Giving Thanks to God

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” —I Thessalonians 5:18

THE LAST THURSDAY of November is set aside as a day for national thanksgiving in the United States. Appropriately the people of God give thanks on this day, accepting it as another opportunity to pour out their devotions of praise to him in whom we live, and move, and have our being. Yes, this is to us another welcome opportunity for thanksgiving; for if we are living up to our privileges, our very beings will, daily and hourly, be showing forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Naturally, we are all thankful for whatever measure of temporal blessings we enjoy at the Lord’s hands. However, as followers of Jesus Christ, our chief cause for thanksgiving is the fact that the eyes of our understanding have been opened to behold the beauties of the truth—present truth—the truth which we so often describe as the divine plan of the ages. We are thankful for this understanding because it has assured us of God’s love for the entire world of mankind, and of his special love for those whom he has made “partakers of the heavenly calling.”—Heb. 3:1

Through the truth we have been drawn to him in the spirit of repentance. We have heard his invitation to “count the cost” of laying down our lives in his service. (Luke 14:28) Through the assurance of his grace to help in every time of need, we have accepted the terms of the ‘high calling’, knowing that through Christ our imperfect sacrifice will be acceptable to our loving Heavenly Father. (Rom. 12:1) And now, by the “exceeding great and precious promises” of our God we are being made “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”—II Pet. 1:4

“Sacrifice of Praise”

In Hebrews 13:15 the Apostle Paul reminds us of the sacrifices offered on Israel’s typical Day of Atonement. At that time a bullock and a goat were sacrificed, both being treated in the same way. It is clear that the bullock was a type of Jesus in his work of sacrifice, and that the sacrifice of the goat foreshadowed the privilege enjoyed by the followers of Jesus—those who walk in his footsteps of sacrifice.

On that typical Day of Atonement, the bodies of the bullock and the goat were “burned without the camp,” and Paul invites us to go “unto him [Jesus] without the camp, bearing his reproach.” (vs. 13) We cannot expect that the world will appreciate our service and sacrifice any more than they appreciated the life and ministry of Jesus. (I John 3:1) However, we can be thankful for the privilege of being as our Master and Lord, “despised and rejected of men.”—Isa. 53:3

On Israel’s typical Day of Atonement, coals of fire were taken from the brazen altar in the Court and placed upon the golden altar in the Holy of the Tabernacle. Incense was sprinkled upon these burning coals, and the sweet perfume of the burning incense filled the room and penetrated beyond the veil into the Most Holy. This was the evidence of the work of sacrifice having been properly carried out.

In Hebrews 13:15, Paul, in an evident reference to the typical burning of incense on Israel’s Day of Atonement, speaks of the “sacrifice of praise.” The verse reads, “By him [Jesus] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” How blessed is the assurance that through Jesus we can offer acceptable sacrifice to God, the sacrifice of praise which Paul describes as the “fruit of our lips.”

To this Paul adds, “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (vs. 16) The understanding of the typical significance of the various details of Israel’s Day of Atonement is of value to us only if we imbibe the spirit of this understanding to the extent that it motivates us to lay down our lives in thanksgiving to God. God is not so interested in how well we can explain the typical meaning of the sacrifice of the Lord’s goat on Israel’s Atonement Day as he is in noting how faithfully we are devoting ourselves to the doing of his will, how willing we are to go “without the camp,” and if we are actually offering the sacrifice of praise to him “continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”


Yes, we are to give thanks to God ‘continually’, not merely on one special day of the year. And although our thanksgiving is described by Paul as being the “fruit of our lips,” it is much more than mere “lip service.” The lips are used in this instance as a symbol of speech, of communication, the thought being that we show forth the praises of our God by communicating the truth of the divine plan. True, it is a wonderful privilege to pour out our love and thanksgiving directly to our Heavenly Father in prayer, but if our love for him is genuine it will move us also to give our all in making known to others the glorious Gospel of love, that precious truth through which our Heavenly Father has revealed himself to us.

And this we will do ‘continually’. In I Corinthians 15:58 Paul speaks of this as “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” To maintain a consuming zeal in our service of the Lord is one of the severe tests of true discipleship. The tendency of the fallen flesh is to serve by “fits and starts.” A new opportunity of service may present itself, and we become temporarily filled with enthusiasm. Then, perhaps, we “cool off.” The Bible speaks of it as becoming “weary in well-doing.” (Gal. 6:9; II Thess. 3:13) Then something else comes along to inspire our enthusiasm and we make another “fitful start.”

But this is not offering the sacrifice of praise ‘continually’, which is the sort of sacrifice with which the Lord is “well pleased.” Let us make sure that we do not lose our ‘first love’ enthusiasm for the truth and for its service. There is no valid reason why we should. Certainly the Lord is the same “yesterday, and today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8) His promises remain unchanged. Having begun the good work in us, he is abundantly able to finish it if we but yield ourselves wholly to the influence of his Spirit, and make diligent use of all the opportunities of showing forth his praises which his providences place before us.—Phil. 1:6

A Testing Time

To wait patiently and actively for the further outworking of the divine plan is one of the tests upon the Lord’s people today. Seventy-eight years have elapsed since the official ending of “the Times of the Gentiles.” Nearly every year since then has been one of expectancy, hoping that the time had come for the reward of the church and the establishment of the kingdom. And still the years go by, and we are now nearing the close of 1992.

Here and there the question is being asked, “Where do we stand on the stream of time?” Others inquire, “What is the meaning of this long delay?” It is natural that such questions should be asked, and, to a point, probably the Lord is pleased when we try to find the answers, although we think it quite unlikely that soul-satisfying answers to these and kindred questions will be found until we reach the other side of the veil. Nor is it important that we find the answers here and now. After all, we have entered into a covenant with the Lord which is unto death. It is hardly consistent to pledge to the Lord that we will serve him as long as we have breath, and then seek an answer to the question, “How long, O Lord, how long?”

To seek an understanding of the time features of the divine plan as they relate to the immediate present and the near future does not necessarily imply that one has become weary in well-doing and is wondering how much longer he will be expected to serve. However, the human heart is most deceitful, and if we find ourselves becoming overly concerned in regard to the time elements of the divine plan, it would be well to ask ourselves just why we have this great interest in matters which the Lord evidently has not seen wise to reveal. We should also realize that the ‘time’ for any single one of us will terminate with the end of our natural span of life, unless otherwise directed by the Lord. So, for the few remaining days, or months, or years, let us continue to abound in the work of the Lord.

We would not discourage the study of prophecy, but let us not permit our concern for tomorrow to interfere with the privileges of today. Opportunities for making known the glad tidings of the kingdom are open before us on all sides. There is the radio and television work, and direct-mail and obituary work in which we can all cooperate. Ecclesias can hold public meetings. There is follow-up work to be done, and booklets and tracts to be distributed. In these and in various other ways we can continue to serve, offering the sacrifice of praise continually.

Doubtless each one of the Lord’s people can look back over the year and recall circumstances for which to be speedily thankful. The providences of the Lord in the lives of his people are always refreshing and wonderful. This is true also with respect to the general work in which the Lord’s people participate.

Let us, then, thank God, individually and unitedly for all his loving-kindness and tender mercy—for all the way he has led us. Let us do this with the full assurance that he will continue to lead us in the paths of righteousness “for his name’s sake,” and that, finally, if we are faithful, we will dwell in his house forever.—Ps. 23

Dawn Bible Students Association
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