Psalm 78 is a long one, but like quite a few psalms it has some important things to say about thanksgiving and our life and walk with the Lord. In my bible the heading says ‘God’s guidance of His people in spite of their unfaithfulness.’ In its 72 verses it does indeed detail God’s peoples’ unfaithfulness, sin and rebellion as well as His goodness, mercy and faithfulness.
There are one or two things that leapt out to me as I read it, things of great relevance when it comes to thanksgiving. One of them is the word “forgot”. In verse 11 the psalmist tells us, “they forgot His deeds”. The next five verses detail some of the wonderful and miraculous things God had done for them. The previous two verses tell us the consequence of their forgetfulness: although they were fully equipped (as we are in Christ Jesus) they turned back, did not keep God’s covenant and refused to walk in His law. Verses 17 and 18 add to the misery, they sinned, rebelled against Him and put Him to the test. As the Psalm progresses we find that when trouble came they remembered the Lord was their Rock and Redeemer (verses35,36). But it didn’t last, even though God was compassionate and forgiving (v38,39). Again in verse 42 we find them forgetting “They did not remember His hand in the day when He redeemed them from the adversary”. God’s redemption, care and goodness is detailed for us in the next verses (43 – 55).
Quite often we maybe notice our sins and mistakes, or the sins and mistakes of others and say ‘that’s the problem’. Well it is, but perhaps we would do well to ask ourselves, “What came before the sin or mistake?” Grapes come from vines not from thorn bushes (Matthew 7:16-18, James 3:12). Maybe it was the fact that they forgot, and did not remember, that was a very big factor preceeding, and therefore leading them into, wrong thinking, testing God and going wrong. I feel like a similar process happened for Eve when it seems that she was already forgetting exactly what God had said, or at least not fully believing it, as well as forgetting His abundant generosity in giving her every other tree to eat and enjoy, before she fell into Satan’s trap.
So we need to rev up our remembering machinery big time, and do our level best not to be forgetful especially, as this Psalm reminds us, when things are not going exactly the way we would really like them to, as was the case for the Israelites in the wilderness journey. And what is one of the very best ways of remembering and not forgetting? Why thanksgiving of course! If Eve had been thanking God for all the luscious food He had made available to her in the Garden of Eden, and the great carefree life she was enjoying there with Adam, with no sweat, or pain, she might have rejected the Devil’s idea out of hand. Not to mention if she had been musing with joy and gratitude on the lovely evening conversations she and Adam had with the Lord, as they walked together.
The psalmists clearly understood this. “Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget none of His benefits”, Psalm 103:2. Every benefit from the smallest (chocolate hobnobs?) to the greatest (My salvation, In His family, Christ within me, Eternal Life and so much more).”Remember the wonders He has done”, Psalm 105:5, (and those daily mercies we almost overlook). Moses also clearly realised how prone we are to forget and the negative consequences of forgetfulness. So much so that he repeated his warning about forgetfulness to God’s people three times. Deuteronomy 4:9,6:12,8:11.
Positively Moses and the psalmist recognised the importance of speaking out God’s mighty works, faithfulness, strength and goodness to each other and especially to those younger than us. “Make them known to your sons and grandsons” Deuteronomy 4:9, “Listen Oh my people…I will open my mouth…which our fathers have told us….We will not conceal them from our children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done,” Psalm78:1-4. Speaking out in this way is the opposite of me forgetting, and it also helps others not to forget.
Especially as we get older we can find it easy to forget things. Thanksgiving, intentional, proactive, and frequent, as we bless the Lord (Psalm103) is one of the most practical, powerful and simplest ways of making sure I don’t forget all the Lord has done for me. And I don’t have to be clever, or ‘theological’, or extrovert, I can be like a little child as Jesus recommended. I just need to choose to do it, do it more and do it frequently as a lifestyle choice.