Thursday, November 23, 2023

Nine Surprising Thanksgiving Moments in the Bible

The big idea: Giving thanks in hardship was how our Thanksgiving day was born. It made me think of 9 strange occasions of thanks in the Bible.

America’s Thanksgiving Declared During War

Give thanks even when it hurts.

That has been modeled for us in America. The first time of giving thanks was ordered was in the middle of the Revolutionary War in 1777, after the Battle of Saratoga.

In November of 1789 George Washington declared a national day of Thanksgiving reflecting on the birth of this new nation.

In November of 1863 in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving should be declared a national holiday.

9 surprising Thanksgiving moments in the Bible

1. King David in pain

But as for me, afflicted and in pain— may your salvation, God, protect me.  I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgivingPsalm 69:29-30 NIV

2. Though ruin was coming

The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing. Isaiah 51:3 NIV

Isaiah saw the destruction for God’s people but he anticipated God’s compassion in the midst of all the destruction and loss they would surely experience.

3. Rebuilding 70 years after total destruction

With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. Ezra 3:11 NIV

This is a great story. (Ezra 10-13) This thanksgiving moment occurs when they have laid the foundation of their temple after all these years. People laugh and cry.

4. When giving thanks risks death

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. 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

This is when Daniel goes to the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6). It is all because the Persian King declared anyone who petitions anyone other than him be sentenced to death. Never stop thanking God no matter what.

5. During a 2 week storm at sea

 "Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.”  After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. Acts 27:34-35 NIV

Paul was travelling the Mediterranean by ship and the storm was so bad no one could eat for 2 weeks. They were sure the ship would splinter to pieces (Acts 27).

6. Facing hardship, persecution and death in ministry

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Cor 1: 10-11 NIV

This is thanks in anticipation for what God WILL do, like Isaiah 51:3

7. Instead of obscenities and vulgar joking

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:4 NIV

Paul was telling the Corinthians in a foul mouthed culture how to act as Christians. Prone to swearing? Say thanks to God instead.

8. Thank God for evil leaders

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. I Timothy 2:1-2 NIV

When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy it was the mid-60s A.D. The Roman World was ruled by Emperor Nero who took delight in torturing people. He even poisoned his own mother. Many Christians were burned to death or thrown to lions at his command.

9. In the End Times

We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. Rev 11:17 NIV

In the middle of mayhem on earth, thanks is being given. Another example of anticipation that God will make all things right.

Our world has a lot of angst. There are wars of atrocities. Random acts of violence. Foul movies and TV shows. Polar positions against every idea fed by social media laced with fear and anger. Politics? Oh boy.

In the midst of all of that, give thanks (I Thessalonians 5:18). Rise above the mayhem and lift up your eyes to the Lord.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The usual post in this series will be posted next Thursday on Rick Warren’s Book Survey Bible Study Method. In the midst of everything take time to learn how to feast on God's Word. 

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1. What is something you can give thanks for today, though it might be a little hard to say it.

2. When have you been in a difficult situations and you were reminded, in your spirit or by someone else, to give thanks?

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