November 24, 2011

Thank Goodness!

“Thank Goodness!” Countless times I’ve said this with little consciousness of its meaning. It’s usually uttered with some sense of relief that something has worked out well, (at least from my perspective!) but with no real acknowledgment of who I owe my thanks to…

Yesterday I came across this historical tidbit, President George Washington’s 1789 proclamation creating the first official American “Thanksgiving Day”. I’m impressed by its bold statement of the need to acknowledge God as the source of all good things. Allow me a patriotic moment and have a read-along:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have … requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God”… Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection…, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence…, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed... for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us…

Wow! How far we’ve slipped in the acknowledgment department!

I’ve been considering some familiar verses in Proverbs: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” (Prov.3:5,6) And of course the preceding ones that give the context: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

Following my own understanding will likely NOT lead me in a straight path. Things I perceive as good, may in fact be very bad ideas. Things I oppose, may be a part of a bigger plan God is weaving... But if in all my ways I will learn to acknowledge Him…I’ll be led in straight paths, ‘where the good way is’, the walk that will bring rest to my soul (Jer.6:16).

I was chewing on that word, “acknowledge” this week. What does it mean? A standard dictionary would say it means: to recognize the existence of, to express recognition of, to express gratitude for, etc. Sort of a “Yes, Lord, I see you there. Thanks.”   But when I looked up the actual Hebrew word, there’s more to it.  [Don’t miss the wonderful resources   BLUELETTERBIBLE offers ad-free!]

The word translated ‘acknowledge’, is “yada”. It means ‘to know’, to learn to know, to perceive, find out and discern…It involves knowing by intimate experience, learning to recognize… God desires that we “acknowledge Him” in all our ways…learn to see His hand at work, begin to perceive Him in everything. Reminds me of Paul’s challenge to the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling because it was God who was at work in them to accomplish His good pleasure (Phil.2:12,13). This is our God, the One that is at work often unseen, but inviting us to see with spiritual understanding the work that He’s doing.

He longs for His people to understand His way of working. Psalm 95 has that haunting finish to an otherwise joyful celebration of God’s excellence: “For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.’” He accompanied them through the wilderness. Did they not comprehend He was there though unseen? That they were ‘the apple of His eye’, the object of His unflagging devotion? Did they really think they’d been abandoned just because they got thirsty? They did not understand His ways, that though they might be physically in a wilderness, He was committed to providing everything they truly needed and to using their walk with Him as a testimony to the nations around them, for His own glory.

So I come back to my own life, the everyday-ness of it. Acknowledging His active presence in my every moment is a beginning. In the mundane, in the traumatic, in the slow grind, in the delightful…do I perceive He is with me, in me, for me, working out His purposes for His great glory. Will I acknowledge Him in this moment, as I write, as I read…present, working, shaping all things for His great glory? This is holy ground. My actions become a kind of worship. This body a living sacrifice offered as I type, as I put wood on the fire, as I help Rachel with grammar, as I create a pumpkin pie and pop the turkey in the oven shortly…when I acknowledge Him in all my ways, in all the moments of my days, life becomes worship of a God who is forever Good, and forever worthy of my gratitude.

“Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving…let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!” Ps.95:2,3

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” Ps.136:1

May [we] be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God… Col.1:9,10


P.S. I highly commend to you Ann Voskamp’s faith-stirring devotional on “Why every day begs to be Thanksgiving”. Beautiful, as her posts always are.

And for a musical accompaniment to these thoughts on acknowledging God, try this glorious hymn sung by Fernando Ortega: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.

Oh, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING! no matter what piece of the globe you reside in!

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