“What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,
I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.
O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving-maid. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD!”
How can we put genuine “giving” into Thanksgiving?” What is a good way for giving thanks to God for His incalculable blessings?
In thinking about this I am reminded of a story told by Old Testament theologian Ron Allen in his book, I Will Praise Him: A Guide to Worship in the Psalms. Allen tells of a friend who served as a medical missionary in India where blindness was endemic to the area. A particular disease blinded thousands of people until the doctor developed a procedure for eliminating that disease. Patients joyfully left his clinic knowing they would not be struck blind. But, the cured patients would not tell the doctor “Thank you!” for helping them! That was because the words “Thank you!” were not in their vocabulary. Rather, they would express thanks by saying “I will tell of your name.” They thought the very best way to say “Thank you!” was to tell others what the doctor had done.
It is significant that the ancient Hebrews, like the people living in that part of India, did not have the words for saying “Thank you!” Rather, they would say, “I will tell of your name.” That is why the psalmist in today’s scripture, and many other psalmists, vows to tell others of God’s name. So the psalmist ponders how to thank God for His many blessings, “What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?” Quick comes the psalmist’s answer: “I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people…” As he gives his thanksgiving sacrifice He calls on the Lord’s name telling all the people what God has done for him.
With these words the psalmist takes us into the Biblical understanding for giving thanks. Hebrew believers never thought of just giving thanks to God in private. They thought real giving thanks had to go public. They were compelled to tell others about God’s goodness and blessing. A “thanksgiving sacrifice” denotes a sacrifice offered at the sanctuary for everyone to see, eat, and enter into the celebration. Others must be told about God and share the joy of what He has done. They will tell of His name!
Today, different places in America vie for the honor of the first thanksgiving celebration in America. Whether it was St. Augustine in 1665, Jamestown in 1610, or Plymouth Plantation in 1621, people followed the Biblical precedent of feasting and telling others what God had done.
In the midst of eating Thanksgiving turkey, sage stuffing, sweet potato pie, and more helpings of turkey, I will to tell others what God has done for me. In the presence of the people, I will praise His name. That, for me, will be putting real “giving” into Thanksgiving this year!
Grace and peace,
P. S. Our Advent devotional for 2018, We Have Seen His Glory! is now available on Kindle! Hard copies are still available through this link: