Worship Through Gratitude
Open Your Bible
1 Chronicles 16:4-36, Ezra 3:10-11, Psalm 136:1-26
In college, I was part of a university ministry that had been led in faithfulness by the same pastor for many years, and he still leads it to this day: a picture of steadfast commitment and fruit-bearing that can only come from a long obedience in the same direction (to borrow a book title from the late Eugene Peterson).
Three years ago, we gathered with alumni and supporters to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of this faithful, beloved ministry. We took turns sharing memories and singing hymns, but the wind that blew through the whole evening was one of corporate gratitude: together, thanking God for His indescribable gift, we worshiped in song and story, in thanksgiving and praise. We thanked God for what He had done, and what we knew He would continue to do.
Each of today’s passages from Scripture highlights corporate gratitude expressed in worship. In 1 Chronicles 16, David institutes the daily practice of thanksgiving, commissioning Asaph to lead the community in worship. David decrees his song of thanks in verses 8–36, which is then reflected in parts of Psalms 96, 105, and 106.
The structure of David’s song matches the content of Psalm 136 incredibly closely, and there’s a lot to be gleaned from what David thanks the Lord for and in what order.
In Psalm 136, we see the creation story unfold with a refrain about God’s everlasting love: He made the heavens, He spread the land on the water, He hung the sun and the moon and dotted the stars. Then we read, with the same call-and-response pattern, how He saved the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, struck down evil kings to protect His people, and gave them a homeland. The same themes leap off the page in 1 Chronicles 16, and they are cues we can take into our daily practice of worship and gratitude.
It’s interesting to me in that 1 Chronicles 16, David doesn’t specifically thank God for what had just happened: the bringing of the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem. They worshipped at the ark, where God dwelled, but their gratitude was cosmic in scale. It was not, “Thank You for what You did today, for this one specific thing we have to celebrate.” It was, and perhaps should usually be, “Thank You for who You have always been, for how You have loved Your people since the beginning of time.”
In corporate worship, in private prayer, in the smallest moments, and the most earth-shattering ones, we always have reason to thank God for what He has done and what we know He will do. Whether or not we feel grateful or not, whether or not we feel worshipful, there is always reason to worship in gratitude: because His faithful love endures forever.