Happy Thanksgiving –
Before we get to the end of the David saga (next week), please read the two great psalms of Thanksgiving found in Psalm 105:1-15 and Psalm 96. According to 1 Chronicles 16, David wrote this psalm (it is the only psalm in Chronicles) after the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the City of Jerusalem. The beauty of these psalms (and all of Scripture) is that they were written at a specific time for a specific purpose, but, as the collect says, God gives us the spirit to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them. When we read these Davidic psalms of thanksgiving, we should be able to make them our own.
1 Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name; *
make known his deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him, *
and speak of all his marvelous works.
3 Glory in his holy Name; *
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4 Search for the Lord and his strength; *
continually seek his face.
Just as the Lord’s Prayer begins with the recognition of who God is and the power of God’s name, so do our prayers of Thanksgiving. We proclaim God’s name, and we sing praises. As we lift our hearts up unto the Lord, so to do we rejoice and seek after Him. David’s proclamation in these verses is a blueprint for all people at all times to rejoice and give thanks.
5 Remember the marvels he has done, *
his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,
6 O offspring of Abraham his servant, *
O children of Jacob his chosen.
7 He is the Lord our God; *
his judgments prevail in all the world.
8 He has always been mindful of his covenant, *
the promise he made for a thousand generations:
9 The covenant he made with Abraham, *
the oath that he swore to Isaac,
10 Which he established as a statute for Jacob, *
an everlasting covenant for Israel,
11 Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan *
to be your allotted inheritance.”
We are not Jews, as was David. The specific promises that God gave to his chosen people through Abraham and his descendants are not at first glance applicable to us. However, these verses speak to us in two ways. First, there is a reason why Paul grounds his Gospel message in the story of Abraham in Galatians 3 and Romans 4. Abraham stands for the proposition that God’s grace and power come through his promises, his covenant, and his oath, not ours and certainly not our works and our obedience. All who share in the faith of Abraham are blessed through Abraham. Gal. 3:7-9. David sings of God’s unmerited grace towards him, and we, through David’s offspring, sing of God’s unmerited grace towards us as well. Rejoice and gives thanks for we are a people of God’s promise.
David’s psalm, however, is not composed in generality but is specific towards his bringing the Ark, the very presence of God, into his city of Jerusalem. When you allow your heart “to search for the Lord” and “seek his face” where do you find the very presence of God coming into your Jerusalem, your soul? “Remember the marvels he has done.” The remembrance is not simply of the marvels done in history (his death, resurrection, and ascension) but those done in your own life, that you have witnessed, and in which you participated. It is in these specific memories that form the foundation of our thanksgiving.
12 When they were few in number, *
of little account, and sojourners in the land,
13 Wandering from nation to nation *
and from one kingdom to another,
14 He let no one oppress them *
and rebuked kings for their sake,
15 Saying, “Do not touch my anointed *
and do my prophets no harm.”
David sings of his small scrappy band of soldiers led by God’s anointed that defeated that stronger Philistine army and outlasted Saul’s rule over Israel. Once more, however, this Psalm speaks beyond David’s circumstances. Within these verses, we see the Church – a small band of apostles lead by God’s anointed and his guiding spirit that eventually overcomes and outlasts the kingdoms of this world beginning with Rome itself. For this we give thanks.
We also see this battle and victory in our own lives. Paul talks about the war that rages in his mind between the good he wants to do and the evil that he does. Rom. 7:23. It is these sinful desires which are the nations, kingdoms, and oppressors of which David also speaks. It is God’s anointed, the Christ, and God’s prophets, the apostles, and their writings, that rebuke these desires and bring us out of them and victory over them, even the greatest of them, which is death itself. 1 Cor.15:55. And for this too, we give thanks.
1 Sing to the Lord a new song; *
sing to the Lord, all the whole earth.
2 Sing to the Lord and bless his Name; *
proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations *
and his wonders among all peoples.
4 For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; *
he is more to be feared than all gods
5 As for all the gods of the nations, they are but idols; *
but it is the Lord who made the heavens.
Whereas Psalm 105 is a psalm of specificity, Psalm 96 is a psalm of universality. Here, David is not praising specific historical acts of God, but the universal majesty of the Divine. The “whole earth” and “all nations” are to be united as one in his praises. Again, we see this throughout Paul’s letters – that at the end of the age, all tongues will confess God’s glory through his Anointed One, and all things will be united in God through his Anointed One, and all things will be subject to God in his Anointed One so that God is all in all. Phil. 2:11, Eph. 1:10, 1 Cor. 15:28.
6 Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence! *
Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!
7 Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples; *
ascribe to the Lord honor and power.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the honor due his Name; *
bring offerings and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; *
let the whole earth tremble before him.
10 Tell it out among the nations: “The Lord is King! *
he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”
11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea thunder and all that is in it; *
let the field be joyful and all that is therein.
12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord when he comes, *
when he comes to judge the earth.
13 He will judge the world with righteousness *
and the peoples with his truth.
What David tells us (as does Isaiah 55:12) is that thanksgiving and rejoicing are not limited to human beings. All things were created in him, through him, and for him, and are sustained within him. Col. 1:16-17. Therefore, all of creation rejoices and gives thanks. On this Thanksgiving Day, see the entire world around you as giving thanks with you – the birds singing in the air, the trees rustling in the backyard, and the waves roaring in the ocean – and are all singing praises, joy, and thanks to their creator. We are merely joining with them.
Also, what David sees in the present worship of God as the Ark is brought into the earthly Jerusalem, is a foretaste of what is to come. His thanksgiving and rejoicing anticipate the thanksgiving and rejoicing in that new heaven and the new earth in the new Jerusalem that St. John the Divine envisions. Rev. 5, 21. As the most ancient liturgies of the church affirm, when we give thanks, we are raising our voices with angels and archangels, the church militant and the church triumphant, and with every creature under heaven in one song and hymn of praise.
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.A General Thanksgiving (1979 BCP 836)