The ancient Hebrews had a very structured set of rules by which they performed their worship in the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon. These rules were given to Moses on Mt. Sinai along with the Ten Commandments. God was very strict about how the Levitical Priests came into His presence, because He was giving them a glimpse into the heavenly realm. This is what the bible tells us about Moses’ meeting with God:
...there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” Hebrews 8:4&5
What God was saying to Moses was, “The pattern I showed you on the mountain – for your earthly worship – is a duplicate of the pattern that happens in the heavenly throne room, when the citizens of heaven worship me.” So the priests knew that if they followed the heavenly instructions they would align themselves with the heavenly realm, and in that way, actually experience the Divine presence.
The book of Psalms is a liturgy for Temple worship that the priests used every day. One of the keys for coming into the sanctuary was exuberant praise and thanksgiving. Psalm 100:4 told the priests, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving in your heart, come into His courts with praise.” This was not a suggestion, it was a commandment. The priests never entered the temple unless they were thanking God with all their hearts for His many blessings. Why?
First, God had shown a way for humans to actually catch a glimpse of the peace and joy that existed in heaven, and to share that joy – like a down payment on the next life. And second, God knows that the best way for us to deal with our problems is to put our attention somewhere else. And if I am being thankful to God for all the blessings in my life, instead of blaming Him for all the bad things, it’s amazing how the answers to every situation just seem to come, along with real peace. The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philipians 4:10
President Abraham Lincoln also understood the value of giving thanks when he declared a national day of thanksgiving for a nation wearied and troubled by the Civil War. The nation needed something to get the country’s mind off the troubles of the war and focus attention on the good things in life. It was such a great idea, every president since then has declared a national day of thanksgiving.
So this year, when you sit down to thanksgiving dinner, wherever you are – with your family or at the Gospel Mission – remember that giving thanks is the way we touch heaven, and that thanking Him for all our blessings opens a door for heaven to enter our mundane lives and bring a bit of God’s glory to bear on this earthly existence.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, come into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Psalm 100:4