The holidays are coming around again, this time with more spice and flavor. Elections have just wrapped up, COVID-19 cases are on the rise and countries’ borders are still not fully open. As Thanksgiving draws closer, living a life of gratitude is becoming more and more imperative. The American people have grown up celebrating Thanksgiving as a national holiday since the first president instituted the celebration. They’ve grown up being reminded every year to count their blessings.
But what is the true meaning of thankfulness? The word “thank” in Old Testament Hebrew is “yada.” It’s literal meaning is “to use or hold out the hands.” Other ways of translating the word convey the idea of throwing or casting, as well as confession. With this word comes the image of lifting one’s hands in worship or praise. In fact, worship and praise are closely related to thanksgiving. The first time the word “yada” is used in the Bible is when Leah, first wife of Jacob, is naming her son. The English transliteration of the word “yada” is “Judah,” which means praise. And it is through this praise-filled, worshipful son that Jesus would eventually descend.
The other obvious use of the word “thanks” is for the thank offering, described in Leviticus 3 and 7. The thank offering is also called the peace offering, and it’s only offered once the worshipper is reconciled to God. This offering is burned on top of the burnt offering, which is a picture of a believer’s life as a sacrificial offering. Both of these offerings are voluntary, given out of the love of the worshipper’s heart.
Thankfulness can be pictured in many different ways. It can be a life given as an offering, burning with flames of passion and love for Jesus. It can also be a confession, or a “casting out” of words, reminding those nearby what God has done. Or it can be seen as simply hands lifted up in reverent worship, especially when the world is in quarantine and many people are worried about COVID-19. This is the only response befitting the goodness of God.