Hammering away at mere duty, biblical thanksgiving is a heart-set, voice-echoing joy for God’s gifts, an empty cup, and a feast to come. Grumpy is an entertaining cartoon character but he has no place at our table. Psalm 75 can help.
The setting is important. The dramatic plea and tune, “Do not destroy,” is engraved in the superscription. I imagine dirge-like drum thuds. This unusual Thanksgiving season also reflects a mixture of lament and jubilation. The Spirit doesn’t allow us to catch our breath! Enter the French Horns with exuberant faith in verse one: “We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks, for Your name is near; men declare Your wondrous works.”
Our annual Thursday table is a feast of good gifts from God—His “wondrous works.” They are a beginning. Note the song writer gives “thanks” twice in one verse. Thanksgiving is a heart-set and lifestyle. Every morsel, every relationship, every penny, every test is from above. For Israel, feasts and observances reminded them of their physical and spiritual deliverances from sin and God’s enemies. Our Sunday worship does this, too.
Psalm 75 is specific with thanksgivings. “Your name is near” starts us off. God, in Christ, has given us His personal name, Yahweh, and His continual presence (Exodus 3:13-16; 34:5-6; Matthew 28:20). Most of all for believers, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). In Christ the “I AM,” saving faith exudes joy because of our eternal and daily salvation offered through Him. Is an “Amen” oozing out yet?
Newsflash! Thanksgiving is also a look forward. Read verses 2-8. Anticipating the future is inherent in the Hebrew word itself, which includes such expectation. This takes thanksgiving to a new mountain top. B. W. Anderson comments about hodah, “In the Old Testament we do not find a nostalgia for the past or a settling down in the present, but a movement toward the future...’wait’ expresses a straining toward the future, a keen anticipation of what is to come...Psalms...move from hurt to joy, from death to life.”
Asaph keeps moving toward and ends with such a startling thank offering foreign to us. Anticipating the “cup of the LORD” (God’s wrath), he sees and ends with God’s wrath poured out on His enemies (9-10;). For us, we remember the agony of Christ taking on Himself the wrath of God due to each of us (Matthew 26:36-46). Thanksgiving: Serious and joyful, isn’t it?
This feast-to-come Thanksgiving perspective was strikingly illustrated to me last Friday as I listened to my middle school granddaughter during Virtual School. To a teacher’s question, “What are you looking forward to at Thanksgiving?” she replied, “Seeing my cousins and grandfather in 5 days.” I thought she was talking about her other grandfather who lives in another state—a fine man of God. Not so. She told me later she was talking about me...
This year, may we feast at our tables with abundant thanks for Christ, our empty cup, and the soon-coming feast of God.