“Why We Give Thanks” (Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14)
David Peterson / General
Thanksgiving Day; Kingdom of God; Feast of Christ the King / Daniel 7:9–14; John 18:33–37
Proposition: Christians give thanks because like Daniel they see that the power behind reality is a good and generous God whose kingdom shall never end. They see even more than Daniel because they see God fulfilling his promises in Jesus, opening the door for them to live under him in his kingdom forever.
1. The hymn “We Gather Together” is from the same time period as the first Thanksgiving. It was written by Dutch Protestants who had defeated the Spanish who had been oppressing them by not letting them worship God according to their consciences. They gave thanks to God for delivering them from their oppressor.
2. Like the pilgrims on that first thanksgiving, they had a strong sense of having come to know more deeply about God and his ways and did not want to give that up.
3. It was this knowledge of God that gave them strength, enabling them to do the things that they did (brave a new world where only 53 of 102 survived winter, first Thanksgiving Fall of 1621, this year is 400th anniversary) and caused them to be filled with gratitude.
(For more on the hymn see here.)
Daniel is a book about strength and other spiritual capacities coming through knowledge of God and his ways.
I. Daniel sees one who is unlike this world (Daniel 7:13).
1. The Son of Man is different (Dan. 7:13a).
2. He is totally in tune with God. He stands in his presence (Dan. 7:13b).
3. His is the way of everlasting life and life (Dan. 7:14).
4. In light of the New Testament story of Jesus we see his Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36, our gospel lesson).
5. Pilgrims knew this:
What is this world like? The earlier verses of Daniel 7 give us a description.
II. This world of human hubris (pride) is one of dysfunction, disorder, lawlessness (Daniel 7:1-8)
2. The source is godlessness, born of human hubris, wanting to be as God (Babylon, Medo-Persian Empire, Greece, Rome)—The archetype is Babylon—and this godlessness is alienation from God and being grounded not him but in oneself and the false gods one creates. The original tempter to hubris, and the one behind all is the devil, the serpent. In the ancient world Leviathan was a demonic sea serpent and this can point to the devil as the one behind the chaos typified by the sea. For a wikipedia article on Leviathan see here.
3. The result of godlessness and lawlessness is death and destruction—including final destruction apart from God (Dan. 7:11-12).
4. America not exempt. Today’s New York Times Review of Books has review of The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, which asserts America’s true beginning was a year before Mayflower with the White Lion and its cargo of captive Africans in Virginia. (See article here.)
Daniel saw, as the Dutch Protestants saw, that God is “ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine” (from “We Gather Together”)—the appearance of Jesus deepens our convictions this is true.
III. Because of the Son of Man, Jesus, we can give thanks in this world (Daniel 7:14; 1 Thess. 5:18).
1. We see that “from the beginning the fight we were winning; thou, Lord, wast at our side; all glory be thine!” (from “We Gather Together”). Nothing to can keep God’s plan from being fulfilled in us.
2. What order and beauty and abundance we do experience, we see as being rooted in the God revealed in Jesus, a taste of his true purpose for us that is to be fulfilled one day. Even now he is being gracious to this world (Gen. 8:21-22).
3. We give thanks for the hope we have in Christ, the assurance that in the end he wins, and because of who he is, his win includes us. It’s his very nature as not like us.
1. The story of our closing hymns serves as an example:
2. From the perspective of this world, grounded in itself, Pastor Rinkart, had nothing for which to give thanks, but grounded in God, Pastor Rinkart had every reason to give thanks. Since he had God he had it all.