Today’s Chocolate: Theo Coconut 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: Psalm 118
Here’s another psalm that uses the word “thanks” a lot, at least compared to most other psalms, which tend to only use it once or not at all. In the NASB’s translation, Psalm 118 is 460 words long, and “thanks” appears five times. That’s just slightly more than 1 percent of the words, but gratitude is so central to this psalm that the NASB summarizes it with the header “Thanksgiving for the Lord’s Saving Goodness.” I expect we could learn something about our topic of choice here, so let’s dig into the text and find out what thanks is all about.
We’ll find our first instance of thankfulness in the first sentence of the psalm–and the last. They’re identical sentences: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting” (1, 29). You may recognize this staple of ancient Hebrew worship songs from such psalms as 107 and 136. It’s a common refrain, and here in Psalm 118, it affirms God’s kindness and mercy from beat one to the song’s final bar. And as the opening progresses, it encourages Israel, the priestly house of Aaron, and all who fear the Lord to echo the sentiment. In singing this song, God’s people make declaring his unending love a part of their national identity.
The psalmist then gets personal, praising God for delivering him from distress and those who hate him. His celebration of God’s rescuing power brings us to the next two instances of explicit thanks. “Open to me the gates of righteousness; I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the Lord” (19), he states, ready to bring his joy into the temple. He elaborates his reasons for joy: “I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me, and You have become my salvation” (21). God has heard his cries for help, extracted him from danger, and gotten him out alive. That’s the foundation of his thanksgiving: it’s a response to the fact that he’s still breathing.
As the psalm closes out, we find one more unique instance of explicit thanks before bookending the psalm with the repeated “His lovingkindness is everlasting” verse. The psalmist declares: “You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You” (28). With his gratitude and worship, he claims God for himself. You can own God! You can own him because he gives himself to you as a rescuer and a savior. And when you receive his gift of himself, you can thank him.
So, at the end of the day, what can we learn about gratitude from this psalm? In a sense, it’s nothing we don’t know already. When you’re thankful, you’re thankful to a person for a thing. In this case, the thing is God going to bat for you, ensuring your well-being, even saving your life. The psalmist appears to have external threats in mind, but how much more gratitude-worthy is it when God saves your life from the enemy that is your own evil? That’s the God of Jesus Christ, and he offers a gift worth being thankful for.