Cheshvan/Kislev 5774 November 2013
MA CHADASH? WHAT’S NEW?
THANKS VERY MUCH!
Shema is blessed. We are doing a lot of things right. We are faithfully teaching the Word of God and not tickling ears; the worship is filled with the Word of God; we have elders who are involved in the lives of the people without being too intrusive; we are reaching out to the Jewish people first and also to the Gentiles in a variety of ways; we are building relationships with churches in the Metro Detroit area; the community is growing in brotherly love and in numbers. Of course, we are grateful to the Lord, who builds the house; but the Lord uses human beings in various ways, and so we say ‘todah” to everyone who is helping us build this house.
Giving thanks brings us closer to God. Since the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden, our natural inclination is to avoid God. When Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day, they hid from Him. Giving thanks counteracts this tendency to avoid God. It enables us to develop a closer relationship with the God who loves us and will live forever with us in the wonderful New Heavens and New Earth and the New Jerusalem.
Giving thanks transforms us. By nature, and our nature is fallen, we like to complain. Whining and griping come naturally to us but are unproductive and unattractive. Expressing gratitude is productive and attractive. Giving thanks turns us from complainers into people of gratitude. Thanksgiving transforms us from unattractive creatures into attractive people. Thanksgiving changes our perspective about the Creator-creature relationship, which is our most important relationship. We are born into this world ignorant about God and how central He is. Giving thanks causes us to acknowledge that God is the source of every good thing. When we thank God, we have to realize that our health, our family, our food, our shelter, our job, our talents – any abundance we may have – come from Him.
Thankfulness teaches us about grace. It’s human nature to take credit for our accomplishments. Thankfulness teaches us that we have not earned the Lord’s blessings, but He lovingly chose to bestow them. Each gift from God, whether it’s a job or a friend or family, or place to live or a freedom we enjoy or a spiritual blessing we have received, shows that the gracious God knows us and cares for us.
Thankfulness humbles us. We come into this world selfish and self-absorbed. We are proud and self-centered. We think we deserve a lot. The world owes us. When we are truly thankful, we can’t help knowing that God is good and gracious and treats us better than we deserve. Pride lessens when we realize that God owes us very little and has graciously given us much more than we deserve. Pride fades when we understand that every good thing comes from God. Thanksgiving humbles us because pride is closely tied to a spirit of independence from God. Thankful people realize that our independence is an illusion and that we depend on God for every good thing in our lives.
Thankfulness motivates us – and many of us need spiritual motivation. Lack of spiritual motivation is at the root of most problems in the life of a New Covenant community or the life of an individual. Communities and people who are not spiritually motivated usually lack the ability to sense God’s reality. Sensing the reality of God can spiritually motivate us to live for God and not for self, to live for God and not for the world. If God seems remote and you want to get closer to Him, learn how to give thanks – during good times and during hard times. Learn to see the many acts of God in your life and thank Him. I like this prayer from the Shabbat Amidah, because it captures this same spirit of thanksgiving: “We thank You because You are our fathers’ God for all eternity! You alone are our rock and our shield that saves in every generation! We thank You for all your tender care. We are always in Your keeping. Your wonders and miracles are with us daily, evening, morning and noon. You are all-good, and Your mercies never fail. You are compassionate and Your faithful love never ceases. Blessed are You, O Lord, to whom it is appropriate to give thanks!”Consider coming up with your own list of things to thank God for. You might even want to read some of them around the dinner table this Thanksgiving.
We can learn from others how to give thanks. One of the greatest examples of giving thanks comes from our first president, George Washington. He signed this proclamation on October 3, 1789: “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness: Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplication to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our national government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.” What a great declaration encouraging our young nation to give thanks to God and to prayer! I am sure that God was pleased with this and was more inclined to bless our nation. This declaration became part of our history and is part of the reason why Thanksgiving became a national holiday on a Thursday at the end of November. I pray that our nation would return to the place where we could genuinely give thanks to God like we did 200 years ago.
A few final thoughts about thanksgiving: Rabbi Paul instructed us to always give thanks for all things. Of course we thank God for the good things. It’s easy to give thanks when things are going well. It’s harder when things are not going so well. We want to come to the place where we can give thanks for all things. We don’t thank God for evil, but that the Creator is so wise and powerful that even bad things can be turned to good. Joseph expressed this when he told his brothers: What you meant for evil, God meant for good. We are able to do this because we know that all things work together for good for those who love God; that God weaves the dark threads of difficulty along with the light-colored threads of pleasure into a beautiful mosaic of our lives.
We can always give thanks, even when we are short of earthly blessings, because we still have many wonderful spiritual blessings. How can we not be thankful when we understand the amazing blessings Christians and Messianic Jews have received – the blessing of being part of the New Covenant; the complete forgiveness of all of our sins; that God’s grace will now and always be sufficient for us; the blessings of salvation, resurrection, glorification, eternal life, a real and eternal home in a real and wonderful and eternal place; a real and eternal inheritance that is reserved in Heaven for us; closeness to the Three-In-One God; reunion with the saints of all the ages; a meaningful life on Earth followed by eternal life in the New Jerusalem; that God the Father has made us in His image; that we are His beloved sons and daughters; that Messiah Yeshua is our King, Savior, brother and friend, and co-heir; that the Spirit of the Father and the Son lives in us now and will live in us forever and ever!
It’s always appropriate for the creature to give thanks to a loving and gracious Creator. And, giving thanks benefits us. It brings us face-to-face with God. Giving thanks enables us to develop a closer relationship with God. Giving thanks turns us from unattractive complainers into attractive people of gratitude. Thanksgiving changes our perspective about the Creator-creature relationship. Giving thanks humbles us. It teaches us about grace. Giving thanks spiritually motivates us. Therefore, devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving, always giving thanks for all things. May you and your family have a Thanksgiving that is pleasing to the Three-In-One God of Israel – Father, Son and Spirit, who created us, redeemed us, provides for us and has a wonderful and eternal future for us – a Thanksgiving that strengthens your commitments to Him!
Note: This message was adapted from an article by Moishe Rosen, the founder of Jews for Jesus, and a dear friend.