Theme: The Importance of Giving Thanks
In this week’s lessons we see that prayer is not only to be offered to the Lord when we are in need of his help, but it is also to be offered in thanks for his goodness and faithfulness to us.
Scripture: Psalm 21:1-13
Psalm 20 is a prayer for God’s deliverance of Israel’s king on the occasion of an impending battle. It is a prayer for victory. The twenty-first Psalm, the one that we will look at here, is a prayer of national thanksgiving for that deliverance.
It is not just the subject matter that links these two psalms, however. They are linked by deliberately repeated words and by the psalms’ form. The closing words of Psalm 20 are picked up at the start of Psalm 21. The earlier psalm says, “O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call” (v. 9)! Psalm 21 begins, “O LORD, the king…” after which it tells how God answered the earlier petitions (v. 1). There are other echoes of Psalm 20 in Psalm 21. Psalm 20:4 asked God to give David the desire of his heart. And Psalm 21:2 says, “You have granted him the desire of his heart.” Psalm 20:5 asks, “May the LORD grant all your requests.” Psalm 21:2 answers, “You have not withheld the request of his lips.” Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Likewise, Psalm 21 declares, “For the king trusts in the LORD” (v. 7).
Even the structures of the two psalms show a linking similarity. Each consists of two longer stanzas in which words are addressed either to the LORD or the king, followed by a concluding couplet of one verse in which the people either call upon or praise God.
There is something to be learned by the mere existence of this psalm even before we begin to study it in detail, and that is the importance for us of giving thanks. Generally, we do not find it particularly hard to pray when we are in trouble. Even unbelievers will pray in times of sickness, danger, financial loss or other hardship. “O God, what am I going to do?” they will say. We do the same. It is much harder to pray after God intervenes to help, rescue or save us, as he often does. The fact that Psalms 20 and 21 were written together and are carefully linked shows
that the ancient Jews realized the importance and necessity of being thankful.
Jesus did too, as well as recognized how we easily neglect the latter. We remember that on one occasion, when Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem along the border of Samaria and Galilee, he was met by ten lepers. They asked Jesus to have pity on them, which he did. He told them to show themselves to the priests, which they would be required to do eventually in order to receive formal certification that they had been cleansed of this ultimately fatal disease, and as they went on their way they were healed. All were delighted, of course. It was a literal reprieve from death. But only one was thankful. He was a Samaritan. He returned to Jesus, fell at his feet and thanked him profusely.
Jesus then asked those who were standing by, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner” (Luke 17:11-19)?
How are psalms 20 and 21 connected?
Why does God need to remind us to give thanks? What does that say about us?
Application: Make it a point to daily thank the Lord for his blessings, including specific ones you have recently received.
For Further Study: To help us understand the seriousness of our sin and the depth of our gratitude we owe to God for his redemption given in Christ, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “On Being Thankful.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)