Thanksgiving Day. A national holiday, which has been set aside for all men to give thanks.
The question is, of course, thanks to whom? If it is God, then the child of God alone can use this day properly. All others indulge only in thanks to each other or to some other god that does not exist. We know our society today is filled with this kind of thanksgiving. “Let’s give thanks today,” people say, but then they do not give thanks to the One who has created and upholds all things by His power. There is no acknowledgment of what God has done. This day that was once set aside to honor God has no more any value, except for the Christian who recognizes the hand of God in all things.
We do acknowledge God’s hand. He gives us richly all things to enjoy. At the beginning of this season of the year, we in faith came to God to request of Him that He provide all things necessary for body and soul. And now we acknowledge that He has. Now, in faith, we give Him wholehearted praise and thanksgiving for what He has given us.
This thanks begins with the things that God has given us in this life: our earthly life, and all that we receive. But our thanks goes far beyond this to what God has given us spiritually. What David writes in Psalm 63:3-5 holds true: “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips.”
We are going to consider this Word of God for a few moments today.
God’s lovingkindness is “better than life.” All the things of this life are nothing if we do not have God’s lovingkindness. All the earthly gifts God bestows on His creatures mean absolutely nothing if they are not accompanied by God’s lovingkindness. Our eyes can stand out with fatness. We can have more than our hearts could wish. We can prosper in this world’s riches. But if all of these earthly gifts are not attended by God’s grace and love, they will only serve to condemn. It is this underlying theme that flows through the psalm that we consider today.
David is not interested merely in his life and in what he received to sustain his earthly life. He is interested in the spiritual blessings of the soul. Ultimately then, though we give thanks for the gifts of the harvest, we praise God for His spiritual blessings upon us.
Obviously, David, in the verses we are studying, does have in mind our earthly life and its many enjoyments. This is clear when, in verse 3 of our text, he speaks of God’s lovingkindness as “better than life.” The implication here is that this earthly life is good. In this life God is good to us. He gives to us not only the necessities of life, but many luxuries and comforts as well.
What are the things that make up our earthly lives? Of course, on the foreground in this time of year is the fact that God has provided food in abundance again in this past season. He has seen to it that the earth has brought forth her increase and has fed us with plenty. Even if it has been a “bad year” as far as our own area’s harvest is concerned, nevertheless, God has given our nation much in the way of the fruit of the earth to supply our needs. There are none of us that have wanted from that point of view. We live in a land of plenty.
But there is more to this earthly life than food. There are the other necessities of life of which Jesus speaks in Matthew 6: clothing and shelter. In these, too, God has provided for us most abundantly. It may be true that we do not have as fancy a house or clothing as expensive as another to whom God has given more. But if we were to compare ourselves to many others, especially in third-world countries, even in these matters of shelter and clothing we have received an abundance of wealth from the hand of our God. God has provided for us work, employment, in order that we can support our families and church.
God’s people also rejoice in this season of the year in the church of which God has made them a part. God has blessed His church richly with sons and daughters of Zion. We see in them spiritual life and vitality. We watch them grow into mature young men and women who are willing to take their places in the church. Our friendships as believers have grown again in this year. We have enjoyed freedom of worship. We gather together and discuss God’s Word and grow in our fellowship with one another. All this is a part of our life. All these are enjoyments of life. All these belong to our lives in this present world.
And we must confess that in them all we are well supplied. God has fed us with fatness and marrow, to use the terminology of verse 5 of Psalm 63. The term “marrow,” here, refers not to the marrow of one’s bone as we think of it today. It refers, instead, to the most excellent part of the food that we eat. As such, this term in our text represents all the excellent things of this life. Our lives have been filled with the most excellent things of this present earth.
Who can deny this? Even the poorest among us cannot deny this. Our lives not only have been filled with marrow, but with fatness too. This term refers not simply to the fat that borders a fine piece of meat we might eat. It refers, instead, to the riches of life that we receive from God. Think, for example, of Psalm 73, where it is said concerning the wicked that their “eyes stand out with fatness.” That means that they have received from God more than the heart could wish.
And, once again, that has been true of you and me in this year gone by. So much so, that in this life we are well satisfied with all God has given us. We are satiated with the blessings of this present life. We are filled to overflowing with them. We certainly have no reason to complain, though at times we still do, do we not?
To be satisfied means to be content and happy. It means that we need, or desire, nothing more. We are fully satisfied, fulfilled, gratified, pleased with what God has given us in this life. We could not ask for more of the earthly enjoyments God has given us. Instead, we gather in God’s house on the day of Thanksgiving to give thanks to God for all He has given us to sustain our earthly lives.
But there is something more than just this life here in this world. There has to be. And in this day we recognize that truth too. Life does not simply consist in the physical, but in the spiritual as well. There are not only needs of the body that we need fulfilled, but needs of the soul. And, from that point of view, we recognize that sin has entered into this world. All men have fallen and come short of the glory of God. The earth has been cursed for man’s sake. We know that is true because the earth does not yield its fruits unless we labor hard and long by the sweat of our face. Even then the earth does not always produce the way we want it to. So we know that sin has cursed the earth.
But we also recognize the truth that sinful man uses this good creation in the service of his own name, to fulfill his own desires. He uses this good creation in the service of sin rather than in the service of God. Such sin has made our lives in this present world miserable. It is not an easy life we live here. We may receive more than plenty in the way of earthly possessions, friends, honor, and health, and so on. But these things are not enough to make us happy in this world. They are not enough. Life is more than these things. Especially is that true of us as God’s people. All these things are worthless to us if we cannot have happiness in our hearts and souls. This is why we read in verse 3: “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.”
God’s lovingkindness is better than life. We can have all the enjoyments of this world: health, riches, honor, and friends, but none of these mean a thing if we do not have God’s friendship. God’s lovingkindness, after all, is ultimately that which will satisfy us as with marrow and fatness. The term here in verse 3, lovingkindness, is a beautiful one. Actually, it is a term that summarizes all of God’s ethical attributes into one. This Hebrew term embraces God’s love, and His grace, as well as His mercy. In all of these ways, God reveals to His children His lovingkindness. And it is in this way that we are made happy, too.
Consider once these virtues of God. In His love, God longs after us and desires our fellowship. In His grace, God desires to make us beautiful as He is beautiful, and to do this by taking away our sin in the blood of Jesus Christ. In His mercy God pities us in our distress and pain and reaches forth His mighty arm to remove us from such misery. All these gifts of God toward God’s people are worth far, far more than all the wealth and honor of this world combined. When believers experience God’s love, grace, and mercy in their lives, then they can suffer the loss of everything in this life and still be content.
All these God has shown to you and me, His children, in our lives. He has poured out, at the cross of Jesus Christ, all His love, mercy, and grace upon every one of His chosen people, no matter where and no matter under what circumstance they may live. In His great love toward us, God sent forth His only begotten Son into this world to die for us in order to take away our sin. Though we did not in the least sense deserve a thing from God, He, in His grace, has shown us His favor and powerfully delivered us from the bondage of sin and death. In His great mercy God has pitied us in our sin and reached forth His almighty arm to take us from the miry clay of sin and place us upon the rock who is Jesus Christ.
We have received marrow and fatness to our souls, people of God. We are abundantly rich with all the lovingkindness God has shown to us in Christ. It is all there. It is all in the cross of our Savior. That is where God has shown us His love, grace, and mercy. Christ has accomplished for us deliverance from sin.
Now, though we struggle with the sin-cursed earth, we do so in the satisfaction that God as our Father will provide for our needs. Now we take what God has given us in the way of this world’s possessions, and use them in the service of His name. We are filled with the best: the marrow of all of God’s gifts. We have become rich. Now we say with the psalmist in verse 5: “My mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips.”
Not only does this verse express the praise that is ours as God’s children, but look at the last part of verse 3: “My lips shall praise thee.” And verse 4: “Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.” What we learn in all of this is that when a person is fully satisfied, he would be an ungrateful wretch if he did not give praise and thanks to the One who gives. And since it is God that has filled us with fatness and marrow, both physically and spiritually, He it is that is deserving of our praise. That is why we express our thanksgiving in this time of the year. We are God’s children. He is our Father, who has provided us with every good thing.
As we look back across this past summer once again, as we consider the plenty the Lord has given us as families, as we look upon the spiritual benefits God has given us—not only the blessings of salvation He has freely given us, but the means of grace we receive in the church and worship, the peace God has given in our hearts, the fellowship of the saints God has given us again this past year—we cannot help but give praise to God.
And that is what Thanksgiving is—the giving of thanks. That is why we asked the question earlier: To whom do we give thanks? Do we give thanks to our friends for being friends, to our bosses for paying us enough, to this country of plenty? Surely we must always thank others who have done us well. But our thanks today is reserved for God alone. We give Him thanks. And we do that by means of praise. “My lips shall praise thee.” “Thus will I bless thee while I live.” “My mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips.” We give thanks by means of praising God. To praise is to give honor or pay tribute to. It is to celebrate in, to applaud, admire, exalt another for what he has done. This is exactly what we do in this season of the year. We bow before the God of heaven and earth. For filling us with fatness and marrow we celebrate Him. And our boast is in Him alone.
It is striking that there are three different words used by David to express his praise of God. The first one, in verse 3, is translated “praise.” But, literally, it means “to boast, to glory.” And that is definitely a part of our praise today. We boast, we glory in God—not in ourselves, not in our wisdom, not in our might, not in our riches. Our boast is in none other than God Himself—the God of our salvation—and in His lovingkindness towards us.
The second term, in verse 4, is translated “bless,” and literally means “to kneel down,” referring, of course, to worship. We worship this God who has shown to us His lovingkindness in all things.
The third term, in verse 5, is also translated “praise,” but means, literally, “to make clear or bright.” The idea is that when we give thanks to God, we place His name in the spotlight. We glorify, we hold in high esteem the name of our God. Our focus and our attention are drawn to Him alone. How? We remember our God in this time of the year. We meet in God’s house to give praise to His glorious Name. But we do this in all of our lives, too. We, with the psalmist, bless and praise our God today and always for the fatness and marrow of our souls. Even if God would have given us nothing in the way of this present life’s good and enjoyments, we would still be rejoicing in our God. Because God’s lovingkindness is more than life to us. We are the objects of God’s love, grace, and mercy; we need nothing more. We have the greatest reason of all people in this world to give thanks.
So we do that, too. We will bless God while we live. We will not give praise to God on our deathbed only. We will not hold back our thanksgiving until we reach heavenly glory. So satisfied are we with the fatness and marrow of God’s lovingkindness that we bubble over with the joy of our salvation right now, in all of life. Our lives are living sacrifices of praise and gratitude to God for all He has given us. And that life of thankfulness comes to full expression by the confession of our mouths. “My lips shall praise thee.” “My mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips.” Right here, with our mouths, we will show praise and thanks to God. We will sing our thanks.
Do you ever do that? We will pray our thanks. We will speak to others of our thanks. How much have we done these things in this past season? How often have we spoken of the joy and thanksgiving we have in our souls that God is our God? How much have we spoken of our great love for the God who has done all things for us and who sends even the things of this life as blessings to us? That is where our thanksgiving begins—with our mouths and lips. We confess it. We speak of it to others. And that thanks of our mouths and lips then flows forth into our lives as well.
One last thing is included in our thanksgiving. We will lift up our hands in God’s name. That action refers to prayer and worship. Where better can we exhibit our thanks to God than in His house? In God’s house, together with our fellow believers, we pray. That’s where we sing. Here we bow in humble adoration of our God. Here is where we lift up holy hands unto God and pay homage unto Him for the great things He has done for us. God’s lovingkindness is better than life. Life is good because God is good.
Let us acknowledge the goodness of our God today. Let us bow before Him always and confess our gratitude. Bless the Lord, O my soul. And forget not all His benefits.
Let us pray together.
Father in heaven, we thank Thee today and always for the many gifts that Thou hast bestowed upon us again in this past season of the year. But we thank Thee most of all for Jesus Christ and the blessings that we receive in Him. Truly we who are God’s people are the richest people in this world. Bless us in Thy grace and forgive us our sins, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.