Give thanks

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! For his mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:1-2 NKJV).

When I first began traveling to Nepal almost 30 years ago I was told that, until recently, there had been no word for thank you in their language. After exposure to western vacationers following the opening of the country in the 1950s, someone coined the word dhanobhad to translate the English term “Thank you.”

Words express ideas or concepts and denote objects and actions familiar to those who speak a given language. If a society uses something, they generally have a word for it.

In Bangladesh homes have little furniture and even now often lack chairs. Historically they did not use that particular item. If there is a word for chair in Bangla, I have never heard it used. They have simply adopted the English word as the object has gradually become more common.

All of that is to point out that saying “Thank you” is not a habit or custom in all cultures. And if they do not have a word for it, one doubts that the attitude behind the phrase (i.e., gratitude) is of value to them. Gratitude is a virtue that is encouraged, and even commanded, in the Bible and has become a standard part of Christian character. But when one travels to areas where the Bible is not known, outward expressions of gratitude are much less frequently heard.

The Psalmist of old recognized that not everyone thinks to express thanksgiving to God, and that such thanksgiving should be abundant. God is good. Those who have received the fruits of his goodness should tell others, as well as God himself, about his goodness.

That even many of the redeemed (that is those of Israel whom God had brought back from captivity, see verses 4-7) did not proclaim God’s goodness is manifest in the Psalm. Four times in the poem he states: “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men” (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31). His plea implies that ingratitude (or at least the failure to express gratitude outwardly) was the attitude of the vast majority.

The first two pleas are justified by acts of God’s goodness for which they should be thankful.

For he satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness” (v. 9).

For he has broken the gates of bronze, and cut the bars of iron in two” (v. 16).

The other pleas are followed by suggestions as to how gratitude should be expressed.

Let them sacrifice the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (v. 22).

Let them exalt him also in the assembly of the people, and praise him in the company of the elders” (v. 32).

When Christians worship together they not only express their devotion and thanksgiving to God himself, they also proclaim his praises (1 Peter 2:9) to all in attendance. In any assembly there may be unbelievers, those suffering from doubt or discouragement, or others who need to be reminded that our God is good and that we all are recipients of many blessings from that goodness.

Over the years I have heard many defend non-attendance of worship assemblies with statements such as, “I can worship God at home by myself; I don’t need to be with others.” To them I answer, “Yes you do; that is simply not true. And, further, others need you to remind them of God’s goodness and blessings.”

The infinite glory of God cannot be fully perceived or expressed by human tongue. But what we can perceive we must share with others. “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.”

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