November 22, 1992

Thanksgiving, 92

Romans 1:21


I do not know how it has happened so soon, but here it is once again. This is the weekend before Thanksgiving, so let us pause and be reminded what this is all about.

To all of us, this season at the end of the year reminds us of families and friends. It reminds us of eating too much and dieting. If any people ever had a reason to be thankful, it is the people of the US.

There is no way we can cover this topic in depth without many hours, so let me just give a few simple thoughts about the day coming up. As Christians we must keep Thanksgiving within a Christian context, or we will become as ungrateful as the Sodomite. A proper relationship to the Lord must start in thankfulness to Him. When we forget this, we are on our way down, Rom 1:21.

The first thing we need to mention is that our thankfulness must be to the Lord. Our thankfulness is not to the state, nor to any person, nor to any institution. We must be thankful to other people, but we must see them as a channel of God's blessings unto us.

The child of God, under the both the OT and NT economy, was required to be thankful.

Ps. 106:1, 13 Ps. 107:1-2 Ps. 118:1 Then in the NT, we have many commands to be thankful, with them summed up by Paul in 1 Thes. 5:18.

As usual, the Lord is practical. He never leaves anything, such as love, as just some abstract feeling or emotions. He always explains and defines exactly what He means. We find the definition of love and thankfulness in the law as given to Moses. As we have mentioned many times, the NT only applies what is already in effect. We know that love for God is defined by keeping His commandments. Love toward our neighbour is defined by keeping God's commandments toward that person. It is defined as treating that person as we would like to be treated.

So what is meant by thankfulness? How do we show our thankfulness? Now, I am not discounting an emotion here any more than I would discount an emotion of love toward God or man. But just as love must work out in action, so must thankfulness.

Naves Topical Bible gives us a clue by listing Pro. 3:9 under thankfulness. The tipoff is the word firstfruits of all thine increase. This points us back to the law concerning the giving of the firstfruits. Without doing harm to the Scriptures, we could call this an offering of thanksgiving, and we will look at it as such.

Some things about this offering: Deut 26:1-11, gives us a detailed description of this thanksgiving offering of the firstfruits. There are several other passages which speak of this offering, but for time's sake, we will restrict ourselves to this passage in Deuteronomy.

I. Deut 26:1, 2. The offering was not optional for the people of God. It was separate from, over and above the tithe. The tithe is mentioned invs. 12-15.

I well realize that Christ was the firstfruits of the dead and the First Born of all creation, but we are giving an application which is consistent with the word of God of the required offering of Deut 26.

II. Deut 26:2. There were only two requirements placed on this thanksgiving offering:

1) It had to be given and what was given had to be the best, Num. 18:12. The person could not pick up a piece of rotten fruit and say, "This is the first off of the tree; therefore, it is the first fruit even though it is rotten."

2) If the person owned an orchard, he had to bring in the first fruits of the harvest. He could bring in only one apple, but that one apple had to be the best. The size of the offering, which was separate from the tithe, was determined by the amount of thankfulness to the Lord of the individual. He could bring a small or big amount and still be in obedience to God. The command was that he give the offering, and that the offering would be the best he had.

The offering could be one piece of fruit per tree, or it could be one bushel of grain per field, but it had to be the first of the harvest.

Application: Steve remodels; the offering of the first-fruit would be the first dollar which he receives from the job. That dollar is given to the Lord for several reasons: 1) he realizes that the Lord provided the job for him, 2) he is thankful that the Lord allowed him to complete the job & 3) he is thankful for the Lord giving him the ability and strength to accomplish that project. And, of course, there are many other reasons which a child of God could find to be thankful for a job completed.

III. Deut 26:3-10. The motive behind this offering was thankfulness to the Lord. This passage lists several reasons to be thankful. Each one is cause enough in itself to be thankful:

Ps 105: 1-6, thankfulness starts in the memory: remember the good things of the Lord which He has blessed us with.

1) Deut 26:1, it spoke of God fulfilling His promise.

2) V. 5, it spoke of remembering the pit from which they were digged. It spoke of remembering how close they were to perishing before He redeemed them.

The Lord rescued us from the jaws of death. We were ready to perish, and if He had not intervened, we would have perished. In fact, as Jeremiah said in the midst of God's judgment against Jerusalem in Lam 3:22-26 [It is of] the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. [They are] new every morning: great [is] thy faithfulness. The LORD [is] my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD [is] good unto them that wait for him, to the soul [that] seeketh him. [It is] good that [a man] should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.

If we are alive today, we should rejoice because it is only by the Lord's mercies that we are alive.

3) V.6, it spoke of thankfulness for redemption.

The Lord delivered us from bondage; from the bondage to our enemies, the world, flesh and the devil. We are more than conquers through Christ that loved us. We have been delivered through the work of Christ; we are free in Him, but not free to do our own thing. We are free to serve the Lord.

4) V. 7, it spoke of the Lord hearing and answering prayer.

The Lord answers prayer. Every one of us can look back over this past year and see places where the Lord clearly answered prayer.

5) V. 8, it spoke of the Lord showing Himself strong in behalf of His people.

The Lord has done great things for us. Maybe those things did not see so great at the time, but today as we look back, it is obvious that they were great things.

But, thankfulness is not restricted to just thankfulness for spiritual blessings, although they should be plenty of cause for us to be thankful. We are to be thankful for God's material blessings upon us.

6) V. 9, it spoke of the goodness of God toward His people.

It is His divine providence which guides us and supplies our daily needs. He gives us strength and health to gain wealth. All good things come from above.

The original Thanksgiving was thankfulness over the blessings of God. We must never forget that the prosperity which this nation has enjoyed is the direct result of the blessings of God. Because people now have the idea that the prosperity is the result of their own effort, we are going downhill fast.

7) V. 10, it spoke of the worship of the Lord God as the only true GodWho alone can supply the needs of His people.

Are we thankful to Him. Do our actions show this thankfulness?

IV. And you might say, "If it was a required offering, how could it express thankfulness to God?" The answer is found again in the fact that love is not identified as solely an emotion, but love is action. Love is summed up in treating our neighbor as ourselves.

Thankfulness to God is not merely an emotion, but it is action. We are commanded to be thankful to God, 1 Thes. 5:18. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Therefore, no matter what situation we find ourselves in, we are required show thankfulness.

Illustration: Let's suppose that we go greatly out of our way to do something special for someone. Then, in return, they completely ignore us. The first thing that comes to our mind is that they were not thankful. On the other hand, if they act and speak like they are thankful, we take for granted that they are thankful. Our thankfulness is shown by our actions just as our love is shown by our actions.

VI. V. 11. We should like this passage. Not only are God's people required to offer the first-fruits, but they are required to rejoice in the goodness that their God has blessed them with. The law teaches that God's people, either Thanksgiving day itself, this Thursday, or at another time, set aside a time of rejoicing and feasting. It is a requirement which reminds us of the goodness of God upon His faithful people.

VII. V. 11. They were to share their prosperity with the stranger and the teacher of God's word which were among them. The stranger and the Levite has no other income other than what the faithfulness of God's people provided.

Notice that the thought breaks after vs. 11. The next passage deals with the required tithe of the third year and other required tithing. It is not part of the thanksgiving offering of the first-fruit in vs. 1-11.

God's people today are commanded to be thankful just as they were commanded to be thankful to the Lord when Moses spoke these words. We saw from Romans 1:22, that the failure to obey the command to be thankful is one of the basic traps which leads to open and gross sin. As we look at Thanksgiving, who are we thankful to? What are we thankful for?

Thankfulness cannot be restricted to an emotion, but must include action. When it comes to our actions toward the Lord, is it obvious that we are thankful?