Psalm 95 is an invitation to be thankful to God. Thinking through it on Thanksgiving day, I am made aware that thanksgiving really is praise. When you are thankful for something you are acknowledging someone else’s deeds or character. When you say thank you, in a sense you are praising. You are recognizing that someone is or has done something that has a positive effect in your life. Think about this. You can’t be thankful to no one, and you can’t be thankful and not praise.
The author of Psalm 100 equates praise with thanksgiving through the parallelism of verse 4:
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
And his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!”
What are some of the things that the author of Psalm 95 invites us to be thankful for; to praise God for?
He calls us to be thankful for God’s character, for his deeds, for his salvation.
In verse one he invites us to “sing to the Lord, to make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.” We are to be thankful for his salvation.
Later he gives us another reason to praise him: “For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” His character.
The following verses focus on his marvelous deeds, and his creation. He created and sustains everything. He created us.
He also calls us to thank him for his identity as our God and our identity as his people. “He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.”
The Psalm takes an interesting turn at the end of verse 7. It becomes more of a warning. He reminds us of the bitter episode in Exodus 17 when Israel, God’s people put him to the test even though they had seen his work. They had seen the Red Sea opened. They had seen the plagues. They saw God’s mighty work of salvation on their behalf, yet they didn’t trust God at Massah and Meribah.
The opposite of praise and thankfulness is doubt, lack of faith; putting God to the test.
God has given us all things through his Son Jesus. He has given us his salvation. He brought us out of captivity in the Egypt of our sin. He brought us through the Red Sea. He is feeding us in the wilderness. He is ushering us in into the Promised Land. He has given us an inheritance. He has given us to drink from the Rock; “and the rock was Christ!”
Doesn’t he deserve praise? Doesn’t he deserve our thankfulness? Isn’t he worthy of our full trust and allegiance? Shouldn’t we praise him even when our situation seems dire, even when it feels like he is not answering, even when things are not going our way? He has proved himself so many times. We have no reason not to be thankful.
Jesus our Lord and savior was thankful. He was thankful for many things. But one of those things that should cause us to ponder is his thankfulness as he was reclining at the table with his disciples on that, his last supper (cf. Luke 22:14-23). He was eager celebrate that last passover with them. He took a cup and gave thanks. This cup was not any cup, it represented the blood that he was going to spill to give us salvation and make us members of his new covenant. He took the bread and gave thanks for it. This was not any bread. It represented his body which was about to be broken for us.
Doesn’t that blow your mind? Jesus was thankful even unto death. He was thankful to God for the sacrifice that he was about to make for us.
And that brings us back to Psalm 95:
“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!”