The Purifying Power of Thankfulness
In all the Psalms Jesus meets with us, identifying with our weaknesses, having compassion on us, and graciously meeting us with help in our time of need. But he does not always help us on our terms, the way we would devise. Sometimes we call out for him for grace and mercy, but he meets us first with more wounds, more hurt. Psalm 50 pictures such a time. We must keep humbly listening. God wounds and speaks only for our good.
God’s people have called out to him, because He is holy and mighty and powerful. In v. 3 they say “Here he comes! He’s answering our prayers!” But his answer pulls them up short: He responds not with tender concern but by calling His “faithful ones” to righteously judge them (v. 4-6). What? I thought God’s job is to help us?!
Indeed, He is out to help, by restoring what would be most to His glory and our good: a thankful heart. God doesn’t need, period. But what glorifies Him is our dependence and thanks. The Giver gets the glory, as we, the recipients, bask in thankfulness at His grace given.
Dependence and thankfulness, when mixed together, also become a purifying agent of awesome power. Another group is addressed here: the wicked (v. 16-22). They break God’s commandments because they have “forgotten” Him - they treat God as if He is like them (v. 21-22).
The way the “faithful ones” keep from becoming the “the wicked” is not by achieving perfection, or lowering their standards, or by trying harder. None of us have the right in ourselves to “recite [his] statutes or take [his] covenant on [our] lips” (v. 16). Only as we “offer thanksgiving” as our sacrifice do we glorify God. And only those who “offer thanksgiving” as their primary sacrifice to God are able to “rightly order [their] way” (v. 23). They always go together.
It is no coincidence that Paul talks of thankfulness this way in Eph. 5, especially v. 4. What lust or immorality lies in your heart? God promises you: no matter how dark or entrenched it may be, it cannot withstand the purifying power of thankfulness to God.
Crucial: thankfulness is fueled by faith, in two directions. It looks back to the cross - “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty” (v. 2). But faith also looks forward in time, with thanks: “. . . call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (v. 15).