Theme: A Time to Pray
This week’s lessons help us to celebrate Thanksgiving properly by impressing upon us the importance of continually expressing genuine thanks to the Lord for all his blessings.
Scripture: Nehemiah 8:10
There is one more thing this passage adds to our enjoyment of good things that sets the enjoyment of God’s people off from that of hedonists. It is the most obvious thing of all: the knowledge that all we have is from God and the heartfelt giving of thanks to him for it. That is why Nehemiah reminded the people that “this day is sacred to our Lord” and that “the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Not long ago I did a study of how the words “thanks” and “thanksgiving” are used in the Bible, and I made an interesting discovery. I uncovered all kinds of texts about thanksgiving. Some were encouragements to be thankful. Some were themselves thanksgiving. There were even texts that dealt with the wrong kinds of thanksgiving. But here was the interesting thing: the single most common use of these words in any context was to describe the practice of the Lord Jesus Christ himself in giving thanks. I found no less than a dozen verses describing how Jesus gave thanks before meals, and these were in each one of the four gospels. Jesus gave thanks when he multiplied the loaves and fish and broke them in order to feed 5,000 people on one occasion (Matt. 14:19; Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16; John 6:11), and 4,000 people on another (Matt. 15:36; Mark 8:6). When the Emmaus disciples invited him into their home and they recognized him in the breaking of bread, it was after he had given thanks to God the Father for it (Luke 24:30). Most common of all are the accounts of the supper in the Upper Room where, as we read, “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me’ (1 Cor. 11:23, 24; cf. Matt. 26:26, 27; Mark 14:22, 23).
I was struck by this because, although Jesus is himself God and is thus, in a certain sense, himself the author of this bounty, he nevertheless thought it right to be thankful to his Father for it. Clearly, we should do likewise.
So let’s be thankful. And when we are, let’s allow our thoughts to go beyond the food we are enjoying and remember things that are also from God and are even more important. What might that include? It will include all good things, for the Bible says clearly, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).
Let’s be thankful for our families first of all. The Bible tells us that it is God who “sets the lonely in families” (Ps. 68:6). If you have a family rather than being alone this holiday, this is from God and you should thank him for it. Thank him for your husband or your wife. Thank him for your daughters and sons. Thank him for the grandparents who add so much to a family—and for aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and even more distant relatives. Remember that some people are orphans—they have no one—and thank him for the family you have.
Let’s be thankful for our homes. The Lord himself had no home. He said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). Sometimes even the people of God are homeless. The Pilgrim’s Psalm, Psalm 107, speaks of those who wandered about unable to find a place “where they could settle” (v. 4). If you have a home, be thankful for it. Do not forget to praise God for your dwelling.
From our passage, how else does our enjoyment of good things differ from that of hedonists?
In Scripture, how are the words “thanks” and “thanksgiving” used the most commonly? What do we learn from this?
Reflection: How have you discovered the joy of the Lord to be your strength?