When the psalmist says God’s word is perfect, he means perfect: “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true” (Psalm 18:30).
Nobody knows that, though. We think the man is being eloquent.
When the psalmist says “the words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6), he really does mean a seven-times purification from any conceivable aspect of his words that would keep them from being totally awesome, as opposed to a merely five or six-times excellence.
Nobody knows that, though; we think the man is being poetic. We say, “What a spiritual man the psalmist is.”
The exception to that ignorance is people who press into the words of God like the forceful men Jesus talked about who have always taken hold of the kingdom (Matthew 11:12). They strive to see the glories that can only be seen from the other side of the threshold.
Thanksgiving should be glorious. The Lord says repeatedly that we should give thanks. We know it is the right thing to do—but little do we know that it is a “perfect” thing.
We read, “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psalm 95:2-3).
We read that and think to ourselves we should really get around to saying thank you to God more often because the Lord is worthy of our thanks. Then we look for a seminar, or a mnemonic device that will help.
The best way to learn thanksgiving is to taste it. Regular practice heals what ails us, rights our relationships, straightens out stinkin’ thinkin’, and releases us from dungeons. People who practice thanksgiving don’t put it on a to-do list underneath cleaning the gutters. Maybe they started the habit of thanksgiving for theological correctness, but they’ve ended up being John Piper Christian “hedonists.”
Thanksgiving is perfect in the same way that Abraham’s offering of first picks of real estate to Lot was perfect. It’s perfect in the way Ruth’s giving up security in her native Moab to help her mother-in-law was perfect, and Levi pushing away his money table to follow Jesus was perfect. These people did it in utter abandonment of self-interest, but they all came out ahead. They didn’t do virtue for the sake of reward, but reward was the handmaiden of virtue.
Now, many of us spend our days depressed and hagridden by carnal desires, and we run to the psychiatrist for something fancy or pharmacological. Meanwhile, the “perfect” is sitting in our Bibles, like a sleeper. It says simply: Thank God for everything that happens to you, and you will be happy. It says: Give God His due, and you will escape the torment of self-centeredness.
What we thought was a duty turns out to be our deliverance.
“No fair!” we think. “If God had just told us up front that thanksgiving was the secret door to all these goodies, instead of letting us think it was a command, we would have done it!” Well, maybe God, in His wisdom, thought it was enough for us to think it a command, and He reserved His blessing for those who would obey it with no motive but love.
There is good, better, and best in this world—and then there is perfect (Psalm 12:6). “Good” would be the case that rendering God thanksgiving fulfills our rightful obligation. “Better” would be that thanksgiving fulfills our obligation and gives testimony. “Best” would be that thanksgiving fulfills our obligation and gives testimony and pleases God. But “perfect” is that when we give God a little thing, He gives us everything.
I was walking down the road, trying to pray to God for stuff and getting nowhere. Then I chucked it all and started thanking Him, and never ran out of topics. I’m guessing if everyone knew this secret we wouldn’t even need a special Thanksgiving Day in November. It would seem strangely unnecessary.