Give Thanks to the Lord

SARAH IVILL|CONTRIBUTOR

Many of us will soon gather around tables with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. For some of us, the day will be filled with feasting and fun. For others, the day will be one of grief and sadness, especially if loved ones are missing from the table. But regardless of whether we are rejoicing or weeping this holiday season, the Bible teaches us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16), and Psalm 118 teaches us how and why to do this.

The psalmist calls us to give thanks to the Lord for three main things: His steadfast love, His salvation, and His stone.

Give Thanks for His Steadfast Love

Psalm 118 opens in the same way it closes, highlighting the eternality of God’s covenant love, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever” (118:1, 29). The Lord’s goodness is grounded in His covenant love for His people and God’s people should praise Him for it. The psalmist could not be clearer that all believers should sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, “Let Israel…the house of Aaron…those who fear the LORD say, ‘His steadfast love endures forever’” (vv. 2-4).

Ever since Genesis 3, the account of humankind’s fall into sin, the thread of the covenant of grace has been woven throughout Scripture. God’s covenant love endures because it is based on the obedience of His Son, Jesus Christ. He came as both Lord of the covenant, extending grace and peace, as well as the servant of the covenant, perfectly fulfilling the law of God on our behalf. “All the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Cor. 1:20). This Thanksgiving our hearts should give thanks for the Lord’s steadfast love.

Give Thanks for His Salvation

God’s people should also give thanks to the Lord for His salvation, “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” (118:14). The personal testimony of the psalmist is beautiful, “Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free” (v. 5). The Lord heard his cry for help and freed him, giving him confidence as he trusted in the Lord instead of man, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (v. 6).

The author of Hebrews picks up Psalm 118:6 following an exhortation to believers to “be content with what you have” (Heb. 13:5). In other words, the remedy for discontentment is gratitude and confidence in the Lord.

Although the psalmist was oppressed on every side, he recognized that the Lord was his helper, strength, song, and salvation, “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation” (v. 21). One day all believers will together thank the Lord for valiantly cutting off the nations and opening the gates of righteousness for all people, so that the righteous in Christ may enter through them, bringing praises to our great God. Such praise should begin now. This Thanksgiving our hearts should give thanks for the Lord’s salvation.

Give Thanks for His Stone

In addition to giving thanks for His steadfast love and salvation, we are to give thanks for “the stone that the builders rejected” (Ps. 118:22). The Lord had chosen Israel to be His special possession out of His mere love and grace, not because of their goodness (Deut. 7:6-8). The world rejected God’s plan by rejecting Israel, but it was according to His plan, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (vv. 22-23).

Little did Israel know that in due time these words would be taken up by Jesus Himself in reply to those rejecting Him (Matt. 21:42). Paul and Peter also used Psalm 118 to encourage their readers that the church is built upon the chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:4-7). Furthermore, the first Palm Sunday was filled with the people shouting parts of this psalm as Jesus rode through the street on a donkey, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD!” (Ps. 118:26; Matt. 21:7-11).

Those of us who know Jesus Christ as our beloved Lord and Savior, should continually bring our sacrifice of praise to God, acknowledging His name with our lips and doing good for His people (Heb. 13:15-16). So, as you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, in addition to the many things for which you will give thanks, don’t forget to add the Lord’s steadfast love, salvation, and stone, “Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20).

About the Author:

Sarah Ivill

Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina and is a member of Christ Covenant Church. She is the author of Hebrews: His Hope, An Anchor for Our SoulsRevelation: Let the One Who Is Thirsty Come; Judges & Ruth: There Is A Redeemer1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude: Steadfast in the Faith; and The Covenantal Life: Appreciating the Beauty of Theology and Community . You can learn more about Sarah at www.sarahivill.com.

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