fiction. This verse does not give that impression, especially when you read the entire psalm. It is a psalm that prophesies Jesus Christ, and He is not fiction.
If you are at a loss as to what should take up your attitude on Thanksgiving Day, give this verse some attention. Then do what it says. There is sufficient reason.