Sacrifice and Thanksgiving

The book of Jonah contains a poetic prayer which the prophet offered from the belly of the fish. In that prayer, he laments the blessings lost by those who turn away from God, and he vows to be faithful to the covenants he has made:

They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.

Jonah 2:8-9

I love how Jonah characterizes the self-defeating nature of faithlessness. When we turn away from God, we deprive ourselves of needed blessings. We “forsake [our] own mercy.” In contrast, when we keep our promises to Him, we have confidence that He will bless us. We can be grateful for those promised blessings even before we have received them. We can “sacrifice…with the voice of thanksgiving.”

What does the voice of thanksgiving sound like? It sounds like prayer. It sounds like music. Here is how Isaiah described the gratitude we can feel even in our “waste places” and in our “wilderness:”

The Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.

Isaiah 51:3, 2 Nephi 8:3

This passage was quoted by Jacob, who was “born in a tribulation, in a wilderness” (Jacob 7:26), but who counseled his people to “pray unto [God] continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts rejoice” (2 Nephi 9:52).

If Jonah could be grateful for anticipated blessings while in the belly of a fish, and if Jacob could find gratitude and joy in a life of discomfort and migration, then surely I can offer thanksgiving not only for the blessings I have already received but for blessings I anticipate receiving in the future. Today, I will turn my heart to God with the voice of thanksgiving. I will recommit to fulfilling the promises I have made to Him, and I will express gratitude for the promises He has made to me.

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