PREPARING FOR THANKSGIVING
1 CHRONICLES 16:7-8
President George Washington declared the first National Day of Thanksgiving to be commemorated on Thursday, November 26, 1789, “to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.” (1)
Presidents John Adams and James Madison issued similar proclamations. It was 74 years later, however, that Abraham Lincoln made the holiday a permanent national observance.
In Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving on October 3, 1863, his purpose for the day was clearly articulated:
“to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” (2)
Abraham Lincoln publicly called for thanks and praise to God the Father, our benefactor in Heaven!
It is the spiritual component that makes American Thanksgiving unique.
Not just generic gratitude for nature’s bounty or trending pseudo “friendsgiving,” the very name of Thanksgiving Day affirms we have a benefactor to whom our thanks is owed.
Early American presidents among others identified that benefactor as the Almighty God. But, what the Founding Fathers incorporated into civic life is a model of what King David observed in ancient Israel:
1 CHRONICLES 16:7-8
“ . . . David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the Lord:
‘Oh, give thanks to the Lord!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!’”
David understood the importance of uniting as a nation to thank the One-true God.
When we celebrate in the true spirit as the forefathers intended, American Thanksgiving becomes more than a harvest festival. Thanksgiving Day is an opportunity to collectively unite as a nation—expressly for the purpose of thanking God.
Like the Founding Fathers, we as people of faith embrace the Judeo-Christian values our nation was founded upon, but must also publicly:
• Acknowledge God as Creator and Sustainer of the universe (Col. 1:16).
• Proclaim that people are uniquely created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27-28).
• Communicate that every breath we breathe, all our possessions and the ability to enjoy life are gifts from God (Eccl. 2:24).
• Share about God’s goodness; and then, praise and thank Him (Ps. 96:2).
Begin now to prepare your heart for Thanksgiving Day. Make God—the Benefactor of all we enjoy in life—the focus of your Thanksgiving celebration this year.
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. Rev. McCracken’s presentations have relevance for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2017, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Emphasis added.)
1) T.K. Byron Ph.D., “Thanksgiving,” George Washington’s Mount Vernon website.
2) Abraham Lincoln Speeches and Writings, Abraham Lincoln online archive.
1) Washington and Lincoln gaze at America from Mount Rushmore. Idawriter [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
2) George Washington’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, October 3, 1789. [Public domain] – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios