Thanksgiving and Praise

There really isn’t a word for “thank” in the Old Testament. When worlds like “thanks” or “thanksgiving” appear in English versions of Hebrew scripture, they’re translated from words with the primary meaning of praise and/or confession. It’s a different thing than what we mean when we say “thank you” in English.

Much like we saw last week in the New Testament connection between thanksgiving and grace, the concept of thanks in the Old Testament is inextricably linked to confession, praise, and sacrifice. There’s something more/different going on in these words than we might think just reading it in translation.

Confession, Praise, Sacrifice

The Hebrew word yadah (H3034) is a root with the primary meaning of “to acknowledge or confess.” It is used in three main ways: to confess individual or national sins, to proclaim or declare God’s attributes and works, and to convey man’s praise of men. Its derivative todah (H 8426) has a similar meaning and it is also used of the sacrifices connected to praise and thanksgiving.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving (todah), his courts with praise. Give thanks (yadah) to him; bless his name. (Ps. 100:4, LEB)

Yadah and todah in relation to God are about confessing or acknowledging something that is true. We can confess that we are sinful before God, as all are (Rom. 3:23). We can also confess that God is worthy of all praise, exhalation, and thanks (2 Sam. 22:50). In fact, yadah “is one of the key words for ‘praise'” in the Hebrew scriptures. It’s rendered thanks only because “praise leads regularly to thanksgiving” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, entry 847). Read more

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Thanksgiving And Grace

There’s a deep scriptural connection between thankfulness and grace. While it’s obvious that we should be thankful for God’s grace, what’s not so obvious in English is how closely the two concepts are linked by the Greek language that God picked for writing the New Testament. Here’s an example:

the service of this ministry is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but also is overflowing through many expressions of thanksgiving (eucharistia) to God. Through the proven character of this service they will glorify God because of the submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ and the generosity of your participation toward them and toward everyone, and they are longing for you in their prayers for you, because of the surpassing grace (charis) of God to you. Thanks (charis) be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Cor. 9:12-15, LEB)

The Greek word charis (G5485) is typically translated “grace.” We usually define it as “unmerited favor.” It can also indicate what grace causes – joy, favor, gratification, acceptance, benefits, thanks, and gratitude. It’s etymological relatives eucharistos (G2170), eucharisteo (G2168), and eucharistia (G2169) are the words for thanks, thankfulness, and thanksgiving.

Direction of Grace

As I read through the Bible verses where charis appears, a pattern emerges in the translations. If charis is shown by God to man we call it grace (e.g. John 1:16-17). If charis is shown by man toward God we call it thanks (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:57). If charis is shown between men it’s a favor or credit (Luke 6:32-34; Acts 24:27), thanks (Luke 17:9), or occasionally a chance to minister grace (Eph. 4:29).

Receiving the grace of God should make us respond with something so similar, so closely connected, it can be called by the same word, charis. More commonly, though, “thanks” is translated from a word made by combining “eu” and “charis.” The word eu (G2095) means “good” or “well.” Literally, the combined word means “well favored,” though we usually take the implied meaning “to be grateful” or “thankful” (Strong’s on G2170, eucharistos). Read more

Random Thanksgiving Post

Happy Thanksgiving to all my blog readers! I have much to be grateful for this year, and I’m sure many of you do as well. You can share some of your “thanksgivings” in the comments, if you like. Here’s a few of mine:

  1. I’m thankful for my family and friends. A few years ago, I didn’t know many of the friends I have now (including several of you, dear readers) and I’m so grateful to have wonderful people in my life.
  2. I’m grateful that my 16-year-old cat recovered from a serious illness so well that he now looks and acts healthier than he has in years.
  3. I’m thankful that I’m still on-track to finish NaNoWriMo even after having pneumonia.
  4. I’m grateful that people in our country still think it’s important to take a day of Thanksgiving. Though it’s just “turkey day” to some, there’s plenty of good people out there who remember why we’re spending a day giving thanks.

I found an article from 2011 collecting different quotes from American presidents about Thanksgiving. Thought I’d share a few that I liked:

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 of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation.” (George Washington, 1789)

“Rarely has any people enjoyed greater prosperity than we are now enjoying. For this we render heartfelt thanks to the giver of Good; and we will seek to praise Him, not by words only, but by deeds, by the way in which we do our duty to ourselves and to our fellow-men.” (Theodore Roosevelt, 1902)

“Let us ask the Divine Blessing on our decision and determination to protect our way of life against the forces of evil and slavery which seek in these days to encompass us. On the day appointed for this purpose, let us reflect at our homes or places of worship on the goodness of God and, in giving thanks, let us pray for a speedy end to strife and the establishment on earth of freedom, brotherhood, and justice for enduring time.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1941)

“The blessings that are ours must be understood as the gift of a loving God Whose greatest gift is healing. Let us join then, with the psalmist of old: ‘O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name, Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him, tell of all His wonderful works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!'” (Ronald Reagan, 1987)

And here’s a link to an article for all my introverted friends wondering how they’ll survive the social getting-together that happens on Thanksgiving: 9 Quick Tips to Save Your Sanity This Thanksgiving. Just remember — occasionally needing a break from your families doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It means you like them enough to give yourself the space you need so you don’t get cranky and take it out on them.

This is turning into a thoroughly random blog post, but why stop now? I tried a new recipe this Thanksgiving: Pumpkin Snickerdoodles. My sister has discovered Pinterest, so she sends me all the food she thinks looks good in the hope that I’ll make it for her. Snickerdoodles are my favorite cookie, so I decided to try this one. The addition of pumpkin adds a unique spin on the flavor that’s perfect for fall. I’ve linked to the recipe so you can try them out yourself, or at least stare at the delicious pictures.

And lastly, a shameless plug for my Etsy shop. The Geek Spa is having a Black Friday sale. Use code “BlackFriday” for 20% off now through Monday.BlackFriday2014

Thank You For Your Service

Dear Service men and women,

“Thank you” isn’t something I’m likely to tell you in person. I’m not someone who will walk up to you in a store or on the street and express my gratitude for your service to this country, but it’s not because I’m ungrateful. It’s because 1) I don’t usually even say “Hi” to people I recognize unless they see me first, and 2) I don’t like people striking up random conversations with me, so I assume in the absence of definite evidence to the contrary that you won’t either. My modus operandi is to smile (just to make sure you don’t think I’m one of those I-hate-you-because-you-wear-that-uniform people) and then let you go along uninterrupted with whatever brought you here.

So, here’s a long overdue “Thank you” presented in the best way I know how — writing. Thank you to the people throughout our nation’s history who died for our freedom and for the freedom of people in other countries, like my grandpa’s brother who didn’t come home from WWII. To the people who did come home like my great Uncle Bob, who never called himself a war hero and most people didn’t know until his obituary that he was awarded the Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster and five bronze stars. To my Grandpa, who’s latest reminiscence about his exciting Navy life was about being disciplined for letting himself get sunburned. To the families who are praying for their dear ones overseas, and for the families who have lost someone they love. To the children who Skype with Mommy and Daddy because it will be months before they see them in person. To those currently serving overseas and those who are about to ship-out, like my family’s newly-wed friend whose wife cannot accompany him to South Korea. And to those of you here, who I walk past with a smile. We are praying for you, and we thank you.