THE TRUTH ABOUT THANKSGIVING (PSALMS 100)
A young woman teacher with obvious liberal tendencies explains to her class of small children that she is an atheist. She asks her class if they are atheists too. Not really knowing what atheism is but wanting to be like their teacher, their hands explode into the air like fleshy fireworks. There is, however, one exception. A beautiful girl named Lucy has not gone along with the crowd.
The teacher asks her why she has decided to be different. “Because I’m not an atheist.” Then, asks the teacher, “What are you?” “I’m a Christian.”
The teacher is a little perturbed now, her face slightly red. She asks Lucy why she is a Christian. “Well, I was brought up knowing and loving Jesus. My mom is a Christian, and my dad is a Christian, so I am a Christian.”
The teacher is now angry. “That’s no reason,” she says loudly. “What if your mom was a moron, and your dad was a moron. What would you be then?” She paused, and smiled. “Then,” says Lucy, “I’d be an atheist.”
It’s easy to say “no thanks” at times. We have lots of reasons not to be thankful: 911, terrorists, Iraq, tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, bird flu, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, school shootings. A site listing the worst 100 disasters of the 20th century listed China with four in the top ten and more than 10 million dead from these disasters.
Psalm 100 comes with a unique title attached to this psalm rare to others. Most salutations in psalms begin with titles such as “To the chief musician,” “A psalm of David,” “A psalm of Asaph” or “A psalm for the sons of Korah.” They are usually name- related, honoring people or identifying authors. The Hebrew designation or sub-heading of Psalm 100, on the other hand, consists of two simple and modest words – “psalm” and “of thanksgiving,” meaning “a psalm of thanksgiving.”
Most scholars see this passage this way: Verses 1-2 and verse 4 are introductions for verse 3 and 6 respectively, which are the reasons for thanksgiving or the grounds for praise.
Why is thanksgiving easier said than done? Why is it rare in hard times? How can we give thanks when things are not smooth or satisfactory?
Thanksgiving Must Be First and Foremost Given
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. (Ps 100:1-2)
In an old Peanuts comic strip, Linus drags his blanket withhim as he approaches Lucy, who is skipping rope and having fun. He asks her, “Do you ever pray, Lucy?” Lucy stops her activity and replies, “That’s kind of a personal question, isn’t it? Are you trying to start an argument?”
Lucy gets in Linus’ face and says, “I suppose you think you’re somebody pretty smart, don’t you? I suppose you think..” Taken aback, Linus stops questioning. In the last panel, he sits with Charlie Brown on the curb, sucking his thumb and holding his blanket, and says, “You’re right. Religion is a very touchy subject.”
Thanksgiving is a believer’s celebration, a public holiday but an atheist’s nightmare. Unbelievers grumpily say “Thanks for nothing” when Thanksgiving beckons. It’s been said, “Who do atheists thank on Thanksgiving?” and “Can an atheist really celebrate Thanksgiving?”
An atheist leader was asked, “How does an atheist cope with everyday life in America? Is there anything to believe in at all?” The atheist responded, “No, nothing. We don’t believe in anything. I suppose you could say we ‘believe’ in decent behavior. We ‘believe’ decent behavior is a social construct learned from the days when we lived in caves. But you have to remember the word ‘belief’ is a religion-based construct.” http://www.positiveatheism.org/crt/ourtown.htm
The word thanksgiving or “yadhah,” as in the title, occurs 32 times in the Bible, 12 times in Psalms - twice in this passage, including verse 4.
We are called to express thanksgiving in a big way to God, not to hold back our praises and not to second-guess Him. The three verbs in verses 1 and 2 are “shout for joy,” “worship” and “come.” It might surprise you to know that the phrase “shout for joy” is just one word in Hebrew. Some translators prefer the phrase “make a joyful noise.”
The Israelites were no strangers to this approach to worship, which was a significant and vital approach in the temple and even on the battlefield. The first use of the word was when God instructed the sons of Aaron, the priests, to blow or sound the trumpets to gather the assembly (Num 10:7). Also, this is the same shouting the Israelites did on the road to victory when they encircled the city of Jericho that later came tumbling down (Josh 6:10). The corresponding terms today would be to raise the roof, cause a din, clamor for attention, make a racket and holler for awareness.