As Americans, we have many reasons to spend time giving thanks. We have freedoms that we enjoy, both religious and secular. We have an abundance of wealth and resources here — I’ve spent time overseas in a number of places and even the poor in America have far more resources than the poor elsewhere. We need to be grateful for that, though not use that as an excuse to ignore the poor in our midst. Did our Lord not say that we will always have such as these around us? And don’t the Scriptures demand that we care for those who cannot care for themselves?
In most of our cases, this day is a day where we gather with friends and/or family members and celebrate the blessings we have been given around a table laden with food. I think that it is safe to say that the abundance which most Americans enjoy is unsurpassed in this world. So, as I sit here, reflecting this morning before I put our own family’s turkey in the oven, what concerns me the most is that in America, most people will spend the day oblivious to the great spiritual truths for which we ought to be grateful.
Yes, it is true, that in many homes, some sort of a recited “grace” will be offered, asking God to bless our food. Giving God thanks is proper. In many homes as well, there will be a time where people share those things for which they have been grateful — family, jobs, friends, a warm home, and good food. And again, it is right to be thankful for these things. But is there not more?
Of all the Psalms that we have, only one of them is explicitly listed as a “Psalm for Thanksgiving” or as a “Psalm for Giving Thanks” (depending on your translation). That is Psalm 100. Sure, there are many other psalms that speak of giving thanks, do not misunderstand me, but only one whose superscript contains these words.
What is more interesting than that happens to be what the Psalmist gives thanks for. He does not give thanks for friends and family and food and homes — those things for which we normally give thanks — but he ultimately gives thanks for the character and goodness of God and commands that we respond with worship — not just with a prayer around the table…but with worship.
I wonder what it would look like in America if at every Thanksgiving Table, Psalm 100 was at the heart of the prayer of thankfulness — and it was sincerely prayed. I think that the time of worship would overshadow the time of eating. But that is what I think — I’m the preacher, I’m supposed to think like this. But what would it look like if all of us as Christians thought like this? I wonder if God would bless that with revival in our land or in our communities. How interesting it is when Christians speak about desiring revival, yet never act in such a way that would engender revival in their own lives. In most cases, where we were speaking about someone else, what would we call that? Hypocrisy? Maybe? This year, may we not be hypocrites. May we genuinely desire revival and in doing so, may we reorder our lives in such a way as to make the soil of our hearts and family fertile ground for God’s seed to be planted therein.
The Church as Blessing in the Midst of a Pagan World
“And the Sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying, ‘Hear us, my lord, you are a prince of God in our midst; in the choice of our graves bury your dead. Not one of us will withhold his grave from you for the burial of your dead.”
At the onset, the offer that is made sounds quite generous and Abraham’s insistence on purchasing the plot of land may seem a bit rude. Yet, as with other things in God’s design, there is a reason and a purpose behind Abraham’s refusal, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. It should be noted that some modern translations render “The Sons of Heth” as “The Hittites” in this passage. Simply that is a result of scholarly inquiry which has suggested that the nation we now refer to as the Hittites has their origin with this particular Canaanite tribe. Literally, their name means, “The Sons of Terror,” which is an appropriate name for any ancient pagan tribe, needless to say, it is with these that Abraham is now negotiating.
What we ought to take note of, though, is the attitude that these “Sons of Terror” have taken with Abraham. They refer to him as a “Prince of God” and generously offer to him any choice grave site that they have prepared and reserved for themselves. There is nothing left over to doubt that these pagans can see that God has given favor to Abraham and that they (even as pagans) have been blessed by Abraham’s presence.
Such an attitude in the life of unbelievers is a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3, that the nations of the world will find their blessing in the children of God. How far, it seems, that we have fallen from that mark. How rarely do the unbelieving neighbors of our churches speak of our presence in their community with thanksgiving. Biblically, our churches should be seen as a place of good blessing to all around us. How far so many of our churches have fallen. How easy it is to begin turning our focus on ourselves (building our programs, our membership, our buildings, and our resources) instead of being focused outwardly on the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. How often we fear taking a stand for the Truth for fear that people won’t like what it is that we have to say, where if we were to speak truth in love and grace we would instead be respected for holding with integrity to our views. When we compromise the gospel we also compromise the blessing we are to be to the non-believers in our midst.
Loved ones, may we live intentionally in such a way that the pagans in our midst would say, like the Sons of Heth, that we are “princes of God” and that they would sacrifice to preserve our presence in their midst. How differently our communities would look were we to live in such a way that it produced this response amongst unbelievers? How different the work of evangelism would look were this the case as well.