What Happened to Thanksgiving?
One of the things that I have often marveled at is how the secular world greatly commercializes Halloween and then jumps straight to Christmas with little thought of Thanksgiving. I honestly love the holiday of Thanksgiving and the reminder that we should be thankful to God for the many blessings He has given. For those who are believers in Jesus Christ, we of all people have many things for which to be thankful for. We should reflect of the blessings God has given not only one day a year, but every day!
What does Scripture Say About Thanksgiving?
There are hundreds of verses in Scripture that deal with giving thanks and praise to God. To give a rough idea, in the KJV, the word thank is used a total of twenty-six times in twenty-seven verses. The word thanks is used seventy-three times in seventy-one verses. The word thanksgiving is used twenty-eight times in twenty-seven verses, and the word thankful is used three times in three verses. Since Scripture talks so much about it, this is a subject that the believer in Christ would do well to pay attention to.
Who in Scripture Gave Thanks?
There are many examples in Scripture of different people who gave thanks to God for what He has done. The following is a short Scripture study on some of these individuals who gave thanks to God for what He had done.
David: Thankfulness in Relentless Trials
When most people think of David, they think of him as the youth who killed the giant Goliath. He was a shepherd boy who became one of the greatest kings of Israel. He is well-known for his many psalms giving praise and thanksgiving to God. David was a man with a heart after God. He was not perfect, and there were times when he failed and sinned, but David’s life is characterized by his love for and dependence on the Lord. He was a man of Godly character and integrity.
David wrote a multitude of Psalms. Many of these contain words of praise and thanksgiving to God and were written in times of distress and trial. Here are a few of the psalms he wrote that deal with thanksgiving.
Psalm 6 is a lament of David, in which he petitions God for deliverance in the midst of his physical and emotional distress. Yet, he is confident the Lord would hear and answer. In this psalm, David asks the Lord to rescue him from death so that He could give thanks back to Him.
Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22 are very similar. Here David praises God and thanks Him for deliverance from his enemies. He focuses on who God is as well as what He had done. Thanksgiving here is seen as a global event, and David proclaims thankfulness to Him among the nations for what He had done.
In Psalm 26, David sought the Lord’s vindication on account of his integrity so that he might proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving and declare God’s wonderful works (Psalm 26:7).
Psalm 30 was written for the “dedication of the house” David reflects on God’s deliverance personally, and calls the congregation to worship as well. David speaks of the Lord turning his mourning into dancing and of his soul singing praise to God and giving thanks forever.
Parts of Psalm 69 are often quoted in the New Testament. This is a lament Psalm in which David cries out to God in the midst of his persecution. He turns again in praise to the Lord asking God to heal him and perform justice on his enemies. He declares that he will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving (Psalm 69:30).
In good times, as well as in trial, David is an example of one who continually turned to the Lord in praise and thanksgiving. When we face difficulties, we also should turn to the Lord, trusting Him and offering praise and thanksgiving.
Hezekiah: Thankfulness in Revival
“And Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites after their courses, every man according to his service, the priests and Levites for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 31:2).
Beginning with the reign of Solomon, David’s son, the nation began to turn away from God. In the midst of a long line of kings who had forsaken God, Hezekiah, a king of Judah, sought the Lord. There was a revival and a turning back to the Lord in the nation. He consecrated the priests and Levites who had not been performing their duties, as well as cleaning and consecrating the temple. The Passover was celebrated as had not been done since the days of Solomon. Idols were torn down, and people began to return to a worship of the true God. Hezekiah also appointed priests and Levites to praise and give thanks to God, restoring worship in the temple. Unfortunately the nation turned away from following the Lord soon after Hezekiah’s death.
Hezekiah was a man who sought the Lord and did right (2 Chronicles 31:20-21), leading the nation back into service of the Lord in the midst of the idolatry and perverseness of his people. Though he was not perfect, his life stands out as one of the few righteous in the midst of an ungodly line of kings. In the midst of ungodliness that surrounds the believer today, do we follow the Lord and point others to know and give thanksgiving to Him as well?
Jonah: Thankfulness in Repugnance
“Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly…. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. 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 2:1, 7-9).
Repulsed by God’s call, the prophet Jonah fled and ended up in the belly of a great fish for his disobedience.
God told Jonah to go and preach to the wicked Assyrians, however, Jonah decided to flee. He boarded a ship heading in the opposite direction and fell fast asleep in the hold. He was awakened by the captain who pleaded with him to call on his God. The ship was in the midst of a great storm sent by God and in danger of breaking to pieces. The sailors cast lots in attempt of figuring out who was responsible for the storm. God caused the lot to fall upon Jonah.
Jonah told them to throw him overboard so the sea would become calm. Immediately after doing so, the storm stopped and the sea became calm. The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah and this was Jonah’s abode for three days. It was from this fish’s belly that Jonah cried out to the Lord. Jonah’s prayer speaks of his experience in the sea and concludes by acknowledging his promise to the Lord and agreeing to obey Him. He states, the great theme of the book of Jonah there that “salvation is of the Lord”(Jonah 2:9).
Though Jonah cried out to the Lord speaking hopefully of sacrificing to Him in thanksgiving and agreeing to obey by going to Nineveh, It appears that his heart was never really changed. He performed the task God gave him, and the results were great; but the Scripture does not record a heart change on Jonah’s part. For all we know, he may have lived and died with his life being recorded in Scripture only as an example of what a servant of the Lord is not to do. As believers, may our prayers be genuine, and our lives match the words we say, so that others may not wonder where our allegiance was really placed.
Daniel: Thankfulness for Revelation
“Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter” (Daniel 2:19-23).
Because Israel and Judah refused to obey God despite the warnings of the prophets that God sent, God allowed enemy nations to attack them, killing many and carrying away captive the survivors. During the days of the Babylonian captivity, Daniel followed the Lord in Babylon despite being a captive and exiled. He attained rank and favor in the king’s sight. Under king Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, God granted Daniel the ability to interpret the king’s disturbing dream. Daniel praised and thanked the God of heaven for His revelation.
Today, God uses His Word to reveal His will to us. We can rest assured that the Scripture contains all we need to face, deal with, and endure every trial of life. God’s Word contains all we need for godly living. We should be thankful for God’s revelation through His Word and spend time reading and studying what it has to say.
Ezra: Thankfulness in Reestablishment
“And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid” (Ezra 3:10-11).
After the destruction of the temple and the Babylonian captivity, certain Jews returned from Babylon with Ezra. Under his leadership and God’s instruction, a new temple was built. When the foundation had been laid, a celebration was made, giving thanks to the God of Israel.
Some of the people there in Jerusalem had seen Solomon’s temple before its destruction. When they saw the foundation of the new temple, they wept. The new temple was much smaller and not as grandiose, however, it was still a special place for the people to come and worship God. The air was filled with thanksgiving as well as weeping that day.
Some of the people lost sight of the joy that the day was supposed to contain. The smaller temple did not affect who God was, He was and is a God who is good and whose mercy endures forever. Sometimes it is easy to miss the blessings God gives and to be thankful, when our eyes are focused on the wrong thing. Colossians 3:1-2 encourages one to have a heavenly perspective, seeking and setting one’s mind on things above.
Anna: Thankfulness for the Redeemer
“And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).
Israel waited for the Messiah for many years. However, it wasn’t until the time was right that God sent His Son, born of a virgin, to be the Savior of the world (Galatians 4:4). Eight days after Jesus’ birth, he was dedicated at the temple. Anna was a prophetess who stayed in the temple serving night and day with fasting and prayers. She had been married for seven years, and widowed for the remainder of her eighty-four years. She recognized Jesus as the Savior in the temple that day and gave thanks to God.
Anna could have become bitter when her husband died, but instead she poured herself into the Lord’s service. She spent her days and nights in frequent prayer. Her heart was set on the things of the Lord, and the Lord rewarded her with a sight of the long-awaited Messiah. She didn’t keep this news to herself, but boldly shared it with those who also were waiting for the Redeemer. This Redeemer has come to take away the sins of the world. Are you looking to Him for your salvation? Have you stopped today to thank Him for what He has done?
The Samaritan Leper: Thankfulness for Restoration
“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:15-16).
One day as Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, he met ten men with the dreaded disease of leprosy. The communicable nature of this disease kept them at a distance from their friends and family. They were outcasts, forced to live in their misery until death would overcome them.
As Jesus passed by, they raised their voices saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Jesus told them to show themselves to the priests. The Law of Moses required a person who thought they had the disease of leprosy to show themselves to the priests. If it was confirmed, they had to live as an outcast. If a person thought they had been healed, they had to receive confirmation of healing also after showing themselves to the priest.
Scripture says that as they were going, they were cleansed. The lepers had to obey Jesus in faith. One of the lepers, after seeing that he had been healed, turned back to thank Jesus, glorifying God in a loud voice. The former leper fell down at Jesus feet in thanksgiving and worship. This leper was not even a Jew, but an outcast Samaritan. All ten were healed, but only one returned to say thank you
We live in world in which thankfulness is forgotten. How often do you say thank you, first to the Lord for the good gifts He has given, and to others who give a kind word or perform an act of kindness?
Paul: Thankfulness for Recipients
Throughout the New Testament, there are many references of Paul giving thanks. Paul often gave thanks for or on behalf of his companions and the churches to whom he wrote letters. For example, Paul gave thanks for the Roman’s faith which was heard of throughout the whole world (Romans 1:8). For the Philippians, Paul thanked God upon every remembrance of them (Philippians 1:3). The Thessalonians received the Word of God as divine rather than man-made (1 Thessalonians 2:13) and their faith grew exceedingly and love toward one another abounded (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Paul was thankful for the Lord’s work in individual’s lives.
Paul understood the importance of praying for others. It was in these prayers that he gave thanks for these people and the Lord’s work in their lives. How often do we pray for others? How often do we give thanks for them or what the Lord is doing in them?
What Did You Learn?
We have looked at several examples of thanksgiving and only scratched the surface of what the Scripture has to say on the topic. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a note below.