(2005) THANKSGIVING MESSAGE by Dr. John Jun
THANK GOD FOR HIS GRACE
Key Verse: 65:11
"You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance"
Today is Thanksgiving Day. We should give thanks to God not only on Thanksgiving Day, but also all year around every day. In this passage, first (1-8) we thank God for his grace of forgiveness. Second (9-13) we thank God who blessed flocks and grains. Through this passage we want to find out clear thanksgiving topics and give thanks to God with all our hearts.
Part 1. Thank God for the grace of forgiveness (1-8)
The origin of the Thanksgiving Day was the Feast of the Tabernacle in the Old Testament. In order to remember the wandering days in the wilderness, the Israelites built booth with tree branches and lived there for a week (Exo4:22). The Feast of Tabernacle is also called the Feast of Ingathering. They gathered crops from the fields and gave thanks for abundant harvest. They also gave thanks to God who gave daily bread in the wilderness and led them to the land of Canaan. In Israel, adult males still live in booths for one week to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacle.
The origin of the Thanksgiving Day in America is from Puritans. 102 Puritans in England left their home country because of severe persecution from the Church of England and the King. They left for the new continent, America to seek religious freedom. On April 5th 1621 they arrived at Plymouth by Mayflower after long and tortuous journey. After the first winter about 50 percent of them died of all kinds of diseases, starvation and the Indians' attack. As soon as they arrived in America they first worshipped God. Before they built their own home, they built a church and worked very hard to cultivate the barren land. They planted corns and beans. At the first harvest, they thanked God for his blessings and offered first thanksgiving worship service. The governor Bradford invited neighbor Indians to the Thanksgiving worship service and treated them with turkey and it became the origin of Thanksgiving Day. In 1789, the president George Washington officially declared fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day.
In verses 1-4, David thanked God for his blessings bestowed upon in his holy temple. Look at verse 1. "Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled. Here Zion refers to the holy temple. Verse 1b says, to you our vows will be fulfilled. David was so thankful to God that he wanted to fulfill his vows. Likewise when we are full of thanksgiving we should remember our vows and fulfill it wholeheartedly.
What was David's thanksgiving topic?
First, David thanked God for answering his prayer (2). Look at verse 2. "O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come." David sincerely thanked God for answering his prayer. He experienced many times in his life that God answered his prayer. When he was a young boy, God answered his prayer and enabled him to win the victory over Goliath who was like an angry Kingkong and a heavy weight champion. God saved him and the Israelites from the Philistines (1 Sam 17:20-58). David was thankful to God who answered his prayer. When David became a hero of his people and the son-in-law of king Saul, many women praised him singing, Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands. Saul became jealous and pursued David to kill him. David had to run for his life to the wilderness. God answered his prayer and saved his life from many dangers and critical moments. Finally David became a King and a shepherd of Israel.
In this passage all men refers to God's chosen people. How blessed are we who can approach God in prayer in times of danger and poverty! God answers all our prayer. Jesus taught us to pray like this, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matt 7:7). George Mueller said God answered his prayer 50,000 times. The secret of his prayer was to pray with confidence without doubting (James 1:5-7). He first repented and prayed to God (Ps 66:18). He did not pray with wrong motive but only for the glory of God (James 4:3).
In the Bible there are several patterns how God answers our prayer. First, God answers immediately. As God sent the plague of hailstorm, Pharaoh repented and asked Moses to stop the plague. Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward the Lord; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land (Exo 9:33). Second, the answer to the prayer can be delayed. Jesus taught us to pray always and not give up through the parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge (Lk 18:7) Monica prayed for her son Augustine to repent and come back to God for 7 years. Her prayer was answered after 7 years. Third, God answers our prayer in different way. Luke 11:11-13 say, 'Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! We are foolish like children and often do not know what we really need. When we ask snake God does not give us snake but fish. Likewise God answers our prayer with what we need rather than what we ask.
While I was in Nigeria for International conference, suddenly my left leg was paralyzed as I got out of the boat. I had difficulty in walking, limping. From the medical standpoint, this kind of problem takes a long time to recover. But I prayed earnestly for God's healing. I prayed to God that God's name would not be honored because I became a paralytic while I was serving the African International conference. After two months my paralysis was fully recovered. It was a miracle. Not only this problem, God answered so many of my prayers and I give thanks to God for that.
Second, David thanked God for the grace of forgiveness (3)
Look at verse 3. "When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. "David experienced how he was powerless before the power of sin. David established a united kingdom of Israel. When other generals went to the war to fight and expand the territory, David was relaxed and got up late in the afternoon and walked around on the roof of the palace. Then he saw a beautiful woman taking a bath across the street. He fell into lustful desire. He brought the woman in the palace and slept with her. She was the wife of the faithful general Uriah who was fighting in the field for the country. Soon David was notified that the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba got pregnant. David was in agony to solve the problem of pregnant Uriah's wife. He gave Uriah special favor to take a paid vacation to come home and sleep with her. But the faithful Uriah refused to go home to lie with his wife saying that his soldiers were fighting in the open fields risking their own lives. He went out to sleep on his mat among the servants; he did not go home. When David realized he failed his scheme to cover up his sin of adultery, he made another plan to kill Uriah through the supreme commander Joab (2 Sam 11:1-18).
Later when the prophet Nathan rebuked David severely, he realized he committed terrible sin of adultery and murder and repented (2 Sam 12:1-12). He wrote a poem about his guilty feeling like this, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer (Ps 32:3,4). He experienced the power of sin choked him and cried out for the pain and suffering from his guilty feeling. He came before the Lord and knelt down and offered prayer of repentance until his bed was rotten with tears. God had mercy on him and forgave all his sins. David was so thankful to God and wrote a poem, "I was overcome by sin, but you forgave the guilt of my sin". Apostle Paul cried out like this, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Rom 7:24). Like David we have to bring our specific sins before God and offer prayer of repentance every morning. Sometimes we commit the same sin again and again. Many times we are shameful before God. But God clearly promised to us, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn 1:9). Whenever we pray personally or as a representative prayer servant, we must first confess our sins and give thanks to God for the grace of forgiveness.
Third, David thanked for the blessing of spiritual fellowship with God (4)
Look at verse 4a. "Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!" David thanked God for blessing him to live in his courts and have fellowship with him even though he was a great sinner, adulterer and murderer. God's court is a holy temple for all of us can enter. Living in God's court means living in God's temple, listening to the word of God, praying to the Lord and having fellowship with him. How blessed we are as we study Bible, share testimonies and have fellowship with God in prayer! Look at 4b. "We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple". David thanked God for good things in the temple; listening to the graceful word of God, having spiritual fellowship through prayer and praise. Worldly honor, wealth do not give us real satisfaction. Neither human love from opposite sex can give us satisfaction. Only through spiritual fellowship with God we can have real joy and satisfaction. Although David had enjoyed unparalleled worldly glory and honor with so many beautiful concubines and many luxurious parties, he was not truly happy or satisfied. But when he had spiritual fellowship with God in the temple, he was filled with God's grace and joy and satisfaction. We cannot have this kind of grace and satisfaction by simply attending church. Like David we should live in God's courts and have spiritual fellowship with God through Bible study, prayer, dedication and praise. We human beings have physical pleasure of eating, drinking or playing sports. There is also mental pleasure through reading good books or listening beautiful music. But these things are all superficial. We can have greater satisfaction through spiritual joy that comes from spiritual fellowship with God. Because we are created with body and spirit, we cannot be satisfied with physical, mental pleasure. Our soul can be satisfied only through spiritual fellowship with God. We should meditate the word of God and pray and have spiritual fellowship with God. These days, many intellectuals struggle hard to be happy through girl friends, worldly power, wealth, or even with computer. But the excitements from these things do not last long. They soon become bored. Human fellowship has great limitation and makes us tired. But when we have fellowship with God in the courts of God we can have real rest and true happiness (Matt 11:28).
Fourth, David thanked God for his righteousness and salvation (5-8)
Look at verse 5. "You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas." David says God is not only the Savior of Israel but also the Savior of the whole world. God rules us with justice and righteousness. God completed his work of Exodus by sacrificing lambs and sprinkling the blood on the doorposts (Exo 12:1-14). We should always thank and praise God for his saving grace. We should also pray for the salvation of the Gentiles through us. In verses 6-8, David thanked God for his sovereign rule over all nations. He praised God that his power extends not only to Israel but also to the whole world. He praised God for his sovereign rule over all the earth.
Part 2. Thank God for blessing flocks and harvests (9-13)
In verses 1-8, David thanked God for spiritual blessings and from then on he thanked God for bountiful harvest. Then what was his thanksgiving topic? First, David thanked God for blessing harvest through proper water supply (9-10) Look at verses 9,10. "You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. Farming and water are in inseparable relations. Water is absolutely necessary for plentiful harvest. David thanked God for giving enough water. God himself visited this earth to see how water is important for the harvest. He supplied enough water to enrich the land. He granted plentiful harvest on this enriched land. Here the streams of God refer to the clouds in the sky and the water in the atmosphere. Acts 14:17 says, "He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." This year God supplied enough rain and sunlight at proper time and blessed harvest. On the way to New York airport from Chicago at the end of last September, I saw the golden grains in the field were waving and dancing with full of harvest smell. We should thank God for giving enough water.
Second, David thanked God for blessing stocks (12-13)
Look at verses 12,13. "The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing. Poet David poetically expressed rain as heavenly gladness. In our country we express the fertile land as rich land. The rich rain falls down on fields and pastures and grasses grow in abundance. David expressed this to the grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. At the harvest the meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with barleys, wheat and corns. It seemed as if the mountains and streams sing praise songs to God for granting harvest.
Our God have blessed harvest richly until now. For this we could help those suffering countries because of lact of food. Now America is the richest country in the world because our God blessed abundantly. Thank God for granting plentiful harvest and daily bread in this year.
Third, David thanked God for crowning the year (11)
Look at verse 11. "You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. David had experienced plentiful harvest since he was young and he was sure God would grant the same grace continuously. God gives us plentiful harvest and supplies all necessary daily bread for us. Without God's grace and provision we cannot even survive for ten minutes. In the hospital intensive care unit you have to pay a lot of money to receive oxygen. Suppose we have to pay the air we breathe in everyday, how expensive it would be? How great the grace of God who granted us beautiful mountains, rivers, four seasons and waters at proper time so that we could enjoy peace and freedom! Just think about it. Who gave the fresh air and water for us to survive? Who gave us daily bread 365 days a year without missing? If God does not rain for three years like the time of Elijah, we would be like people in Ethiopia who are dying of hunger. We should thank God for every day for crowning the year with bounty. Bible says, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thes 5:18) This means we should thank God in all situations. We thank God when we receive God's blessing. However, in times of persecution or danger, we are tempted to complain to God instead of giving thanks to God. Why should we give thanks in all circumstances? It is because it is God's will for us. We should give thanks to God in times of persecution or poverty because it was God who led us to that situation according to his will. God even works in that situation for the good purpose. Dr Billy Graham said, "Christians who do not thank God are something wrong".
In conclusion, we studied about what were the thanksgiving topics. We should thank God who chose us to live in his courts and forgave all our sins. In this Thanksgiving season we should thank God who gave us proper water, sunlight and plentiful harvest and delicious daily bread.