Focus – Basking in Thankfulness Anne Pickup
By Major Anne Pickup –
The first Thanksgiving in America was celebrated in December, 1621, by Pilgrim settlers and native Indians. President George Washington, in 1789, proclaimed a day of prayer and gratitude in honor of the new constitution. Abraham Lincoln made the day of prayer and gratitude a national holiday, and in 1941, President Roosevelt designated the third Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving Day nation wide.
Perhaps the true first thanksgiving was celebrated thousands of years ago in Israel, at the Feast of Tabernacles in the late fall, as celebrants entered God’s house singing Psalm 118:
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
A Call To Thanksgiving – Although giving thanks is mentioned many times in Scripture, here it is more a command than an invitation. Thankfulness is no more an option for believers than loving God. Yet, like love, thankfulness must be voluntary to be genuine. The command is to recount the wonderful works of Yahweh as a testimony to his goodness and fidelity.
Give thanks for he is good and his loving kindness is forever – God is good and he does good. God’s good actions come from a heart of loving kindness. “Mercy” is the original Hebrew word that translated takes two English words, loving kindness. It means complete goodness. It means the greatest feeling or emotion expressed in the best possible way. It expresses both the most personal and the most practical qualities of God’s nature: God loves us, and God is good to us. God is good…all the time!
Give thanks for deliverance in distress – To a devout Jew, the mention of any deliverance was and is a reminder of the “great deliverance” of the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage. In the same way, deliverance should remind Christians of our “great salvation” in Jesus Christ.
The Psalmist, King David, knew of God’s goodness through personal experience. He cried out for deliverance many times and God heard and answered prayer. David’s fear of any enemy was quelled by his confidence in the loving kindness of God. Our greatest antidote to anxiety and fear is not simply having knowledge of God, but confidence in the fact that “the Lord is for me.” Paul restated this in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who (or what) can be against us?”
Do we really believe God is intimately concerned for us, eager and able to help us? If we really are confident of this, our problems and distresses, although not always taken away, are seen as solvable. “With God, all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26)
God’s love is generous and wise. His loving kindness is for our welfare. Fear becomes unnecessary because we know God is on our side, and his loving kindness is forever dependable. Love like this produces confidence and dispels fear because, “Perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18)
A Benediction of Thanksgiving – The psalm ends exactly as it began, emphasizing the wonderful truth that God is good and God does good. His expressed, generous, wise, dependable loving kindness never ends. In response the people shout, “This is the day that the Lord has made!” This is not just a song of thanksgiving for Sabbath or Sunday, it is a declaration for any day, and every day. It would be better translated, “This is the day when the Lord has acted.” Because of God’s loving actions on this day, any day and every day, we sing his praises.
At this Thanksgiving season we need to take time to bask in God’s loving kindness. As we become increasingly aware of the wonder of his person and the goodness of his actions, we will become thankful.
Our thankful hearts need joyful songs
To tell thee how all praise belongs
By right, dear Lord, to thee.
Thy power has worked to meet our wants,
Thy love has silenced all complaints,
Thy goodness, Lord, we see.