Thankful…But to Whom and for What?

Today is the day we celebrate thanksgiving.  President Abraham Lincoln’s thanksgiving proclamation on Saturday, October 3, 1863, Formal Portrait November 8, 2863written by his Secretary of State, William H. Seward, called Americans “to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise…” Giving thanks requires us to ask “to whom?” and “for what?”  Notice what follows in Lincoln’s proclamation as it answers the “to whom?” question, “…to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”  The “for what?” is also answered when the prosperity of the nation continues even in the midst of a crippling civil war, “…the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

As we celebrate thanksgiving, the “to whom?” and “for what?” questions are important.  Psalm 145:15-16 reminds us that God bestows common grace and blessings to all:

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. [16] You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The sunshine and rain are common grace blessings from God according to Matthew 5:45.

so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

For those who have tasted of the heavenly gift of God’s saving grace we have every reason in the world to be thankful because we have every spiritual blessing in Christ according to Ephesians 1:3,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

As you celebrate thanksgiving today, how do you answer the “to whom?” and “for what?” questions.

Here’s the entire text of Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving in case you are interested.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

 

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A.W. Tozer on the All-Sufficiency of God

The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One.  Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness.  Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight.  Whatever he may lose he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately, and forever (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, 16). 

This nothing more than a wonderful way to restate the sentiment of Psalm 73:25-26.  It is an antidote for materialism and a keen reminder of the very thing for which we were created, to love God and to enjoy Him forever.

We Give Thanks

Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. [11] Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. [12] Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. [13] And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name (1 Chronicles 29:10-13 ESV).

This was a very appropriate time for thanksgiving in the nation of Israel’s history.  The baton of leadership was being passed from David to his son Solomon.  As the sun set on the era of David’s reign and national expansion, the dawn of a golden age under Solomon was on the horizon.  David’s prayer is nothing short of magnificent.  It has the fragrant aromas of rich God-oriented theology and heartfelt God-directed praise; just beautiful.  It is a prayer that can be offered around every thanksgiving table.  David’s marvelous prayer includes four prominent God-centered areas of thanksgiving in this prayer:

  1. The greatness of God, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty
  2. The riches of God, “for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours
  3. The sovereignty of God, “yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all;” “you rule over all
  4. The provision of God, “Both riches and honor come from you

Christian, consider David’s prayer and its reality in our lives today.  God is still great, rich, sovereign, and provider.  Because of President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863, we celebrate an annual day of Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately Thanksgiving has degenerated into a day when we enjoy the bounty without praising the Benefactor.  It has also been reduced to the eve of a day that extols materialism.  Make this Thanksgiving a day filled with gratitude.  Take some time to bless our Divine Benefactor for His provision of food, family, and leisure that so many of us enjoy on Thanksgiving.  These are all gifts from the hands of a kind and benevolent God.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, [25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:24-25).

This past Sunday, the children of our church sang “Let All Things Now Living.”  It was glorious to hear their young voices sing these truths:

Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving
To God the creator triumphantly raise.
Who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
Who still guides us on to the end of our days.
God’s banners are o’er us, His light goes before us,
A pillar of fire shining forth in the night.
Till shadows have vanished and darkness is banished
As forward we travel from light into light.

His law he enforces, the stars in their courses
And sun in its orbit obediently shine;
The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
The deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.
We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing;
With glad adoration a Song let us raise
Till all things now living unite in thanksgiving:
“To God in the highest, Hosanna and praise!”

May your thanksgiving be blessed and filled with gratitude to God for all of His good gifts to us.