(This devotion is day twelve of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
Read Psalm 9
We could all use a little more joy in our day. And not the fake-smile, posing for people kind, but real joy where rest and rejoicing come together, much like peanut butter and chocolate do for Peanut Butter M&M’s (so good). How can we find this kind of joy, in the best of times and the worst of times?
The Bible connects joy with thanksgiving. One place we see this in Psalm 9. Despite intimidating enemies and ongoing trials, David chooses thanksgiving. He chooses the rest and gladness offered in gratitude rather than the stress and fear that come with worry. His foes are many, and mighty, but his God is bigger and more powerful than anything He can face.
The first two verses connect giving thanks with God’s attributes and acts. These initial verses frame Psalm 9 so we read everything in this prayer-song through the lens of thanksgiving. David helps us see all of life is filtered through this praise toward God, not only with a posture that receives blessings but also with a posture that trusts and rests in trials.
“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.” (Psalm 9:1–2; italics and bold mine)
Though the Psalm opens with David’s repetition of “I will,” it then shifts to a focus on God. In this psalm, prayer and praise interweave throughout as David bounces between his troubles and afflictions (9:9, 12). But through it all, his one constant is gratefulness for God’s faithfulness. As David mentions his enemies and attackers, fear and anxiety are no doubt present. With the possibility of defeat or death, he’s tempted by doubts about God and assaulted with questions about how this might turn out.
But what do you see most in verses 3–14? David’s focus turns to God. He recounts God’s wonderful deeds (9:1) in his life and recalls the many times God proved Himself in the past. This isn’t David’s first rodeo. The enemy has looked him in the face before, and each time God came through for Him. He’s faithful. He’s powerful. And He always makes good on His promises to us. Read through Psalm 9 again and notice how many times God is mentioned (either with a title, His name, “you,” or “He”). David refers to Him at least twenty-four times in the first fourteen verses.
In these verses, David gives thanks for what God has done: “you have maintained my just cause” (9:4).
He rejoices in who God is: “The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed” (9:9).
And He cries out to God to be the same today as He was yesterday: “Be gracious to me” (9:13).
A visual of David’s gratitude alongside God’s glorious person and work might help us see how David found joy, not in denying his troubles, but on shifting His focus to God during them.
|“God’s Wonderful Deeds” (v. 1)||“Give thanks to the Lord” (v. 1)|
|Turned back my enemies (3)||Give thanks with my whole heart (1)|
|Defended me (4)||Recount your wonderful deeds (1)|
|Executed righteous judgment (4)||Exult and be glad in you (2)|
|Defeated my and your enemies (5-6)||Sing praise to your name (2)|
|The Lord sits enthroned (7)|
|Established justice (8)|
|Judges righteously (8)|
|Is a stronghold (9)|
|Trustworthy (10)||Trust in you (10)|
|Does not forsake us (10)||Seek you (10)|
|An avenger (12)||Sing praises to the Lord (11)|
|Compassionate; doesn’t forget our cries (12)||Tell his deeds (11)|
|Praiseworthy (14)||Recount your praises (14)|
|Saves (14)||Rejoice in your salvation (14)|
Leaning into Joy
David’s psalm teaches us thanksgiving isn’t solely about recounting those deeds but reorienting our heart and the life around God in worship. Recounting deeds in gratitude leads to exulting in God, being glad in God, singing praise to God, trusting Him, seeking after Him, telling others about Him, and rejoicing in Him.
Joy doesn’t usually strike us out of the blue. David fights for gladness by recounting all he has in his gracious and good God.
The tone of the Psalm focuses on God’s care, protection, and defense of His people who are oppressed, weak, and in trouble. It’s a reminder we can give thanks in all seasons and circumstances. The Psalmist isn’t writing while sitting in his castle, basking in the sunshine, sipping on coffee, feeling on top of the world. He’s writing in heaviness, feeling the weight of attacks against him. He’s crying out for mercy, deliverance, justice, and help in oppression. And yet, in all this he gives thanks to God for who He is. what He’s done, and what David trusts He will do again.
Wherever this Psalm finds you today, you can turn to God—just like David did—with both your pleas for protection and praises of thanksgiving.
Recount God’s deeds and praises (9:1, 14). Recall who God is: a defender (9:2–4), a warrior on our behalf (9:5–6, 15–20), a king (9:7–8), and a stronghold, refuge, or safe-haven (9:9–10), and a gracious deliverer (9:13). Drown out restless thoughts by replaying the memories of His grace and faithfulness. Rest in Him. Rejoice in Him and let gratitude lead you to gladness.