November 25, 2016 • Life for Leaders
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.
At first glance, Psalm 136 is a psalm of thanksgiving. Repeatedly, this psalm exhorts us to “give thanks” to God. (In the original Hebrew, the imperative form of the verb yadah shows up only four times, but it is implied in many other verses. No other psalm uses this imperative as often.)
What does it mean to give thanks to God? Commonly, we give thanks to someone who has done something for us. Thanksgiving acknowledges a person for acting in a positive way. We see this sense of thanksgiving in Psalm 136. Verse 5, for example, says we should thank God “who by his understanding made the heavens.” Our thanks acknowledges God’s action in creation and gives him appropriate credit.
Yet the use of “give thanks” in Psalm 136 goes beyond our ordinary sense of thanksgiving. Consider the first verse, for example: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Though one might rightly note that God’s goodness and faithful love are communicated through his actions, this verse connects thanksgiving, not specifically to what God has done, but to who God is. We are to give thanks, not just because God has done good things for us, but also because God is good.
Thus, Psalm 136 takes us to thanksgiving and beyond. It takes us to a deeper acknowledgement, not only of God’s actions, but also of God’s nature. The Hebrew verb yadah, translated here as “give thanks,” means more than “acknowledge someone when that person does something good for you.” It has the sense of speaking out what is true. Thus, beyond saying “thank you” to God when God blesses us, we are to confess his goodness, his grace, his beauty, and his grandeur.
Practically speaking, thanksgiving often leads us to deeper praise. When we think of what God has done for us, we can’t hold back our gratitude. But, even more, our consideration of God’s actions helps us to reflect upon God’s nature. God does good for us because God is good. Thus, thanksgiving opens the door to praise by bringing to mind God’s character.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Why do you think Scripture calls us to praise God?
What is the purpose of praise?
What helps you to praise God?
How have you experienced God’s enduring love?
Gracious God, you have done good things for me, more than I can comprehend. You deserve every bit of gratitude I communicate, and far more. Yet, as I offer thanks to you, I am reminded of whom you are. I turn from meditating on your works to meditating on you. My praise flows when I let your character fill my mind and heart, and therefore my mouth.
All praise be to you, O God, for who you are. You are a God of justice and mercy, of power and tenderness, of holiness and presence. Indeed, your faithful love endures forever! Amen.
P.S. from Mark – Sunday begins the Christian season of Advent. You may be familiar with Advent and glad for its convictions and practices. But if Advent is new to you, you might appreciate something I wrote for my blog: What is Advent? An Introduction to Advent. Also, I have written an Advent devotional guide for individuals, friends, and families: Advent Devotional Guide – Preparing for the Coming of Christ. Both of these resources are available without cost from my website. Have a blessed Advent!
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: The right use of power (Psalm 136)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.