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Devotion for Nov. 8, 2009

Yesterday we noted that gratitude is a characteristic of those who love God. We find a wonderful example of this in the life of a German pastor named Martin Rinckart, who was born in 1586. For three decades, he faithfully ministered to his own congregation as well as the entire town of Eilenburg, in Saxony, during the terrors of plague, severe famine, and war. During one particularly horrific year, Rinckart buried an estimated 5,000 people. In response to the peace agreement that ended the Thirty Years' War in 1636, Rinckart wrote the following words: "Now thank we all our God / With heart and hands and voices;/ Who wondrous things had done,/ In whom His world rejoices." To this day, the outpouring of Rinckart's gratitude, expressed in this beloved hymn, continues to bless and encourage believers.

A similar expression of gratitude is found in Exodus 15. Moses' spontaneous praise song follows God's miraculous deliverance from Pharaoh's army as the Israelites left Egypt. Notice how Moses moves from thanking God for what He has done to crying out, "Who among the gods is like you, O Lord?" (v. 11). As we noted in several previous studies, failing to thank God went hand in hand with forgetting God and worshiping idols. Here we see just the opposite. Focusing on what God has done and praising Him leads naturally to worshiping Him. This passage also shows that there's a strong connection between praising and thanking God.

Soon after the Red Sea miracle, the people arrived at Mount Sinai to worship the Lord. In Exodus 19, we read of God's purposes for His people. They are to be a holy nation in the midst of all the nations on the earth. The reminder that God delivered them from Egypt (v. 4) indicates that part of this calling includes gratefully remembering God's great act of deliverance. As Bible scholar David Pao writes, "Thanksgiving is a way of life and it characterizes the covenant people."

Apply the Word

Today's study shows that thanksgiving is an essential characteristic of God's people. As believers, we have the opportunity to bear witness to our faithful, loving God by giving thanks to Him. Perhaps you feel intimidated about sharing your faith with others, or you don't really know what to say. One way to get started might be to share with a nonbelieving friend or coworker how thankful you are to God for something in your life. An "attitude of gratitude" is often a powerful witness in a frequently ungrateful world.

BY Dana M. Harris

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