Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Thanksgiving in all circumstances

Typical Thanksgiving mealHalloween was last month, and tomorrow is Black Friday, but what is today? Thanksgiving Day! It’s one American thing that we have not adopted in Australia.

Drought. Bushfires. Floods. COVID 19 pandemic. Job losses. Lockdowns. Restrictions. Financial crises. It’s been a difficult year for us. In such situations people ask, “Where’s God in this?” The prophet Habakkuk also questioned God.

Context

Habakkuk wrote in about 605 BC, which was after Judah’s reform-minded king Josiah had been killed, and the Jews had slid back into sin and apostasy.

Outline of Habakkuk

Habakkuk’s first complaint: Why does the evil in Judah go unpunished? (1:2-4). Likewise, people today ask why does God allow all the evil and suffering in the world?

God’s answer: The Babylonians will punish Judah (1:5-11). This occurred in 604 BC, 597 BC and 586 BC (2 Ki. 24:1 – 25:26).

Habakkuk’s second complaint: How can a just God use the wicked Babylonians to punish a people more righteous than themselves? (1:12-2:1)

God’s answer: The Babylonians will also be punished and faith will be rewarded (2:2-20).

Habakkuk’s prayer of response:
– He calls on God to judge wickedness and show mercy to His people (3:1-15)
– He confesses trust and joy in God (3:16-19)

Joy and thanksgiving

Habakkuk ends with a song of joy.

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk sees that the Babylonian invasion will devastate the land of Judah. But he will trust in God’s providence regardless of the circumstances. Even in suffering and loss, he still rejoices in God his Savior. God gives strength and confidence. No matter what happens, Habakkuk trusts in God. He doesn’t give up on God. He was facing difficult times. But he was not alone. God was there as well.

The NET Bible says, “Difficult times are coming, but Habakkuk is confident the Lord will sustain him. Habakkuk will be able to survive, just as the deer negotiates the difficult rugged terrain of the high places without injury.”

Here are some other affirmations in the Bible of faith in God:

Job: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he [God] will stand on the earth” (Job 19:25NIV).

Paul: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Rom. 8:35). The implication is that nothing can separate a believer from God’s love.

Paul: “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He [God] is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

Application

There may be times when God’s ways don’t make sense to us. We may not understand why He allows us to experience certain trials or troubles. We may not understand why He is doing what He is doing to us. And even when we cry out to Him in the midst of those troubles, His answers and His ways may not make sense to us at all.

We’ve got more to be thankful for than Habakkuk. He was promised deliverance. But we know about Jesus the deliverer.

The Bible says that:
– Jesus came to live and die to pay for the sins of humanity;
– a place is being prepared in heaven for God’s people;
– in the future Jesus will return to the earth in great power and glory to make everything right by judging all evil, and;
– Christians are to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Th. 5:16-18). “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20. Every circumstance that comes our way is from God. We can give thanks for everything because God is in control. We give thanks for everything that comes into our lives because it comes by the will of God.

Meanwhile, we can be tempted to expect we can experience in this age the things God largely promises for us in the age to come (like being completely free of sickness).

Conclusion

We all go through difficult times. Let’s remember the things that we know to be true of God, and to give thanks to Him for those things in the midst of those trials. After all, today is Thanksgiving Day in USA (Appendix).

Let’s “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures for ever” (1 Chr. 16:34; Ps. 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136:1).

Believers are commanded to thank God “always”, “for everything” and “in all circumstances”. Not just once a year.  Have we thanked God today whatever our circumstances may be?

Painting of the first Thanksgiving - JLG FerrisAppendix: Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is a holiday in North America on the fourth Thursday of November. The Thanksgiving meal typically includes turkey, bread stuffing, potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie.

The “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings,” days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.

The roots of Thanksgiving go back to the Jewish festival of Tabernacles (or Booths, or Ingathering). Both were celebrated in the autumn (fall) in the northern hemisphere and both were a time for giving thanks to God for the blessings of the harvest season. The American Pilgrims were devout Christians whose heritage was founded on the Bible, both Old and New Testament. They saw themselves as chosen people of God being led to a Promised Land. And they based their customs on the Bible.

The purpose of the festival of Tabernacles was to remember the journey from Egypt to Canaan and to give thanks for the productivity of Canaan (Lev. 23:33-43).

Written, 26 November 2020

Also see: Continual thanksgiving

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