What are you thankful for? Next Thursday will be Thanksgiving Day. We wanted to have our lesson on Thanksgiving this Sunday. Hopefully this will help us better understand the meaning of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a very important holiday. Our lesson today is called "Taking Time." I don't know about you but I am thankful for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is important. It's important to the Lord. I personally love the Thanksgiving turkey and food. However, Thanksgiving really does mean more than food to the Lord.
Thanksgiving in America is linked to the first settlers from Europe to land in New England. In the early 1600's news of the success of the Jamestown colony in Virginia caused several Europeans to want to begin a new colony north of the Hudson River. Some were searching for freedom in worship. Some were seeking for financial gain. They acquired financial backing from a group of capitalists who chartered the ship named the Mayflower for a voyage to America. The actual voyage to America began September 16, 1620. There had been difficulties getting started. Sailing that time of year across the Atlantic in a 1600 model vessel was dangerous. The ship met severe storms making for cold and wet conditions. Many pilgrims became severely ill during the voyage. On November 26, 1620, the Mayflower came to rest near Cape Cod. Bad weather and poor navigation caused it to anchor 500 miles north of its destination.
One hundred and two people (one third of them children) stepped ashore. Most of the adults were in their twenties and thirties. About one-third were children. They decided they needed to stick together if they were going to survive. The Mayflower Compact came from that decision.
Eventually they settled at Plymouth, Massachusetts. They fought the cold and hunger. The first winter was devastating. By the spring of 1621, half of the original group had died. About fifty people remained. Half of those were children and only four women made it through that winter. Those were the conditions under which they took on building their new home in America.
One point about this story that had never impressed me before was about the help from the native Americans. The pilgrims befriended some native Americans from the Wampanoag Tribe. The "red man" was the reason that all did not die. The native Americans gave them food and helped them with shelter. The native Americans helped them plant their crops and taught them about corn, hunting, and fishing.
What we call the first Thanksgiving was actually these real survivors taking time to be thankful for their new friends and family. It wasn't a part of a religious service as some think. It was simply a party, a feast, a banquet. They were thankful to be alive and they took time to give thanksgiving. The core of Thanksgiving is giving and taking time to give thanks with and to people we love and appreciate.
Attending that feast at Plymouth Massachusetts was about 140 people. There were 90 native American red men and their families and about 50 Pilgrims. It was a three-day celebration. Four adult women (the only women left after the terrible first winter) probably were in charge of all the cooking. On the menu was sea bass, cod, wildfowl-duck, geese, or wild turkey; cornmeal; and five deer brought by the native Americans. Vegetables and fruit were part of the meal also. Games, singing, and dancing were a part of the celebration.
Fifty-five years later, in June of 1676, a proclamation was made to express thanks yearly. This was for the Plymouth community which had securely established. The first national Thanksgiving was declared in 1777 by the Continental Congress. Then in 1863 the last Thursday in November was declared America's annual Thanksgiving day.
Taking a special time of thanksgiving is Biblical. The Bible teaches that it is important to take time to reflect and thank God for our blessings. Interestingly, It is important to do it with our families, our friends, our ministries, and even those that are distant and a little strange. Our doing this is important to the Lord. He desires we take time and do this so deeply that he appointed a specific time for thanksgiving in the Old Testament. Actually the Lord said there are three times and three things that his people should take time and reflect upon during the course of a year.
Deuteronomy 16:16 Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed:
The Lord said three times a year he wanted the men to stop what they were doing, take time, and bring their families to Jerusalem for feasts. This was to be a festival. It was a banquet with plenty to eat and drink. These times were to be times of fun and plenty.
David was speaking about this very point when he wrote Psalm 100.
Psalms 100:1 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Psalms 100:2 Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Psalms 100:3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Psalms 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
Psalms 100:5 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
A key thought is coming before the Lord should be fun. It was to be joyful with gladness and singing and thanksgiving. It bothers me when Christians look sad and beaten. They need to go to a feast and cheer up. All sorts of people from all nations and lands were to come before his presence.
All sorts of people from all the lands were to come and be happy before the Lord.
This wasn't their daily or weekly worship in their synagogues (churches). These were three special times. God's people were to take time three times a year during three feasts and give special thanks.
The first feast was called the Feast of Passover or Feast of Unleavened Bread. The people were to take time and feast for seven days. People from every place were to come and banquet. They began with the Day of Passover. It celebrated and remembered the sacrificed Passover lamb and the blood placed upon the doorposts of homes in Egypt. That lamb brought household deliverance. God's people were to take time and be thankful for that lamb.
The fulfillment of that Old Testament feast was the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross. It was there that our salvation was provided by the Lamb of God. We should take time and thank him. Some people act as if they are doing God a favor. No, he is saving them. They are not saving him.
Today we refer to this time of year as Easter. It's the spring time of the year. We are to take time and reflect and rejoice about the salvation provided us through Jesus, the Lamb of God. This should be especially true if our household serves the Lord. Do I realize how blessed I am if my children and spouse serve God? I hope this is the case in your home. If not then I encourage you to come before the Lord and thank him for your salvation and ask him for the salvation of your loved ones. They put the lamb's blood on their house. You need to put Jesus on your house through prayer. Make certain that he is the leader (Lord) of your life. They ate the Lamb. Talk about Jesus when you eat meals. Stimulate questions and memories. The Lord desires household salvation.
Our taking time to do this is important to the Lord.
The second feast was called the Feast of Pentecost or Feast of Weeks. People from every nation were to take time, bring their families, and celebrate the grain harvest. The grain harvest was important for their daily bread. It was also a time taken to thank God for the giving of the law at Sinai.
It was fulfilled with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came and instead of laws on tables of stone from Sinai, we have God's laws written on our hearts (2Co 3:3). We have his Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us in all truth. When I am led by his Spirit, I don't make bad decisions. My life is blessed as he leads me and my daily bread is abundant. The Spirit convicts me of sin. When I am led by his Spirit, I do not sin and do things that damage me and my loved ones.
We should take time to reflect and be happy about receiving his Spirit. I'm not talking about the salvation shown in the first feats of Passover. This is a special and separate feast. The disciples had eaten the body of Jesus and drank the blood of Jesus at the Passover supper(Luk 22:15-20). The Pentecost feast was a different feast. It's a happy time. It's a time that we need to take time and remember.
The third feast was called the Feast of Tabernacles. This was the feast that is in our context of Thanksgiving.
Deuteronomy 16:13 Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress.
Deuteronomy 16:14 Be joyful at your Feast - you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.
Deuteronomy 16:15 For seven days celebrate the Feast to the LORD your God at the place the LORD will choose. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.
The continued blessings from the Lord are dependant upon our taking time to be thankful today. Future harvest will come because we are thankful for today's harvest. If we are not enjoying good harvests today, it may be that we have not been thankful for yesterday's harvest. Also, our joy is related to taking time to be thankful. We can notice that a person who is not a joyful person is not a thankful person. Do you know why I am happy all the time? It is because I am so thankful!
This was a feast of seven days. It was after the ingathering of all crops and after the making of wine. It included the Day of Atonement, dwelling in booths (huts), and a huge joyful feast.
The Day of Atonement was when all sins that anyone had committed were forgiven. The entire nation was forgiven. Isn't it interesting that even in the Old Testament there was a day every year when God forgave all sin? Of course, everyone had to wait for that one day. It's not that way in the New Testament. We walk and live in God's forgiveness every day. In the Old Testament a goat was sacrificed for sins. The sins were then placed upon a "scape goat" which was released in the wilderness that carried the sins of the people away. In the New Testament our sins were placed upon Jesus who took our sins away. I'm glad my salvation is not dependent upon a goat. The Lord said to take time, think about it, and be thankful that our sins are forgiven. Any and everything that separated us from God has been washed away. Take time and think about it, the Lord says.
The feast also included a time of living in huts or little tabernacles called booths and waving of branches. This was to remind God's people of from where they came. God delivered them from a life of wilderness to a blessed abundant life. It was a life of having nothing but a hut to a life of prosperity. They once lived in huts in the wilderness, but now had homes and blessings abundant. Jesus said that he came to give us life and that abundantly (Joh 10:10).
The end of the feast included an elaborate feast. Food and drink were plentiful. God actually desires that his people rejoice. How can we not rejoice? We have been given salvation. We have been given his Holy Spirit. We have been given all good things. We have been given wonderful families and wonderful friends. The believers life will change from a hut to a heaven. My life did. I am like the man born blind in John chapter 9. I was once blind, but now I can see. The Lord says to take time and think about that.
It is interesting that the list of people that were to rejoice together. Family members, friends, people that worked together, the preacher, aliens (strange people), and wounded people were to feast together. The verse said, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows. The Lord is saying to reach out and make this a special time for as many as possible.
I don't know about your Thanksgiving feasts, but ours includes all sorts of people. Attending are dads, moms, daughters, sons, grandchildren, and ministry. Always at our Thanksgiving feasts are some aliens. What I mean are some people that seem to be from a different planet. There are present those who have suffered recent hurts. But you know what? Everyone always leaves full and happy and thankful. Memories are discussed. Thankfulness is expressed. I get to pray and bless the food and people. I find some place to talk to someone about Jesus. It was all because we took time and was thankful.
I encourage you to use your Thanksgiving feast to touch some lives for Jesus.
The point of Thanksgiving is not the turkey and cranberry sauce, as wonderful as they may be. The point of Thanksgiving is Thanks-giving for people. We are to be thankful for God of course. But the emphasis of Thanksgiving is people. Isn't that similar to what Jesus said when asked about the greatest commandment? He said to love God and love people. If those in the Old Testament could take time and be thankful for and with people, then how much more should we? If those arriving on the Mayflower in all their adversity could take time to give thanks for people, then I certainly can take time to be thankful.
What are you thankful for? Find a place and a time and tell the Lord. For whom are you thankful? Find a place and a time and tell them.
I want to end our lesson with this little poem that I ran across on the Internet.
HOW TO OBSERVE THANKSGIVING.
Count your blessings instead of your crosses;
Count your gains instead of your losses.
Count your joys instead of your woes;
Count your friends instead of your foes.
Count your smiles instead of your tears;
Count your courage instead of your fears.
Count your full years instead of your lean;
Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.
Count your health instead of your wealth;
Count on God instead of yourself.
Happy Thanksgiving. Let's pray.