The Great Thanksgiving

November is the month when we observe Thanksgiving.  In the United States, it is an occasion rich with history.  Yet, celebrating Thanksgiving is a very biblical thing to do.  Throughout Scripture, we are admonished to give thanks to God for what he has done.  And thanksgiving is at the core of one of our most sacred acts of worship – the Lord’s Supper – which is based on one of the greatest acts of God, and points to THE GREATEST thing God has ever done for us.

The call to have a thankful heart, is found throughout the Bible.

  • “Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.” (Psalm 50:14)
  • “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to him with psalms.” (Psalm 95:2)
  • “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise.” (Psalm 100:4) 

The apostle Paul tells us that one of the signs of a people in rebellion against God is the refusal to be thankful.

  • “Although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful . . .” (Romans 1:21)

Paul also reminds us that our prayers should be offered from a heart that is thankful to God.

  • Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) 

But we find a very moving picture of thanksgiving in the “upper room” the night before our Lord Jesus was crucified.

  • “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’  Then he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.  For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’”  (Matthew 26:26-28)

The meal that the apostles were sharing with the Lord was the Passover meal.  Exodus 12 records that the Passover meal was instituted by God for his people to share together in commemoration of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage.  It was to be observed every year as a time of “thanksgiving” to God.  When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he did it during the Passover celebration, showing that Passover meant more than deliverance from Egypt.  It also pointed to the deliverance from the bondage of sin that Jesus the Messiah had come to give.  In the Passover, a lamb was killed, and its blood was spread over the door of a home to keep the “angel of death” from coming in.  In the same way, Jesus – the “Lamb of God” – shed his blood for our sins, so that eternal death might not come to us. 

In some churches the Lord’s Supper is referred to as the Eucharist, which comes from a Greek word which means “to give thanks or be thankful.”  Robert Webber notes that the heart of the communion service for many Christians is the great prayer of thanksgiving and blessing over the bread and cup.  But perhaps the entire observance of the Lord’s Supper can be thought of as the “great Thanksgiving.”  Jesus’ death on the cross in our place – taking the wrath of God that we deserved – and his being raised on the third day, is the greatest event in human history.  For which we should be eternally thankful. 

As you gather with family or friends this month for Thanksgiving, I hope you will enjoy a wonderful time together, and pause to remember and be thankful for the blessings of this life that God has so richly provided.  We should be thankful for our homes, our jobs, our nation, and many other blessings.  But let us not forget the greatest blessing of all – our salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ his Son.  And now, let the weak say ‘I am strong,’ let the poor say ‘I am rich,’ because of what the Lord has done for us.  Give thanks! (Henry Smith)

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