Today’s verse from God’s Little Instruction Book is a single simple imperative sentence from Hebrews. As he’s wrapping up his letter, the author writes, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5). If we zoom out and survey the rest of Hebrews 13 for context, we won’t find any additional insights into the struggle between greed and contentment. The verse in question is situated among commands to stay faithful to your spouse and to be kind to strangers and prisoners, and the meat of chapter 13 is encouragement for the Jewish Christians who’ve earned the disdain of their fellow Jews for following a crucified Messiah. Verse five is the only verse about not making your bank account your best bud! So, what we’re going to do instead is zoom out even further and consider the contrast between greed and contentment in the New Testament epistles.
The psalms repeat themselves. Psalms 118 and 136 begin with the same couplet, word-for-word: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (118:1, 136:1). I could cite more psalms that feature the same line throughout themselves like a chorus or that borrow lines from other psalms like remixes, but I’d be repeating myself. And while Psalm 136 repeats its hook “For His lovingkindness is everlasting” in every single verse, the point of the psalm isn’t repetition. It’s gratitude.
Here’s another psalm that uses the word “thanks” a lot, at least compared to other psalms, which tend to only use it once or not at all. In the NASB’s translation, it’s 460 words long, and “thanks” appears five times. That’s just slightly more than 1% of the words, but gratitude is central to Psalm 118, to the point 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.
It’s another Gratitude Day around here. I chose Psalm 107 for today’s passage because, while most of the psalms that contain some version of the word “thanks” contain it only once, Psalm 107 contains it six: in verses 1, 8, 15, 21, 22, and 31. Let’s type some words about that word and the words around it.
Happy Thanksgiving, Chocolate Book fam. If I were smarter, I would have thought ahead and planned out a Totally Hip Gratitude post in keeping with the holiday. And I suppose it’s not too late to set Zechariah 10 aside, dig out my word search for “thanks,” pick a reference, and continue my study on gratitude. So why don’t I do that? Seriously, why don’t I do that? I’m going to do that.
Welcome back to The Study on Thankfulness Which Must Not Be Named, Because Its Name Is Dumb. Today we’re taking our first thankfulness-related dip into the Psalms, but it may well not be our last; the Psalms are rife with thankfulness. Psalm 30, as we have seen before, concerns David’s gratitude to God for rescuing him from impending death.
Good news, everyone. You remember Thursday’s tangent of identifying various Asaphs and not really talking about thankfulness at all? Today that tangent pays off. What a serendipitous development!
Nehemiah picks up where Ezra left off with the restoration of Jerusalem following the Babylonian Exile. It primarily concerns the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall, and it contains a few instances of the word “thanks” near the end, so let’s take a look and see what we can learn about thankfulness.
Ezra is a book about getting back in touch with your roots. Its events take place around 460-450 BC, generations after Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. King Cyrus of Persia sends a sizeable party of diaspora Jews to return to Jerusalem, reunite with the survivors, and build a new temple to their God in their holy city. And it would seem Ezra, who chronicled this expedition, took a few cues from the book of Chronicles, because when he uses the word “thanks,” he too pairs it with the word “praise.” In the scene from today’s passage, after the foundation for the temple is complete, the priests lead the Hebrew people in praise and thanks. All in all, it’s an extremely Hebrew scene, so let’s get Hebrew.
As we progress through the Bible in our study of thankfulness whose stupid name is so stupid that I am not even going to mention it, we begin to see more instances of the word “thank,” especially in the two books of Chronicles. And the trend I observed in 1 Chronicles 16 continues throughout 1 and 2 Chronicles: wherever we see thankfulness, praise is not far behind. This may come as no surprise; after all, as Li’l Spicy said in his famous “Thanksgiving and Praise Are Like Our Right and Left Arms” speech, thanksgiving and praise are like our right and left arms. But why do they belong together so naturally? Let’s see if we can figure it out.