Thanksgiving is a wonderfully self-evident holiday, its heart and hope plain in its name: An unassuming realization and an action plan all-in-one. For grateful awareness of what has been given, give thanks. Simple yet powerful. Small gesture yielding plenty. Stroke of genius, teaching that in a turn of heart, we have….everything.
The holiday carves out a time to set a table, pause, and calmly think of the incredible fortune that just came our way, even if it was hidden at first in shocking misfortune. From some way or somewhere beyond us comes a break, a boost, a bounty; then—
most of us agree, deeper revelation shows us that it was Someone, the Lord Almighty, who turned His favor to help, shelter, provide, bless, and encourage us in our endeavors. I am grateful to live in a nation of people who practice this by tradition, giving thanks to God, and I know you are grateful, too!
Blessed in the nation whose God is the Lord.
Psalm 33:12 NIV
In response to Thanksgiving’s profoundly humble extravagance, I have gathered a few touch points in God’s Word and in our American history to ponder as the pie digests. Whether your celebration was overflowing or modest this year is no distraction to the Lord; He delights and satiates in your full heart turned to Him from any circumstance.
A Thanksgiving Table?
After loss of his father, a mysterious call, separation from his greater family community, and a long journey, Abram [later named Abraham] built an altar to the Lord upon arriving in the land where God had summoned him. Can we consider this a sort of table?
The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
Genesis 12:6-7 MEV
Though we do not read words of thanksgiving in this Scripture-moment, surely the trusting traveler must have been grateful to reach the Lord’s place for him. He was moved to construct the altar—what stirred his thoughts to action, awe and wonder? Relief and rejoicing? Glad for the guidance? Triumph, mixed with a little trembling at what might happen next?
Insight offered from my friend, author JoAnn Gardner, has been stirring me, as I re-read her plants of the Bible book this fall, which takes readers through the Parashot, portions of Torah read each week throughout the year. She quoted the Talmud:
Do not read this as he [Abram/Abraham] called on the name of the Lord; rather that he caused others to call on the name of the Lord. This teaches us that the Patriarch Abraham caused the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, to be uttered by every passerby” (Soto 10a-b).— JoAnn Gardner, Seeds of Transcendence, 2014
What a parallel to what the pilgrims have done, not in building a physical altar but in initiating a thanksgiving feast, retold in letters and records for descendants to discover. They have caused generations of Americans passing by November in our land to give thanks to the Holy One in heaven who watches over us, provides a way, and helps us endure hard times.
Surely, one moment stood out in the Pilgrims’ memory—William Brewster’s prayer, as they began the festival. They had so much for which to thank God: for providing all their needs, even when their faith had not been up to believing that He would do so; for the lives of the departed and for taking them home to be with Him; for their friendship with the Indians—so extraordinary when settlers to the south of them had experienced the opposite; for all His remarkable providences in bringing them to this place and sustaining them.—Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory, 1977
More Thanksgiving Reading
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever
Psalm 118:1,29 NIV
If they offer it as an expression of thankfulness, then along with this thank offering they are to offer thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in, thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with oil, and thick loaves of the finest flour well-kneaded and with oil mixed in.
Leviticus 7:12 NIV
from the original regulations for the fellowship offering anyone may present to the Lord
Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.
Matthew 14:19 NIV
They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord. They were to do the same in the evening
1 Chronicles 23:30 NIV
Then Hezekiah said, “You have now dedicated yourselves to the Lord. Come and bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the temple of the Lord.” So the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings
2 Chronicles 29:31 NIV
O beautiful for Pilgrim feet,—Katharine Lee Bates, “America the Beautiful,” hymn from 1893
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
Daniel 6:10 NIV
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they 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 next as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.—Abraham Lincoln, By the President of the United States—A Proclamation, October 3, 1863
When he was at the table with them, [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.
Luke 24:30 NIV
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:4 NIV
ADONAI will guard you against all harm; he will guard your life. ADONAI will guard your coming and going from now on and forever.
Psalm 121:7-8 CJB
But the Indians and English of Plymouth Colony did not live in a static idyll of mutual support. Instead, it was fifty-five years of struggle and compromise—a dynamic, often harrowing process of give and take. As long as both sides recognized that they needed each other, there was peace.—Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower, 2006
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15 NIV
Dear Lord, thank you for the blessings you put in our lives. You give us your very best because your love abounds and never ends! Help this truth sink deeper in our soul and become our reality, giving us a greater grasp of your cherishing goodness. How good it is to belong to you! Father God, bless our unity and brotherhood as a nation; you are the Almighty One embracing vast differences in your strong, open, loving arms. In Christ all things are held together (Colossians 1:17). Amen.
“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
Revelation 7:12 NIV
In honor of the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Compact, I have recently added a Proclamation of Faith, rededicating the Garden in Delight website according to the rich heritage which blesses all the work herein – get another piece of pie…this is a more involved reading but a true labor of love and God’s Word for gardeners wonder! click to www.gardenindelight.com/proclamation-of-faith
My Treasured Thanksgiving Reading:
The Children’s Book of America by William J. Bennett (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998)
The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel (Old Tappan, New Jersey, Fleming H. Revell, 1977)
Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick (New York: Penguin Group, 2006)
Thanksgiving, The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience by Melanie Kirkpatrick (New York: Encounter Books, 2016)
Find more Devotions Blogs on Thanksgiving, one of my favorite topics every year!
©2020 Shelley S. Cramm
NIV denotes Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.®