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Thanksgiving series: Psalm 100 and the proclamation of Thanksgiving

(Photo: Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez)
(Photo: Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez)

As we march toward the Thanksgiving holiday, we are considering Psalm 100, which is appropriate and fitting to study this month. What we see in this text is that the Lord has called us to thanksgiving, to give Him thanks, and to recognize who He is and how He has blessed us. In Psalm 100, there are five principles that are critical for us to understand as we reflect on God’s call in our lives here.

The first principle is the Proclamation of Thanksgiving, as we see in verses one and four of the Psalm.

Readers of this psalm will discover that this point is found in verses 1 and 4, then the next two points are in verses 2 and 4. The last two points then stand alone in verse 3 and verse 5. The reason for this is because this Psalm is structured in such a way that the first and last items in verses 1 through 4 are parallel, the second and sixth items are parallel, the third and fifth items are parallel again, and then the fourth item in verse 3 stands alone. This was a common way to write poetry in the Old Testament, and it was a helpful memorization pattern to learn the Psalms.

So, the first point, which is the proclamation of thanksgiving, is found in verses 1 and 4. Verse 1 reads, “Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.” Verse 4, at the very end states: “bless His name.” These two commands are parallel and signify similar ideas.

The Psalmist begins with a call to shout to the Lord with joy! This word translated ‘shout joyfully’ was a word related to war and battle, and it was often a shout of victory. The Psalmist is exhorting people to celebrate the victory of God over His enemies. What is most fascinating about this verse is the people to whom the Psalmist calls to celebration. Notice he says, “Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.” That last phrase, ‘all the earth,’ is especially noteworthy because it is a call to Jews and Gentiles alike. It is a call to all the nations to come and celebrate the victory of Israel’s God.

For the Old Testament saint, this verse likely would have proved somewhat mysterious. After all, it was typically the Gentile nations that were at war with Israel and that were opposed to Israel’s God. How then could God’s inspired, holy Word, the Psalms, call these very same nations to shout in joy because of Israel’s God’s victory? I bet this puzzled scholars and theologians throughout much of Old Testament history as they wondered how this would work.

Now, though, we have the New Testament, and we see the Messiah, Jesus, and His victory over sin and death and Satan. We comprehend how it is that the Gentiles would be called by God to come and celebrate the Lord’s victory with the people of God, even as the people of God. This opening verse is really a Gospel call to anyone who desires to come and join Israel in worshiping the true God to do just that. It is a call to come and celebrate the victory of Jesus over His enemies, and we now understand this victory came through the cross and through the resurrection.

What is the Gospel? Is it not a proclamation of good news, and of God’s victory over sin and death and all His enemies? Is not the Gospel the summons to all the earth to come and, through faith in Jesus, become victors over the enemies of God? The declaration of thanksgiving is that God has won, Jesus is alive, death is defeated, Satan has been rendered powerless, and eternal life is ours through Jesus. As Paul said in Romans 8, we overwhelmingly conquer all kinds of difficulties in this life because of Christ. Therefore, we can come and shout in victory to God no matter who we are or where we are from. God calls all the earth to join in His victory celebration through faith in His Son.

Notice the last phrase again. “Bless His name.” To bless God is somewhat of a strange phrase. Some may think this sounds arrogant for sinners, to bless God. What this is saying, however, is not that we benefit God, but that we recognize who He is, especially as the source of power and strength. This phrase is tied up with the victory cry, which proclaims that God is the victor. The blessing of the Lord declares that the power for victory belongs to God and God alone. It is a statement that God has won the battle by His own strength and through His own power.

Once again, we come back to the Gospel. God has saved us, not because we benefit Him, but through His own power and strength in the person of Jesus, His Son. Blessing the Lord is recognizing in verbal affirmation that all our power for salvation, for sanctification, for loving others, for worship, for any victory, large or small, we have in our lives — all the power is from God.

All those who have come to Christ in faith should take time this Thanksgiving to celebrate the victory we have in Christ by verbally recognizing His power in our lives to save and sanctify us. When Thanksgiving comes around, we truly have something to celebrate as Christians, because our God, the God of Israel, has won the victory through Jesus Christ. Shout to the Lord with joy and bless His name.

Dr. Robb Brunansky is the Pastor-Teacher of Desert Hills Bible Church in Glendale, Arizona. Follow him on Twitter at @RobbBrunansky.

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