Giving Thanks: God’s Greatness and Dependability
Old Faithful has captured the hearts of Americans for two centuries. Even though everyone knows what it is, and what they are coming to see, it never ceases to get “oohs and ahhs” from visitors, and for good reason. Seventeen plus times a day, a jet of water shoots up over 100 feet into the air, lasting from anywhere between a minute and a half and five minutes. Though Old Faithful has amazed people since the 1800s when it was discovered, just last year it attracted the most people ever to visit it in a single year. Why? Because Old Faithful has two things, that when combined, capture our hearts every time: greatness and dependability.
You wouldn’t get so excited if Old Faithful was 150 centimeters tall, and you wouldn’t go out of your way to visit it if the chance of seeing it go off was equal to winning the lottery. People drive out to see this thing because of its greatness. It’s awesome! And because they know it’s going to come through. It’s dependable!
In the Bible, Psalm 95 helps our hearts latch on to God for these very same reasons. It invites us to consider God who is both our Great King and our dependable Shepherd. As we do so, the result is that our hearts will be filled with joy and gratitude over and over again. As predictably as Old Faithful.
Respond in Joy to your Great King
In Psalm 95:1-5, David calls invites God’s people to use their voices to sing to God. He instructs them to “make a joyful noise,” to, “come into his presence with thanksgiving,” and to, “make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise.” All of this is a poetic jubilation spilling out of him to everyone within earshot.
Why is David so joyful? God’s great Kingship (vs. 3). God is a “great God, and a great king above all gods.” God is alone in His authority as King of everything, and nobody can touch him. What gives God the right to rule over us, our lives, and the whole world? Because He made us.
Whatever or whoever may be causing your heart to be troubled, let God’s word put the situation in perspective. There’s no need to be afraid of an army of wooden soldiers when you have a battalion of Marines behind you. Next to your God and King, there is simply no contest! Our God is over all, and no corner of this earth is an exception, not even your life, as messy as it may feel.
Respond in Joy to Your Trustworthy Shepherd
Further down in Psalm 95, David’s call to worship is more physical. He calls the people to bow down and kneel before God. These are physical ways of expressing humility and trust in God. Notice how the physical posture of humility changes the language of relationship to God. No longer does David refer to Him as “a” Great God (like he did in verse 3)—now He is “our” God. “Our” Maker. Indeed we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. This is the language of God’s covenant, His promise to Israel that they will be His people, and He will be their God.
David uses metaphors of tender care and leadership to describe the trust God’s people should have in Him. God watches over us, protects us, and leads us to safety. And our response to Him is humble worship and joy. It’s to say to Him, “You know the right way, not me. Thank you, Lord—You are a Good King.”
At the end of verse 7, it’s no longer David talking—God Himself breaks in to tell His people something directly: an urgent invitation, wrapped in a warning, to enter His rest.
If you’re looking for a personal Bible study to do over Thanksgiving, may I suggest reading Hebrews 3-4 and meditating on the rest God invites us to? One thing that is abundantly clear from this passage in Hebrews is that we are intended to hear God’s invitation today and that the rest He invites us to is peace with God now, and ongoing. Rest that goes on forever—the eternal life Jesus promises to those who believe in Him. He is a trustworthy Shepherd, leading His sheep to rest.
Maybe this Thanksgiving we need to ask God to help us see His greatness again and to help us trust Him the way we should. As part of your Thanksgiving celebration together, consider reading Psalm 95 together to remind those who have gathered what your hearts should be feeling. Ask God to help you, He’s a good king, and tender shepherd that you can trust.
Old Faithful may be a great spectacle that always comes through, but this Thanksgiving, let’s be blown away by God’s greatness and trustworthiness again, and find our hearts filled with joy.