We’re going to continue this study of thankfulness by looking to how the ancient Israelites acknowledged God’s goodness. In the Old Testament, thankfulness was incorporated into the Israelites’ regular worship, specifically as they first entered the Temple. Their focus was directed immediately to what God had done for them and was continuing to do, lest they forgot — as they’d been known to do.
“I am about to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God. It will be a place set apart to burn incense and sweet spices before him, to display the special sacrificial bread, and to sacrifice burnt offerings each morning and evening, on the Sabbaths, at new moon celebrations, and at the other appointed festivals of the Lord our God. He has commanded Israel to do these things forever.2 Chronicles 2:4-6, emphasis added
This will be a magnificent Temple because our God is an awesome God, greater than any other. But who can really build him a worthy home? Not even the highest heavens can contain him! So who am I to consider building a Temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices to him.”
In designing the Temple, King Solomon recognized how unworthy he was to create a palace worthy of his God, and so he designed a building that would highlight God’s glory and magnificence. He wanted the Israelites’ worship to begin before they even entered the actual Temple, so he designed the outer court to be a place of sanctification and sacrifice. In this outer court, priests would cleanse themselves before serving the people; but even more often, the Israelites would approach the altar to make sacrifices before God. These sacrifices could be for sins, peace, or dedication, but they always turned the focus to God above all else. He was the provider, the protector, the forgiver, and the peace-maker — from Him came all blessings, and so to Him went all the glory and the praise. As the Israelites passed through the outer court, their focus turned from their own cares to the wonder of the Most High, just as we should when we approach God in our own worship.
While the structure of the Temple and the need for burnt sacrifices became unnecessary after Christ’s sacrifice in the New Testament, we modern believers can still take guidance from the model of worship created by the ancient Israelites. As we approach our time with God, we should take a few moments to reflect on His greatness and power, which is so much more than we can imagine. We must humble ourselves before Him, making ourselves less so that we can better view Him in all of His majesty.
One of the best ways I have found to do this in my own life is to list the names of God, as He is known throughout the Bible (and several praise songs). He is Adonai, Yahweh, El Shaddai, a mighty Fortress, Deliverer, King of kings and Lord of lords, Miracle-worker, and Promise-keeper. He goes before us and guards our backs in every battle, provides our daily needs, and promises to never leave us. These are the truths I cling to, the gifts I thank God for. What are ways you’ve discovered to praise God, especially amidst the distractions of the world?