You are walking into a building and someone holds the door open. You say, “Thank you.” A cashier counts back your change after you have made a purchase. You respond, “Thank you.” You put your blinker on and another driver slows down so you can change lanes. You wave, “Thank you.” Why do we use this phrase, thank you? Why do we express thanks to other people for seemingly common things? It is customary. It is polite. We are Christians, so at the very least – when Christ says, “everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35 NIV), we had better express basic good manners.
What about the way we respond to the goodness of God? Do we issue a customary, “Thanks God,” when He answers a prayer in our favor? When we encounter a close call that would have been disastrous, but our safety is spared, do we mouth the words, “Thank God,” under our breath? How often do we recognize the importance and need to give thanks to God?
The psalmist instructs us to, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1 NIV). The acknowledgement of the truth expressed here is not an arbitrary afterthought; it is a sacrifice of thanksgiving pointing directly to the perfect nature of God. This is an affirmation in worship of His eternal goodness and love. He is good. Therefore, we thank Him. He loves us – not just in a momentary ebb and flow of skin-deep emotion – but to His core. God is love (1 John 4:8). God is eternal (Deuteronomy 33:27). His love never ends (Lamentations 3:22). Within the context of those truths, we give Him thanks.
What are some examples from Scripture when life was falling apart but people still expressed worship to God? In 2 Samuel 12, David’s son died as a result of David’s sin. How did he choose to respond? The text reads, “Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped” (2 Samuel 12:20a NIV). The loss of a child is never a favorable outcome. However, David chose to worship in response to the situation. He was not thanking God for allowing his son to die, but he was worshiping Him for His goodness, regardless of the situation.
Job was a faithful man. He lost everything – his home, his family, his entire estate – all in a brief period of time. How did he respond to such tragedy? The text reads, “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised’” (Job 1:20-21 NIV). Losing everything is painful. The choice could’ve been made to respond with negativity. Instead, Job expresses worship to the One sovereign God.
Reflecting back on Psalm 118, the psalmist asks for the gates of the righteous to be opened up (v. 19). How does one enter through the gate? What makes one righteous in order to even enter? We know that there is none righteous (Romans 3:10), not even a single person aside from Jesus Himself. Scripture teaches, it is through faith in Christ that we have righteousness. It comes from God through faith (Philippians 3:9). Jesus identifies Himself as the gate in John 10:9 through which people will enter in order to receive salvation. Putting all of those thoughts together, the psalm takes on a messianic prophetic tone, looking forward to Jesus the Messiah as the gate of the righteous.
The psalmist further writes, “This is the gate of the LORD…I will give thanks…you have become my salvation” (v. 20-21). Jesus is the gate of salvation. He has saved and redeemed a broken, sinful humanity. An otherwise hopeless people now have a future and a hope, anchored in the rock – Jesus! Regardless of the surrounding circumstances, humanity has an eternal hope and joy. The psalmist stood at a place in history when the Messiah had not yet been revealed. We have the advantage of knowing precisely who the Messiah is. Give God thanks!
The next section of the psalm is also prophetic of the Messiah, speaking of the stone rejected by the builders, which has become the cornerstone (v. 22). A cornerstone sets the trajectory for the entirety of the building. However imperfect or perfect the cornerstone happens to be, determines the outcome of the final structure. Jesus is perfect – God in the flesh. He establishes the church; the Body of Christ. The religious leaders (the builders) rejected Him.
When Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and preaching to the religious leaders, he said, “Jesus is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone [emphasis added]” (Acts 4:11). Jesus makes reference to Psalm 118 after He teaches the parable of the tenants and the religious leaders understood that He was calling them out (Matthew 21:42-45; Mark 12:10-12).
The psalmist directs the people to the appropriate response to the saving nature of God – His salvation. His plan of salvation has been revealed for us today through Jesus. What an amazing catalyst for worship. You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (v. 28-29 NIV). Let us all give thanks to our God!