Today I am looking forward with joyful anticipation toward Thanksgiving Day, but am reminded that we ought to be thankful ‘every’ day. This year, I have so many things to be thankful for, but needn’t list them here. I am led instead to write in terms that apply to all believers and our need to be thankful. Specifically, let’s think of how we ought to thank our Heavenly Father for His provision this Thanksgiving and indeed everyday.
In 1Thess. 5:18 we read, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” The message of this verse is clear. It is God’s will for us to be thankful. His is not only pleased by our gratitude, but indeed requires it.
What better message can we focus upon for Thanksgiving Day? There can be no better heart felt meditation for believers than to realize that Thanksgiving Day is a time to be thankful for so much more than a hearty meal! A traditional feast, with all the trimmings is consumed and soon forgotten, but God’s provision for our lives on earth and in the afterlife abides for all eternity.
For the remainder of this devotion, let’s now turn our attention to a well known psalm wherein the psalmist conveys his appreciation of God’s provision for this earthly life as well as the hereafter. Psalm 23 is arguably the most memorized of all Psalms, but how many of us actually look at it as David did? How often do we recite it in our hearts and meditate upon how these verses apply to our own personal lives?
Verse 1 – The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
David opens here with a most reverent declaration regarding God’s unequaled status as his Shepherd. Growing up as a shepherd boy himself, David understood the duties of shepherding and had deep personal insight into the relationship between the shepherd and his flock. The flock is deeply dependent upon the shepherd and, while earthly shepherds may fail in their duties, David openly proclaims that he ‘shall not want’ because, Jehovah God is his infallible Shepherd!
His statement was not only an expression of his adoration of God as his Shepherd, but also a statement regarding his faith in God. David believed in God’s ability and willingness to provide for him. Likewise, we are all expected to thank God in this way.
Let’s stop and think for a moment of how appreciated we feel when someone believes in us and is assured of our dependability and faithfulness. Likewise, we thank God when we believe in His provision for our lives.
We are to let go of petty fears and ‘know’ that He will take care of us. We are not to worry about what we will eat, drink or wear. (Matt. 6:31) We are to thank God with our faith in Him. We are to believe that he is our Good Shepherd who will not let us want.
Verse 2 – He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
Who else, but a thankful believer, can express such appreciation for a mere field of grass? David saw the green pastures as a glorious gift from God. He was pleased to make them his resting place away from home instead of simply passing through them. Are we truly thankful to God for what we have or do we childishly clamor for more and more? No matter how impoverished we ‘think’ we are, there is always someone else in the world who would gladly trade places with us.
As a shepherd boy, who had little, David was appreciative of and thankful for God’s provision. Having more did not make him more appreciative, did it? Later in life David was a King and committed great sin because, he temporarily forgot how to be thankful and focused on the carnal. He was given much, but fell into the trap of being unthankful for a time.
See, to an unprincipled, unappreciative person, no provision instills a sense of thankfulness within them. This is because, they take pleasure in carnal delights alone and have no regard for a relationship with the Shepherd. Conversely, those who have a heart of thanksgiving toward God are pleased with little and view all of God’s provision as a lush pasture.
Another way we show our thankfulness is to trust God, not only as a provider of earthly things, but also as our Holy Guide. He leads all who trust in Him by the still waters. Just as the crystal pools of the wilderness, slaked the thirst of David’s sheep, God gives us living waters in the dry places. The living waters of the Holy Sprit sustains His flock in the desert.
Verse 3 – He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
As member of the Shepherd’s flock, we ought to be thankful for His restorative guidance. He restores our souls by redirecting us down righteous paths. Only an ardent and attentive shepherd can keep his flock safe from all wandering. Without Christ Jesus as our guide, we would all be lost. Sheep tend to lose their way and become prey for predatory beasts. Likewise, we can also lose our way and become prey for the enemy of our souls as David once did.
There is an abundance of peace to be found when we practice righteousness and are thankful to the Shepherd by hearing his voice with gladness. We go down a rocky path and we stumble and fall when we are not thankful and do not heed the Shepherd’s call.
Verse 4 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Our salvation from eternal death is that thing for which we ought to be most thankful. The notion of facing death without a Savior is a dark and terrible thing. However, death is but a shadow to the believer. The enemy may attempt to trouble us with threats of death, but death has lost it’s sting because, it longer has a hold on us. In 1 Corinthians 15:55 we read, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
Thankful are those who know the Shepherd’s voice and know He will one day call us from the grave. He is the Firstfruits of the Resurrection and the only One who can protect us from all fear of evil.
We read in 1 Corinthians 15:22-23, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Only the Lord Jesus is equipped with the rod correction and staff of Salvation which is used to protect our very souls.” With this rod and staff Jesus comforts those who would be comforted and are thankful.
Verse 5 – Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
All members of the Good Shepherd’s flock have free access to dine at the table of God’s salvation. Thankful believers are in no way sequestered from the fellowship of God’s flock. We are His flock; bought with a price and marked as belonging to the Good Shepherd. Satan and his minions, whether spiritual or earthly, cannot steal this from us.
In a world that grows increasingly hostile toward Christians, we must be perpetually thankful for God’s provision of protection and comfort. We are to be thankful also for the fellowship of believers and not forsake the assembly. (Hebrews 10:25) We are those anointed ones, who dine at the Master’s table and are called to feast eternally upon that which Christ’s blood alone could purchase for us.
Verse 6 – Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Here the psalmist closes with a final declaration that is no less bold or joyful than the rest. He is ‘sure’ that God’s goodness and mercy will be with him throughout his life. He is ‘sure’ that God has prepared a place for him in which he will dwell eternally.
Remember Christ’s own words to the disciples. In John 14:3 we read, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Thankful believers are those who will abide eternally with the Shepherd and be joint heirs is His glory.
In closing, I deliver an invitation to all of my fellow believers. I invite you, each and every one, to count our many mutual blessings as believers and be ‘thankful’. Be thankful for all that God has provided for us and our loved ones on Thanksgiving Day and ever day.
C. David Ragland, Jr.