Theme: A Time to Weep
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
The most striking of all these good but untimely activities was the time for weeping over sin that had begun as the people had attended to the reading of God’s law and was yet to continue in what became a great national movement of revival.
After the wall had been completed, Nehemiah arranged for a public reading of the Scriptures. The returned Jewish exiles were summoned to Jerusalem and were assembled in a great square before the Water Gate. A platform had been erected, and at daybreak Ezra, the leading scribe, mounted the platform together with thirteen of the priests. These then read from the Law of God until noon, approximately six hours. Meanwhile, as the Bible was being read, thirteen of the Levites who were apparently dispersed throughout the congregation went about explaining what was being read so the people would understand it. One of the most impressive sections of the entire book explains this pastoral function. It says, “The Levites … instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read” (Neh. 8:7, 8).
And the people did understand it. They understood it so well that they were convicted by God’s law and confessed their sins with tears. A situation such as this would be any sensitive pastor’s dream—a people so moved by the Word of God that they were turning from sin to righteousness. It was the beginning of what turned out to be a pervasive genuine revival. Would that we had anything even approaching this today.
But here is the important thing. Even though Nehemiah unquestionably welcomed this repentance and desired the revival—later on in the story he encourages it—he did not take advantage of the moment to promote the revival of the nation at this time. Why not? Because it was a time to enjoy and give thanks. That is why he said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” It is why the Levites also echoed his instructions saying, “Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve” (v. 11).
This is what I want to say to you on this week of Thanksgiving. Our lives are filled with many responsibilities, and our days are usually taken up with very useful activities. Much of our time is spent working. We have five days a week for that, and for many of us the other days are filled with work too. Sometimes our days are taken up with fighting, not physically, but for a cause or sometimes even against colleagues who want to cut corners or do something that is morally questionable at work. There is also a time for us to mourn, to weep for sin. Most of us avoid these times. They need to be urged upon us more often than they are. But Thanksgiving Day is not one of those times.
Work? Yes, but not on Thanksgiving Day. Fight? Perhaps, but not then. There will be time for that soon enough. Weep? By all means, but not on Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving is a day to enjoy what God has given.
And I do mean enjoy it! Really enjoy it! I commend the attitude of my youngest daughter, who has been at college this fall but who wrote to us this week in anticipation of coming home for Thanksgiving. She said, “My heart is surging toward turkey, stuffing, yams, corn and pumpkin pie.” She added, “And to think, I used to dislike Thanksgiving.”
When you carve that turkey I want you to say, “What a wonderful turkey this is. I have never seen a better turkey”—even if it is actually just a bit small. And when you eat your turkey, say, “What a wonderful taste. I have never eaten anything better than this turkey.” When you eat the stuffing, enjoy it. Forget that you are probably going to feel too full afterward. Enjoy the corn. Enjoy the sweet potatoes. Enjoy those special delicacies that only your own family really knows how to prepare properly. God has been good to you. He really has. Today is a day to enjoy what he has given.
Why did Nehemiah interrupt the repentance and weeping of the people? Why is there an emphasis on thanksgiving?
After the wall was completed, they read from the Law of God for approximately six hours. What does that teach us about God’s Word?
Application: What special traditions do you have as part of your Thanksgiving Day that are a reflection of God’s goodness? Praise him for his love and faithfulness.