Every year at Thanksgiving Iím reminded of the holidayís origin,
the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. It was the crowning event in Israelís cycle
of fall feasts that also included Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It was a
celebration of the harvest, of Godís mercy in forgiving their sins for
another year, and a remembrance of the time when He lived among them in the
wilderness, setting them apart as His people.
When the Pilgrims had experienced their first successful harvest
in the New World, they decided to give
thanks for the Lordís provision, even though half of them had died in the
year since their arrival. Inviting the neighboring natives to join them,
they held a three-day celebration patterned after their knowledge of the
Feast of Tabernacles.
It All Began
The Jews were about to enter the Promised Land. The Lord had
Moses tell them that in the future they were to set aside a tithe (1/10th)
of their production each year and bring it, along with all their other
voluntary offerings, to the place He would choose for them to worship Him.
They were to eat them there in a gigantic national feast. Think of it,
1/10th of all the lambs, goats and cattle born that year, 1/10th of the
grain, vegetables and fruit from through out the land, breads and cakes and
barrels of wine.
Each fall, after the harvest, everyone in Israel came to Jerusalem to celebrate. It was the biggest
Thanksgiving dinner ever. The sounds of laughing and singing and the aroma
of exotic foods filled the air for a whole week as the people gave
thanks to God for blessing them (Deut.
Every third year they gave their tithes to the Levites and stayed
home. This assured that there was always enough to take care of the Levites
(who were the teachers and doctors and lawyers and had no land to till) and
all the widows and orphans, the indigent, and the aliens among them. Each
year they celebrated His provision and the Lord blessed them with more so
that their abundance grew. He commanded them to do this every year so that
He could ďbless them in all the works
of their hands.Ē (Deut. 14:22-29)
By setting the Lordís share aside and then using it to give thanks to Him,
they found that each year their blessing increased.
But after their return from the Babylonian captivity, the Lord
caught them cheating Him. He warned them that they had put themselves under
a curse because they werenít setting aside their tithes properly. They were
giving the Lord their worst, not their best, and even this was being done
resentfully as if it was a great burden. Because of this they were not being
blessed but were working harder and harder for less and less.
ďReturn to me and Iíll return to you,Ē
He told them. ďBring the whole tithe
into the storehouse. Test me in this and see if I donít throw open the flood
gates of Heaven and pour our so much blessing that you wonít have room
enough for it.Ē (Malachi 1 &
And thatís always the way it is with the Lord. No hard feelings,
no resentment, just return to Him and Heíll return to you. All is forgiven,
because His mercies are new every morning. We can always begin right where
we are and Heíll respond as if the past had never happened.
The Rules Of
So by these two passages we learn the rules of what I call Godís
Blessing Game. We show our gratitude by giving God His due and He blesses us
with more. We increase our giving and He increases His blessing, allowing us
to give still more. And on it goes. But when we become stingy or resentful
and try to short-change God, then the blessings are curtailed accordingly.
The Israelites proved beyond all doubt that by following the
rules of the game they could win every time. And they demonstrated the
futility of cheating. But is there any New Testament version of Godís
Blessing Game? Of course there is, because God is the same yesterday today
and forever. Luke 6:38 tells us
ďGive, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken
together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the
measure you use, it will be measured to you.Ē
Show a little gratitude and get a little blessing. Show a little
more and the blessings increase. The more generous we become the more
abundant our blessings will be. Paul gave us the ultimate outcome in
2 Cor. 9:11.
Youíll be made rich in every way so you can be generous on every
occasion. Every time we feel moved to help someone out, weíll find the
moneyís there to do it. And it will all result in thanksgiving to God.
Lots of people overlook the last half of this promise, and find
that because they do it doesnít come true. The Lord didnít promise to make
us rich so that we could have bigger houses and more cars, He promised to
make us rich so that we could be more generous. Weíre supposed to be a
distribution center for His blessings, not a warehouse. The blessings
we receive are supposed to flow through to others, not stop with us. The
riches we store up are for Heaven, not Earth. Good thing too, because here
they only last a little while, but there they last forever. (Matt.
This is Godís Blessing Game. Itís a game that He developed and
that everyone can win. The rules are clear and donít ever change. We
establish the level of blessings weíll receive by the gratitude we express
through our generosity toward others. The Lord loves a cheerful giver
and will reward us accordingly.
So the Pilgrims decided to take a lesson from the Israelites.
They took the little they had and gave thanks, inviting the natives in their
midst to join them to show their generosity. In return the Lord blessed
them. And so it began. To one degree or another, itís been going on ever
since and look how weíve been blessed. Americans are the richest people on
Earth. If you donít believe that, try living somewhere else, anywhere
else, for a while.
Itís a testimony to Godís understanding of the human condition
that the Thanksgiving Holidayís roots have been obscured. You see, he longs
to bless us but the rules of the game require an expression of gratitude on
our part. By allowing Thanksgiving to be perceived as a secular holiday
instead of a religious one, He can receive our thanks without risking the
same demand that He be taken out of the loop as there is for Christmas.
Thereís no public outcry by the pagans, no suits by the ACLU, and no attacks
by other religions against its origin. Very few people are even aware of the
Biblical roots of this ďAmericanĒ holiday. But being devout Christians, the
Pilgrims knew Who they were thanking, and why. You and I do, too. Itís our
little secret. Ours and Godís.
I pray that your Thanksgiving was a happy one, and that through
out the holidays youíll remember the rules of Godís Blessing Game and always
play to win. Selah 11-26-11.