By Jeffery M. Leonard, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biblical & Religious Studies, Samford University
GOD DESERVES OUR THANKS
As I looked around the meeting hall, a sight caught my eye that stopped me in my tracks. It was the morning of my younger son’s rehearsal dinner, and I had been running hither and yon to make sure this item here was done and that task there was taken care of. And then I looked up and saw that every member of my family was doing exactly the same thing. I was struck in that moment by how blessed I was to have such an incredible family.
Truthfully, my family — my mom’s side of the family, at least — is enormous. My maternal grandfather’s branch of the family has gathered for a Christmas party for more than 75 years now, with more than 80 people at times. My maternal grandmother’s side of the family is nearly as large. For them, Thanksgiving has been the traditional get-together for more than a half-century.
One particular part of our Thanksgiving tradition is both torture and blessing all rolled into one. Before we light upon the delicacies in the kitchen, my Uncle Milton makes sure that we all gather together to share a word about what we are thankful for.
Waiting to eat is worth enduring for the blessing of getting to hear what everyone has to say. Shared joys and shared tears in those moments of thankfulness have drawn our family closer together than turkey and dressing alone ever could. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
We can be thankful for God’s forgiveness. (1–4)
Psalm 65 is a Psalm consumed with thankfulness. As is often the case in Scripture, it is a thankfulness that is born from a moment of forgiveness. The psalmist recalls, “When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions,” and he expresses confidence that this same forgiveness is available to all who ask for it.
There is an interesting corporate dynamic at work in this Psalm’s expression of thankfulness. Note that the psalmist speaks of a moment when “we were overwhelmed” and God forgave “our transgressions.”
Certainly, we should be thankful as individuals, but there is also a sense in which our collective expression of thanks is important. Moments like celebrating Thanksgiving together can be especially powerful as they draw us all into a spirit of thankfulness even when we are not feeling especially thankful.
We can be thankful for God’s greatness and power. (5–8)
An oft-repeated expression at my family’s Thanksgiving gathering is something along the lines of, “I don’t know how other people make it without a family of faith like ours.” At the heart of this statement is a shared belief that we serve a powerful God who walks beside us through even the most difficult of life’s experiences. Without the love and care of the God who “formed the mountains” and “stilled the roaring of the seas,” where would we be?
We can be thankful for God’s provision. (9–13)
In a country as wealthy as ours, it is easy to forget to be thankful for the everyday blessings of God’s provision. We rarely have to say the words, “Give us this day our daily bread,” with the same sort of day-to-day dependence that Jesus’ original audience would have experienced.
The psalmist reminds us that all blessings ultimately flow from God. Even the flocks that cover the meadows and the grain that mantles the valleys are the work of God’s hands. Creation sings out words of praise to its Creator and calls on us to join in its chorus.