There are many reasons for the saint to be thankful—there always have been—but surely no generation ever had more for which to praise and thank the Father. Thanksgiving for the provision of our physical needs is obvious and, in addition, our thankfulness should know no bounds when it comes to the spiritual blessings we enjoy in Christ Jesus. A lack of thankfulness and a general spirit of discontent is the atmosphere in which we live and this widespread lack of thankfulness is at the root of the degenerate society we see all around. In this issue of The Lampstand we consider some of the blessings for which we should continually express our thankfulness to our Heavenly Father and in particular the opportunities afforded us to educate our children in Divine principles. The tenth anniversary of the opening of the first Heritage College in Adelaide gives us cause to be particularly thankful for such wonderful provisions of which this is but a small token.

Under the Law of Moses the highest form of offering, from the offerer’s point of view, was the Peace Offering. This was the ultimate in his worship before Yahweh, for in this offering he partook of portion of the offering in a fellowship meal in company with the priest—the only offering with such a provision. The peace offering was designed to highlight the principles of thanksgiving and fellowship and comprised three distinct types of offering—Thanksgiving (gratitude for Divine favour); Vow (the fulfilment of a pledge); Voluntary (spontaneous).

Of these three categories, the thanksgiving was, in many respects, the superior offering; and so the Psalmist writes: “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God” (Psa 50:23). The word “praise” here is the Hebrew towdah, more commonly rendered “thanksgiving”; and so the Tanakh Jewish Bible has: “He who sacrifices a thank offering honors Me, and to him who improves his way I will show the salvation of God.” Again in Psalm 30:4 David exhorts us to “sing praise to Yahweh, O ye saints of His and” (as the nasb puts it) “give thanks to His holy Name”.

The Hebrew word towdah means “the extension of the hands in thanksgiving, worship and adoration; the singing of praise and thanksgiving of choir and orchestra under the direction of the hands of the chief musician”. For example, Psalm 100 has this superscription, “A Psalm of Praise” (towdah) and the whole Psalm beautifully expresses this spirit of united thanksgiving—“Make a joyful noise unto Yahweh, all ye lands. Serve Yahweh with gladness: come before His presence with singing. Know ye that Yahweh He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His Name. For Yahweh is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations.” The idea of a choir giving thanks is well expressed in Nehemiah 12:31, 38 and 40: “Then I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great companies of them that gave thanks…”; or as the Tanakh renders it, “two large thanksgiving choirs”. Nehemiah further tells us in verses 42 and 43, “And the singers sang loud, with Jezrahiah their overseer. Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy.” The “thank offering” was also employed by Hezekiah when his reformations became successful (2 Chron 29:30, 31), and by Manasseh in thanksgiving for his release from captivity in Babylon (2 Chron 33:16).

The thanksgiving offering was very often associated with a Vow as in Psalm 50:14: “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: and call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.” Again in Psalm 116:17, 18: “I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the Name of Yahweh. I will pay my vows unto Yahweh now in the presence of all His people…” And the prophet Jonah in chapter 2:9 says, “But I will sacrifice unto Thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of Yahweh.”

From these examples (and there are many more) we are left in no doubt that Yahweh delights to receive the thanksgiving of His children, just as any loving, generous father rejoices in the heartfelt thanks and appreciation of his family (albeit, with far less real justification!). These thoughts are picked up by the Apostle Paul in Hebrews when he says: “By him [the Lord Jesus Christ, our sacrifice for sin] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb 13:15, 16). The “sacrifice of praise” of which the Apostle speaks answers to the thanksgiving sacrifice (Lev 7:12); and to offer such thanks to God “continually” relates to the fat of the peace offering which was placed upon the top of the “continual burnt offering” (Lev 6:8–12 and Num 28:1–3). “To do good” and “to communicate” (“doing well, beneficence” and “fellowship or participation”) can be seen in the principle of the Vow Offering and the Voluntary Offering which were the other two aspects of the Peace Offering (Lev 7:16). These sacrifices are pleasing to God because they are spiritual sacrifices, not of compulsion but springing out of a heart full of gratitude to the Father, not only for the wonder of what He has accomplished in Christ Jesus but also for the daily blessings which come so abundantly from His Hand. He Himself is also the motivating force from Whom our response springs, for it is “the God of peace” Who works in us “that which is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ” (Heb 13:20, 21).

There are many reasons for the saint to be thankful—there always have been—but surely no generation ever had more for which to praise and thank the Father. The cause for thanksgiving for the provision of our physical needs is obvious. We enjoy a measure of health and strength more or less and we have readily accessible facilities at hand to maintain that health to an extent hitherto unknown and still beyond the reach of many millions of the world’s population in many places today. We enjoy gainful employment, comfortable homes, every convenience and the poorest of us are many times richer than the vast percentage of our fellows. Therefore Paul enjoins an attitude of thankfulness for the most basic needs of life—that “having food and raiment let us therewith be content”. The dangers for those who act otherwise are familiar to us and Paul spells them out clearly—“they have been seduced from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim 6:6–10). Very often we find it is the brother or sister appearing to have the least in material terms who is the most positively thankful in everything.

In the matter of the “Jerusalem poor fund” the generosity of the saints toward one another in material things was a cause of thanksgiving—not just to each other. Their liberality was a cause of thanksgiving to God, as Paul explains: “… being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness [‘liberality’, mrg], which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God” (2 Cor 9:11, 12).

And if any lack or suffer, we know that the Father hears and we are exhorted to “be careful for nothing [‘be not anxious about anything’, Diaglott]; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil 4:6).

Our thankfulness should know no bounds when it comes to the spiritual blessings we enjoy in Christ Jesus. Such blessings of salvation and deliverance from sin moved the Apostle to cry, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…” (Rom 7:24, 25). This same spirit of gratitude and praise again finds expression in Romans 11: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him and to Him are all things: to Whom be glory for ever” (Rom 11:33–36).

Paul found much cause for thanksgiving in his brethren. To the believers at Rome he said, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world”; to the brethren at Corinth, “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in everything ye are enriched by him…”; to the Ephesians, “Wherefore I also… cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers”; and to the Philippians, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you”. Do we remember our brethren and sisters in our prayers? Do we remember to thank God for our brethren and sisters—all of the believers in Christ Jesus in every corner of the Vineyard? Paul was acutely aware of the problems and difficulties among the ecclesias and of the shortcomings of many in the community; but he found something in all of them for which he could truly thank God.

The lack of thankfulness and a general spirit of discontent (actively fostered by the advertising world) is the atmosphere in which we live. This widespread lack of thankfulness is at the root of the degenerate society we see all around. The Apostle Paul says so in Romans (chapter 1:21–23): “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and creeping things…”, and so on. What appalling outcomes developed from this failure to be thankful! Such were the conditions described by the Apostle that finally “God gave them over to a depraved mind (or ‘a mind void of judgment’ margin), … fit only for death in the day of judgment (Rom 1:28–32).

Surely such a situation could not develop from a simple thing like a lack of thankfulness! Indeed it can, says the Apostle and furthermore, on the other hand, a true spirit of thankfulness provides a positive antidote to such things as those described in the first chapter of Romans. Consider his words in the letter to Ephesus. Brother Carter has this to say concerning the sins mentioned in Ephesians 4 and 5: “When we wish to subjugate an appetite, it is not enough simply to check it, however harshly. All the locks and bolts of mere repression will not suffice. Rather must we seek till we find, and can foster, some other desire, in the presence of which, the obnoxious appetite may find it hard to live. If once heart and mind be filled with strong positive interests the rest will come of itself”. So it is that in Ephesians 5:3 and 4 Paul lists some exceedingly “obnoxious appetites” which may be countered simply by “giving thanks”. “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.” What an amazingly simple remedy for such grossly unacceptable behaviour. And yet, a moment of consideration may make the matter plain. All of the evils here outlined stem from extreme selfishness: thankfulness, on the other hand, denies self and reaches out to another or others—in the ultimate, to the Father Who is the source of all goodness and love. A heart full of thankfulness to Him is not soon likely to displease Him or to fall away to evil, immorality and depravity; nor is it likely that such a one would have a negative attitude toward the ecclesia, his brethren and sisters in Christ or to the activities, arrangements and appointments involved in ecclesial life.

How very important, then, is this spirit of thankfulness. “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with gratitude in your hearts [Diaglott] to the Lord” (Col 3:15, 16). How could sin, selfishness and depravity prosper in the midst of such a community of believers! And what manifold blessings our community enjoys! Along with the saints of all ages we enjoy the blessings of redemption in Christ Jesus, the forgiveness of sin and the glorious hope of salvation when Yahweh’s Anointed is manifest in the earth: and in this dispensation we experience not only the joys of the life that is to come but the present comfort and assurance of the life that now is, receiving abundantly “the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints”. Count the blessings of each day: “morning by morning new mercies I see”. We are a community that should live in a state of thankfulness.

In addition to all our spiritual and communal blessings, Our Father has mercifully provided all that we could desire to cater for our children, our families and our elder loved ones in circumstances that are more than we could ever reasonably expect. His Hand has been evidently at work in all the circumstances when we have reached forward in faith and with a Godly motivation. What more could we ask of Him? Surely we are moved to exclaim with the Psalmist, “Oh that men would praise Yahweh for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing [‘singing’, mrg]” (Psalm 107:21, 22).

The promised Day is fast approaching when men will be caused to praise our God for all His goodness and for “His wonderful works to the children of men”. In that day the redeemed will prostrate themselves and worship “saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever”; and again, “We give thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned” (Rev 7:12; 11:17). Let us even now express the spirit of this thanksgiving in our lives each.