Marked by Thanksgiving
November 13, 2014 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Many of us are familiar with the history of the Thanksgiving holiday in America. We think of the Pilgrims and the various challenges they faced in coming to the New World. We know of the Native Americans who came alongside of those early settlers and helped with cultivating life-sustaining practices. The stories tell us that, after one year in the New World, the Pilgrims celebrated God’s provision of an abundant harvest with a Thanksgiving feast. The celebration continued unofficially on an annual basis until Abraham Lincoln designated the fourth Thursday of November to be the national Thanksgiving holiday.
Thanksgiving, however, has much deeper roots than the early settlers in America. The first children, Cain and Abel, brought offerings from the fruit of their labors before God. These offerings were to express thanksgiving for God’s provision of the bounty. As you are familiar with the story, God did not have regard for Cain’s offering, leading to the murder of Abel. In Hebrews 11:4 we learn that “by faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain.” What made Abel’s sacrifice more acceptable than Cain’s?
Psalm 50 may help us in understanding what makes a sacrifice acceptable. In this Psalm, God stands as judge for his people. He says, “Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you” (v. 8). The people were offering the animal sacrifices as prescribed by the law of Moses, but something was still missing. God says thanksgiving was missing. In verse 14 he says, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,” and in verse 23, “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.” God not only cares about the physical details of the sacrifice, God looks to the attitude of the heart in the sacrifice.
I believe this separates Cain and Abel in their sacrifices. Hebrews 11 says that Abel offered his sacrifice by faith. The essence of faith is an act of receiving with gratitude what God has provided. Cain did not act in faith (see 1 John 3:12 where Cain’s acts are called evil).Thanksgiving is a distinguishing mark of those who follow God. Paul highlights this by emphasizing the opposite, that those who stand under the wrath of God are those who do not honor Him or give thanks (see Romans 1:18-21).
So, this Thanksgiving, don’t think only of those early settlers in America and God’s abundant provision in this land, remember that from the very beginning of creation the followers of God were marked by thanksgiving. Are you marked by thanksgiving?