Why Give Thanks to God? – Psalm 100:4-5
By: Northern Seminary
Here’s a dialogue that could happen in any household, an exchange between a mother and one of her children.
Mom: “Come on through, it’s time for dinner.”
Mom: “Because dinner is at 6 o’clock.”
Mom: “Because that’s when we eat.”
Mom: “Because by now we get hungry.”
Mom: “Because the body needs energy to keep going.”
Around this time Mom gives up:
a) because that last ‘Why?’ pushed her beyond her patience limits;
b) because that last “Why?” also pushed her beyond her scientific limits, and she had no idea of the answer.
Children love the ‘why?’ question. Maybe they know they can exhaust parents and they take wicked pleasure in doing that. But it’s also by asking ‘why?’ that they learn.
Psalm 100 has a mini version of that. The people are being called to worship at the temple. It’s the time to give thanks to God and praise his name. Then it’s as if someone asks “Why?” And that question needs to be answered.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100 is the last in a short series of what are called royal psalms. The royal psalms began with Psalm 90 and end here with Psalm 100 as a kind of doxology, a brief but glorious declaration of praise to God.
So, the people are summoned through the temple gates into the temple courts to “give thanks to him and praise his name” (v. 4).
That’s when we can imagine the question ‘Why?’ And the last verse of the psalm – verse 5 – answers the question.
Why give thanks and praise to God?
1. For the Lord is good.
People from the nations around Israel did not think of all their gods as good. Certainly they thought some of them were kind. But many of their gods were feared. They seemed to be easily angered, and then the god might bring terrible disaster on the people. So, they believed their gods’ wrath had to be appeased by offerings or sacrifices, and the price demanded in those sacrifices might be very high indeed. For example, when the Moabites were defeated in battle, the king sacrificed his own son to persuade his gods to give him success next time (2 Kings 3:26-27).
So, why would Israel enter the Temple with thanksgiving? Because Yahweh, Israel’s God, is good. The one true God is not malevolent. He does not use and abuse his people; rather, he cares, he protects, and he provides. He is good to them.
Many of the clothes we buy today are a mix of materials, like the shirt I put on this morning which says it’s polyester/cotton. These days we even know the percentage of polyester and the percentage of cotton in the mix.
God’s nature, God’s work, and God’s plans for us are not mixed. The Lord is not partly good and partly bad, not partly kind and partly cruel. There is no ‘partly’ about it – God is wholly good, through and through good, one hundred per cent good.
This God is deeply invested in the earthly and eternal well-being of his people. He is good and seeks their good. That is why we should give thanks and praise his name.
2. For his love endures forever.
Infatuation is not at all unusual with young people. I know stories of how half the girls in a high school class almost swooned with passion every time the handsome young male teacher came into the room. I know other stories of people who should have been beyond teenage excitement, including the three young men in a Bible training college who all confided to a wise, old professor that God was guiding them to marry the young lady who had enrolled in the college that year.
The professor decided not to encourage the young men for two reasons. One was because he learned that none of the amorous young men had even spoken to the person with whom they were supposedly in love. The other reason for caution? The shrewd professor had not failed to notice that the young lady these students were sure God wanted them to marry was stunningly gorgeous.
Infatuation is a powerful emotion, but it’s ultimately an empty experience. Why? For one thing, it has no substance, no deep relationship behind it. For another thing, it doesn’t last. It’s an overwhelming feeling, but only for a time and then it fades and dies.
But the Lord’s love “endures forever” (v. 5). It has substance. It does not fade.
Psalm 18 emphasizes the permanence of God’s love very emphatically:
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say:
“His love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say:
“His love endures forever.” (Ps. 118:1-4)
Why is God’s love so enduring? It lasts for at least these reasons:
1) God is love to the core.
I was in southern California, and my host walked me out into his backyard. Right in front of me was a tree laden with fruit. With a gasp of surprise, I said: “There are oranges growing on that tree.” (I come from Scotland where no oranges grow in anyone’s back yard!)
“Yes,” my host said drily. “Those would be oranges because that’s an orange tree.”
Yes, of course. An orange tree will bear oranges. It’s what it does.
God is love, and therefore he loves. It’s his nature to love.
2) God chose to love us.
He doesn’t just love, he loves us. That can be so hard for us to accept because we don’t deserve it. We’ve wronged God by turning against him or by ignoring him. His hands were stretched out towards us, and we would not take them, we would not acknowledge him, surrender to him, or return his love. How can God really love us?
When white minority rule in South Africa ended, and Nelson Mandela became President, the world (and many in South Africa) gazed in amazement at a man who did not set out to destroy those who had oppressed him and his people. Black South Africans had been brutalized, beaten, and killed. But Mandela wanted peace with no retribution.
He began by inviting one of his white prison wardens to his inauguration ceremony, and eventually established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with the goal of balancing justice with forgiveness. It only partially succeeded, but those who watched were amazed. Almost everyone had expected blood in the streets as people took revenge. But Mandela chose mercy, chose to live at peace, and therefore saved many lives.
God has a case against us. It’s a big case – the dossier is full of our many failings – but God gave his Son to take that penalty in our place, and we are offered mercy.
God has chosen to love us.
3) God’s intention is for us to be with him forever.
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)
God’s love is no infatuation. His will is settled. His plan is made. His intention is to love us always, to have us with him always, to share his glory with us always.
His love endures forever, and forever really is forever.
3. For his faithfulness endures through all generations.
I’ve visited many of the stately homes in England and Scotland. Some – like Blenheim Palace, the childhood home of Sir Winston Churchill – are breathtaking in their grandeur. Others – like Blair Castle in the Scottish Highlands – reek with the history of people like Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie. Or there’s Highclere Castle, close to where I once lived, which is unbelievably impressive, but millions around the world already know that because it’s the setting for the TV drama Downton Abbey.
Stately homes like these have plenty of character and history. What most of them don’t have is money.
Back in time, maybe hundreds of years before, there was a generation with great wealth, and that was poured into the house and the estate. It seemed like the wealth must be there always. But it wasn’t. As time went by, and generation of earls and lairds were followed by the next generation of earls and lairds, the money diminished. In the last fifty years, most stately homes have survived (if they have) by charging people for admission, by turning their grounds into safari parks, or by inviting TV film crews to shoot their dramas in the castle. The wealth that once was there didn’t last.
The faithfulness that once was there with God? What has happened to that? Triumphantly the Psalmist writes: “…his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Nothing has changed. As God pledged his love and blessing to forefathers, so he does to the current generation, and so it will be for his people in the future.
And the promise given to the people of Old Testament times, God’s promise that he will never change, is given also to New Testament people: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
God’s love never fades and never fails. His promises don’t rust. His strength never diminishes. His commitment has no end date.
People are fickle. What they believe or feel or want today may be different tomorrow. But God is not like that. His mind is made up. We are his people, and as he loves us now he will love us tomorrow and will love us forever.
So, when we ask why we should give thanks, have we any answers? Yes we do.
- The Lord is good.
- His love endures forever.
- His faithfulness endures through all generations.
We are blessed over and over to be the children of this God – good, loving, and faithful. Life for anyone has its struggles but God is there with his help, his comfort, his strength, and his mercy. Struggles or blessings, we have God’s grace, God’s patience, and God’s endless generosity.
Therefore Thanksgiving must never be only a once-a-year holiday, a time to overeat and overspend. Every day for the Lord’s people is Thanksgiving Day, for as certainly as God’s blessings come daily so should our thanks be returned to him daily.