“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”
--1 Chronicles 16:34,41; 2 Chronicles 7:3,6, & 20:21; Ezra 3:11; Psalm 106:1, & 107:1, & 118:1,29, & 136:1,3; Jeremiah 33:11
Thanksgiving to the Lord resounds throughout the Scriptures. We hear this call to specific call to thanks again and again: “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”
But why thank Him? You only say “thanks” when someone has done something for you. What good has He done for me? And what does that have to do with “steadfast love”?
Hear an answer from the Small Catechism’s explanation of the 1st Article of the Apostles Creed:
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.
He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.
For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.
That’s quite the list. Every good that we enjoy—past, present, and future—is a gift from Him. Every evil that we have been spared is because He has protected us. Every good in our lives (as well as everything good in us) is, well, thanks to Him.
Now pause and consider that a bit more deeply. We’re tempted say, “Yeah, I know God made everything and gives everything,” and consign our thanks to the realm of the abstract. “Everything” is a bit big for us to get our brains around. As long as we leave it there, our thankfulness will be watered-down and ambiguous.
Remember, then, that God works through means. And that’s not just things, but people. He gives you bread to eat, but also the baker who baked it, the farmer who grew the wheat, and so on. Consider God’s gifts more concretely, like the catechism does, and your thanksgiving will become more substantive as well.
For example. Within just a few months of moving up to Owego, two of my family were in and out of the hospital for a week. We couldn’t have managed anything from that devestating week on our own. And yet we lacked nothing. God gave us first responders, nurses, doctors, and specialists to attend to my wife and son. He provided from among the faithful at Zion help to navigate our multiple visits to the ER and stays in multiple hospitals, so that we were never alone. While He was doing that, He watched over our other children by giving us faithful women willing even to stay overnight when we couldn’t be home. He fed us from others’ kitchens and pantries, filling us to bursting with good food prepared with love. He provided elders and teachers and others to cover my responsibilities so I could be with my family. He provided us with a pastor to comfort us with His Word. He even gave us a congregation whose generosity provides for health insurance, so that we not be completely overwhelmed the bills coming our way. All this is just the tip of the iceberg.
And it’s all given as a gift. Everything God gives to my family, and to you, He gives out of Fatherly love toward us. We haven’t earned any of these things; we don’t deserve them. Indeed, as sinners we deserve nothing less than eternal damnation. But because of who He is, because He is Good, He did not want that for us. So He gave His Son into death to atone for our sin, so that instead of doling out punishment He could give us every good thing now and forever. Because of His relentless, unchanging, steadfast love toward us, He provides us with daily bread in this age as well as resurrection to unending joy and peace in the age to come.
What gift can compare to all this? What can we do but praise and thank Him?
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
Art: “One of Ten Lepers Cured is Grateful” (Luke 17:11-19),
from The Life of Jesus Christ for the Young, by Richard Newton