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Worship is Gratitude

One nice feature of Bible search programs is the ability see how often certain words or phrases are used together. Two such words are “thanks” and “praise.” For example, the Levites, we are told, were appointed “to thank, and to praise the Lord God of Israel (1 Chron 16:4).” Singing in the book of Ezra is described as “praising and giving thanks to the Lord (Ezra 3:11).” We find it frequently in the Psalms. “I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many peoples (Psalm 35:18).” And all the way into the New Testament we find this connection, as in Hebrews where we are told to “offer the sacrifice of praise to God…giving thanks to His name (Heb 13:15).”

I’ve been thinking about this association of “thanks” and “praise.” There seems to be a truth worth pondering in the close connection between both of these ideas. And, while I suspect that there could be many fruitful thoughts that could arise from such pondering, one observation has touched my heart. And that observation is this: Worship is Gratitude. The heart that understands God’s grace and mercy responds in worship as an expression of thanks.

It is therefore fair to say, to some degree, that participation in public worship is a reflection of the gratitude of our hearts. This conclusion may feel a bit painful to those who have been inclined to view public worship and “church going” as unnecessary or even un-spiritual. But understanding that worship is the inevitable and universal response of those grateful to the Lord for what He has done is a clear application of this connection between “thanks” and “praise.”

Understanding “worship is gratitude” also helps to re-orient our minds about why we go to church at all. Far too often I think our tendency is to estimate the value of worship by what we feel “we get out of it.” Now, surely there are things to be gotten. Good preaching, for example, should help us. It’s not wrong to expect to “get something” out of a sermon. But if “getting help” becomes the main thing, and gratitude is forgotten, worship suddenly becomes something we simply prioritize amongst other competing desires, such as work, sports, entertainment, or even sleep.

Maybe the best illustration of this is Jesus’ encounter with the 10 lepers in Luke 17. You remember the story. Jesus healed them all. But, having been sent away, one returns and “with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks (Luke 17:15-16).” Jesus’ words on that occasion are quite penetrating when He asked a simple question, “Where are the nine?” Where were they? They were, like the one who returned, all cleansed. But only one came back to give thanks and worship the Lord.

Friends, would it not be fair to say at many of our worship services on Sunday…”where are the 9?” Surely more than are represented have been cleansed by the saving blood of Jesus Christ. Surely more than are gathered to sing, pray, and hear God’s Word preached have received new life from our risen Savior. Where are they? Where are the 9? My dear friend, when once we grasp that worship is primarily and especially an act of our thanksgiving to God, we cannot easily escape the conclusion that we Christians today are largely an ungrateful group.

Worship is gratitude. Yes, it is more than that too. I’m not suggesting that gratitude is the only motivation or a comprehensive definition. But the proximity of “thanks” and “praise” reminds us that grateful hearts are prone to worship. May the Lord give us all more of the spirit of Daniel who was saved from the wrath of the king, and therefore declared “I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers…(Dan 2:23)”

Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash

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