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Thankful for the Little Things

November 19, 2018
Dr. J.B. Hixson
Thankful for the Little Things Blog

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)

Years ago, when I was teaching full time at a Bible college, I worked with a man who was very good at praying.  That may sound like a strange observation, but it is true.  This man knew how to pray and everyone loved to hear him pray in public.  His prayers were convicting because he had a way of reminding us about the little things we take for granted.  He often would pray, for example, “Thank you Lord for my feet, which I used to walk into this room!”  Or, “Thank you Lord for my hands, which I am using to hold this microphone!”  Or, “Thank you Lord for my lungs, which I just used to take a breath!”

When is the last time you thanked God for your feet?  Or for your lungs?  It is easy to thank God for the big things in life; the big answers to prayer; the big blessings.  But sometimes I wonder if we take for granted the little things.

One of the things I love about Jewish history is the way the Israelites passed down testimonies of God’s faithfulness through oral tradition.  They were very intentional about memorizing songs and sayings that were used to teach their children and grandchildren about their past—specifically the many ways in which God had protected and provided for His people generation after generation.  And not only was this used as a way to teach younger members of society, but it also served to motivate and encourage everyone, regardless of age, through good times and bad.  At their feasts and festivals, they would recite from memory, or sing, various stories as a reminder of God’s everyday hand of blessing.

There is one particular collection of hymns that the Israelites would sing at their three yearly feasts: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.  It is known as The Hallel.  The Hebrew word Hallel is a command that means “praise.” The Hallel is found in Psalms 113-118 and 136.  They also used these Psalms on other holy days. These songs were composed by an anonymous hymn writer more than 1,000 years before Christ.  At Passover, it was customary to sing Psalms 113 and 114 before the meal and Psalms 115–118 after it to celebrate the Exodus. They also sang Psalm 136, known as The Great Hallel, at its climax.

Psalm 136 is unique because it repeats the same refrain in each verse.  There are twenty-six verses in Psalm 136, and each one repeats the refrain: “For His mercy endures forever.”  The Israelites probably sang this song sort of like a responsive reading, with the leaders singing the first part of each verse and the people responding with the refrain.  The Hebrew word translated “mercy,” is hesed, meaning “loyalty, faithfulness, or kindness.”

With this song the Israelites praised God for His great acts and for His everlasting kindness.  The Great Hallel reminds us that God is a kind God—only doing what is in our best interest.  He never seeks to do us harm or ill.  He knows what we need, and like a good, good Father, only gives us what will help us, even if it is sometimes difficult to recognize it in the moment.  God’s faithful kindness shows up in countless ways in our lives.  As the Israelites sang this song, they were reminding themselves about lots of the big ways that God had shown His kindness through the generations, as well as how He shows His kindness every day in the little things.  As I review this Psalm, I cannot help but wonder, are we taking some of these little things for granted?

This Thanksgiving, thank God for being a kind God; a loving God; a faithful God.  Thank Him for being a good, good heavenly Father Who sent His Son to die in your place on the cross, paying your penalty for sin, and providing eternal life for all who place their faith in Him.  But don’t forget to thank God for the little things as well—things like the air we breathe, the sun that shines, the clothes on our backs, and the eyes you just used to read this article.



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