Sermon #1486                                    Miscellaneous Sermons


     Title:       Thanksgiving

     Text:       Psalm 26:6-7

     Subject:  In Preparation for Thanksgiving Day

     Date:       Sunday Evening – November 20, 2001

     Tape #    W-70a

     Reading: Wes Rozeboom & Rex Bartley



(Psa 26:6-7)  I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O LORD: 7 That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.


·        Let us come to our God with clean hands, washed in the blood of Christ and with sincere, ope hearts.

·        Let us lift our hearts to him with the voice of thanksgiving.


(1 Thessalonians 5:16-24)  Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.


·        I want to lead you to worship our God with thanksgiving and praise by telling you of his wondrous works.


     As is my custom in anticipation of Thanksgiving Day I want to preach to you tonight about Thanksgiving. However, I am going to do something tonight that is a bit unusual for me. I want to begin by giving you a brief history lesson.


A Brief History

It seems that every year we are treated to articles attempting to disprove the "myth of Thanksgiving." In these articles we are told that:

  • the Pilgrims weren't the first people in America to hold a thanksgiving
  • that the first thanksgiving had no religious significance at all, but was merely a harvest festival
  • that our traditional Thanksgiving dinner has nothing in common with the Pilgrim's meal.

Some of these accusations are not a serious concern. After all, who cares if the Pilgrims served cranberries or not? But what seems to lie behind some of these articles is a desire to devalue the religious nature of our present Thanksgiving holiday. This is unfortunate since Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays on the America calendar that is not swept away with commercialism or mixed with pagan elements. So here is "The True Thanksgiving Story."

The First Thanksgiving?

It is true that the Pilgrims were not the first to observe Thanksgiving Day. It is also true that the day did not involve feasting. Yet, the first thanksgiving observance in America was truly a spiritual affair. Its stated object was the worship of God in thanksgiving.

On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Plantation in what is now Charles City, Virginia. The group's charter required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a day of thanksgiving to God. Captain John Woodleaf  held the service of thanksgiving. The Charter of Berkley Plantation specified the thanksgiving service:

"Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."

In addition to 1619, the colonists perhaps held service in 1620 and 1621. The colony was wiped out in 1622.

The Pilgrim's Thanksgiving

Modern perverters of American history tell us that the Pilgrims first came to this land  "to seek their fortune in the New World." That would have come as news to the Pilgrims themselves. Pilgrim leader William Bradford wrote in his diary that the voyage was motivated by "a great hope for advancing the kingdom of Christ."

The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Their first winter was devastating. Weakened by the seven-week crossing and the need to establish housing, many of them came down with pneumonia and consumption. They began to die -- one per day, then two, and sometimes three. They dug the graves at night, so that the Indians would not see how their numbers were dwindling. At one point, there were only seven persons able to fetch wood, make fires, and care for the sick. By the spring, they had lost 46 of the original 102 who sailed to this land on the Mayflower.

But the harvest of 1621 was a bountiful one. And the remaining colonists decided to celebrate with a feast. In an attempt to put God out of our society and out of our thinking, educators, the news and entertainment media, and vote-seeking politicians tell us that the first Thanksgiving Day was a day, not of thanksgiving to God but of celebration. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was, indeed, a day of great celebration precisely because it was a day of thanksgiving to God. Edward Winslow wrote, on December 11, 1621, that they celebrated the "goodness of God" in providing for them, and it says that the feast was held so that they "might after a special manner rejoice together."

That sounds like a Thanksgiving feast to me! Granted, they did feast together, inviting friendly Indians to join them for a true feast – Lobster, Goose, Turkey, Rabbit, Cod, Duck, and Venison, served with Mustard Sauce, Meal Pudding, Berries, Pumpkin, and Hominy!

Other Thanksgiving Feasts

The Pilgrim's first thanksgiving feast was not repeated the following year. In the third year, when many of them had become preoccupied with cultivating more land, and building on to their houses, and planting extra corn for trading with the Indians, they were stricken by a prolonged drought. Week followed week with no rain, until even the Indians had no recollection of such a thing ever happening before. The sun-blasted corn withered on its stalks and became tinder dry, and beneath it the ground cracked open and was so powdery that any normal rain would be of little use. And still the heavens were as brass.

Finally, in July, Governor Bradford called a council of the men in the colony. It was obvious that God was withholding the rain for a reason. Bradford declared a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, and they gathered in their blockhouse church building and began to search their hearts. It turned out that even these 'saints', had things to repent for -- spiritual pride, jealousy, vindictiveness, and greed, and a number of broken relationships. One after another, as they became convicted, they asked God's forgiveness and that of their fellow Pilgrims.

A tender, peaceful spirit grew among them and was enhanced as each hour passed. Late in the afternoon, as they emerged from their place of worship, the sky which that morning had been hard and clear (as it had been every morning for nearly two months), was now covered with clouds all around them. The following morning, it began to rain -- a gentle rain that continued on and off for fourteen days straight. Writing of it, Bradford said:

"It came, without either wind, or thunder, or any violence, and by degreese in yt abundance, as that ye earth was thorowly wete and soked therwith. Which did so apparently revive & quicken ye decayed corne & other fruits, as was wonderfull to see, and made ye Indeans astonished to behold; and afterwards the Lord sent them shuch seasonable showers, with enterchange of faire warme weather, as, through his blessing, caused a fruitfull & liberall harvest, to their no small comforte and rejoycing."

Their harvest that fall, was so abundant that they ended up with a surplus -- to the benefit of Indians to the north who had not had a good growing season. To everyone's delight, the Governor "sett aparte a day of thanksgiveing" again inviting their Indian neighbors to join them.

Another Day of Thanksgiving – June 29, 1676

In June of 1676 another Day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed. The governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts, held a meeting to determine how best to express thanks for the victories in "Warr with the Heathen Natives of this land" and the good fortune by which their  community had been securely established. By unanimous vote they instructed Edward Rawson, the clerk, to proclaim June 29 as a day of thanksgiving. The following is part of that proclamation:

The Council has thought meet to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favour, many Particulars of which mercy might be Instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of God's Afflictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lord may behold us as a People offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being persuaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and souls as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ."

Colonial Times

Was thanksgiving observed during the colonial times? Yes. October of 1777 marked the first time that all 13 colonies joined in a thanksgiving celebration. It lasted eight days. It also commemorated the patriotic victory over the British at Saratoga. It was a one-time affair.

George Washington (Baptist, baptized by John Gano, who is buried in Frankfort, KY) proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789. He called for a day of prayer and giving thanks to God. It was to be celebrated by all religious denominations, but discord among the colonies prevented it from being practiced by all the states. Many felt the hardships of a few Pilgrims did not warrant a national holiday. And later, President Thomas Jefferson (Deist) scoffed at the idea of having a day of thanksgiving.

Yearly Observance

How did Thanksgiving become a yearly national practice? It was Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor, whose efforts eventually led to what we recognize as Thanksgiving. Hale wrote many editorials championing her cause in her Boston Ladies' Magazine, and later, in Godey's Lady's Book. She was fired with the determination of having the whole nation join together in setting apart a national day for giving thanks "unto Him from who all blessings flow."

In 1830, New York proclaimed an official state "Thanksgiving Day." Other states soon followed its example. In 1852, her campaign succeeded in uniting 29 states in marking the last Thursday of November as "Thanksgiving Day."

Finally, after a 40-year campaign of writing editorials and letters to governors and presidents, Hale's passion became a reality. In 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day "of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father." Here is the text of Lincoln's proclamation:

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, the many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God that made us! It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

-- April 30, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation for a National Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer

Since then, the date was changed only once, by Franklin Roosevelt, who moved it up one week to the third Thursday of November in order to create a longer Christmas shopping season. Public uproar against this decision caused the Congress to move Thanksgiving back to its original date two years later.

The Origin

However, Thanksgiving did not originate with the President Lincoln's declaration of this holiday, or even with the Pilgrims feasting with the native Americans. God’s people have always been taught of him to give thanks, to give thanks to him for his holiness, for all his wondrous works, particularly for his goodness and mercy, and to give thanks by calling upon his name (worshipping him), seeking him, glorying in him, and rejoicing in him.

As we gather with our families Thursday to observe this one truly spiritual national holiday, let us give thanks to our God, celebrating both his character and his wondrous deeds of providence and grace, especially his wondrous deeds of  redemption in Christ. Let us begin now to do so. I pray that he will give us grace to truly give thanks to him in all things and at all times.


(Psalms 30:4)  Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.


(Psalms 105:1-3)  O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people. 2 Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works. 3 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.


(Psalms 106:1)  Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.


(Psalms 107:1)  O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.


(Psalms 118:1)  O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.


     Turn with me now to 1 Chronicles 16.


(1 Chronicles 16:8-10)  Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people. 9 Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works. 10 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.


(1 Chronicles 16:34)  O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.


I.       “Give thanks unto the LORD


Thanksgiving is always in season. Every child of Adam living upon this earth ought to lift his heart to God in heaven, giving thanks to him for his great mercy.


(Psalms 50:14)  Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:


(Psalms 92:1) It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High:


(Psalms 100:4)  Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.


(Psalms 107:22)  And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.


(Colossians 3:15)  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.


(Colossians 3:17)  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.


II.    “Call upon his name


The word “call” simply means “worship.” There is no thanksgiving to God until God is worshipped as God.


III. “Make known his deeds among the people


A.   Creation


B.    Providence


C.   Grace


·        Election

·        Redemption

·        Calling

·        Preservation


IV.“Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him


There is no better way to move our hearts to thanksgiving than by lifting our voices is songs of thanksgiving.


(2 Chronicles 7:6)  And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of music of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.


V.   “Talk ye of all his wondrous works


The fact is, “all things are of God.” When we speak of any event, any act, any blessing, any judgment, any promise, any joy, or any sorrow we are speaking of God’s works. We ought ever to be conscious of that fact, and acknowledge it with humble praise.


(Romans 8:28)  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.


VI.“Glory ye in his holy name


(Jeremiah 9:23-24)  Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.


(1 Corinthians 1:30-31)  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.


VII.         “Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD


(Philippians 4:4-7)  Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.


     Now look at verse 34.


VIII.      “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good


Our God is good. He is good in all his works.


(Psalms 34:8)  O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.


(Psalms 73:1)  Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.


(Psalms 100:5)  For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.


(Psalms 106:1)  Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.


(Psalms 109:21)  But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name's sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me.


(Psalms 135:3)  Praise the LORD; for the LORD is good: sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant.


(Psalms 145:9)  The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.


(Lamentations 3:26)  It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.


(Nahum 1:7)  The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.


IX.“O give thanks unto the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever


·        Eternal, Covenant Mercy

·        Daily Mercy

·        Everlasting Mercy


X.   “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift


(2 Corinthians 9:15)  Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.


·        The Lord Jesus Christ is the gift of God!

·        Christ is the unspeakable gift of God!

·        He is the gift of God that should be spoken of constantly!


(Psalms 26:6-7)  I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O LORD: 7 That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.


Happy Thanksgiving!