A Song of Thanksgiving
“What shall I render unto Jehovah for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of Jehovah” (Psalms 116:12-13, scriptures from RVIC, unless otherwise noted).
By Keith Belhumeur
The 116th Psalm is a love song of thanksgiving and praise to Jehovah for deliverance from a personal life and death situation, most likely experienced by King David himself. It is one of the Egyptian Hallel Psalms (Psalms 113-118) which came to be sung in connection with the Passover meal and other Hebrew festivals. In Hebrew, halal means “Praise.”1 The Hallel Psalms are known as such because they end with some form of exclamatory “Praise to Jehovah.” Some translations will render the form “Praise ye Jehovah” (RVIC 2020), “Praise ye the LORD” (KJV), or “Hallelujah” (ISV), as seen in verse 19.
It is a Psalm of love, devotion, thanksgiving, and deliverance springing from a deeply intimate and personal perspective of God’s attentiveness and concern for us. All who rely on God can translate this type of situation into our own experiences and draw strength from it. In our present day, we are spiritual Israelites now being delivered from Egypt [the world]. Just as God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, so now, he is delivering his spiritual Israelites to the Promised Land (presence with Christ). If “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (KJV Romans 8:28), then we can have confidence and thanksgiving in our tough times. This very Psalm may have been sung by Jesus and his apostles after the Last Supper, before they departed to Gethsemane (Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26).
(1) Hallel is an English form of halal, Strong’s H1984, which means praise, renowned, or shine. In this case an exclamatory praise. The Hebrew word Yah or Jah, Strong’s H3050, is translated LORD and is actually contracted from the Hebrew word Jehovah, Strong’s H3068. Thus, the exclamatory “Praise ye Jehovah” may be rendered in Hebrew as Halal-u-jah or “Hallelujah.” Also, see RVIC note 699 on verse 19.
We are reminded in the 116th Psalm that Jehovah has His ear toward us and hears our voice in humble petition or appeal. We must be talking to Jehovah for Him to turn his ear. Jesus told us “All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22). Jehovah is righteous, gracious, and merciful and knows what things we have need of before we ask him (Matthew 6:8). We must be walking in the narrow way and our petitions should conform to Jehovah’s character (love, wisdom, justice, and power), principles, precepts, and standards revealed in his word (Isaiah 28:10). But He knows that we have need of things (Luke 12:30). We are to continuously have faith in, rely upon, and trust in God in every situation. In this context, we are reminded when we are in situations that seem impossible, to “Call upon him [Jehovah]” as long as we live (Psalms 116:2). What shall we render unto Jehovah for all his benefits toward us (Psalms 116:12)? The psalmist provides an answer, “I will pay my vows unto Jehovah, Yes, in the presence of all his people” (Psalms 116:14). What vows to Jehovah are we paying and what should be the form of payment?
A Vow to Jehovah
We might first want to understand what a vow is. The Oxford Languages Dictionary defines vow as a noun, meaning a solemn promise, oath, pledge, bond, covenant, or commitment. Vow is also used as a verb meaning to solemnly promise or swear to do a specified thing. In its archaic verb form, a vow is to dedicate to someone or something, especially a deity. The word translated vow in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew neder, Strong’s H5088, meaning a promise, and is derived from the root H5087, nadar which means to promise.2 The vow was a very serious action under Mosaic Law, detailed in Numbers, chapter 30. “And Moses spake … This is the thing which the LORD [Jehovah] hath commanded. When a man voweth a vow unto Jehovah, or sweareth an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth” (Numbers 30:1-2). A vow to Jehovah is not a thing to take lightly.
(2) Leviticus chapter 27 details laws regarding vows related to the Jewish tithe or a vow and their monetary value in order to redeem (provide a like kind replacement) people, beasts, or land promised to Jehovah by tithe or vow.
An important caution regarding a vow to Jehovah: if you make them keep them! Moses made that clear to God’s people. “When thou shalt vow a vow unto Jehovah thy God, thou shalt not be slack to pay it: for Jehovah thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee. That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt observe and do; according as thou hast vowed unto Jehovah thy God, a freewill-offering, which thou hast promised with thy mouth” (Deuteronomy 23:21-23). Solomon, with all his experience and wisdom, reiterates, “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou vowest. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5). Responsibility for one’s vow was made clear in the Mosaic Law with extreme specificity (Numbers 30).
What vow have we made to Jehovah? People make all kinds of vows to God for all kinds of reasons, especially in times of trouble. It is surprising the number of vows recorded in scripture, mostly in the Old Testament. There were vows related to marriage, vows regarding tabernacle or temple offerings, the Nazarite vow (Numbers 6:1-21) and several other miscellaneous vows. Christ vowed to offer himself a sin offering for the forgiveness of sin (Matthew 26:28). Our vow is made to attain something Jehovah has already offered — and given. It is an opportunity for us not to just reciprocate with thanks, but also give something. This vow is solemn, serious, and entails consequences if we do not keep it. It is a vow to be a living sacrifice unto God. It is a vow to surrender our selfish and worldly desires. It is a vow to labor toward God’s purposes. These are all characteristic of a vow we call consecration.
Consecration Seen in the Peace Offerings for Thanksgiving The vow of consecration may be pictured in the peace offerings for thanksgiving, with a vow, detailed in Leviticus chapters 3 and 7. The peace offering was a voluntary offering. In this offering, the animal (from the herd or flock3) was killed at the door of the tabernacle by the offerer. The breast (wave offering) and right shoulder (heave offering) of the animal were set aside for the priest after it was presented to Jehovah. These portions were waved side-to-side and heaved up-and-down before Jehovah to signify consecration. (This incidentally formed a cross, reminding us of the paschal lamb blood placed on the door post, heave, and lintel beam, waive, which protected the first born in Egypt.) They were then set aside for the priests along with the skin (Leviticus 7:8-10, 14, 31, 34).
(3) Tabernacle Shadows, page 98.
In the peace offering for thanksgiving, the priest sprinkled the “blood upon the altar round about” (Leviticus 3:2). The fat of the inwards, kidneys, and associated fat over the liver were to be removed and taken and the priest burned it on the altar, upon the burnt sacrifice, which was upon the wood, as an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor to God (Leviticus 3:5, 6:12). The balance of the offering that was not kept by the priest or burnt on the altar, but was returned to the offerer, was usually used in celebratory feasting to Jehovah by the family (Leviticus 7:11-21, cf. Deuteronomy 12:6, 7, 27:7).
If the peace offering was for a thanksgiving, also required were “unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried. Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings” (Leviticus 7:12-13 KJV). The eaten portions of these sacrifices were to be consumed the same day. “But if the sacrifice of his offering be a vow … it shall be eaten the same day that he offereth his sacrifice: and on the morrow also the remainder of it shall be eaten: But the remainder of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burnt with fire” (Leviticus 7:15-17 KJV, emphasis added).
In this picture, the animal sacrificed in the peace offering represents us, as living sacrifices and our devotion to our Lord. The burnt offering, which the fat parts of the peace offering are placed upon, represents Jesus whose merit makes the peace offering acceptable. The unleavened cake mingled with oil reminds us of Jesus’ perfect humanity derived from the seed of woman (not Adam’s seed) and the holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20) and therefore might represent justification. The unleavened wafer anointed with oil, reminiscent of Jesus’ baptism and anointing of the holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16), may represent glorification. The additional unleavened cake with oil, fried, reminds us that Jesus endured the heat of trials and temptations common to us and prevailed (Hebrews 2:17-18, 4:15). Thus this may represent sanctification.
In the sacrifice of thanksgiving, there is another unique factor, the offering of leavened bread. This part of the sacrifice may represent our consecrated walk as living sacrifices. While being imperfect, we offer ourselves to Jehovah through the blood and merit of Jesus, represented in the sprinkling of blood. Therefore, we join him to be a part of his body, the Church. The burnt portion of the fat shows that Jesus’ sacrifice was acceptable, which makes our portion which is placed on top of the burnt offering acceptable, as a sweet savor unto Jehovah.
Our consecrated walk is not only a sacrifice of thanksgiving; it is a vow to Jehovah. We offer ourselves as living sacrifices into Christ’s death (Romans 12:1, Colossians 2:13, 1 Peter 2:5, Hebrews 9:23, Galatians 3:27), whereby we receive Jehovah’s acceptance through the merit of Jesus. In the peace offering, with a vow, the flesh of the sacrifice must be eaten that day or within the next day. Any flesh that touches an unclean thing or is eaten beyond the second day, or the offeror becomes unclean by touching any unclean thing, then the offering becomes unacceptable and the offeror “shall be cut off from his people” (Leviticus 7:17-21). This likely shows us that our walk in the narrow way is only acceptable for the Body of Christ unto glorification during the current Gospel Age, and then, to all humanity unto human perfection during the Millennial Age.
“But that which remaineth of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burnt with fire” (Leviticus 7:17). There is no acceptable sacrifice or vow beyond these two epochs, once mediation terminates. This vow we take at consecration is solemn and is to be exercised with diligent care. One who defiles the offering, themselves, or fails to eat (partake) in the proper time, “it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be imputed unto him that offereth it: it shall be an abomination, and the soul that eateth of it shall bear his iniquity” (Leviticus 7:18, 20, 21).
This admonishment most assuredly means we can lose our place in the body of Christ if not faithful. Having had Jesus’ merit imputed to us once, we can find ourselves under the judgment of second death (Hebrews 10:26). We are to be sober minded and vigilant to remain in grace and not defile our sacrifice (1 Peter 1:13-23). If we fall into a condition in which we once again “bear our iniquity,” then we must fully realize the consequence (Romans 6:23).
The Cup of Salvation
“I will take the cup of salvation, And call upon the name of Jehovah” (Psalms 116:13). In scripture, the cup is a metaphor for a task, a work, or an experience that one must go through. Jesus used a cup to symbolize the new testament of his blood to remember his sacrifice and his victory (1 Corinthians 11:25-26). It may be filled with experiences that may be difficult. Jesus asked his apostles, “Are ye able to drink the cup that I am about to drink” (Matthew 20:22)? Jesus prayed, “my Father, if this [cup] cannot pass away [from me], except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matthew 26:42). Regardless of its difficulty, Jesus drank from that cup for our benefit.
The cup of salvation is also a cup of blessing to those who love God. The cup of salvation enables us to participate in the afflictions of Christ during our consecrated walk (Colossians 1:24). We offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). The Apostle Paul said, “but watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered … I have fought a good fight … I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:5-8 KJV). We should endeavor to take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of Jehovah, rendering unto him for all his benefits toward us, in humility and thanksgiving.
Bible Students recite the devotional, “A Vow Unto the Lord,” which captures the spirit and sentiments of our consecration vow. In paying our vow, on a regular basis, in all that we do, we recognize and hold Jehovah in high esteem and reverence. We continually open our hearts to His will in our lives to overcome the sinful tendencies of our flesh, the influences of the world, and of the devil. We strive toward righteousness in our personal conduct, work, and treatment of others through the holy Spirit and merit of Jesus Christ. All the while we are developing into the character likeness of Jesus, so we can be worthy to be called sons (and daughters) of God. “What shall I render unto Jehovah for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of Jehovah” (Psalms 116:12-13).
Now is the time for his servants to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psalms 116:17). This offer is to be of our own free will (Leviticus 22:29). It is a peace offering, through our sacrifice of thanksgiving (living out our consecration) (Leviticus 7:12-13, 15). By doing so, we “declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalms 107:22 KJV). We sacrifice with the voice of thanksgiving. Let us continue to pay that which we have vowed (consecrated living) (Jonah 2:9), to proclaim it through our offering (consecration) and publish it (make it known) (Amos 4:5). Let each of us render unto Jehovah our devotion and consecration for all his benefits toward us.