Don’t Be Deceived by Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving opportunes gathering with family and friends to reflect upon all that God has done in the last year. Since President George Washington’s proclamation that November 26, 1789 be recognized as a day to give thanks for God’s providential blessings in the recent war, in the plenty the earth had provided, and in the establishment of governments, Christians especially have ardently set aside a time at the end of harvest to proclaim God’s greatness with loved ones.

The psalms record Israel’s thanksgiving for God’s goodness in salvation and through creation. Texts like Psalm 136, and the refrain “His love is eternal,” cast a shadow in the Israelite worldview. Their frame of thought was informed by texts like Dt 11:8-17, where God promised that creation would testify to their faithfulness: as Israel remained faithful in the land, that land would witness of God’s approval by providing for Israel’s needs. For Israel, salvation history moved along happily as they obeyed, and prospered, in Canaan. Perhaps President Washington was familiar with God’s promises to Israel and understood that the security and bounty of the new nation signaled God’s favor.

One deception that might arise at Thanksgiving is the thought that meteorological and agricultural stability will always testify of God’s work in salvation history. The NT records that God will use creation to testify to the consummation of salvation history. The author of Hebrews writes that one day Jesus Himself will fold up the heavens (Heb 1:10-12), and that God will shake the earth and the heavens so that only an unshakable, heavenly creation will remain (Heb 12:25-29). In the Revelation, John too notes that the heavens and the earth will dramatically signal Christ’s return and judgment (Rev 6:12-17; 16:17-21).

For believers these thoughts might, at first, seem unnecessary. Why not just give thanks for the bounty of the year and all that God has done for us in salvation history? It might be helpful to consider giving thanks for what God will do with creation, lest Thanksgiving root us a bit too deeply in Western prosperity. Even the bounty for which we are thankful will one day be eclipsed by what God promises to do in the consummation of the ages—and He will use creation to signal that the time has come.

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