We trade time, money, emotion, and even our sense of decorum and respect to make a statement to ourselves and others: Jesus is worth so much more than we could ever give.

Give Thanks: Renewing Our Soul in the Goodness of God

by Dean Briggs
11/24/20 Christian Living

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!” Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! (1 Chronicles 16:31–34 ESV; emphasis added)

The backdrop of this passage explains its boisterous joy. It’s a song. After a humiliating period in the hands of the Philistines, the ark of the covenant had finally come back to Israel. King David penned these exuberant lyrics filled with poetry to celebrate the occasion. This was more than a moment of national pride. The recovery of the ark, the most hallowed national treasure, literally testified that God’s presence had returned to His people. Not long before this episode, in their haste to welcome Him, they had moved too fast. Following a disastrous attempt to relocate the ark on an oxcart, traversing protocol and ending in the death of Uzzah, King David now more carefully bears the ark to Jerusalem in a manner first prescribed by Moses, held aloft by consecrated Levites on poles. Utterly overwhelmed with gratitude, David literally bathes the path of the procession in sacrifice: every six paces, an ox and a fattened calf are slain (as told in 2 Samuel 6:13).

Clearly, this is not an average moment. It is an extreme moment. Therefore, emotions appropriately run at the margin. It is not some staid, cerebral, quiet procession. It is fearful, careful, and wild. Total solemnity and dancing joy. But isn’t all that emotion a bit too emotional? Aren’t all those slain animals a tad wasteful? Imagine the mess! To the one whose heart is unmoved, the entire affair lacks propriety and reverence. David doesn’t even acknowledge such questions or perspectives. He simply answers with another sacrifice, then another, then another. Every six paces. He shouts and commands others to shout. He seems to say, “The only waste would be to withhold from this moment!”

The extravagant display is threefold, involving emotion, value, and time. Not only did the path of the Presence provoke emotional generosity in those who witnessed it, the radical sacrifice of so many animals assured that the entire event was imbued with tangible, undeniable value and also a generous investment of time. Consider what is described but not defined. While the precise location (and therefore distance) cannot be known for certain, the likely range is one–six miles. That means David authorized a trail of covenantal blood and wild extravagance stretching up to 31,680 feet from point A to point B. If each of David’s steps were approximately two feet, six paces would equal 12 feet. Using the possibility of a full six miles, David could have stopped over 2,500 times during the journey, offering more than 2,500 oxen and the same number of calves. Depending on the degree of planning, the whole process could have actually taken several days. Even with well-coordinated inventory and division of labor, the pace of delay for each sacrifice probably demanded nearly 24 hours or more to complete. In other words, David didn’t rush the divine moment. It was to be savored. Therefore, he made each moment, each step count. The journey was equal to the destination.

Said another way, the celebration of the presence of God was costly in every way. As Yahweh literally and figuratively made His way to the city of the king, with the ark of the old covenant serving as the footstool of His presence, the unceasing flow of human worship was marked by a red stripe of blood across the earth. Perhaps, in the symmetry of God across time, that red path even crossed the very location where God’s own Son would later bring about a new covenant by the mercy of His own blood.

When we sacrifice one thing for another, we make a statement: X is worth Y. In the case of God’s presence among us, we could never find or offer anything of sufficient value compared to the utter riches of His glory. We simply do the only thing we know to approximate His worth: we sacrifice.

How does this most tangibly come forth? We worship. Every step of the way, we worship. On good days and bad days, we worship. Whether we are afraid or full of faith, we worship. When we set out, we worship; and when we get there, we worship more. No part of life is to be divorced from worship, and no part of worship is to be divorced from thankfulness. We trade time, money, emotion, and even our sense of decorum and respect to make a statement to ourselves and others: Jesus is worth so much more than we could ever give. Every hour. Every part of our life. Every stage of the journey. It all should be marked red with what we leave behind, what we’re willing to trade, for the sake of knowing Him.

If we continue on David’s journey, he makes this plain. Once the ark entered the city, it was placed inside a tent which David pitched for it. More sacrifices were made: burnt offerings and peace offerings. After that, David blessed the people in the name of the Lord with a feast of bread, meat, and raisin cakes for everyone. The shame of Israel was broken! It was time to celebrate—a worship feast! Melodious harps, crashing cymbals, blaring trumpets, singers, and musicians in a symphony of gratitude. As told in 1 Chronicles 15:16, David had the Levites “play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, [and] raise sounds of joy.”

So now we come full circle to the lyrics David penned. He had composed a specific song which he tasked the renowned worship leader, Asaph, to sing with his brothers. The couplet made famous in David’s lyric for this occasion became the song of renewal throughout the rest of Israel’s history: “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. His love endures forever.” It is repeated at key times, particularly related to the building or restoration of the temple but also others.

For example, David’s song is described as instrumental to the victory in 2 Chronicles 20 when Judah and King Jehoshaphat were beset by enemies. At that time, “Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.’ And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.’ And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed” (vs. 20–22, ESV; emphasis added). 

The same song was ritualized at Solomon’s dedication of the temple, and also in the time of the Second Temple, when Ezra laid new foundations after the people had returned from their long exile in Babylon. 

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.” (Ezra 3:10–11 ESV; emphasis added)

Some combination of this refrain occurs more than 30 times in the Psalms alone. God is always good! Later still, the prophet Amos would signal a great revival of the Davidic tabernacle.

On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old. (Amos 9:11)

Among many beautiful layers of promise embedded in this prophecy, we are assured that the people of God will gather together with unfettered access to His presence, and that out of that reality, prayer and worship will flow. In Acts 15, the apostles in Jerusalem recognized the prophecy of Amos as a statement welcoming the Gentiles into the covenant of God. The ekklesia of Christ would become a house of prayer for all nations. Many, many prophetic puzzle pieces were finally coming together.

Thousands of years later, we live in the overspill of David’s initial revelation. Even as I write this, I am sitting in a room in Kansas City, Missouri, where a Davidic model of unceasing worship and prayer has continued without interruption for 21 years. As I’m typing, one of my favorite songs, “Picture of Your Love,” pulls the entire room into a magnificent boast: 

You’re faithful (You’re always the same)
You’re faithful (You never change)
You’re faithful
You’re always good, You’re always good

In my soul, I feel the smallest hint of David’s joy. God is faithful. He is always faithful. How could I withhold from Him?

As we enter a season dedicated to family and thankfulness, I urge you: give your emotion, time, and resources generously. Give to your family. Give sacrificially. But above all, value the presence of God in your life, in our nation. Let the revelation of King David be a part of the renewal and reconsecration of your own soul: Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His steadfast love endures forever!

What stirs your heart to give thanks to God?

Want more from Dean Briggs? We recommend his Christmas message Incarnation as a Revelation of the Unfathomable Grandeur and Humility of God. Watch it here >>

Dean Briggs

position

    Dean is happily married to Jeanie, and the proud father of eight grown children. His books include Ekklesia RisingConsumed, the visionary, two-part Partakers of the Divine, and the YA fantasy series, Legends of Karac Tor. He also co-authored The Jesus Fast with Lou Engle, now available in multiple languages. A former pastor and church planter, Dean is a consultant, dreamer, and Bible teacher. As part of the senior leadership of IHOPKC, he travels and speaks around the world. The Briggs live in the midwest.

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