Thanksgiving Day is almost here, and there are reasons to anticipate it. There is vacation from school and from some jobs. There is opportunity to eat special foods. (I can’t imagine it possible, but, judging by activity at the grocery stores, some people are eating much more than usual!) If you are a football fan, there are games that you can watch. My college team plays the day after, but this year there may not be much to cheer except good effort. And then, of course, there is Black Friday for shopping, which I usually try to avoid.
I’m not going to rehash the beginning of Thanksgiving Day here or the proclamations by presidents. But I will suggest that the event has changed some since it began.
The name of the day indicates that there should be some giving of thanks. There are good reasons to give thanks. It’s proper to acknowledge the reception of gifts. Giving thanks does wonders for one’s attitude, and it does not correlate to how much one has. It is encouraged often in the Bible.
Today we look at one of those verses which is Psalm 103:2. It says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits.” This translation is the New American Standard Bible, but it is similar to many others and exactly like a few others.
The verse gets right to the point. There is a given which demands the social aspect: one must thank someone else. In this day of narcissism some people will probably try to thank themselves, but that by definition really does not work.
So we are directed to thank the LORD. In the original context of this verse the LORD is the Creator of the universe Who had also made Himself known to Israel as their God. He brought them into a relationship with Himself and made covenants with them. He made promises to them which He kept then and will keep. And He is the same LORD today to all those of any nation who believe in Him.
This version begins with the word “bless,” and some substitute “praise.” That is legitimate, but the noun form of this Hebrew verb means “knee,” in reference to kneeling to receive a blessing. You might think normally of the LORD blessing someone else, which He does, of course, but here it is reversed, so that blessing the LORD is a form of praise.
The second half of the little poem is a negative flip of the first phrase, but we might call it progressive in that it goes further. If you are going to bless the LORD, it is understood that there would be content. There must be substance for which you thank; you can’t be thankful in a vacuum. The order is huge; you are to remember everything He has provided for you. Don’t forget even one item!
My own appreciation of “benefits” is something that I have encountered elsewhere. The Hebrew word has the idea of reward or recompense. Have I done anything noteworthy for which the LORD reimburses me? I doubt it. And we continue doubting it as we read on in Psalm 103 which lists various items worthy of thanks. But it is just like the LORD to provide something for us in His rich grace, and then act as if we are to be rewarded for what He has given us.
Maybe you think you’d like to thank the LORD for His benefits to you, but you just can’t think of anything. Then you should read the psalm, and the ideas will come. First He is described as the One who forgives all sins. Has He forgiven yours? That’s worthy of thanks.
He heals your diseases. Has He healed you? Maybe and maybe not. But He surely will in the resurrection of His own. You can thank Him already today!
It goes on to say that He redeems your life from the pit. I recently heard a man testify that though he hadn’t in the past given Jesus a great deal of attention, He had rescued him from various tough situations.
He crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion. And on it goes. You can’t put a price tag on any of these items. God in His grace gives them to those who come to Him.
Thanks is appropriate any day but especially on Thanksgiving. Start with the list in Psalm 103, and continue from there. If you try to remember all the benefits, it could take you a while.
Arlie Rauch has retired from 41 years as a pastor, is thankful for a home in Sierra Vista, and can be reached at email@example.com.