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Thanksgiving in Worship

“They should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor” (v. 22).

- Esther 9:20–22

Haman, the inveterate enemy of the Jews during the Persian period, once attempted to annihilate the Jewish people (Est. 3:7–11). In the providence of God, he ultimately failed because of the intervention of Esther and Mordecai, and the Jews actually “gained mastery over those who hated them” (9:1). To commemorate the rescue of the Jews, the feast of Purim was established (vv. 20–22). To this day, observant Jews keep the feast of Purim by sending gifts to one another and retelling the story of Esther.

Westminster Confession of Faith 21.5 cites the establishment of Purim in Esther 9:20–22 as support in asserting that the church may at times call for special occasions of thanksgiving outside of weekly Lord’s Day worship. Thus, we see that Scripture allows for services of thanksgiving for the covenant community, and we see that today, many Reformed churches mark significant events with public gatherings for expressing gratitude. Some churches hold services of thanksgiving to celebrate paying off the mortgage on the church building. Others might hold them in conjunction with a national holiday such as Thanksgiving Day. Some churches even have thanksgiving services to recognize their pastors or a church anniversary. Truly, there are many times when a special worship service of thanksgiving can be appropriate.

Yet while the Westminster Confession describes thanksgiving on special occasions, it does not mean that thanksgiving should not be a part of ordinary, weekly worship. If one of the chief failures of unredeemed humanity is failing to give God thanks (Rom. 1:21), then surely the worship of the redeemed should be full of expressions of gratitude for the Lord’s provision of salvation and our daily needs. Moreover, Paul assumes that Christian worship will include expressions of thanksgiving, for he calls for believers not to utter their thanks in tongues but to do so in the common language (1 Cor. 14:13–19).

Because we have received the undeserved gift of God’s grace in Christ, we who believe in Jesus ought to be the most grateful of all people. This means that we should thank our Creator regularly, both as private individuals and as a body during worship. Thanking God for who He is and what He has done expresses our awareness of who the Lord is—our sovereign, gracious Maker—and who we are—undeserving creatures who have been brought into a saving relationship with Him.

Coram Deo

Most of our regular worship services include expressions of thanksgiving to God for His redemption. We should participate in these wholeheartedly and also thank God during any periods of silent prayer that occur before, during, or after worship. Cultivating thankful hearts will help us remember who God is and why He is worthy of our praise.

Passages for Further Study

1 Chronicles 16:8–36
Philippians 4:6
Colossians 4:2
Revelation 11:15–19

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.