FaithWorks! Thanks and Giving
Let’s start with a multiple-choice question as we continue in the post-Thanksgiving spirit. Was the beginning of Thanksgiving a secular holiday, a religious holiday, or both? Many associate the roots of Thanksgiving as beginning with the Pilgrims celebration. But the Pilgrims were deeply religious people who came to America to escape religious prosecution in Europe. Why was giving thanks important to them?
The Pilgrims were familiar with all the biblical principles of thanking God starting with Leviticus, the third book of the Bible. In Leviticus 7:13 we find the first use of the term “thanksgiving,” and it is described as a fellowship offering to the Lord. This celebration was centered on the Israelites thanking the Lord for all of the blessings and grace he showered on them after their departure from Egypt. We really should call this the First Thanksgiving since this happened approximately 1445 B.C. The Israelites were recognizing their weakness in not trusting the Lord to provision them and even more, they were apologizing for putting the Lord to the test during the 40-year period they were in the desert. It’s interesting that God is being recognized as the provider after tumultuous passages—both spiritually and physically—by both the Pilgrims and the Israelites. If the Pilgrims missed this biblical reference, they would not have missed the multiple references to giving thanks in 1 Chronicles 16:34-35...
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.”
Both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln recognized the importance of thanking the Lord for his protection as each issued a Thanksgiving proclamation.
In Washington’s proclamation of Thanksgiving, delivered in 1789, he said: “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."
Lincoln followed up in 1863, stating: “It is the duty of nations as well as of men to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.”
When you read these two proclamations several things stand out. First, they are proclamations by two of our greatest leaders, who recognized the importance of having a nation blessed by the Lord. Second, one cannot ignore the timeliness of these proclamations as they could very well be describing our nation today. Third, they were offered by imperfect people who represented all of us and our imperfections.
Why do we thank the Lord for his blessings, protection, and grace? One reason is that the Lord wants to hear from us. The Lord appreciates our acknowledgement of his blessings and grace. Another reason relates to the Washington and Lincoln proclamations—we have a duty and responsibility to our nation to offer thanks to the Lord.
The blessings we receive from the Lord for thanking him are best summarized by Lincoln: “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole of the American people.”
“Along with their fellowship offering of thanksgiving they are to present an offering with thick loaves of bread made with yeast.”
1 Chronicles 16: 13-14
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.”