The Heart of Thanksgiving | Psalm 100

Tom Pennington |

November 24, 2022


On this Thanksgiving holiday, as you gather with family and friends, I encourage you to make today about more than family, food, and football. Of course, enjoy those things, they are good in their own right—everything good comes from God. But don’t let your Thanksgiving just be about those things. Make a thanksgiving sacrifice, a thank offering to God, today. Psalm 100 provides five practical ways for Christians to make a thank offering to God.

First, eat your Thanksgiving meal with the same attitude as Old Testament worshipers, as if you were truly having a meal with God. If you had lived during the period of the Old Testament, you would have offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving­—a thank offering. You would have chosen, depending on your wealth, an ox, lamb, or goat. You would have taken that animal to the temple and placed your hands on its head—transferring your guilt to it. And then you would have taken a knife and slit its throat. Afterwards, the fatty portions of that animal, its entrails, would have been burned on the altar.

But this offering was unique. It was the only one in which the worshiper ate some of the sacrificed animal. In other words, you would have cooked the rest of the animal, and eaten it that day as a fellowship meal with the priest. Ultimately, the meal wasn’t about you and the priest eating together. The real significance was that you were enjoying a meal with God as you celebrated His goodness to you. If you understand Thanksgiving in that context, you begin to look at this holiday in a different light.

There have been times in the past where my family and I have set an extra place at the table to remind ourselves that God is having a meal with us. It serves as an important message and reminder as we celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s as if we’re eating with God. And we should be grateful to Him for His generosity to us.

Second, as you have conversations throughout the day, rehearse with one another what you’re thankful for. Psalm 100:4 says, “Give thanks to Him.” The basic meaning of the Hebrew word translated “thanks” is to confess. In fact, the Old Testament only uses this word to thank God, never to thank other humans. It is always used for confessing something about God or something that He’s done. Thanking God for who He is or what He has done captures the heart of Thanksgiving.

When you are sitting around the table today, take turns sharing what you are grateful for. This can be anything from the trivial and everyday temporal blessings of this life, to the things that are true about God, Christ, and the gospel.

Third, set aside time to sing together. We ought to sing to and about God. Come before Him with joyful singing from your heart. Our God loves to hear His people sing.

Fourth, take time to pray and give thanks directly to God. Don’t just tell your family and friends that you are thankful—thank God personally!

Fifth, make God the focus of your Thanksgiving. Recognize what He has done in your life—the fact that in His sovereign grace He bought you out of the slave market of sin and adopted you into His family as a son or daughter. And you weren’t bought with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:18–19).

Psalm 69:30­–31 says, “I will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving. And it will please the LORD better than an ox or a young bull with horns and hoofs.” A truly grateful heart toward God will please Him more than if you offered Him an animal sacrifice. In addition to pleasing God, our thanksgiving magnifies God—it points out His greatness.

As Christians, the primary focus of our Thanksgiving ought to be exactly what the psalmist says, “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Ps. 100:3). What a stunning reality! God has made us His own. That’s why the writer of Hebrews says, “Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).

May the Lord help us make a thank offering that pleases Him.