Making God smile: Thanksgiving Thoughts
I recently enjoyed some quality time with my granddaughter at an ice cream shop. She wanted a vanilla cone and, when I went to pay, the lady behind the counter said, “If it’s for her, it’s free.” After Norah had eaten most of it, we went back to the counter and she said, “Thank you for my ice cream cone.” The lady was so happy to receive those sweet words that she almost started to cry.
That got me thinking about how much the Lord appreciates our “thank you.”s Remember the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17? We want to be like the one (a Samaritan) who made sure to come back and give thanks to Jesus. So what are you most thankful to the Lord for today?
Among so many other things—such as life and health and salvation in Christ—I am thankful to God for you, and every single dear Jews for Jesus friend who has stood with us, prayed for us and supported our efforts to proclaim the gospel around the world.
Thankfulness is a recurring theme throughout God’s Word. Central to our heritage of faith—and certainly to my Jewish background—are the regular and genuine expressions of thanks to God for His blessings.
It’s only human to focus on our problems, of course. But no matter what problems we may be facing, we still have so many reasons to thank God. Doing so can turn us from trusting in ourselves to relying on His promises.
Thankfulness to God not only blesses Him, it blesses us. So an attitude of gratitude should be our goal every day, don’t you think?
With Thanksgiving coming soon, the best advice I can give to you and other brothers and sisters in Messiah is the same advice I give to myself (and I take no credit for it): “Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples!” (1 Chronicles 16:8).
In ancient Israel, giving thanks went far beyond mere words. Genuine thanksgiving was most sincerely expressed through special offerings to God, as described in Leviticus 7:12–13. The Israelites presented thick loaves of leavened bread as well as unleavened bread made with the finest flour and olive oil.
In Deuteronomy 16 we find that freely given offerings were made in proportion to the Lord’s blessings. Those offerings of thanks were not necessarily given out of an overabundance of resources, but often out of sorest need in sincere recognition of God’s gracious provision, especially in troubled times.
The psalmist faces the threat of death and the pain of all sorts of sorrow when he asks the Lord for deliverance, declaring, “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, And will call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:17).
So it’s not just when all is well that we need to thank God. It’s when we recognize our need for Him and for His intervention in our lives that it’s most appropriate to offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
Think about Leah, the wife of Jacob. Jacob didn’t love Leah, which caused her great pain. She tried to gain Jacob’s love by giving birth and said as much when she named their first three children Reuben, Simeon and Levi.
Reuben means “Behold, a son” or, according to some, “Behold, my affliction.” And the reason she gave him that name? “… for she said, ‘The Lord has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me’” (Genesis 29:32).
Then came Simeon, whose name means “heard.” Leah said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also” (Genesis 29:33). Next came Levi, whose name means “attached” because Leah thought, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons” (Genesis 29:34).
Leah was hoping to triumph over rejection and gain the love of her husband through her children. But it didn’t work. It was only after she had her fourth child that she decided to put aside her disappointment and instead give thanks to the Lord. So she named the child Judah, meaning “praise.” And that was the child God chose as He narrowed down the line through which Messiah would be born. What an amazing gift!
Leah is a picture of all of us who struggle to find love and acceptance in the midst of painful circumstances. With our eyes only on our predicament, we convince ourselves that solutions to our problems lie within our grasp, if only we change our circumstances. Leah’s circumstances didn’t change, but her heart did. The choice to thank and praise God is one we often make in spite of, not in light of, our circumstances. But praise and thanksgiving are powerful and transformative. Giving glory to God calms our fears and opens our lives to new possibilities.
Yes, it’s clear from even the most cursory reading of Scripture that deep, authentic appreciation is pleasing to God, central to our faith and good for the soul. I’m going to make the extra effort in this season to be thankful, to heed the admonition of Scripture and to make known God’s deeds to you and to all the people. I hope you’ll join me, and maybe even drop us a line to let us know how you and your loved ones are focusing on thanksgiving.
All around the world, our Jews for Jesus missionaries and volunteers are out and about. Whether we’re proclaiming Christ at a Thanksgiving Day parade or witnessing among the throngs of early holiday shoppers, we have a message of hope for a lost world. Those who hope in the Lord have great reason to give thanks, regardless of their circumstances. Please join us in giving thanks to Him in making known His deeds among the people. Like Norah, let’s make a specific effort to return to Him and give thanks. I don’t expect the Lord to shed tears of joy, but I believe our gratitude will certainly make Him smile.
David Brickner is also an author, public speaker and avid hiker. Find out more about David, his writings, speaking schedule and possible availability to speak at your church at jewsforjesus.org/david-brickner.
The rest of this newsletter edition is available by pdf. It includes bits from our branches in Berlin, Israel, Dnepropetrovsk, and New York; articles on our campaigns in Odessa and Budapest; a cartoon; and, of course, prayer prompters. Enjoy!
Executive Director, Missionary
David Brickner is executive director of Jews for Jesus. David oversees the world-wide ministry from its headquarters in San Francisco. David received his Master’s degree in Missiology with a concentration in Jewish Evangelism and Judaic Studies from the Fuller School of World Mission. He has authored several books, and has been interviewed on national television shows such as Larry King Live. David’s daughter, Ilana is a recent graduate of Biola. His son, Isaac is on the missionary staff of Jews for Jesus. Isaac and his wife, Shaina, have one daughter, Nora, which makes David part of the grandparent club, a membership he is very proud of. See more here.