Calvin on Thanksgiving



Psalm 106 :"his psalm differs from the preceding, inasmuch as there the Psalmist showed that God had been more than a bountiful father to his chosen people, in order to procure for himself, in coming ages, a race of pure worshippers, while here he acknowledges that these remarkable benefits had been turned to a bad account; because the Jews from time to time threw off the yoke of God, basely abused his kindness, defiled themselves with many pollutions, and also perfidiously departed from his word. Nevertheless, it is not so much in the shape of a reproof or complaint, as a confession of their sins, in order to the obtaining the pardon of them. For the prophet commences with the praises of God, with the design of encouraging both himself and others to cherish good hope in him. Then he prays that God would continue his blessing to the seed of Abraham. But because the people, after so frequently revolting from God, were unworthy of the continuation of his kindness, he asks pardon to be extended to them, and this after he had confessed that from first to last, they had provoked God’s wrath by their malice, ingratitude, pride, perfidy, and other vices.

Psalm 106:1-5

1. Hallelujah. Praise ye Jehovah; because he is good; because his mercy endureth for ever.
2. Who shall express the power of Jehovah? who shall declare all his praise?
3. Blessed are they that keep judgment, and blessed is he who worketh in righteousness at all times.
4. Remember me, O Jehovah! with the good will which thou bearest towards thy people: visit me with thy salvation;
5. That I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the joy of thy nation, and glory with thy heritage.


1. Praise ye Jehovah This exhortation supplies the want of a title; not that the psalm contains nothing else than thanksgiving and praise to God, but that the people, from the experience of past favors, may obtain the assurance of reconciliation; and thus entertain the hope that God, although at present offended, would soon be pacified towards them. In celebrating the praises of God, therefore, he orders them to call to mind such things as would have a tendency to assuage their grief on account of present ills, and to animate their spirits, and prevent them from sinking into despair.

2 Who shall express. This verse is susceptible of two interpretations; for if you read it in connection with the one immediately following, the sense will be, that all men are not alike equal to the task of praising God, because the ungodly and the wicked do nothing else than profane his holy name with their unclean lips; as it is said in the fiftieth psalm: “But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?” And hence to this sentence the following clause should have been annexed, in the form of a reply, Blessed are they that keep judgment I am of opinion, however, that the prophet had another design, namely, that there is no man who has ever endeavored to concentrate all his energies, both physical and mental, in the praising of God, but will find himself inadequate for so lofty a subject, the transcendent grandeur of which overpowers all our senses. Not that he exalts the power of God designedly to deter us from celebrating its praises, but rather as the means of stirring us up to do so to the utmost of our power. Is it any reason for ceasing our exertions, that with whatever alacrity we pursue our course, we yet come far short of perfection? But the thing which ought to inspire us with the greatest encouragement is, the knowledge that, though ability may fail us, the praises which from the heart we offer to God are pleasing to him; only let us beware of callousness; for it would certainly be very absurd for those who cannot attain to a tithe of perfection, to make that the occasion of their not reaching to the hundredth part of it.

3 Blessed are they that keep judgment I make a distinction between this and the preceding verse, and yet so as to preserve the connection between them. For the prophet, having declared the magnitude of God’s power to be such that no tongue could utter all its praises, now says, that the praises of the lip merely are not acceptable to God, but that the concurrence of the heart is indispensable, nay, that even the whole of our deportment must be in unison with this exercise. Now, when he first commands to keep judgment, and then to work righteousness, he gives us a short description of genuine godliness. I have no doubt, that in the former clause he describes the sincere affection of the heart, and that, in the latter, he refers to external works. For we know, there is nothing but the mere shadow of righteousness, unless a man cordially devote himself to the practice of honesty. He requires perseverance, too, that no one may imagine that he has discharged this duty properly, excepting he whose constant and continued aim it is to live righteously and justly. We behold not a few who have only an empty profession; others show some signs of virtue, but do not maintain a consistent course of conduct.

4 Remember me By these words the prophet declares it to be his chief desire, that God would extend to him that love which he bore towards the Church, that he might thus become a participator of all the blessings which, from the very first, he bestows upon his chosen, and which day by day he continues with them. Nor does he desire this for himself alone, but in name of the Church Catholic, offers up a prayer alike for all, that, by his example, he might stimulate the faithful to present similar petitions.

Remember me, says he, with the good will which thou bearest towards thy people; that is to say, grant to me the same unmerited kindness which thou art pleased to confer upon thy people, that so I may never be cut off from thy Church, but always be included among the number of thy children; for the phrase, good will towards thy people, is to be understood passively of that love which God graciously bears to his elect. It is, however, by a metonymy employed by the prophet to point out the marks of God’s love. For from this gracious source flows that proof which he actually and experimentally gives of his grace. But the prophet, if accounted to belong to the number of the people of God, would consider this to be the summit of true happiness; because, by this means, he would feel that God was reconciled to him, (than which nothing is more desirables) and thus, too, he would experience that he was bountiful. The term, remember, relates to the circumstance of time, as we shall see towards the end of the psalm that it was penned when the people were in a state so sad and calamitous, that the faithful might entertain some secret apprehension that their God had forgotten them. To obviate this is the tendency of the next clause, visit me with thy salvation For God is said to visit those from whom he had apparently withdrawn himself; and their salvation is a demonstration of his good-will towards them. In the next verse he repeats the same sentiment, that I may see the good of thy chosen For he desires to be an associate and participator of the blessings which are constantly realised by the elect of God. The verb to see, is very plainly taken to denote the enjoyment of the blessings, as “to see the kingdom of God,” (Joh 3:3;) and “to see good and life” (1Pe 3:10,) denote the corresponding blessings. Those who expound it, that I may see thee do good to the chosen, are mistaken; because the preceding verse upon which this depends will not bear this interpretation, and the exposition which I have given is supported by the words which follow, that I may rejoice in the joy of thy nation, and glory with thy heritage For it is quite obvious that the prophet is solicitous to become a sharer in all the benefits which are the portion of the chosen, that, satisfied with God alone, he may, under his providential care, live joyfully and happily. Whatever might be the then mournful state of the Church, the prophet, amid all such tumult, still clings fast by this principle, that there is nothing better than to be regarded as belonging to the flock and people of God, who will always prove the best of fathers to his own, and the faithful guardian of their welfare. All that he asks is, that God would deal with him, as he is wont to deal with his Church; and declares that he could not bear the thought of being severed or separated from the common lot of the Church. These words, however, imply a tacit complaint that at that time God was withholding his loving-kindness from his afflicted Church, as if he had cast her off altogether."