Thankful to the One

Ending the year with the holiday season calls to mind feelings of thankfulness and gratitude for the year that was. For those fortunate enough to have loved ones near them who can share in this time, the season is an opportunity to show our appreciation for what we have and who we have in this life. Psalm 107 is a fitting guide on how to show our thankfulness to God as we walk through this life in anticipation for the next.

v. 1-2

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His compassion and lovingkindness endure forever!  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary…

If asked why we are thankful to God, we likely would not hesitate to speak of the redemption He has made available to us through Jesus Christ. As the redeemed, we certainly give thanks to the Lord for saving us from the destruction that awaits those who choose anything but God. To some, this may appear as if our gratitude to God is because of what He does and not because of who He is. We must be careful to make sure that our thankfulness springs forth from the right attitude and perspective. Yes, God has redeemed us and deserves the highest praise for this. However, we must understand that what God does is merely a representation of who God is. When we thank God for saving us, we thank God for the character within him that drives his desire to redeem his people.

God is holy. God is perfect. God is omnipotent. God is omniscient. God is omnipresent. The list goes on and on. His mercy and his grace are no less a part of his character than his justice and his discipline. When we thank God for his redemptive power, we thank God for his goodness and his grace. But we are not thanking God for things that He does. What we appreciate and value is not that He does good but that He is good. The kind mercy that He displays is the manifestation of his kindness and mercy, and these character traits are why we are thankful to our Father in heaven. We can say that thanking God for what He does is really thanking him for illustrating through works his perfectly loving character. He cannot act outside of who He is, and our appreciation for what He does is merely appreciation for allowing us to experience who He is.

v. 9

For He satisfies the parched throat, and fills the hungry appetite with what is good.

I can remember going to the grocery store as a child with my mother and having high hopes. I thought for sure that every trip would result in my receiving some kind of treat that I probably should not have. For me, sugary cereals and cookies were the jackpot. I would try my hardest to convince my mother that just one box of Fruity Pebbles would not hurt anything. I would point out which cookies were on sale or which came in the best value size. I was certain that I could devise some kind of intelligent argument for why I needed what she considered junk. The thing is, while I wanted to fill myself with that which simply satisfied a fleeting pleasure, my mother’s goal was to fill me with that which was good and would actually satisfy my need.

I do not think that we can thank God for what He gives us without thanking him for what He withholds from us. God is good and cannot act outside of that. This means that God’s provision comes from that perfect place of goodness. He is a caring Father, and He is not here to simply placate us. He is here to develop us and grow us until we have become ripe for the harvest. We are thankful for the goodness of God as it manifests in physical and spiritual provision that serves to truly satisfy our need. We can trust that what He allows in our lives is for his perfect purposes. Our gratitude is not only for his provision of good things but for his withholding of that which would damage us. We must remember to thank God for not answering when we pray for that which is of no good for us. Sometimes, the best response from God is simply “no.”

v. 13-14

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distresses.  He brought them out of darkness and the deep darkness and broke their bonds apart.

The “they” in this passage refers to those who found themselves in terrible times of bondage due to their disobedience of God. It is easy for us to read scriptures such as these and think that they do not necessarily apply to us today. Who of us has ever been physically enslaved because we disobeyed God? We live in a different world today, and this may seem very foreign to us. We must consider, however, that our enslavement can be spiritual as well. And though we read stories of idolatry in the Old Testament and wonder how God’s people could have chosen against him, we have many of our own idols today. The hand of God moving in this passage on these people is no different than the hand of God that moves in this same way in our lives when we behave in the same manner and become slaves to another master.

Oh how grateful we must be when God steps in to save us from the miseries we create ourselves! It is one thing for him to have mercy on us when we are attacked and persecuted for no fault of our own, but it is quite another thing for his grace to cover us when we choose a road other than that which leads to him. By the world’s standard, He would have every right to leave us to ourselves. In actuality, we of course do not deserve any mercy, but God’s mercy is so great that it must pour forth from him. It desires to seek someone on whom God can be merciful. Remember, God’s plan of redemption existed from the foundations. Well before we knew him, He knew that we would fall of our own volition. Yet He planned from the beginning to free us from the bondage in which we would place ourselves.

v. 29-30

He hushed the storm to a gentle whisper, so that the waves of the sea were still.  Then they were glad because of the calm, and He guided them to their desired haven.

Let us think for a moment about the parting of the Red Sea and the storm that Jesus calmed on the sea of Galilee. We have written accounts of these phenomena which attempt to paint a glorious picture of God’s power. However, we can be sure that those who witnessed these events would confirm that these written accounts pale in comparison to the real thing. We read and are amazed, but witnessing would be infinitely more amazing. What a great and loving God we have that He would want to display even just a measure of his power and might for us to see! He owes us no display of proof that He is who He is, yet He desires to allow us to see the manifestation of his greatness as He redeems us.

Letting us witness events such as these is only part of God’s display of his love for us. Even more so, it is the fact that God desires and is willing to calm the storm for me and for you. That God would move the physical mountain or still the raging ocean for one of us, mere mortal people, speaks of his great love for us and his great desire to show us that love. We may say to our sweethearts things such as “I would move mountains for you” or “I would go to the ends of the earth for you”. Our first love says these and more, and He means them sincerely. Not only that, but He is able to show that great love to us. We must be thankful to God for the incredibly miraculous ways that He illustrates how He feels for us.

v. 40-41

He pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in a pathless wasteland.  Yet He sets the needy securely on high, away from affliction, and makes their families like a flock.

Recall the widow who pleaded with the judge to hear her case and grant her mercy. Recall the reason why that judge finally relented and fulfilled her request. In our justice system today, this would not work. In our society, justice is not a matter of persistence. As the world continues to groan in labor pains for the return of Jesus Christ and the restoration of all things, we can expect that God’s brand of justice will not be found among men. Our persistent pleading must be made to the ears of the one who desires to bring justice to us. Our cries for equity go to God because it is his standard by which we desire things be set straight. We do not seek some relative measure of justice, but we seek justice that is born of truth.

Scripture is clear that we cannot expect the world to treat the children of God justly. We should expect a measure of injustice as we are citizens of a kingdom and its government that are alien in this place. The persecution that is predicted for us because of our faith is a clear illustration of this. However, the injustice that we face in this world is only for a moment. We may suffer now, but God will one day set things straight eternally. No injustice will escape God’s judgment. We thank him that his holiness manifests in righting wrongs the way no system of man can do. We thank him that He indeed will fix all things one day, and this is the great promise of our faith. Our heavenly Father will one day take the crooked scales and place them in perfect balance as no power in this world will do or can do.

v. 21-22

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his lovingkindness, and for his wonderful acts to the children of men! And let them offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and speak of his deeds with shouts of joy!

We need not ask what our thankfulness and appreciation of God should look like. The young child who finally receives that which he has requested relentlessly, that which he thinks is the greatest and most marvelous thing, will shortly show it off to anyone who is willing to entertain him. When our Father in heaven allows his character to manifest in our lives, we should be like this child. We should shout it from the rooftops and let everyone know how good God is. We should take the opportunity to display this testimony that proves what scripture says about our Father. God certainly does good deeds, but that is because God is a good. Our praise of his works is our praise of his character. That is what we proclaim for all to hear. God is good. God is holy. God is just. That is why we are thankful.