A Thanksgiving Meditation

Thanksgiving.  For what?  Food?  Family?  Friends?  Amidst the holiday hustle and bustle, it’s easy to forget the reason why we set aside a day to give thanks in the first place.

The psalms offer the perfect remedy for shallow Thanksgiving traditions.  Transcending our limited view of God’s providence in our immediate circumstances, they remind us that we ought to thank God firstly for who he is, and secondly for what he has done.

In particular, the psalms have some special words about the Lord’s care for the oppressed.  For many of my family and friends, as well as millions of souls across this nation, the year 2012 hasn’t been easy.  The Midwest encountered one of the most severe droughts on record, while the East Coast was walloped by a hurricane.  Each of us knows friends and family that have been afflicted in other countless ways this year—perhaps some of us are those people.  How can we give thanks in the midst of suffering?  Praise God! the psalms have an answer.

For today’s Thanksgiving meditation, I’ve mixed bits from the Book of Psalms (ESV) and some particularly poignant passages from our own Psalter Hymnal.

PSALM 9 (Listen)

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

–vv. 1,2

Thou, Lord, art a refuge for all the oppressed;
All trust Thee who know Thee, and trusting are blest;
For never, O Lord, did Thy mercy forsake
The soul that has sought of Thy grace to partake.

Behold my affliction, Thy mercy accord,
And back from death’s portals restore me, O Lord,
That I in the gates of Thy Zion may raise
My song of salvation and show forth Thy praise.

–Psalter Hymnal #14

PSALM 66 (Listen)

Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of his praise be heard,
who has kept our soul among the living
and has not let our feet slip.
For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

–vv. 8-12

Come, ye that fear the Lord, and hear
What He has done for me;
My cry for help is turned to praise,
For He has set me free.
If in my heart I sin regard,
My prayer He will not hear;
But truly God has heard my voice,
My prayer has reached His ear.

–Psalter Hymnal #119

PSALM 89 (Listen)

My song forever shall record
The tender mercies of the Lord;
Thy faithfulness will I proclaim,
And every age shall know Thy Name.

I sing of mercies that endure,
Forever builded firm and sure,
Of faithfulness that never dies,
Established changeless in the skies.

–Psalter Hymnal #169

Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD,
your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD?
Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD,
a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones,
and awesome above all who are around him?
O LORD God of hosts,
who is mighty as you are, O LORD,
with your faithfulness all around you?

–Psalm 89:5-8

PSALM 103 (Listen)

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.

–vv. 1-6

Yea, the Lord is full of mercy
And compassion for distress,
Slow to anger and abundant
In His grace and tenderness.
He will not be angry alway,
Nor will He forever chide;
Though we oft have sinned against Him,
Still His love and grace abide.

As the heavens are high above us,
Great His love to us has proved;
Far as east from west is distant,
He has all our sins removed.
As a father loves his children,
Feeling pity for their woes,
So the Lord to those who fear Him
Mercy and compassion shows.

–Psalter Hymnal #201

PSALM 138 (Listen)

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.

–vv. 1,2

O God, whene’er I cried to Thee,
Thou heardest me and didst deliver;
For by Thy strength, when sore afraid,
My soul was stayed, O gracious Giver.
The kings of earth in one accord
Shall thank Thee, Lord, with praise unbroken;
When over all the earth is heard
The wondrous Word which Thou hast spoken.

Lord, though I walk ‘mid troubles sore,
Thou wilt restore my faltering spirit;
Though angry foes my soul alarm,
Thy mighty arm will save and cheer it.
Yea, thou wilt finish perfectly
What Thou for me hast undertaken;
May not Thy works, in mercy wrought,
E’er come to naught or be forsaken.

–Psalter Hymnal 287

May the Lord give us deep and heartfelt gratitude to him this Thanksgiving Day for the abundant blessings he has showered upon us, and through all our trials may we be able to joyfully confess in the words of the Heidelberg Catechism (LD 9, Q&A 26):

[I believe] that the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them, who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence, is my God and Father because of Christ his Son.

I trust him so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and he will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world.

He is able to do this because he is almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.

Happy Thanksgiving.

–MRK

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