The verse of the day on the YouVersion Bible app is 1 Chronicles 16:34, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” This refrain occurs frequently in Scripture, especially in the Psalms (see Psalm 107, 118, and 136), but I was interested in the choice of Chronicles rather than Psalms (which might tell you something about the way I think!).
The context of the passage in 1 Chronicles is the celebration of King David and the people when they brought the ark of the covenant up to Jerusalem. Reading the whole psalm (for 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 is an embedded and independent psalm not found in the book of Psalms) is a history-of-Israel in a nutshell. The song reflects on God’s faithful fulfilment of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give their descendants the land of Canaan and calls on the people to respond in praise.
What caught my attention, however, was the verse immediately following the refrain about the Lord’s enduring love. It reads, “Cry out, “Save us, God our Saviour; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.” This petition does not fit the given context at all. There is nothing in the narrative that surrounds the psalm that suggests that the people required saving or were scattered among the nations!
A brief examination of the other places where this refrain is used in its entirety, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” reveals that this refrain appears to have been of particular significance for the people of Israel at a time when they were in need of saving and restoration (see Jeremiah 33:10-11 or Psalm 107 which depicts people in need of salvation – and which opens the final book of the psalms).
In other words – long story short – this refrain is not one sung by those who are filled with thanks, but those who are in need of a reminder that God is good and that his love endures forever. It is the discouraged, the downcast, and the disheartened upon whose lips these words are found.
All this to say, praising God is not the exclusive domain of those who are enjoying the goodness of God, but for everyone; and perhaps those of us who are doing it tough need to lead the way. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”