How does one express gratitude for an overwhelming gift? When the words “thank you” do not seem adequate, how can a person sincerely express their appreciation? Confronted with the same conundrum, the Psalmist put inspired pen to paper to answer this very question. Psalm 116 is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for His abundant benevolence. The Psalm can be divided into two parts¬–what God had done for the writer (vss. 1-11) and the writer’s response (vss. 12-19). Though little is known of the psalmist’s identity or background, we can be certain that he faced a very difficult circumstance from which Jehovah delivered Him. Reflecting upon His bountiful mercy prompted the psalmist to ask, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me” (Ps. 116:12)? In other words, “How can adequately express my gratitude to an overwhelmingly benevolent Creator?” The answer is found, not in words, but in action.
First, “I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord” (Ps. 116:13). It is difficult to know exactly what the psalmist had in mind in this passage. Perhaps the reference points to the drink offering prescribed in Numbers 28:7. If this is the case then the reference is to public proclamation of praise and glory to God. Alternatively, note that the passage refers to taking something from the Lord, not giving something back to Him. Therefore, the reference may be to the idea of receiving whatever blessing God gives, with the proper attitude, and using it to His glory. Remember the sentiments of Jesus in the garden– “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). Either way, the passage makes clear that a proper response of gratitude to the Lord is to gladly submit to His will and glorify Him through word and deed (cf. Col. 3:17). Are we using the blessings God gives us to His glory? Our time? Our financial resources? Our homes? Our abilities?
Second, “I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people” (Ps. 116:14). The vows in question were surely those which the psalmist made during his time of trial. Such is not an uncommon practice. Many people seek to bargain with God when they realize they are at their wits end. “God, if you will deliver me from this circumstance, I promise I will…” is a common refrain. But unlike so many, the psalmist was determined to keep his promises to the Lord, and to do so publicly. One cannot but think of Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses”
(1 Tim. 6:12). When a person obeys the gospel they are essentially making a vow to the Lord–a profession–to live the rest of their days in His faithful service. Truly there is no better way to render thanks to God than to give Him our all (cf. Rom. 12:1-2).
Third, “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Ps. 116:17). This passage refers to the thank offerings under the Mosaic Law (Lev. 7:12-15). The psalmist would show his gratitude to God by worshipping Him. Psalm 110:4 says, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise” (Ps. 100:4). When we assemble to worship our God, we praise and honor Him for who He is and for all of the blessings He pours out upon us. What is our mindset as we observe the actions of worship on the Lord’s Day? Are we thankful? Are we in awe of His greatness? Or, does our mind wander to mundane and carnal things?
Paul said, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess. 5:18). As we gather with family and friends this month in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday, it is imperative to remember that as Christians thanksgiving is a way of life. We are the richest people on earth and as such we should give thanks daily, not just by what we say, but by how we live.