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11-21-21 “Why We Give Thanks”

“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.

Introduction

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).

Daniel saw someone like a man; i.e., someone who was to be compared with a man yet was somehow qualitatively different (v. 14).

Reformation Study Bible

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:

“human frailty is part of the Pilgrims’ story as well. They argued among themselves. They were frequently duped both by strangers and purported friends. They were ethnocentric and sometimes self-righteous. They struggled with their finances …. They were frightened by wolves. They got lost in the woods …. A key leader got caught by an Indian deer trap and dangled helplessly upside down …. In years to come, they would have a hard time keeping a pastor … and many of their number would move away in search of larger farms, prompting William Bradford to speak of the Plymouth church as “an ancient mother grown old and forsaken of her children.”

Their flaws may shock us, but it wouldn’t have shocked the Pilgrims. They seemed to glory in how God could use them despite their weakness and sinfulness. One of their key leaders (Robert Cushman) said, “Our voyage … hath been as full of crosses as ourselves have been of crookedness, but God can do much.” Another leader (Edward Winslow) said, “How few, weak, and raw were we at our first beginning, and yet God preserved us.” William Bradford gloried in their weaknesses, but his object in doing so is clear: “that their children may see with what difficulties their fathers wrestled in going through these things in their first beginnings; and how God brought them along, notwithstanding all their weaknesses and infirmities.”

Source: Robert Tracy McKenzie, The First Thanksgiving (IVP Academic, 2013), pp. 95-97

(Above quote from: PreachingToday.com)

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)

1. The Sea (Dan. 7:2) and the Beasts/Worldly Kingdoms (Dan. 7:3-8) typify the dysfunction, disorder and lawlessness of this world, and the subsequent ways we use and abuse others.

CHAOS Describes the state of disorder that would exist in the absence of a divinely imposed order on the cosmos.

The chaotic unpredictability and latent threat of the sea (ים, ym) resulted in its coming to represent these forces of chaos in ancient literature

—Lexham Bible Dict.

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.

Conclusion

1. The story of our closing hymns serves as an example:

“German pastor Martin Rinkart served in the walled town of Eilenburg during the horrors of the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648. Eilenburg became an overcrowded refuge for the surrounding area. The fugitives suffered from epidemic and famine. At the beginning of 1637, the year of the Great Pestilence, there were four ministers in Eilenburg. But one abandoned his post for healthier areas and could not be persuaded to return. Pastor Rinkhart officiated at the funerals of the other two. As the only pastor left, he often conducted services for as many as 40 to 50 persons a day—some 4,480 in all. In May of that year, his own wife died. By the end of the year, the refugees had to be buried in trenches without services.

Yet living in a world dominated by death, Pastor Rinkart wrote the following prayer for his children to offer to the Lord:

Now thank we all our God
With hearts and hands and voices;
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom this world rejoices.
Who, from our mother’s arms,
Hath led us on our way,
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.”

Source: Harry Genet, “The Unlikely Thanker,” Men of Integrity (3-3-00)

(Above quote is from PreachingToday.com)

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.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the notes.
    I don’t understand the technology.
    But, I’m thankful for the opportunity to have this reminder of a meaningful message.

    • Pastor David Peterson

      Thank you for your feedback, Kalah! You don’t need to fully understand the technology to benefit from it! It is a blessing that we can share the word this way. Wishing you God’s very best!

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