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Archive for November, 2008

The Real Meaning of Thanksgiving

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I’ve been reading Ps. 138 over the past month and a week before Thanksgiving it dawned on me how powerful God’s Word is: in Ps. 138:4 David writes, “All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O LORD, when they have heard the words of Your mouth.”

It is astonishing to contemplate that every single president of the most significant nation in what is arguably the most influential nation in the history of the world (no doubt a case could be made for Israel, due to its founding as a people set apart for God and due to its biblical influence upon the world.  A case could also be made for Great Britain, considering the US is part of her offspring), that every president of the US has issued a public proclamation of Thanksgiving to God, beginning with President Washington.

Thus, a prophecy by David made more than 3,000 years ago has had a direct fulfillment in the Modern era.  For example, consider one of eight Thanksgiving proclamations made by my favorite modern president, Ronald Reagan:

Perhaps no custom reveals our character as a Nation so clearly as our celebration of Thanksgiving Day. Rooted deeply in our Judeo-Christian heritage, the practice of offering thanksgiving underscores our unshakable belief in God as the foundation of our Nation and our firm reliance upon Him from whom all blessings flow. Both as individuals and as a people, we join with the Psalmist in song and praise: “Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.”

One of the most inspiring portrayals of American history is that of George Washington on his knees in the snow at Valley Forge. That moving image personifies and testifies to our Founders’ dependence upon Divine Providence during the darkest hours of our Revolutionary struggle. It was then – when our mettle as a Nation was tested most severely – that the Sovereign and Judge of nations heard our plea and came to our assistance in the form of aid from France. Thereupon General Washington immediately called for a special day of thanksgiving among his troops.

Eleven years later, President Washington, at the request of the Congress, first proclaimed November 26, 1789, as Thanksgiving Day. In his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, President Washington exhorted the people of the United States to observe “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer” so that they might acknowledge “with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” Washington also reminded us that “it is the duty of all nations 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.”

Today let us take heart from the noble example of our first President. Let us pause from our many activities to give thanks to almighty God for our bountiful harvests and abundant freedoms. Let us call upon Him for continued guidance and assistance in all our endeavors. And let us ever be mindful of the faith and spiritual values that have made our Nation great and that alone can keep us great. With joy and gratitude in our hearts, let us sing those stirring stanzas:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, in the spirit of George Washington and the Founders, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 27, 1986, as a National Day of Thanksgiving, and I call upon every citizen of this great Nation to gather together in homes and places of worship on that day of thanks to affirm by their prayers and their gratitude the many blessings bestowed upon this land and its people.

In Witness Whereof, I have here unto set my hand this thirteenth day of October, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and eleventh.

This is most certainly not a day for shopping; for football and basketball, nor is it even a day off from work: it is a day to honor God for all of his blessings, as we’ll see momentarily from President Washington’s first Thanksgiving proclamation as President of the United States

Before I pray and give thanks to God for our unique American holiday, note with me this godly man’s words:

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houfes of Congress have, by their joint committee, requefted me “to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to eftablifh a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and affign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of thefe States to the fervice of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our fincere and humble thanksfor His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the fignal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpofitions of His providence in the courfe and conclufion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have fince enjoyed;– for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to eftablish Conftitutions of government for our fafety and happinefs, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;– for the civil and religious liberty with which we are bleffed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffufing useful knowledge;– and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleafed to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in moft humbly offering our prayers and fupplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and befeech Him to pardon our national and other tranfgreffions;– to enable us all, whether in publick or private ftations, to perform our feveral and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a bleffing to all the people by conftantly being a Government of wife, juft, and conftitutional laws, difcreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all fovereigns and nations (especially fuch as have shewn kindnefs unto us); and to blefs them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increafe of fcience among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind fuch a degree of temporal profperity as he alone knows to be beft.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand feven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington

Father, thank You for all of Your blessings upon our nation, throughout its history.  Forgive us for all of our sins: the slaughter of the unborn; our pride and lack of recognition of Your authority in our lives and our disdain of the authority of Your Word.  Forgive us for our perversity and violence.  Remember the satanic attack that daily comes against us and destroy the works of the enemy.

Have mercy on us, Father: cleanse us from our unrighteousness; incline the hearts of men, women and children to honor You.  We humbly ask that You would restore our economy, continue to protect us from terrorist attacks and from the machinations of our enemies.

Renew us to do that which is right and honorable in Your sight in every way.  Pour out Your Spirit upon our land and draw all to the freedom that comes through a yielded relationship with You, Lord Jesus, for the glory and honor of Your name, amen.

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