The Spirituality and Gratitude of Thanksgiving Day Exodus 23:14-17

Reverend Jejun Byun's sermon from the 2nd Lord’s Day Service on November 10, 2019

The origins of thanksgiving

As we come upon Thanksgiving Lord’s Day, we want to be able to come to understand the meaning of “thanksgiving day.” God taught the people of Israel the work of salvation and thanksgiving. In order to have them remember the grace that delivered them out from Egypt, He ordained “feasts” so that all the males of Israel in one year will come up three times before God. God gave the land of Canaan as an inheritance so that they would remember the grace of God. Thanksgiving began in early England; however, in the year 1620, Pilgrims from England boarded the Mayflower and headed for a new land and journeyed to America. They landed on Plymouth Rock, and it was there they found the freedom to practice their religion. How great must their thanksgiving have been as they held each other’s hand and sang hymns? The hymn that they sang was Psalm 100, which is a hymn of “thanksgiving.” This is how thanksgiving began in America. In 1904 when Korea was at its most impoverished state, a Missionary from America that came to proclaim the gospel in Korea initiated and suggested the people to have thanksgiving. The feast that we will observe on this Lord’s Day Service is Thanksgiving Lord’s Day.

The Root of Thanksgiving Day

The first thanksgiving day that appears in the Bible was given by Cain and Abel (Gen 4:3-4). Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground and Abel brought to the Lord the first things of his flock and of their fat portions. God did not have regard for Cain’s offering but received Abel’s offering because there was thanksgiving and a confession of faith in his offering. God did not only receive Abel’s offering but received Abel himself as well. This teaches us that Thanksgiving Day is to be kept by faith. When this day is kept by faith, God will have regard for it.

Israel observed Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day was observed by the people of Israel. On Mt. Sinai, God gave the Word of the Covenant and commanded them to observe this day as the feast of ingathering (Ex 23:16; 34:22). There are three different meanings of thanksgiving. First, we have to give thanks for the grace that has been given to us. After reaping the crops that were sown for the past year, we are to give thanks for the blessings that God has given and bring your offerings and go up to Jerusalem where the Feast of the Ingathering was kept. This is what the people of the Old Testament kept as Thanksgiving Day. Every good thing and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17).

Secondly, we have to give thanksgiving for salvation and to remember the past. Israel was to remember the tents they lived in during the wilderness journey, which was called the feast of booths (Lev 23:33-34). This teaches us that the Israelites could not live in the wilderness without God. They were brought out from Egypt by God’s almighty hand. For the love and kindness of God’s salvation, Israel was to give thanksgiving for that. Jesus went to Golgotha for our sins and bore them. At the altar of the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” We need to remember that grace, with a thankful heart. Thus, this thanksgiving feast should move us to remember. That is Thanksgiving Day. There are many things that the people of Korea must remember. Our Republic of Korea was very poor, but now we have an abundance of things. Our nation of Korea was so impoverished but received the gospel and was clothed by the loving-kindness of God. Just as God allowed Israel abundance under King David, this nation of Korea was also able to experience abundance. We must never forget this. The American missionaries, to include many others, awakened the people of this nation and dedicated themselves to assist this nation, and we are indebted to many people.

Thirdly, we must give thanks for the blessings that God will give in the future (Deut 16:13-15). God said to Joseph that His blessings would not be cut off, and those same blessings are given to you and me today. Thanksgiving Day is a day that we can confirm that blessing and it is a feast that we can give thanks to God for those blessings.

Thanksgiving has spirituality within it

This word “spirituality” speaks of the children of God that bare His characteristics. It is the covenantal people that become the people of heaven. The most important element of this covenantal people is thanksgiving. Although the Lord give and take away, the people of God always gave thanks to God (Job 1:21). However, the people during the wilderness journey grumbled against Moses and grumbled against God and wanted to return to Egypt because their “spirituality” was destroyed (Psa 95:10). Thanksgiving is the will of God. In all things, we must give God thanks (1 Thess 5:18). We must be thankful and let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (Col 3:15). May we all be full of thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is to acknowledge the things that we have received. Thanksgiving reveals a person’s character and is the beginning of a relationship. Thanksgiving is something that is required to maintain a relationship before God. Thanksgiving is to glorify God by giving thanks (Psa 50:23; Luke 17:15). When we give thanks, we are honoring God.

Conclusion: Thanksgiving is the pinnacle of spirituality. Daniel was a man of great faith and was able to interpret dreams (Dan 1:17; 6:3). The secret and mystery to Daniel’s spirituality was his thankfulness to God. Daniel prayed three times a day and did not forget to give thanks to God (Dan 6:10). Joseph also gave thanks and was a man of thanksgiving. Joseph was thrown in prison, yet he did not grumble against his brothers (Psa 105:18-19). Through Joseph, God was able to fulfill all the work to save the entire world. Joseph’s thanksgiving carried on into prosperity (Gen 39:2-3). Thanksgiving is our spirituality, for wherever thanksgiving is, that is the work of prosperity. We who have received the Word of Redemptive History like Daniel and Joseph have become people of thanksgiving. Therefore, from our mouths, may we not complain or grumble. That is spirituality. We have to change our words over to good and say a word of thanks. Thanksgiving is the path to prosperity. So let us express our thanks and fulfill heaven in our hearts. Amen!

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