If you were to walk into my family room, you would see a large canvas painting above our fireplace. On that painting, you would see four Hebrew words – these words guide the way our family desires to live together.
We, of course, fail to fully embody them the way we desire, but they are ever-present reminders of how we desire to glorify God in our lives and relationships. It’s what we purpose to fall back on when the boundary lines feel like they’re getting fuzzy.
The first is shalom – not just peace, but the kind of peace that arises from unity with God and each other. The second is chesed– the loving-kindness modeled by God in the redemptive story of the whole gospel. It’s sacrificial and active love, kindness, goodness, and compassion. The third is hineni – literally “here I am” but more deeply, a posture of immediate agreement to whatever it is God asks us to do. The fourth is todah.
Todah is an amazing word. It literally is rooted in the word thanksgiving, but it is quite layered. It does not just communicate gratefulness. It is a form of thankfulness and praise to God that is wrapped up in confession.
Todah is thankfulness offered in faith. It is an offering to God that does not look on our earthly circumstances with our natural eyes – it is an offering of grateful faith for who God is before the provision we are praising Him for has ever been experienced. It is a thankfulness that is confident in the power and wisdom of God and the way He moves on behalf of His people. Therefore, we praise Him.
The Psalms are full of examples of todah. But do you want to know one of my favorite stories where todah moves the heart of God?
I don’t know about you, but if you were to ask me to share a Thanksgiving story… Jonah would have been the last person I would think to point to. He ran away from God’s calling and ended up in the belly of the big fish, didn’t he? But there is this moment in the dark and the stench of Jonah’s disobedience that he turns. And he makes a sacrifice.
But how do you make a sacrifice when you’re stuck in the belly of a big fish? There’s no Temple in there. No lambs or grains or doves to offer.
“But I with the voice of thanksgiving (todah) will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” Jonah 2:9
Jonah repented and sacrificed to God an offering of praise that thanked Him for his salvation before he ever experienced deliverance from the belly of the fish. Jonah didn’t see the daylight yet. He didn’t smell the fresh air yet. He didn’t know how it was going to happen. But regardless of his circumstances, he chose faith in the dark. His faith was linked to his thankfulness simply due to who he knew God to be.
And then we know how this story goes… God spoke to the fish and it … ::ahem:: vomited (ew) Jonah onto dry land.
Let me be clear… Jonah had no idea that his offering of thankfulness through faith would move the heart of God this way. It didn’t matter and it wasn’t the reason he offered it. He wasn’t manipulating God. Todah isn’t a formula for getting deliverance. Todah is a fruit of full faith in God. And as we read story after story in Scripture, we can be confident that our God who searches our hearts is moved by our faith in Him.
In the United States, families and friends will gather around tables tomorrow to observe the holiday of Thanksgiving. Some might experience picturesque days fit for a magazine, but some might feel like they’re sitting in the dark.
Regardless of where we are sitting, those seats can be where we choose to remember who our God is, and in doing so we can offer the sacrifice of our thanksgiving before we have ever experienced the provision we long for.
When we choose to live with a spirit of todah, we are choosing to remember we have been made new. The old has passed away, the new has come. All things are possible because He has been and always will be the Way Maker. He is worthy of the sacrifice of our thankfulness!
May you experience the peace that comes through confident faith in the God who loves you and who is at work on your behalf. May your faith turn to praise as you agree with Him about His character and His provision.
I am thankful for you, friend, and pray that you experience a truly meaningful week with your loved ones.