(This devotion is day eleven of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
What are landmark moments in your life? Can you recall times where God did something big in your life or taught you something? What are some of God’s wonderful works in your life, in your family, or in the life of your church? (These aren’t theoretical questions, so take a moment to answer them.) How did you celebrate those times and how do you commemorate them after the fact?
1 Chronicles 16 marks the return of the Ark to Israel under David’s watch. This is no small thing. It’s not like a senior prank when a school loses their mascot and eventually gets it back. The Ark represented God’s special presence and power with His people. The Ark’s presence or absence communicated God’s nearness or distance. Its return demands national attention. David throws a party as he renews Israel’s worship.
While we often let big moments come-and-go, thankful but not stopping to consider its significance, David shines the spotlight on this moment in time. He leverages it to thank and praise the living God. Like many of God’s deeds in the Bible, this event is recorded and commemorated for generations to come so a testimony of God’s faithfulness is passed down.
David desires Israel to worship God in this ceremony, but there’s also a long-range intent to recall God’s glory year after year. It’s why Asaph pens this song of thanksgiving, recorded both in 1 Chronicles 16 and in Psalm 105.
Ways to Give Thanks and Reasons to Give Thanks
Notice how big and broad thanksgiving is. The songwriter doesn’t use just one word to describe how a grateful heart responds to a great God. He reaches for verb after verb. The reasons for praising God are as varied as the ways to praise God. As you read 1 Chronicles 16:8–36, you encounter numerous nouns and adjectives about who God is alongside the verbs telling us of His mighty works. It’s as if the writer wants us to see there are endless reasons to praise God, and many ways to do so.
Consider the following chart listing ways this chapter tells us to respond in gratitude and reasons for doing so. While I’ve distinguished “Who God is” from “What God does,” they overlap.
|Give Thanks||Because God is…||Because God did/does…|
|Invoke, thank, and praise (16:4)||Lord (16:8)||Wondrous works (16:9, 12)|
|Sing thanksgiving and praise (7, 9, 23)||Holy (9, 29, 35)||Deeds (8)|
|Give thanks (8, 34, 35)||Strong (11, 27, 28)||Miracles (12)|
|Call upon his name (8)||Present (11)||Judges (12, 14, 33)|
|Make known his deeds (8)||Lord our God (14)||Protect (21-22)|
|Tell (9)||Faithful to his covenant (15)||Keeps his covenant/word (15)|
|Glory in (10, 35)||Glorious (24, 28, 29)||Saves (23, 35)|
|Rejoice (10, 31)||Majestic & Splendorous (27)||Marvelous works (24)|
|Seek (10, 11)||Maker or Creator (30)||Made the heavens (25)|
|Remember (12, 15)||Mighty (27)||Establish and hold the world together (30)|
|Declare his glory (24)||Good (34)||Reigns (31)|
|Hold him in awe (25)||Steadfast in love (34)||Delivers (35)|
|Ascribe (28-29)||The God of Israel (36)|
|Bring an offering (29)||From everlasting to everlasting (36)|
|Tremble before him (30)|
Record and Remember
As you experience God’s power in your own life, as He teaches you from His Word, uses you in the life of others, helps you grow in maturity, frees you from sin, provides for you, or carries you through a difficult season, how can you give thanks in that moment but also record it to give thanks again in the future?
“Memory is a blessed aid to faith. Recalling the works of God’s salvation, providence, and goodness stir the anticipation of future grace and present power. It works that way in the lives of individual saints. It works that way in the lives of entire congregations and nations.”
When we record and rehearse God’s deeds we not only stir gratitude but we also strengthen our faith. We need moments of looking back to see God’s faithfulness so we will trust Him in the future.
Both during David’s days when he united and expanded the kingdom, and during the time 1 Chronicles was written when Israel was scattered in exile, Israel faced opposition and enemies. They suffered from spiritual apathy and were tempted to trust in other nations and gods. They faced fear and discouragement when they considered the odds they were up against. The more they looked ahead and looked around, the more worry and fears felt heavy in their chest. But as they remembered the God on their side and how He has been faithful time and time again, faith increased. And as remembering led to thanksgiving, it gave strength and hope to trust Him moving forward.
Grateful remembrance is a deep breath and big exhale pushing out the anxiety and discouragement threatening to take our breath away. Looking back to look up refocuses our eyes on God rather than ourselves or circumstances. The scenario might have changed, but God has not changed. It causes our theology to move from the head to the heart because things we think about God become convincing through the personal experience of our past.
We need a personal, historical record of gratitude bolstering our trust in God and love for God if we’re going to fight back the fears and temptations we’ll face today and tomorrow. The lessons of our past are meant to guide and teach us for the future. The theology we learn from Scripture and experience firsthand should cause us to walk in light of it.
Store up memory of God’s works so you have reasons to give thanks, but also so you have reason to trust. Our worry, fear, anxiety, sorrow, and discouragement don’t disappear because we want them too or know they should. They have to be squeezed out through faith in God. And faith in God increases through piling up the memories of His faithfulness in gratitude.
We give thanks by remembering. We remember and give thanks. And this grateful remembrance builds trust and faith. We bank on God today because he always comes through, and our past gives us evidence.
 Thabiti Anyabwile, “Strengths We’ve Lost: Missions,” 10/24/13 https://thefrontporch.org/2013/10/strengths-weve-lost-missions/
To go deeper in biblical thanksgiving and understand how it leads us to know and enjoy God, check out my book The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks: Reclaiming the Gifts of A Lost Spiritual Discipline.