Thanksgiving is a holiday that even our secular society cannot rob of meaning. The attitude or act of giving thanks pleases God and puts us in a position that is fitting as grateful recipients of His blessing.
Last month we mentioned the Feast of Tabernacles and a new book by David Brickner. In that book, among other things, he explores some of the history and richness of giving thanks through that Jewish holiday. One of the names given to the feast, Hag ha-Asif, means the Feast of Ingathering and stresses the holiday as an agricultural festival.
We hope the following excerpt from David’s Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles book will add some interesting food for thought to your Thanksgiving celebration.
Agricultural festivals were certainly not unique to Israel. All ancient civilizations developed festivals associated with the agricultural cycles of the lands in which they lived. Without exception, these festivals were filled with religious significance. They expressed the beliefs and superstitions of those ancient cultures but, outside of Israel, the beliefs were false and the practices degenerate. Frequently, as with the customs of Ba’al worship in ancient Canaan, practices included elaborate fertility rites requiring cultic prostitution and grotesque sacrificial rituals to appease the “local deities” and ensure future harvests. In short, the surrounding nations used their agricultural festivals to practice pagan rituals and perversions. God knew that Israel would be tempted, upon entering the land, to adopt the practices of these pagan and polytheistic cultures.
The God of Israel wanted His people to have a proper understanding of Him and of the times and seasons of life. Pagan cultures worshiped the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). God therefore assigned these seasonal festivals to provide a stark contrast to the activities Israel’s neighbors engaged in during these same agricultural cycles. . . . The Lord’s festivals reminded His people that one God created all things and rules over all things. The festivals remind God’s people that He provides rain in its season and a harvest in its season, and that He cannot be bribed or placated with human sacrifice or elaborate sexual ritual . . .
There is a further lesson of Hag ha-Asif: to initiate thanksgiving in the hearts of the people toward God, who had provided the harvest. . . .
The theme of thanksgiving as expressed in Sukkot* (pronounced “sue-COAT”) serves as the foundation of the American celebration of Thanksgiving. Since the pilgrim fathers knew the Bible, they knew about this festival. It seems reasonable enough that they incorporated their own “Feast of Tabernacles” as they celebrated a time of thanksgiving. They recognized, as God intended, that thankful worship was the end, not the means, of the harvest. And so it was with the Feast of Ingathering: God’s provision was to excite Israel’s thankfulness and lead her to fulfill her ultimate purpose as a praise to God.
If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, published by Moody Press, you can order it at: https://store.jewsforjesus.org or call 1-877-463-7742.
*Sukkot is Hebrew for booths or tabernacles, and is a common way for Jewish people to refer to the Feast of Tabernacles.