Our Daily Bread, February 20, 1994 carried, “Thankfulness seems to be a lost art today. Warren Wiersby was told about a ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois, who was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.”
During this thanksgiving season it is good for us to be reminded of the original intention and purpose of Thanksgiving Day. The first American Thanksgiving didn't occur in 1621 when a group of Pilgrims shared a feast with a group of friendly Indians. It took place in Virginia more than 11 years earlier, and it wasn't a feast. The winter of 1610 at Jamestown had reduced a group of 409 settlers to 60. The survivors prayed for help, without knowing when or how it might come. When help arrived, in the form of a ship filled with food and supplies from England, a prayer meeting was held to give thanks to God. That was the first recorded Thanksgiving.
William Bradford the then governor of Plymouth colony, on November 29th 1623 called all the Pilgrims to give thanks to God for His goodness. “To All the Pilgrims: Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams. He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease. He has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. Now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all the Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at the meeting house, on the hill the Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to the pastor, and render thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings."
George Washington in 1779, proclaimed, “This day to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness!"
Abraham Lincoln in October 3, 1863 said, “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 American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.
Transition: Unfortunately, what began as a tradition to pray and thank God and remember all of His blessings, greatly lost its intended meaning and purpose. As some continue this tradition of coming together as families to thank God, for many it has reduced in meaning to just being Turkeyday. In the light of Thanksgiving let us see what the bible has to say about thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is one of the commandments of God:
Thanksgiving is one among many other commands God gave to the people of Israel. The first seven Chapters in the book of Leviticus talk about the five main offerings that God required of His people. 1. The sin offering, 2.Guilt offering, 3. Burnt offering, 4. Fellowship offering. 5. Grain offering. The sequence explains part of the spiritual significance in the sacrificial system in Israel.(Numbers 7:16,17). Once the individual’s sin is dealt by sin offering the worshiper commits himself/herself completely to the Lord through the burnt offering, then the fellowship between God and the worshiper is established through the fellowship offering or the grain offering. The fellowship offering, is a voluntary act of worship; thanksgiving and fellowship (often included a community meal). The OT people knew the importance and the purpose of thanksgiving. So when they came together to worship God they brought these offerings. Leviticus 7th chapter deals with how to offer the fellowship offering:
Leviticus 7:11-14: There were specific regulations to be followed in terms of what items to bring, how they were to be presented to God and how they were to be treated after the offering. The fellowship offering is an expression of thankfulness. In the OT thank offerings were given in gratitude for:
Deliverance from sickness:
Psalm 116:16-17 “O Lord, truly I am your servant; you have freed me from my chains. I will sacrifice a thank offering to you.
For Deliverance from Trouble:
Psalm 107: 19, 21, 22 “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble and he saved them from their distress. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of Joy.”
Deliverance from death:
Psalm 56:12 “ I am under vows to you, O God; I will present my thank offerings to you. For you have delivered me from death.
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
1 Timothy 2:1 “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone.”
Transition: What does this mean for us today? We give prayer requests to ask God to give us success in our jobs, business, to grant good grades, heal our sickness. When God answers our requests we come before God bringing our offerings as an expression of gratitude for what he has done.
II. Don’t forget to give thanks for all we receive from God.
Deut 8:7-10 The Lord told Israelites that he was going to bring them into a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land where you shall eat food without scarcity, in which you shall not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.
The Bible teaches us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17) Every thing we own today including our very breath comes from God. He is the giver of all good things. Lamentations 3:38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?
Illustration: In his book FOLK PSALMS OF FAITH, Ray Stedman tells of an experience H.A. Ironside had in a crowded restaurant. Just as Ironside was about to begin his meal, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Ironside invited him to have a seat. Then, as was his custom, Ironside bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, "Do you have a headache?" Ironside replied, "No, I don't." The other man asked, "Well, is there something wrong with your food?" Ironside replied, "No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat."
The man said, "Oh, you're one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I don't have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!"
Ironside said, "Yes, you're just like my dog. That's what he does too!"
Ray Stedman, Folk Psalms of Faith.
Transition: This illustration explains the prevailing attitude of many in our society. Many people think that they earn money by the sweat of their brow. But often they don’t realize that it is God who gives them knowledge and strength to work. We teach our children to be grateful for everything they receive from God, especially at the meal table, never to eat with out thanking God first.
III. Be grateful for what we have and stop grumbling for what we don’t have.
We have a tendency to grumble and complain for the things that we don’t have and others seem to have. The Israelites in the desert complained and grumbled that they didn’t have the good things that they used to enjoy while they were slaves in Egypt. Paul exhorts young Timothy about the “Get rich trap” In 1st Timothy 6:6-10 “6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.
We read in the book of Proverbs “ Two things I ask of you, O Lord; don’t refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches; but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you, and say “Who is the Lord or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God.” During these economic hardships it is wise to pray the prayer our Lord taught us. “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Illustration: Slide show:
Transition: I know this slide show is rather heavy this is not meant to make us feel guilty for having much more than people in some other parts of the world but it is to open our eyes to see how much others are having to put up with on a daily basis. In comparison to their struggles we are blessed with so many comforts but how grateful and appreciative are we?
Ex: Bhopal DTS example.
IV. In everything give thanks for this is the will of God.
In a sermon at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, Gary Wilburn said: "In 1636, amid the darkness of the Thirty Years' War, a German pastor, Martin Rinkart, is said to have buried five thousand of his parishioners in one year, and average of fifteen a day. His parish was ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster. In the heart of that darkness, with the cries of fear outside his window, he sat down and wrote this table grace for his children: 'Now thank we all our God / With heart and hands and voices;/ Who wondrous things had done,/ In whom His world rejoices. /Who, from our mother's arms,/Hath led us on our way/ With countless gifts of love/ And still is ours today. Here was a man who knew how to give thanks to God in spite of adversity.
Conclusion: Let’s make a list of all what you are thankful to God for. We will join David in saying “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” Psalm 103:1-2