Thanksgiving is for Mission

Posted by Brett Toney on

When King David brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem and placed it in a new tabernacle, he called for a national day of thanksgiving. Sacrifices were made, a feast was had, songs were sung, and gratitude was expressed. David wrote a special song for the occasion and gave it to his worship leader and band to lead the congregation in worship. That song has been recorded for us in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36. Consider a few observations about this song.

First, gratitude and worship in song go hand-in-hand (v.8-9).

When we take time to consider things for which we ought to be grateful, the model is that it moves us to worship. Maybe you’re not much of a singer, and that is just not where you are bent to go. But what ought to happen is that you give expression to those things; journal, write a list, tweet it. If gratitude is not expressed, the gift is not fully enjoyed. The point of God’s gifts—all of them from a daily meal to God’s grand redemptive work—is intended to bring focus to the Giver. David is not commending generic, undirected thanksgiving. Gratitude is welling up inside him on this national holiday, and it is only right that it be expressed to the One who has done great things. By connecting gratitude to worship, David helps us orient our thanks not on the gifts, but the One who ultimately gave them.

Second, gratitude is both general and specific.

David gives expression to general praises like God’s “wondrous works” (v.12), his “marvelous works” (v.24), and the Lord’s goodness (v.34). But David also gives thanks for specific things like the covenant God made with Abraham (v.16) and God’s protective care of his people in their sojourning from oppressive kings (v.19-22). It can be easy to thank God for the generic things: salvation, Jesus, our families. But it serves our worship to consider specific things as well. Here is a list to begin to spur on your gratitude:

  1. A daughter’s imagination
  2. God’s power that is shown to be complete in my weakness
  3. Plentifully diverse taste buds
  4. A tight embrace
  5. A God who pursues his people
  6. God’s calling on friends to go out for the sake of the Name
  7. Sanctifying growth
  8. The deep interconnectedness of Scripture
  9. Provision for a roof & furnace
  10. God’s unrelenting drive to achieve my sanctification
  11. A riding lawnmower
  12. A son’s grunts & growls
  13. Four healthy kids
  14. Friends that patiently encourage, correct & exhort 
  15. Ability to teach the Word as my job
  16. Cozy fires
  17. Roasted cranberries
  18. Elders who love the Word & their church
  19. Little moments
  20. A joyfully diligent wife
  21. Word-centered women’s ministry
  22. Our house
  23. God’s evident grace at work in people’s lives
  24. A knowing grin
  25. Freshly roasted coffee
  26. Home-cooked meals
  27. Smiles, laughter & giggles
  28. Sufficient grace
  29. Inside jokes
  30. The weekly reminder that apart from the Incarnate Son dying and rising again I would be without hope

Writing that list was a very beneficial exercise and giving expression to both general and specific things motivates my worship.But consider a third observation about David’s song. He is pointing us to voice our thanks in praise to God, yet the Lord is not the only hearer.

Third, David is pointing us to voice our thanks in praise to God, yet the Lord is not the only hearer.

Thanks-giving (as a verb) has an ulterior motive. David demonstrates that thanks-giving is for mission. “Make known [God’s] deeds among the peoples! … Sing to the LORD, all the earth! … Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! … tremble before [the LORD], all the earth … let them say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns!’” (v.8, 23, 24, 30, 31). The primary objective of David’s song is the praise of our great God who accomplishes all of his purposes. But David praises God in order that those who despise God would honor him. David is not content for God to be praised by himself and the congregation with him. He yearns for others to be folded into the joyful adoration of our generous Father in Heaven.

As you prepare for Thanksgiving, how can you “go public” with your gratitude? When you gather around the table on Thursday—or maybe as you’re cooking or at half-time of the Lions’ game or whenever—how can you express gratitude to God that others might join you in eternal exultation in our saving God? You don’t have to preach a sermon. You don’t have to conclude with an altar call. It could be as simple as saying, “I’m grateful to God for our time together as a family today.” Or, “I praise God for his goodness toward me this year because of Jesus.” Seeing that thanksgiving is for mission is one way in which we glorify God in what we eat or drink or whatever we do (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31).

But maybe this week looks like it will be more bitter than sweet. Perhaps the pain of the loss of a loved one will be heightened or the tension of family dynamics will be increased. Perhaps even the thought of giving thanks is challenging because of the sorrow you have walked through this year or is especially poignant this time of year. Making yourself think of something to thank God for might be the means he uses to bring a measure of healing and comfort. Giving thanks may be what your soul needs to reorient on who God is and what is true. And giving thanks with a view towards seeing those who reject Jesus’ lordship bow the knee in grateful worship may stir your own heart to do the same.

Last, if there is nothing you can think of to thank God for, look to v.35. David concludes his song with a plea that has been and is being fulfilled. “Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.” God has and is saving a people from every nation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. If you are resting and trusting in Christ alone, you can give thanks to his holy name and glory in his praise. That is a miraculous and remarkable thing the Lord has done. Jesus saves sinners for the grateful praise of his glorious grace.

Tags: gratitude, mission, praise, thanksgiving, worship