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Thanksgiving: The Believer's Joyful Duty

Posted November 22, 2023

Thanksgiving Day can help us give well-deserved thanks to God, but only if we use it properly. It isn’t wrong to itemize specific blessings from the past year for which you are grateful—the birth of a child, a new job, or a bumper crop—but genuine thankfulness is different than relishing in the statistics of a good year. Anyone can be happy when things go well for them. Even irreligious people can be glad about nice weather or a large tax return. Genuine, God-glorifying thankfulness, however, is not circumstantial.

One of the psalter’s most famous poems shows us a better way.

Psalm 100 is “a psalm for giving thanks,” as the superscription says, but it gives no indication of circumstances. It isn’t tied to certain happy events. Psalm 100 is also timeless; it recognizes that God is faithful “to all generations” (Ps. 100:5). Nor is it meant only for certain people. It is a universal call to gratitude: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” (Ps. 100:1). No matter what the past year has been like you can have good reasons to give thanks.

The psalm presents a simple formula for thanksgiving: those who know the Lord are thankful people.

Do You Know the Lord?

What should we know about the Lord in order to thank him?

The Lord Is God

“Know that the Lord, he is God!” (Ps. 100:3). “God” is a universal word for a deity. And everyone has one, a being or principle that demands allegiance. But the Lord, Yahweh, isn’t part of a class of deities. As the eternal creator, perfect in all his attributes, he alone is God. He is worthy of the title and of our devotion.

The Lord Made Us

God created “all the earth” (Ps. 100:1). And for our indebtedness to him as creatures, we should honor him. But the writer seems to especially praise God for making “a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). “It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Ps. 100:3). The Father sent his Son to lay down his life for his sheep and to shepherd each one to safety. A believer’s renewed relationship with God is cause for thanksgiving!

The Lord Is Good

To say that “the Lord is good” (Ps. 100:5) almost sounds too basic. But good is strong enough to describe God because for him it needs no qualification. At a funeral, someone might say, “He was a good man.” But there were exceptions. Don’t forget about his occasional unrestrained anger, or her penchant for gossip. The best people are partly good. But we don’t find God good on the balance—he is altogether good.

The Lord Is Love

“His steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 100:5). We would not know love if not for God. Yes, people can love, even if they reject God. But “God is love” and all love is from God (1 John 4:16; 7). The best human love is a faint copy of the perfect love of God. God’s love should make us thankful.

The Lord Is Faithful

His faithfulness endures “to all generations” (Ps. 100:5). God always remains true to his word. “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9). A thousand generations is symbolic but the point is clear: no one keeps his commitments like God. He will do everything he says.

True thanksgiving is not dependent on having had a banner year. If you know the true God as your maker and Savior, and if you believe that he is good, loving, and faithful, you have every reason to give thanks.

Do You Thank the Lord?

The commands in this short psalm reveal several actions of grateful people.

Shout God’s Majesty

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord” seems to imply that we should sing to God even if we can’t carry a tune (Ps. 100:1). And we should. But “the joyful noise is not the special contribution of the tone-deaf … but the equivalent in worship to the homage-shout or fanfare (98:6) to a king.” If you watch football teams run onto a field, you will hear a joyful noise. Diehard fans love their team. They believe in the players. They expect great things of them. And so they shout. And yet, one of the teams will lose, falling short of the fans’ expectations. How much more should we truly shout God’s majesty?

Serve with Gladness

We sometimes have the wrong idea about service. We think that so long as we are serving, our attitude shouldn’t matter. But true service is a happy activity. Christians have this testimony: “For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work” (Ps. 92:4).

Seek His Presence

“Come into his presence with singing … enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise” (Ps. 100:2, 4). Thankful people don’t keep their distance from God. Whenever possible, they come into God’s special presence among his worshipping people. But thankful people live always before God’s face. God’s omnipresence should profoundly shape our gratitude.

Speak Your Thanks

The most obvious form of thanksgiving might be best saved for last. Because, while speaking praise is essential, thanksgiving is far more than words. We must “give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Ps. 100:4). Let’s tell God, “thank you,” for his kindness to us. But let’s strive to live in such a way that the words are hardly necessary.

The hundredth psalm is short and simple. It urges us to know the Lord as he truly is and from that knowledge to thank him. True knowledge of God is enough to provoke sincere thanksgiving with or without an annual holiday


  • Derek Kidner, Psalms 73–150, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 1973),356.

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William Boekestein

William Boekestein is the pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He has written several books and numerous articles. He and his wife, Amy, have four children.