Thanks or No Thanks – 1 Samuel 1-2 [Totally Hip Gratitude]

1 Samuel 2 Bible with Chocolove Dark Chocolate Coffee Crunch

Today’s ChocolateChocolove Dark Chocolate Coffee Crunch

Today’s Passage1 Samuel 1:1-2:11

Welcome back to another installment of Totally Hip Gratitude, the series on thankfulness whose name, the more I think about it, seems increasingly stupid. I don’t think it lands that it’s a play on the 90s’ obsession with edginess and attitude, juxtaposing it with the humility of sincere appreciation. But there’s no going back now! And in today’s post, we’re going to look at a passage that the NASB labels a song of thanksgiving, even though it doesn’t use the word “thank.”

But this passage make me wonder: what is thankfulness? What exactly are we doing when we thank someone? Merriam-Webster is circuitous as can be, defining “thank” as “to express gratitude to,” “gratitude” as “the state of being grateful,” and finally grateful” as “appreciative of benefits received.” Thus, “thank” technically means “to express one’s state of appreciation for benefits received.” And to my thinking, that definition underscores something we intuitively understand about gratitude: when we’re thankful, we’re thankful for something to someone. If God gave us nothing, we wouldn’t have any reason to thank him for anything. No gift, no gratitude.

And if you’ll indulge me in a tangent, this highlights the distinction between thanks and praise. We might be led to praise him for how great he is, but in isolation his greatness wouldn’t confer any benefits to us. As it is though, one crucial facet of his greatness is that he gives us good things, like internet access on your PC or mobile device by which you can read Chocolate Book and share it with your friends on social media (hint hint).

But (finally) it’s time to actually crack open today’s passage: Hannah’s song from 1 Samuel 2:1-11. It’s pretty obviously a song of praise, as Hannah acknowledges God’s holiness, knowledge, power, and more, but is it, as the NASB characterizes it, a “Song of Thanksgiving?” I’d say yes. Hannah delivers her song in response to God giving her a son, the prophet Samuel, after years of childlessness. In fact, the text states, “[T]he Lord had closed her womb” (1:5), and when she conceives, it’s because “the Lord remembered her” (1:19). Her song acknowledges God’s reversal of her fortunes; she says, “Even the barren gives birth to seven, but she who has many children languishes” (2:5). This line is a pretty clear “take that” at her husband’s other wife, Peninnah, who had several children and would frequently bother Hannah about her childlessness. We might fault Hannah for not being especially humble in victory, but she’s giving God appreciation for the benefits she received from him. Her song fits the bill.

And that’s the funny thing about thankfulness: it basically boils down to telling a person, “Hey, you did a good thing for me, and I recognize that the thing you did was good.” It’s weirdly simple, like how saying “Hi” is essentially an acknowledgement of a person’s existence, telling them, “Hey, you’re a person!” And why would a person desire thanks? What is it about human beings that makes us experience it as a good thing when other people say words about the good thing we did?

I don’t know, but I suspect it’s got something to do with our being made in the image of God. Part of the reason God made humans is so that when we receive these good things, such as internet access on our PCs or mobile devices by which we can read Chocolate Book and share it with our friends on social media, we can thank him for them. Thanks is a gift we give back to God for the gifts we receive, and when we give God thanks, we get to experience the gift that is seizing the opportunity to give. When we give thanks, God gives us getting-to-give-thanks.

One might ask why God experiences it as a good thing when we say words about the good things he did. Does he desire it? Why would a self-sufficient being, complete in himself, want our gratitude? And if we thank God for the good things, what do we do about the bad things? How should we acknowledge suffering and evil in this universe that God created, particularly as they happen to us? But, truth be told, I have only provisional and cursory answers at best for these questions, and moreover, they are questions for another post. Tomorrow: Obadiah!

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2 thoughts on “Thanks or No Thanks – 1 Samuel 1-2 [Totally Hip Gratitude]

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