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Thankfulness Essential to Christian Worship

What can the Bible teach us about thanksgiving? How is gratitude connected to worship?

by Andrew Davis on November 23, 2021

Daniel 6:10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

Daniel was in the regular habit of praying three times per day. This is truly amazing given how busy he was as one of the three highest rulers in the largest empire on earth. At the core of his prayer life was this: “giving thanks before His God.”

Psalm 100  A Psalm For Giving Thanks. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!  Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!  Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!  For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

David called on all worshipers of the living God to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” Thanksgiving was essential to the true worship of God in the Old Covenant, and the Israelites learned how to praise God for His mighty deeds on their behalf. They would frequently recount His power demonstrated in the Exodus and His faithfulness in keeping His covenant promises to Abraham. Thanksgiving was at the core of their life of worship.

Nehemiah 12:27 At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres.

After the amazingly rapid building of the wall under Nehemiah, the Levites (the ordained worship leaders of the Old Covenant… see 1 Chronicles 23:30) assembled the people for a service of thanksgiving. They knew that the wall was now in place only by the sovereign power of God, because it had lain dormant for more than one hundred and fifty years, and was rebuilt in only fifty-two days! This gave the Jews great hope that God still had plans for them as a nation, and the only proper response to all these things was thanksgiving.

Matthew 26:26-28  While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."  Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

The night before Jesus died, He established the Lord’s Supper as a lasting ordinance for the church, an ordinance of thanksgiving. He demonstrated thanksgiving to the Father at that moment, and for this reason Paul called it a “cup of thanksgiving” (1 Cor. 10:16, NIV). Whenever we worship the Lord by means of the Lord’s Supper, we do so with great thanksgiving for our salvation. The word “eucharist” is simply the English version of the Greek word for thanksgiving.

1 Corinthians 14:16-17  Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say "Amen" to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?  For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.

Paul was correcting a problem in corporate worship in the church at Corinth. The issue had to do with the use of the spiritual gift of tongues publicly without a corresponding translation. If the tongues were not translated, the outsider would not be able to understand what they were saying. And without that, they could not join in giving thanks to God. But what strikes me is that Paul assumes that Christian worship is essentially thanksgiving.

Hebrews 12:28-29  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire."

The word “so” is SO important in Hebrews 12:28-29. It teaches us that the essence of “acceptable worship” is thankfulness for the unshakeable and eternal kingdom which He is giving us by His grace, paid for in the blood of Christ. This thanksgiving is at the center of what God wants from you, He who is a “consuming fire”. 

This year, as you celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving, realize that the culture around you strives mightily to make it a secular holiday. But the word itself implies someone who should be thanked for the successful harvest (it is a harvest celebration), and who can receive that but God alone? Make it a spiritual celebration of Christian worship. Give thanks to God for all His many blessings, physical and spiritual. This is the essence of Christian worship.

Tags: worship, thankfulness

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