“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people….”
We like to view God as a Great Benevolent Giver in the sky. We want Him to pour out good gifts to us and make our lives easy for us, and we are disappointed, disillusioned and discouraged when we don’t experience the generosity we imagine and want from God.
God is benevolent for sure, but He is much more than that. He doesn’t just want to give us good things; He wants to give us Himself. In fact, He doesn’t just want to give us Himself, He wants to pour Himself out into and through us to bless others as He desires to bless us.
But, this ultimate desire and purpose of God to bless us takes on a different form than we would like at times. God’s activity in our lives doesn’t always feel like a blessing.
In this verse from 2 Chronicles 7, we learn that God, Himself, may cause difficult things to happen, or simply allow them to happen, in our lives. But why? And what can we do about it?
We need to read the second half of the verse and consider the context in which it was written for a more complete picture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:4-5)
Psalm 100 is short, just five verses. It is subtitled “A Psalm for Thanksgiving”. So, it is a perfect verse for celebrating Thanksgiving. There is a lot packed in to this short verse from a short Psalm.
When I read this, I picture a procession of musicians and worshippers entering in to the Temple, but a closer look at the Hebrew words used reveals a slightly different picture. The word for “gates” more specifically references the gates to a city that open to the public square where the elders traditionally gather and public hearings are held and business and legal transactions take place.
Cities in Israel were gated and walled. They were safe havens. They were the center of the community that was surrounded by villages and agricultural land. Cities were where the important transactions take place.
The verse is obviously figurative, inviting us to enter into God’s gates with thanksgiving and into God’s courts with praise. We are invited to enter into the “place” where God’s sits, as the elders of the City sat.
We are invited to into the “place” of God’s influence with thanksgiving and praise. The word for “thanksgiving” means , literally, a “thank-offering”. Offerings in the Old Testament suggest the presentation of a gift, a sacrifice, to God. Here the gift and sacrifice is the offer of thanksgiving to God.
The word for “praise” means, literally, “to cast, throw on target” (as in “hit the bullseye”). Figuratively, the two words suggest the acknowledgment of God for who He is, the Giver of Life, the provider of our souls. It includes the sense that, regardless of our circumstances, we know and acknowledge that God is sovereign and in control of the elements of our lives, and we gratefully recognize it.
Further, this thanksgiving and praise is an intentional act. Thanksgiving can be a spontaneous feeling, but the Psalmist here is encouraging an intentional, willful act of thanksgiving and praise to God, even if we do not “feel like it”. In this sense, it really is a sacrifice and an offering we are encouraged to give.
Ultimately, thanksgiving is not a physical act, but a willful act of the heart and of the inner being. This is how we are to enter into God’s sphere of influence. We do this purposefully with the heart, and, by doing so, are able to enter into relationship with God.
The emphasis and focus of the text is on the everlasting loving kindness and faithfulness of God. This is why we can be thankful! God is sovereign. His promises and love for us are everlasting. Our present circumstances and afflictions are “light and momentary” compared to the everlasting goodness God has in store for us.
Thankfulness, gratitude, is an appropriate response from us toward God because of who He is and because of who we are in relation to God. We enter into relationship with God by approaching Him the right way. Gratitude is the way to enter into relationship with God, entering through the “gates” into the “court” of His influence.
This connection with God that we access with gratitude is transformational. We are changed when enter into relationship with God.
Nothing brings this reality home to me more than the story of Martin Pistorius. Martin succumbed to a mystery illness when he was twelve and became trapped inside his own body. He lapsed into unconsciousness for two years. When he “woke” from that unconsciousness, he was unable to talk, unable to move, unable to communicate.
His family and the people who tended to him believed he was virtually brain dead. They kept him alive and sustained him, but they thought he would never recover. He attempted to beg, plead and scream at them, but he could not make a movement or a sound.
In that lonely, isolated place, God developed a relationship with Martin as Martin engaged God in prayer and conversation:
Sometimes my prayers were answered. Sometimes they weren’t. But when I felt disappointed and powerless, my conversations with God taught me that gratitude could sustain me. When the smallest prayer was answered, I gave thanks to the Lord. Caught in perhaps the most extreme isolation a person can experience, I grew ever closer to God.
Gratitude is tremendously underrated. Martin learned gratitude in relationship with God, and it sustained him in the most horrendous circumstances one could imagine. Martin eventually regained his ability to move and communicate after many years in the prison of his own body, but gratitude sustained him through the hardest times.
How much more should we be grateful to God? The world chases happiness while overlooking the power of gratitude. Gratitude ushers us into God presence where God’s influence empowers our lives. On this Thanksgiving Day, let us enter into God’s gates with thanksgiving and into His court with praise because He is sovereign and true, and our lives are secure in the knowledge of God.
The gate to God is in our own hearts. Is the gate open? We can enter into the court of God’s influence with a posture of gratitude and praise for God in our hearts.
935/bo’ – literally, come in, go in by stepping into a new opportunity or perceived benefit; (figuratively) enter into a new status or experience.
8179/shaʽar – a gate of a city, the center of social influence where open-court was held for the community. (Amos 5:10-15) Justice was administered “at the gate.” Here cases were heard by the elders. They sat in the public square just inside the town gate. See Gen 23:10, 18; Prov 24:7, 31:23. Gateways of Israelite cities were the ideal locations to hold public hearings, make legal transactions, and conduct business (Ruth 4:1; 1 Kings 22:10; 2 Kings 7:1).
8426/tôdâ (one of three types of peace offerings) – the praise-thank offering, acknowledging the Lord’s dealings are good, even in the most difficult tribulations. This root means both praise and thanks, i.e. includes both ideas. Believers today still make spiritual “todah’s” by their sincere praise or thanks to God in every scene of life (cf. Heb. 13:15; 1 Thes. 5:17).
 Hiphel word tense/form indicates a kind second subject, a second layer of meaning, something beyond the bare action that is driving the action, a second layer of intentionality. .
3034/yāâ – properly, to cast, throw on-target (hit the “bull’s-eye”) – acknowledge as “spot on”; grateful recognition which includes thanksgiving, confession, or praise – being right on-target (cf. Neh. 12:46; P.s 6:6, 92:2, 119:62; Is. 12:4). No one word in the OT means “give thanks” (thanksgiving) per se (E. Jenni). Rather, this concept is blended with appropriate praise (thankful recognition, confession, cf. Ps 43:5). Believers offer this praise with thanksgiving when acknowledging all the Lord’s dealings are “right on,” without flaw (exactly “spot on”).
 This word is emphasized in the original text indicting the importance of focus on the word.
 This word is also emphasized in the original text.
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