Dear Friends in Yeshua,
By the time you receive this newsletter, the midterm results of November 8, 2022, will be in. Some of us will be rejoicing at the results while others may be disappointed, distressed, or even worse. But God. He is not moved by election results. He has not lost control. His end-time plans will continue in spite of who won what seat in Congress. Yeshua, the King of kings and Lord of lords, is seated at the right hand of God. “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end…” (Is. 9:7). We can give thanks to our Father for this holy promise and for so much more as we observe our nation’s Thanksgiving Day on November 24, 2022. The name of this holiday in Hebrew is Khag HaHodaya ההודיה חג (KHAG hah-hoe-dah-YA).
The Lord spoke to my heart to share with you a special part of the Holy Scriptures, to help us give thanks in spite of our personal or national circumstances. I am referring to the Hodayot הודיות (hoe-dah-YOTE) or Thanksgiving Psalms. There are many psalms of thanksgiving in the Bible where there is a response to God’s goodness and grace with gratitude. Thanksgiving is being grateful for the many blessings that God has given us. As believers, we can be especially grateful for the gift of salvation through our Messiah Yeshua. Then, we have our freedom, families, friends, health, homes, pets, and God’s beautiful creation. My beloved Neil was always expressing gratitude for hot water, especially after our trips to third-world countries. I am thankful for God’s love for widows like me—for how real He is in my life—taking care of me on a daily basis. We give thanks: hodinu הודינו (hoe-DEE-noo).
Psalms of Thanksgiving
King David wrote many of the Psalms of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving to God was one of the salient characteristics of his spiritual life. Although the psalms often quickly move from thanksgiving to lament or from praise to despair, thanksgiving usually triumphs. That is a key to our lives as well. Let thanksgiving triumph! Choose to be thankful.
Every year at this time, there are articles in the newspapers concerning giving thanks. In the October 2022 Parade Magazine in Fort Lauderdale, there was a little article, “Practice Gratitude” that reinforces the biblical truth that thanksgiving is good for us. From the article: “Focusing on what you appreciate about your life and expressing it—either by telling someone or writing it down—can affect the serotonin and dopamine systems in your brain and produce changes in the reactivity of key brain regions that last for weeks or months” (Alex Korb, neuroscientist at UCLA). Yes! When God said, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Messiah Yeshua for you,” (I Thess. 5:18), He was showing us a way to be blessed. We can begin by reading, reciting aloud, and memorizing some of the Thanksgiving Psalms:
“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods” (Ps. 95:1-3).
“O Lord, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord” (Ps. 116:16-17).
“At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You, because of Your righteous judgments” (Ps. 119:62).
Psalm 100: The Classic Thanksgiving Psalm
“A Psalm of Thanksgiving (Mizmor l’Todah—לתודה מזמור meez-MOR l-toe-DAH). Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations” (Psalm 100:1-5).
Psalm 100 is one of the most beloved psalms in the Bible. It is a regular part of the traditional Jewish morning prayers, included among the Pesukei D’Zimrah, דזמרה פסוקי (puh-ZOO-key de-zeem-RAH)—verses of praise. It also pairs with Psalm 50:23, referring to the “Thank Offering” given in the Temple: “Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me, and to the blameless I will show my salvation (Ps. 50:23 NIV). The following comment was made in an online article by Chabad.org: “This psalm also refers to the thanksgiving sacrifice—the only sacrifice to be offered in the Messianic era.”
The Hebrew word for psalm is mizmor מזמור (meez-MORE). The word for thanksgiving is todah תודה (toe-DAH). Psalm 100 begins: “Hari’u l’Adonai kol ha’aretz (make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!).” Making a joyful shout to the Lord is not a quiet sound of worship and praise. A SHOUT! One commentator in Psalm 100 said that Hassidic Jews and charismatic Christians understand this. This made me smile as I thought of our rabbi at Temple Aron HaKodesh, Rabbi Joe Vitkus, who shouts “Halleluyah!” at every service—always with great enthusiasm and unbridled joy. “Abba, please help each one of us to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving so that we can shout joyfully in appreciation for all You are and all that You have done for us.” (Try it—even if someone is watching!)
“Serve the LORD with gladness: Ivdu et Adonai b’simcha.” Serve is the word used in the KJV and worship in the NIV. That is because the root in Hebrew—avad עבד (ah-VAHD)—means both. The “work” of the Levites was “worship.” There is no separation in the Hebrew mind. Whatever we do should be to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31) Serving God is a privilege, and it is a form of worship. Coming before the Lord with joyful songs reminds me of people who “whistle while they work.” (I heard my next-door neighbor doing this yesterday.) Joy should always accompany our service for God. The word gladness is used in Psalm 100:2. Simcha in Hebrew שמחה (seem-KHA).
Verse 3 lets us know why we can have holy joy: God is our Creator, our King and our Shepherd. He made us, “not we ourselves.” This phrase can also be rendered “and we are His.” This highlights the marvelous, comforting truth that WE ARE NOT ALONE. WE BELONG. WE ARE PART OF A FAMILY. WE ARE SECURE IN THE LORD. These are reasons for thanksgiving.
The Sheep of His Pasture
I am especially thankful that we are the sheep of God’s pasture. When I lived in Spain in the ’70s, I traveled alone throughout the country and was fascinated by shepherds and their sheep. I would go out in a field and sit and watch them. Little did I know that one day I would find my own personal Shepherd—the Good Shepherd—Yeshua. He actually found me, and I became one of His grateful sheep. In thankfulness I wrote the song “Love Song to the Messiah:” “You are my Shepherd, my loving guide. You are the Rock in which I hide. You are my song in the daytime and my peaceful rest at night. You are my portion and my delight.”
As the “sheep of His pasture,” we can be thankful that our Shepherd “makes us lie down in green pastures” (Ps. 23:2). I appreciate what W. Phillip Keller says in his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, about this verse and our Shepherd: “In the Christian’s life there is no substitute for the keen awareness that my Shepherd is nearby. There is nothing like Christ’s presence to dispel the fear, the panic, the terror of the unknown. We live a most uncertain life. Any hour can bring disaster, danger, and distress from unknown quarters. Generally it is the ‘unknown,’ the ‘unexpected,’ that produces the greatest panic…Then in the midst of our misfortunes there suddenly comes the awareness that He, the Good Shepherd, is there. It makes all the difference…The outlook changes and there is hope.”
Let us thank God this month for the Good Shepherd who rescues us from all our trials and delivers us from all our fears. In Him we can have peace and rest.
Thanksgiving and Praise
There are seven commands in Psalm 100, a sequence of imperatives, concerning how we are to thank and praise the Lord. These are: 1) shout, 2) serve (worship), 3) come, 4) know, 5) enter, 6) be thankful, and 7) bless.
We are to enter into God’s gates (presence, worship service, house of God) with todah תודה (toe-DAH), thanksgiving, and into His courts with tehillah תהלה (teh-hee-LAH), praise. Praise, from the root halal הלל (ha-LAHL), stresses boasting of, glorifying in God for who He is, rather than anything He has done for us.
“Be thankful to Him, and bless His name” (verse 4). Barkhu Shemo שמו ברכו (ba-ra-KHOO sh-MOE). Bless His Name. The word for blessing in Hebrew is brakha—ברכה (bra-KHAH)—which comes from the word berekh or knee. This suggests a bended knee, the proper posture for someone approaching God.
Psalm 100 ends with the reasons we have to thank the Lord. He is GOOD. He is MERCIFUL. He is TRUE. He is FAITHFUL. “Thank You, Abba, that You never change. You are the same as when King David wrote Psalm 100. I bless You for Your goodness, mercy, truth, and faithfulness in my life. In Yeshua’s Name. Amen.”
Psalm 118: A Thanksgiving and Messianic Psalm
Psalm 118, as part of every Passover seder, is very familiar to Jewish people. The famous verses (22 and 23), referring to Messiah as the Chief Cornerstone, were quoted by Yeshua and are part of most believers’ spiritual vocabulary.
Psalm 118 is special because it is both a Thanksgiving and a Messianic Psalm. It is the final psalm in a group of psalms called the Hallel (Psalms 113-118) which were sung at the three Pilgrimage Feasts: Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles). Hallel is a term derived from the Hebrew verb halal which means to praise.
It is very likely that Psalm 118 was part of what Yeshua and His disciples sang after the institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:30). According to T. Ernest Wilson in The Messianic Psalms, this is the only time in the Gospels where we find the Lord singing. (This psalm is also referred to four times in the record of Yeshua’s last week of public ministry.)
It begins with: “Hodu l’Adonai ki tov, ki l’olam khasdo” (hoe-DOO l-AH-doe-NYE key-TOVE key l-oh-LAHM khas-DOE). Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Right at the beginning, we are given reasons for giving thanks: God is Good. His mercy endures forever. Some versions say, “His love endures forever” instead of “His mercy.” The word khesed חסד (KHEH-sed) can mean both, actually—a special God-kind of love that embodies both love and mercy.
In verses 2-4, three groups of people are called to thank and praise the Lord—Israel (the people as a whole), the house of Aaron (the priesthood), and those who fear the LORD (the godly remnant; see Malachi 3:16). They all agree that God’s mercy (love) endures forever.
Verses 5-7 express the reality of times of trouble and distress, but also the truth of God being our Help. “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Ps. 118:6). We must be thankful that the LORD is on our side! (This verse is quoted in Hebrews 13:6.) Verses 8-13 loudly proclaim that we can trust in the LORD when we are surrounded by enemies. We have victory in His Name.
Verse 14, an echo of Exodus 15:2, gives us further cause for thanksgiving: “The LORD is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.” In verses 15-16, the “right hand of the LORD” is mentioned. It “does valiantly,” and “is exalted.” According to the Brit Hadasha, our Messiah Yeshua is seated at the right hand of God. (Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; Heb. 8:1; Heb. 10:12; Heb. 12:2; I Pet. 3:22)
Verses 17-21 give us more reasons to thank the Lord. He has given us life. He has opened to us the gates of righteousness; He has given us salvation: Yeshua ישוע (yeh-SHOO-ah).
The Chief Cornerstone
Psalm 118:22-23 are prophetic verses: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’S doing. It is marvelous in our eyes.” The cornerstone or capstone was the most prominent and important stone of a building. The identity of this Cornerstone as well as the builders is made clear in the New Covenant scriptures. The builders are the leaders of Israel, the chief priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees. They rejected the “stone,” Yeshua the Messiah, whom God has designated as the Chief Cornerstone.
The prophet Isaiah also spoke prophetically about this Cornerstone. “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily'” (Is. 28:16; see also Is. 8:14). There are numerous verses in the New Covenant that refer to Yeshua as the Chief Cornerstone. Yeshua Himself quoted Psalm 118:22-23 directly, applying it to Himself. (Matt. 21:42-45) This is mentioned again in Mark 12:10-11 and Luke 20:17.
Peter, in his address to the rulers and elders of Israel, after the healing of a lame man, explained who was responsible for making the man whole: “This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12; see also I Pet. 2:4-8 and Eph. 2:20-22).
Psalm 118:24—Neil’s song of deliverance—follows the proclamation of the Chief Cornerstone, Yeshua. Yes, “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” The word rejoice in verse 24 is gil גיל (GEEL) from a root meaning to circle around, dance for joy. Can we thank the Lord for today? We don’t know about tomorrow. He does. We can be grateful for life and all the little things we often take for granted—our air conditioning here in the south, heat in the winters up north, running water, etc.
Psalm 118:22-29 has been called “a precious Messianic jewel.” From the Rejected Stone we proceed to the glorious Hosanna (“Save now, I pray” of verse 25). Hosanna in Hebrew is hoshiana נא הושיעה (hoe-shee-ah-NAH)—Save now. In other words: Come Mashiach. Come. “Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!'” (Matt. 21:19).
Psalm 118:26—“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”—is indeed Messianic. In Hebrew: Baruch Haba b’shem Adonai (ba-ROOK ha-BAH b-SHEHM ah-doe-NYE). Yeshua quoted this part of Psalm 118 when He lamented over Jerusalem and said, “See! Your house is left to you deso- late; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'” (Luke 13:35).
Psalm 118 ends as it began—with thanksgiving! “Hodu l’Adonai ki tov, ki l’olam khasdo. Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
“Thank You, Abba, that Your love and mercy made a way for us to know You intimately. Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son, Yeshua, who opened to us the gates of righteousness. Thank You for giving us light, the Light of Messiah, and giving us a hope, a future, and joy.”
In Yeshua’s Name – Amen.
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