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A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving – Jim Wilkerson

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This seemed appropriate to repost from my pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian in Brunswick, Jim Wilkerson.

A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me – Psalm 50:23

In October of 1621 God provided the Plymouth colony with an abundant harvest from the seeds planted earlier in the spring. William Bradford, the leader of the colony after the death of John Carver, declared that those living in the settlement should hold a festival of thanksgiving for the praise and glory of God due to his past mercies upon them. They decided to invite the Massasoit and other Indians whom God had allowed them favor and peaceable relations. The men gathered adequate supplies for three days of feasting, and all who gathered participated in cooking, eating, drinking, contests and the spiritual leaders of the settlement offered prayers of thanksgiving to God for his abundant blessings. God had abundantly blessed them and acknowledging this in their hearts and minds they offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving. However, it must not be forgotten that in the midst of this thanksgiving in all their memories was the loss of over fifty percent of those living in the settlement that first year before. Yet in the midst of this great loss there eyes were upon God and their hearts broke free for thanksgiving.

Soon after this first thanksgiving more colonists arrived in a ship from England. Their stores of corn for the coming winter were not enough to sustain those who had survived the first winter in addition to those recently arriving without supplies. All the families began to ration the corn they had and yet no one died in the winter of 1621-22 of starvation. The spring of 1623 came and they planted, continued their relations with the Indians, continued to explore new lands but it was a difficult year. William Bradford wrote, “the welcome time of harvest approached, but it arose but to a little. So it well appeared the famine must still ensue the next year also.” There is no record of a thanksgiving festival that fall. However, the fall of 1623 would be a different matter.

In the spring of 1623 the colonists planted a common field of corn but also each family planted and worked family plots of their own. They were seeking to increase their production of corn in preparation for the coming winter to avoid another “starving time”. Their diligence in planting and tilling the soil was met with a twelve week draught. The colonists realized that their crops were failing and so they knew starvation in the coming year was inevitable. William Bradford and the leaders of the families began to pray until Mr. Bradford called a special day of prayer and fasting. As they humbled themselves before God in prayer and fasting one colonist described what took place: “But, O the mercy of our God, who was as ready to hear, as we were to ask! For though in the morning, when we assembled together, the heavens were clear and the drought as like to continue as it ever was, yet…before our departure, the weather was overcast, the clouds gathered on all sides. On the next morning distilled such soft, sweet and moderate showers of rain, continuing some fourteen days…such was the bounty and goodness of our God!” William Bradford described it this way, “It came, without either wind or thunder, or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith. Which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and other fruits, as was wonderful to see and made the Indians astonished to behold.” The harvest was plentiful that fall and their abundance was so great that they were able to put up enough for winter and use some for trading with the Indians. William Bradford and the people planned another festival of thanksgiving that September and again invited their Indian friends to join them. It was again a time to rejoice in God with gratitude for his faithful display of goodness toward them. Edward Winslow wrote these words of the celebration, “having these may signs of God’s favor and acceptance, we thought it would be a great ingratitude if secretly we should content ourselves with private thanksgiving for that which by private prayer could not be obtained. And therefore another solemn day was set apart and appointed for that end; wherein we returned glory, honor, and praise with all thankfulness to our God who dealt so graciously with us.” They again turned from themselves to God from whom all blessings flow and gave a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

God is pleased when his creatures take their eyes off of themselves and fix them upon him with a heart and mind resounding in a voice of thanksgiving. We are abundantly blessed through the incredible hardship of those who have walked in faithfulness before us with their eyes fixed toward God and his promises in Christ in faith and their hearts resounding with gratitude for all God’s passed mercies. These who went before to this land were as those going to Macedonia to carry the gospel as a great cloud of witnesses. Let us learn to follow them in faith upon the promises of God made sure in Jesus Christ and learn in plenty or in want to offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving for his glory.

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