Set free. Girl lifting scarf overhead in abandon while standing in a field.

Psalm 118 – Giving Thanks to God

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118:1 (NIV)

Psalm 118 is a wonderful psalm which reminds us to give thanks to God. We shouldn’t need to be told to thank God, but just like little children need to be prompted to thank us, we often need to be reminded to thank God.

Fortunately, Psalm 118 not only reminds us of what to do—give thanks—, but it also provides the rest of the 5 W’s of giving thanks—who, when, where, why, and how. Let’s begin with why.

Why Give Thanks to God?

Psalm 118:1 is clear. We thank God because He is good. God’s goodness is so great, so overwhelming, that our connotation of the word ‘good’ doesn’t come close to doing God’s goodness justice.

Give Thanks Because God Is Good

The Bible tells us that only God is good. When Jesus was addressed as “Good Teacher,” He said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)

That’s because God is goodness.It isn’t just a character quality; it is His essence. His goodness is pure. His goodness flows out of His perfect, unconditional love. God isn’t good to us because we are good to Him. He has no ulterior motive or expectation of payback. He is good because He is.

We don’t have to earn God’s goodness. He is good all the time. He doesn’t take breaks from being good. He doesn’t stop being good when we fail. He blesses us and is good to us because we are His. We thank Him because His goodness is pure and constant, and not related to our actions or behaviors.

Give Thanks Because His Love Endures Forever

We thank God for His goodness because it is a part of His overwhelming love for us. God loves us—unconditionally, without reservation, forever and ever. From the beginning to the end. We cannot get away from God’s love.

Even when we are unlovable. Even when we sin. Even when we don’t love Him, God loves us. God’s mercy and love are forever. They never stop. They never run out.

We give thanks to God because of who He is. His goodness and love are inherent in His names: Savior, Redeemer, Healer, Provider, Shepherd, Warrior, King. Each Name of God demonstrates something he does for us. He’s saved us and redeemed us; He provides for us, guides us, protects us, and fights our battles. His presence envelops us in the kind of goodness and love that casts out fear and brings perfect peace.

Who Is to Give Thanks?

The people–Israel, God’s chosen people, and the House of Aaron, the priests of God–are to give thanks.

Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.” Let those who fear the Lord say, “His love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:2-4)

The People of God

The Israelites were God’s chosen people. Their very identity was wrapped up in God. He was the God of the nation, and other nations recognized and identified Israel as God’s chosen. The priests led the people in worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God.

We are also God’s chosen people. We give thanks to God because we are His. We are chosen. We are special in His eyes. We thank Him because He chooses us.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

We thank Him because He brought us from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom, from condemnation to pardon, from disfavor to favor.

Those Who Fear the Lord

Those who fear the Lord thank Him. The word fear in the Bible often connotes reverence and awe. Anyone can fear God and be a part of His chosen people. He longs for each one of us to draw close to Him. If we accept Christ’s sacrifice, we are forgiven. That makes us chosen.

Those who fear and revere Him are His people. And His people are blessed by Him. He blesses with peace, protection, guidance, and abundant life. When we realize all the ways He provides, it is hard not to be in awe.

We thank Him for Who He is. We thank Him because knowing Him provides everything we need for living a full and productive life.

The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life. Proverbs 14:27

When Do We Give Thanks?

Now is the time to give thanks to God. In this moment. In every moment.

Now

There is no time like the present. Give thanks all the time in all circumstances. Give thanks because He is God, and He is good.

Thanks is not dependent on circumstances or the blessings He bestows. Thanks is given because He is good, and He is God. He is good all the time; and our circumstances, from His viewpoint, work toward and for our benefit—even when the evil one attacks. God works all things for good and He is good.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 KJV)

There is always something for which we can be thankful.“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (I Thessalonians 5:18)

In Times of Distress or Trouble

When we are in trouble, we give thanks because it is God who will see us through. The Psalmist says, “When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord.”

Giving thanks to God when we are in trouble reminds us that He is always available. He is always with us. When God is with us, we don’t need to be afraid. Regardless of what is happening, He is not taken by surprise. He knows the beginning from the end. He knows what’s going on in our lives, and He already has a plan. We just need cooperate with His plan.

God is our Helper. He is always triumphant. In Him, we have victory. There is no better place to find help and shelter than in God. We are thankful for help.

In Times of Discipline and Correction

We also give thanks when God corrects us. Psalm 118:18 says, “The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.”

The Bible says God disciplines the ones he loves. So, in times of correction, we can be thankful for His love for us.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves,  as a father the son he delights in. (Proverbs 3:11-12 NIV)

God has redeemed us; and when we allow Him to discipline our lives, we grow and mature, and walk in the righteousness of Christ. We thank Him when we have sinned and been forgiven. Because He is good. He disciplines us out of love as a caring Father.

We thank Him for Jesus, the Way to salvation, on Whom are sins have been laid, which offers us the option of forgiveness. (Psalm 118:22) We thank Him for the work God has done “this very day.” There is always something for which we should thank the Lord.

Where Should We Give Thanks?

We give thanks wherever we are no matter what is going on. Paul said we are to be content in any circumstances. (Philippians 4:11) Where we give thanks can be a physical place. Obviously, we can talk to God from anywhere on earth. But a place may also be a state of mind.

From A Place of Freedom

We give thanks from a place of security and freedom in God. Freedom in the spaciousness He provides. The King James Version of Psalm 118:5 says, “I called upon the Lord in my distress: The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.” In other versions “a large place” is interpreted as a “spacious place,” “wide open spaces,” and even as He “set me free.”

We are set free in large spaces because we cannot be penned in by the enemy when we are hemmed in by God. We thank Him from a place of safety.

In a Place of Worship

From the house of the Lord, we bless you. (Psalm 118:26) 

We bless the Lord when we thank Him. And gathering to worship Him is also a time for giving thanks. When we gather, we encourage one another. When you don’t feel thankful, you heart may be lifted by someone else’s thanks to the Lord.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

In a Place of Celebration or an Occasion

With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession. (Psalm 118:27)

What better place to give thanks to God than celebrations? Think of holidays, weddings, baby dedications, and graduations. Times when we are gathered with family and friends often lead to counting our blessings. And when we count our blessings, we can’t help but give thanks.

Jesus gave thanks when he gathered a large crowd and fed them from a few loaves and fishes. He gave thanks at Passover meals. He even gave thanks at a “funeral,” raising Lazarus from the dead. Though it isn’t clearly stated, I can’t help but think that He gave thanks at the wedding in Canaan when He turned water into wine.

The Message puts it like this: “God is good, he has bathed us in light. Festoon the shrine with garlands, hang colored banners above the alter!”

The decorations and garlands clearly indicate a great celebration, a celebration of the goodness of God.

How Do We Give Thanks?

How we give thanks is key to our overall thankfulness. It is clear from the text that verbal thanks is encouraged. Have you ever said to a child, “Use your words?” God wants us to use our words.

Give Thanks Out Loud

We need to give thanks and praise to God out loud. The Psalmist uses various words that indicate speaking. Israel is encouraged to say that God’s mercy and love endure forever. Some versions include the word “now.” Israel is to say God is merciful and loving now.

  • Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.” (v. 2)
  • Let the house of Aaron say. (v. 3) Say it so that you know it and can hear it yourself. Saying it increases your faith and sends a message to the devil. The devil can’t read your mind, so you need to use your words to praise and thank God and scare the evil one away.
  • Let those who fear the Lord say. (v. 4) Say it again and again. Tell of God’s goodness. Pass on stories to younger generations. Let your story be an example and a witness.
  • I cried to the Lord. (v. 5) Cry out for help when trouble comes or the enemy attacks. Use the name of the Lord to fight your battles. He fights for you and with you.
  • Shouts of joy and victory resound. (v. 15) Shout when you are rescued, and God has provided victory.
  • Proclaim what the Lord has done. (v. 17) Proclaim that God is good, even if we are in distress (v. 5), we. Proclaim means to praise or extol publicly. Why? So that we can hear it. So that others can hear it. So that we can bring down to earth God’s goodness and the things He has stored up for us in heaven—now. Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Proclaim the promises that come with victory.
  • I will praise you (v.28) Praise and exalt Him. Praise includes worship, song, and rejoicing. Praise and thanksgiving are interwoven. There is something special about speaking thanks to God in your voice. It is getting it outside of yourself and into the universe. God’s Word says in Luke 19:37-40 that if we don’t praise Him the very rocks will cry out.
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” He replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

He is Good

No matter who we are, where we are, or what our circumstances are, we can thank God all the time no matter where we are. Why? Because He is good, and His love endures forever.

The Message closes this Psalm well:

You’re my God, and I thank you.O my God, I lift high your praise. Thank God—He’s so good. His love never quits!
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