“O Give Thanks Unto the LORD”

“O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.” —Psalm 136:1

WHEN DAVID OFFICIALLY became king over Israel, his first executive act was to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. The Ark had been separated from the Tabernacle for seventy years. This space of time covered all of King Saul’s reign and Samuel’s service as a judge in Israel.

The return of the Ark to Jerusalem from Abinadab’s house in Baalah of Judah, represented the return of God’s favor to Israel and the return of his presence among them after a long absence. The joy of the occasion was manifest in the magnificent procession of thirty thousand men, accompanied with music and song. The climax of the procession came when the Ark reached its destination, and David sang his song of thanksgiving to God.

The song began with the sentiments of our text, “Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.” (I Chron. 16:8) It concludes with the similar words, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever.”—I Chron. 16:34

This expression is found many times in the writings of David, and indicates his feelings toward the Creator. In the Book of Psalms it is repeated in several places. The 106th, 107th, 118th, and 136th Psalms open with these identical words. Although the King James Translation uses beautiful phraseology in these references to the great God of all the universe—“For he is good, for his mercy endureth forever”—some of the force of David’s description of God is lost in the translation. The Revised Version says, “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” And Rotherham, in a similar way, says, “Give ye thanks to Jehovah. For he is good. For age-abiding is his lovingkindness.”

It is particularly noteworthy that this last portion of David’s expression of love and appreciation becomes a refrain that is repeated over and over in the 136th Psalm, as David relates the great and wonderful deeds of God. He concludes with thanks again, when he mentions last of all, “Who giveth food to all flesh, for his steadfast [eternal] love endures forever.”—vs. 25

Those of us who have been privileged to know God in this present day should, like David, appreciate the goodness of God more and more. We should call to mind daily how he “loadeth us with benefits” (Ps. 68:19), and give thanks. We should pause each day to think of God’s great deeds.

How evident it is that our Heavenly Father was especially mindful of his earthly creation when preparing this planet for their habitation. The temperature is just right. The barometric pressure varies within a limited range for human comfort. Materials for clothing and dwellings are available, as well as food and water enough for all. Billions of people are living on this earth who daily receive water, food, clothing, and shelter from his mighty and generous hand—not to mention the many other joys of living. But sad to say, much of mankind does not give a second thought to God to thank him for all of these benefits.

People today seem to have lost the disposition or attitude which was present in the pilgrim fathers who came to this land many years ago. The pilgrims had to eke out an existence from a hard and rocky soil. But they succeeded. With much effort and faith—and through God’s help—they brought forth a rich harvest. The most beautiful part of this story is that they remembered God, who was responsible for these blessings, and they set aside a feast of thanksgiving to honor him. The national holiday we in the United States will observe this month is most appropriate and thought-provoking. It reminds people that there is a God, and that he deserves our reverence and worship. It is true that Thanksgiving has become a day of feasting, and that sometimes people think more of food than of God. They forget that the day was designed as a national reminder of their wise, loving, just, and powerful Creator, and to give him thanks.

Why do not people today have the spirit of giving thanks, as did the pilgrim fathers? Perhaps they wonder why God does not do something to correct the poverty, starvation, sickness, and needs of people in countries all around the world. Or it might be that they are engrossed in the pursuit of their own lives, with all its attendant pressures. However, so that we do not expect too much of mankind today, and condemn rather than understand their attitudes, let us analyze an incident which took place during our Lord Jesus’ ministry on earth.

This lesson forcefully brings to our attention the tendency for people to forget to be thankful. In Luke 17:11-19 we read: “It came to pass, as he [Jesus] went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God. And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”

Only one leper—a Samaritan, to the shame of Israel—had enough gratitude to return to Jesus to give thanks, when all ten found themselves healed. We should not conclude that the other nine lepers did not have faith. Rather, they lacked appreciation. We know this because they did as Jesus bid them, and were on their way to the priests in an unclean condition, expecting a miracle to happen. And it did. As they went, they were cleansed. In the Mosaic Law, if a leper was healed, the priests had to verify their cure before they could be reinstated into society. Specific rituals had to be performed before this was possible. (See Leviticus 14.)

When Jesus began his ministry, speaking to the people of Nazareth he said: “Many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus [Elisha] the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:27) Jesus was implying that, similarly, he would not be acceptable in his own country, by his own people; and that because of this, God would go outside the nation of Israel to select a “people for his name.” (Acts 15:14) The cleansing of Naaman, and the cleansing of the Samaritan have this significance: both were outside Israel’s circle of favor, and both were extremely grateful for their cleansing.

Leprosy pictures sin. Those cured of this dread disease well illustrate true Christians who have received the healing benefits of the ransom supplied by Jesus’ death. And they repeat the words of the Apostle Paul, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!” (II Cor. 9:15) “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”—Rom. 6:23

In his letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul wrote: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” This scripture teaches that each experience of life is to be received with thankfulness. We are not only to be thankful for pleasant experiences, but for the difficult ones as well. Both hold priceless lessons for us from our Father in Heaven.

When the Ark was brought to Jerusalem, and David sang his song of thanksgiving, it was a foregleam of the blessed Millennial Kingdom, when men will be fully reconciled to God through the Christ. David represented the Christ—Jesus and his church. Israel represented the world of mankind in the kingdom, The song of thanksgiving sung by David will be learned and sung by all people, expressing their gratitude to their Creator, and for his wise and wonderful plan of salvation. How blessed to realize that then the spirit of our thanksgiving holiday will be observed worldwide!

How men will praise their Creator when they see, as John saw: “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I [John] heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”—Rev. 21:1-5

“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” Praise ye the Lord!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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