|Photo by Ben Schumin 2009|
Thanksgiving is nothing to keep quiet about – we should shout our thanks to God from the rooftops (Luke 12:3), and sing it aloud until the joyous sound overflows the sanctuary into the streets, for all to hear and rejoice! Even without corporate worship, we can sing the melody of thanksgiving in our hearts until it bubbles over as joy in our everyday life!
We tend to think of Thanksgiving as a holiday with time off from work, gatherings with family and friends, a feast day when we often overindulge in delicious food, the big football game, a televised parade that becomes more secular with every passing year, or even planning ahead for Black Friday sales and shopping spree.
As pleasant as all this can be, Thanksgiving is not about us. It’s all about God, and thanking Him for all the amazing blessings He has bestowed on us. Thank God we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven! Let us give Him thanks for His Word, the indwelling Holy Spirit to teach, guide and encourage us; family, friends, health, prosperity, a loving and Bible-preaching church, and ministry opportunities in which to serve Him and bless others.
Sometimes it is easier to be thankful than in other times, but even in trials we can thank Him that He works all things together for our ultimate good, the good of others, and His glory (Romans 8:28).
There is nothing passive about thanksgiving as described in Scripture, for it is accompanied by active participation in praise, worship, sacrifice, and prayer.
The Law of Moses described sacrifices of thanksgiving that did not involve merely bringing an offering, but preparing, cooking and even frying it first! Unleavened cakes were to be mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes of fine flour and oil were to be fried. Leavened bread was also part of the sacrifice of thanksgiving, so you can imagine all the baking that went on before these offerings could even be brought to the tabernacle or temple! (Leviticus 7:11-13).
This was not to be done grudgingly or out of a sense of duty, but of the giver’s own free will (Leviticus 7:15). And yet, you can’t outgive God! (Ephesians 3:20). He commanded that the sacrifice of thanksgiving, once offered to the Lord, was to be eaten by the giver the same day, so he was rewarded for honoring God’s commandment (Leviticus 7:29-31)
It reminds me of the Easter basket my grandmother used to prepare before Resurrection Sunday, full of delicious dishes like roast lamb, colorfully dyed eggs, Kulich (a very tall coffee cake filled with candied fruits), and Pascha (a creamy sweet spread). She would bring it to the Russian Orthodox church the afternoon before the Easter vigil as an offering to be blessed, and after the candlelight procession and singing to celebrate Jesus Christ rising from the dead, we would bring it home and devour its tasty contents, all the while thanking God for His goodness!
Thanking God for a great work He has done through us (John 15:5) should not be a perfunctory acknowledgement of God’s blessing, but an active celebration, often involving song and music! At the dedication of the wall rebuilt in Jerusalem under Nehemiah’s leadership, all the Levites were summoned to keep the dedication with gladness, thanksgivings, singing, cymbals, psalteries, and harps, to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving to God (Nehemiah 12:27, 46).
The Psalms are replete with descriptions of voicing thanksgiving to God through joyful testimony of all He has done (26:7; 107:22), singing (69:30; 147:7), joyful noise (95:2), praise (100:4), calling on His Name (116:17), and praising Him on the harp (147:7).
The first Thanksgiving after I was saved, the church we joined had a service in which members were invited to stand and give a brief testimony of what they were most thankful for. I felt a very strong leading by the Holy Spirit to get up and thank Him for my salvation, yet my timidity won out, and I quenched the Spirit by remaining quiet. The next day I awoke with laryngitis and was unable to speak at all, which I took as a warning to obey God immediately when I clearly heard His voice calling me to use mine, to His glory!
The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah spoke of God’s plan to restore salvation to Israel, which would be accompanied by joy, gladness, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody (Isaiah 51:3) and “thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry” (Jeremiah 30:19).
Thanksgiving need not be loud and boisterous, but may be whispered quietly, as in prayer and supplication (Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2). The apostle Paul encouraged us not only to encourage one another and worship Christ in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs sung aloud, but also to make melody in our heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19).
Not only on Thanksgiving Day or in harvest season, but every day until Christ comes again to rapture His children, may we honor Him and encourage one another with songs of thanksgiving, whether sung aloud or lifted up in our hearts!
© 2021 Laurie Collett
As a song of Thanksgiving, I wrote words to a song, "Give Thanks to the Lord," sung on Nov. 21, 2021 at Fowler Ave. Baptist Church. I pray that you will find it a blessing!