Happy November! November provides an opportunity on the calendar to stop and remember the many things for which we are thankful. Possibly you have already started sharing an item each day on social media to reflect at least part of your gratitude. As you contemplate your list, look forward to Thanksgiving, and enjoy November, let me suggest a few key ideas to help you get started.
It is always appropriate to praise the Lord.
Since before the days of David the king of Israel, Israel used psalms specifically geared toward declaring praise to God. Consider Psalm 106 as a good example. The psalm begins with the invitation, “Praise the Lord!” Here, we are invited – actually commanded – to join in praise to God. The psalm concludes in a similar way, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, ‘Amen!’ Praise the Lord!” (106:48). The idea here is an acknowledged gratitude to God by His people.
Why do we praise the Lord?
This psalm focuses our attention toward two key attributes for which to be grateful. “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (v. 1). We praise God for His character and His work. His character – for He is good! His work – His mercy endures forever. God in His essence is good and praiseworthy. He demonstrates it in His never-ending covenant faithfulness to His people. Since He is faithful to His promises and always responds to people from that position, most translations refer to God as full of mercy or lovingkindness. This reflects that God never changes and always does what is good. Further, what is good is also best for His people – which, my friend, is worthy of praise.
You can’t out-praise God. The psalm continues, “Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Who can declare all His praise?” (v. 2). When we have been grateful for what we know, there is always more we don’t know. When we consider those things in our lives where we can see how God has blessed, there is always those things in our lives where we are yet unaware of God’s blessings. It is impossible to exhaust all the reasons to be grateful! God is the mighty warrior who works His might for our benefit. Along the journey of life, we have so much for which to be grateful.
We praise God because He is faithful to us even though we are often not faithful to Him.
This psalm tells the story of Israel from Egypt to the Babylonian captivity. Israel’s story is very similar to our own. There are highs and lows, ups and downs, good days and bad days. The psalmist writes not to condemn Israel – which it could! – but to praise the Lord for His longsuffering and mercy toward His people. In order to see clearly why God deserves praise, the writer had to paint a realistic picture of Israel’s repeated disobedience. It is against this dark background that we see the brilliance of God’s goodness and faithfulness to His people.
We are similar to the Israelites.
The writer proclaims, “We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly” (v. 6). He is acknowledging that the Israelites in Egypt and the desert are not different than the ones singing this psalm. The same goes for us too. We are no different. We, too, struggle living consistently. There are moments where God is honored and then possibly many moments when He is not.
The psalm points out the inconsistency. God performed incredible miracles in Egypt as the people were given their freedom from Pharaoh. As they begin their journey back to their homeland, they realized they are trapped between the Red Sea (Reed Sea) and the pursuing Egyptians. They immediately forget God’s incredible miracles and begin to complain to Him! “Why have you brought us out here to die? Were there not enough graves in Egypt so you brought us out here to die?” They had no idea that God was going to do another miracle to provide them a way of escape across the sea (vv. 7-11).
In spite of their inconsistencies and unfaithfulness, the psalmist emphasizes why God is worthy of praise. “Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power known” (v. 8). The Divine Warrior worked on behalf of His people because He is covenant faithful. Their response: “Then they believed His words; they sang His praise” (v. 12).
So how long did their faith and positive attitude last? Sadly, not very long. The next verse: “They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for his counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert” (vv. 13-14). In other words, they had a short memory. Instead of rejoicing in what God had done, instead of showing gratitude for God’s miraculous intervention in their lives, instead of demonstrating a heart of gratitude, they wanted more.
We and they are so similar. We want, want, and want just as they. It is easy to allow our wants to overshadow our gratitude. Our story can be similar. We soon forget. We do not live with God’s perspective; rather, we just desire our own way. However, God is always faithful.
How does this psalm help you this November?
There are a variety of benefits for us as we consider this psalm.
Remember God. If you write the top 30 things for which you are thankful this November, would you have placed the goodness and covenant faithfulness of God at the top? It is so easy to look around us and see the things we want or desire and allow those things or people to dominate our list. Instead, we need to see the bigger picture and begin our praise and thanksgiving with God Himself.
Remember God’s Character and Works. Especially if things are not going as you desire for them to go, it is easy to forget God’s grace, mercy, and goodness. Think about the Israelites. They witnessed incredible miracles only to forget in mere days. Instead, recognize God is good and His mercy endures forever. As the psalm says, we could never out-praise God!
Remember God’s Patience. As we begin to pile up all the items for which we are thankful, let’s not forget that God is patient with us even in the midst of our struggles. We forget; He doesn’t. We minimize our covenant; He doesn’t. We replace Him with other things; He doesn’t replace us with other things. When we replace God functionally in our lives for the little gods of our wants and desires, God faithfully demonstrates faithfulness to us, drawing us back to Him even in the midst of our unfaithfulness.
Celebrate November as a Month of Gratitude
Starting with God – His character and His work – celebrate November as a month of gratitude. Look for those things for which you are thankful. Begin with God. Consider Christ, the cross, and the gospel. Reflect on your family, church family, neighbors, and coworkers. Ponder your situation, circumstances, opportunities, challenges, and routine. Rejoice in Christ as you develop a lengthy list for which you are grateful. Then, don’t forget to share your list with others! We want to celebrate with you.