In Psalm 116, the Psalmist David asks the question; “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” If you really think about that question, there really is nothing materialistic or monetary that we can give God. He owns it all! I could say: “Because of all your benefits toward me Father, I’m going to give you this nice new watch. It’s a great watch. It keeps good time. It’s got the date on it and everything! And, it’s pure, artificial gold! Then God says: “No thanks. You see, I have the sun and the moon which I created to keep track of time. And besides, I am eternal, I have no need for a watch!
“Well, O.K. then, How about a raise in pay! How does $5.00 more a Sunday sound?” And God says: “O Ye of little faith, don’t you know by now that no matter what the amount you give, it’s for your benefit and not mine!” “Don’t you realize that I have blessed you in so many ways because I love you?” “All I want is your love in return.”
Once we realize that there is nothing we can render unto God except ourselves; our devotion, our time, our talents, our abilities, our prayers, and our praise, we will know that it is these things that are our “Thank-offering”. What can we do except “enter His gates with thanksgiving in our hearts!”
Imagine, if you will, it is 1789 and George Washington is addressing the nation; “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 to humbly implore His protection, aid, and favor; “Whereas, Both Houses of Congress” (Did you hear that, “Both Houses of Congress?”) “have by their joint committee requested me `to recommend to the people of the United States a day of Public Thanksgiving & Prayer, To be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many favors of Almighty God. . .Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday the 25th. Of November, to be devoted by the people of these states to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be, that we may unite in rendering to Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this great country; and for the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.” (Thanksgiving Proclamation declared by President George Washington – 1789 )
Our founding fathers openly recognized God as Creator and the source of all blessings as a nation. It was also George Washington who said: “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and His Word”. How times have changed! Our nation seems to be working hard to push God out of our lives and our schools and our government, and, I for one think we have lost what Thanksgiving is all about. However, we need to know that government, nor proclamations, not even laws can turn our this nation toward God. God , himself, has told us in His Word the only thing that will work. It’s found in II Chronicles 7:13 – “If my People, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and WILL HEAL THEIR LAND”. This Thanksgiving, let’s not just acknowledge all the little, undeserved blessings we have received, let’s take some time to humbly pray for ourselves, our churches, our community, and especially our nation. Let’s not just give thanks for what God has done, but also what He can do! Our prayer should be as that of King Jehoshaphat in II Chronicles 20:13 – a classic line where he said: “O God, we know not what to do, but our eyes are upon Thee!” The nation turned to God, and the nation was delivered. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever!” (Psalm 136)
One of the most beautiful Psalms of thanksgiving is the 100th Psalm. “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, & we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving & His courts with praise; give thanks to Him & praise His name. For the Lord is good & His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”
With all my heart I believe we are a people & a nation that has truly been blessed by God. And of all those who “give thanks to Him & praise His name” we should be at the top!
It is not uncommon to compile wish lists at Christmas, & draw up a list of resolutions for New Years. But there is another list we often overlook – a Thanksgiving Day list of all for which we are thankful. Let me pass on a part of the list that several housewives compiled. They wrote that they were especially thankful:
“For automatic dishwashers because they make it possible for us to get out of the kitchen before the family comes back in for their after-dinner snacks. “For husbands who attack small repair jobs around the house, because they usually end up making them big enough to call in the professionals.” “For children who put away their things & clean up after themselves. They’re such a joy you hate to see them go home to their own parents!” “For teenagers because they give parents an opportunity to learn a second language.” And, “For Smoke alarms because they let you know when the turkey’s done.”
Now our list might not be the same as theirs, but I’m convinced that if we began to make a list, we would find that we have much more for which to be thankful than just our material possessions. Like you, I’m sure, my list would include the major things – life, health, family, friends, & the nation we live in, despite all its flaws…But even more than that, I’m thankful for my salvation, our church family, & the mercy that God showers upon us each day.
Our forefathers had “a boundless faith in God.” That almost sounds strange today in a time when powerful forces are at work in our nation to strip us of every reminder that the very foundation of our nation was built upon the conviction that we are “one nation, under God.” Our hallowed “Declaration of Independence” pro-claims, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights . . .” And it ends with these words, “. . .with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes & our sacred Honor.” Thanksgiving Day is a distinctive holiday. It doesn’t commemorate a battle or anyone’s birthday or anniversary. It is simply a day set aside to express our nations thanks to our nation’s God.
The 100th Psalm was written for the people of Israel. God said to them, “When you come into the promised land, & settle down in your warm homes, & you have plenty to eat, don’t forget Me. I led you out of the wilderness & I brought you into a land flowing with milk & honey”. But it doesn’t take very long to realize that the people of Israel needed a reminder, & I am afraid that we need it, too. Maybe God had us in mind, too, when this Psalm was written. Did you notice to whom it is addressed? The first verse says that it is addressed to “all the earth,” & the last verse says that it is includes “all generations.” This message of thanks-giving is so deep & wide that it applies to every person in every era in every stage of life.
Alex Haley, the author of “Roots,” had an unusual picture hanging on his office wall. It was a picture of a turtle on top of a fence post. When asked, “Why it was there?” Alex Haley answered, “Every time I write something significant, every time I read my words & think that they are wonderful, & begin to feel proud of myself, I look at the turtle on top of the fence post & remember that he didn’t get there on his own. He had help.” That is the basis of thankfulness – to remember that we got here with the help of God, & that He is the provider of every blessing we have.
During this season we call Thanksgiving, the time when we typically remember all the ways that God has blessed us; with salvation; forgiveness; mercy; grace; love; good health; prosperity; family and friends; I would call you to remember that I call this a life of Thanks-living… It is a way of life, and not just a holiday.