“…and the joy of the people of Jerusalem could be heard far away.” Neh. 12:40b
As the foundations were laid and the walls built in Jerusalem the people gave thanks. Those that lived through the exile wept, and the others that saw this new day sang joyously as this new beginning was indeed miraculous! The celebration of thanks to the Lord for what He was doing could be heard for miles away.
President Lincoln Establishes a National Day of Thanks
In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln sent a proclamation to our nation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday. At that point, most northern states had some sort of day to give thanks, but the tradition was almost unknown in the South. I believe an excerpt from his proclamation could be very insightful. He writes:
“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Much like the people of Israel who gave God thanks after experiencing the most excruciating season in their national history when millions of Jews had been killed and others scattered into various parts of the world. President Lincoln established Thanksgiving after the brutality of our Civil War and acknowledged a need for us to recognize God’s blessings to us and remember God’s anger for our sins.
Thanksgiving Fueled Our Nations Restoration
This was another way that this great leader brought us back together as a nation when we were struggling with so much hurt as most families were in mourning. Our ability to give God thanks fueled the restoration process and prepared us for the next season of growth in our nation and God blessed us as we moved forward. Thanksgiving was a time for our nation to stop each year and honor God and remember our sins.
President Roosevelt Revises Thanksgiving
In 1939 everything changed. America was trying to get through the depression and President Roosevelt wanted to get people to spend more money in retail stores. At the time, it was bad form for retailers to put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, so in August, President Roosevelt decided to move Thanksgiving up one week to give retailers more time to make money. This move has historically been called Franksgiving, but most people agree that this change altered the traditional religious significance of Thanksgiving and turned it into a celebration of cooking, eating with family and shopping. Today, very little is left from the day that President Lincoln originally established.
Thankfulness is an Offensive Weapon
How do we live thankfully in the month of Thanksgiving with so much going on around us? Thankfulness will forever be an offensive counterattack to the onslaught of the enemy. After hurricanes, floods, fires and mass shootings a national time of giving genuine thanks to God can do more damage to our enemy than any weapon we could ever produce.
When King Jehoshaphat and Judah were being attacked by three armies they knew they had no way to compete against such odds. They chose to give thanks and praise to God and arranged singers before the troops and people. As they sang and gave thanks to God He destroyed the three armies. When they later went into the enemy’s camp they had all been killed and they took all of the spoils left in a celebration of great victory. They learned that when God says he is a protector that He could do this without their help.
Thankfulness is a Key to Open Doors
Many of us have forgotten that God wants to be your protector. Thankfulness is a key to opening a door to protection in more ways than you can think. During November take the time to genuinely give thanks to God for all that he has done, and take time to remember how your sins has created a barrier, but thanks be to God, He forgives us, and blesses us, and He is worthy of our praise and thanksgiving. The next time the enemy assaults you, return thanks to God and watch how your thanksgiving becomes a weapon!