Give Thanks in Every Circumstance

As we approach the American holiday of Thanksgiving, it's a good reminder for us in Israel to give thanks no matter what. Apart from American families living here who want to maintain the tradition, Thanksgiving isn't usually celebrated here in Israel. But thanks to the ubiquity of American media and cultural influence, we're all aware of the grand turkey and football fest that falls in the fourth Thursday of November!

A celebration of survival

give thanks For the uninitiated, here's a rough history of how it started: The Pilgrim Fathers fled to the New World in the early 1600s where they could enjoy freedom of religion. However, cutting out a new life from scratch in unfamiliar territory is not easy, and many died along the way from malnutrition and pneumonia. The Pilgrims only survived thanks to the Native Americans who lived there and knew the land, helping them learn how to plant corn, fish, and gather berries and nuts. After the reaping their first harvest, they began the tradition of giving thanks for the harvest and making it through the year. They made it!

Agricultural success has been a matter of life and death for most of history. It is a matter of survival. It shouldn't be a surprise then that joyful feasts after a successful harvest can be seen in other cultures and countries, but this is perhaps the most famous such holiday in the world today. Indeed, it's been speculated that, due to the crossovers between the Pilgrims and Sephardic Jews that the holiday may be based on the biblical Feast of Sukkot. Just as Christmas forms the backdrop for many Hollywood movies which have permeated the globe, so the American feast of Thanksgiving has also become a recognizable cultural motif the world over.

The Thanksgiving table

thanks giving turkeyAs familiar as he iconic image of the family gathered around a massive roast turkey has become, so has the phenomenon of the family friction round the Thanksgiving table. This too has its parallel in celebrations the world over. Families come together, but these gatherings often highlight generational divides.

We have seen polarization in many Western countries which have been sharply divided along political lines which can cause heated arguments. Entrenched tribalism can be seen in many other countries, even generating talk of civil war. Israel was also in one of the worst states of division since the recreation of the states in 1948 until just recently. Ironically, an actual war seems to have brought us back together again into amazing unity. However, although Israelis may be united in their support of this war with Hamas, the matter has been extremely controversial in almost every other nation around the world, with no shortage of huge protests either for one side or the other. You can bet your bottom dollar it will get a lot of airtime over the Thanksgiving dinner this year. Talk of the war may even end up being off limits to keep the peace.

But even in this wartime, the American tradition reminds us of the importance of giving thanks. American families will share things they are grateful for, and it's a good time for us to reflect on that too. We are commanded to give thanks in every circumstance. Even in times of evil and trouble.

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:15-18)

There are no exceptional circumstances in which we do not have to thank God. It's God's will and desire that we should give thanks in every situation, no matter how bad. Giving thanks has a profoundly good effect on our heads and our hearts, and it's an important discipline for us to get into every day, not just for Thanksgiving!

Give thanks with a grateful heart

It's an extremely painful time in Israel at the moment, both for Jews and Arabs. Many have been bereaved, or have people missing from their tables. Thousands of Israelis and Gazans are missing tables and even homes as well. Adding to the grief is the reticence of the global community to believe what happened, or to support the eradication of Hamas for the protection of Israel and also the benefit of innocent people in Gaza. We are blindsided and traumatized. But still, as we come up to the feast of Thanksgiving, we can find many things to thank God for. He is always good, and it is His will for us to give thanks in every circumstance.

thanks giving We give thanks for life, when so many have lost theirs.

We give thanks that the people of Israel are back in the land after an exile of almost 2000 years.

We give thanks that Israel can defend itself after so long living at the mercy of others, buffeted from country to country during expulsions, pogroms, and persecution.

We give thanks some hostages will be home soon, even with the terrible price that has been paid.

We give thanks for you, and thousands like you, who have stood with the people of Israel and comforted us in our time of need.

We give thanks for God's promises. This is not the end. Truth will come out eventually, and Jesus will ultimately put all things right. He will make all things new.

Am Israel Chai!

Thanksgiving is a celebration of survival characterized by abundant feasting. Jewish holidays are based on similar principles:

“They tried to kill us, God saved us, let's eat!”

We are glad the Pilgrim fathers survived their trials and established what is now the USA, which has been a safe place for Jewish people for many years. We're grateful the people of Israel have been preserved through the generations, despite countless attempts to annihilate us from the time of Pharaoh up to today. We have been so moved by the strong support from many in America at this time, including a posse of cowboys who came to give hands-on help during the war. We also give thanks for American friends in high places, but probably not in the way you're thinking. Although this ministry has been endorsed and supported by many Americans of significance, for which we are very grateful, there are also many prayer warriors living in the US who are VIPs in heavenly places. They may not be famous on earth (yet) but they are highly esteemed in heaven, which is far above any worldly honor. This Thanksgiving we send our love to America, and congratulations for surviving another year! We celebrate our own survival as the people of Israel and shout “Am Israel chai!” (the people of Israel live!) giving all the credit, all the glory, all the thanks and praise to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to Yeshua our Messiah. Like the Pilgrim Fathers back in 1621, we give thanks to God that against all the odds, we're still here. Happy thanksgiving!


Picture by Simon Maage on Unsplash

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