A Study in the Scriptures

"In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God ..."
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Copyright © 1999 by Diane S. Dew

1782 Continental Congress Proclamation

The Historical Document Establishing Thanksgiving a National Holiday

State of New-Hampshire. In Committee of Safety, Exeter, November 1, 1782 : Ordered, that the following proclamation for a general thanksgiving on the twenty-eighth day of November instant, received from the honorable Continental Congress, be forthwith printed...

EXETER, November 1, 1782.


THAT the following Proclamation for a general THANKSGIVING on the twenty-eighth day of November [instant?], received from the honorable Continental Congress, be forthwith printed, and sent to the several worshipping Assemblies in this State, to whom it is recommended religiously to observe said day, and to abstain from all servile labour thereon.

M. WEARE, President.
By the United States in Congress assembled.

IT being the indispensable duty of all Nations, not only to offer up their supplications to ALMIGHTY GOD, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his providence in their behalf: Therefore the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of divine goodness to these States, in the course of the important conflict in which they have been so long engaged; the present happy and promising state of public affairs; and the events of the war, in the course of the year now drawing to a close; particularly the harmony of the public Councils, which is so necessary to the success of the public cause; the perfect union and good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between them and their Allies, notwithstanding the artful and unwearied attempts of the common enemy to divide them; the success of the arms of the United States, and those of their Allies, and the acknowledgment of their independence by another European power, whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States: ----- Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the twenty-eight day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify to their gratitude to GOD for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience of his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.

Done in Congress, at Philadelphia, the eleventh day of October, in the year of our LORD one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, and of our Sovereignty and Independence, the seventh.

JOHN HANSON, President.
Charles Thomson, Secretary.


Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

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 enable 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 supplications 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 show 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.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d dy of October, A.D. 1789.

(signed) G. Washington



Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation*

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

* from the collection of Lincoln's papers in the Library of America series, Vol II, pp. 520-521



"Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits ..."
(Psalm 68:19)




I.   Gratitude is an attitude: a personal quality that molds us and shapes our lives – not just something we do or say.

       A.   In the Old Testament, "sacrifices" of thanksgiving were offered.

                          Leviticus 7:12, 13, 15; 22:29
                          2 Chronicles 29:31; 33:16
                          Psalms 50:23; 56:12; 116:17
                          Jeremiah 17:26

        B.  Some were even "appointed" to the office of giving thanks – indicating its great importance.

                          1 Chronicles 16:4 (the Levites)
                          1 Chronicles 16:41 And with them were Heman and Jeduthin,
                              and the rest who were chosen, who were designated by name,
                              to give thanks to the Lord...
                          2 Chronicles 20:21 (ahead of the battle)
                          2 Chronicles 31:2

        C.  In the New Testament, "the fruit of our lips" is a type of offering or sacrifice to God.

                          Hebrews 13:15 "... let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God
                              continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks"

         D.  God desires genuine gratefulness: from the heart.

                          Psalms 54:6 Willingly I will sacrifice to Thee; I will give 
                               thanks to Thy name, O Lord, for it is good.
                          Psalms 86:12 (cp. Psalms 9:1; 138:1) I will give thanks...
                               with all my heart...

                          Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to 
                               himself, God I thank thee that I am not like other 
                               people... (Note the motive/attitude)

II.  God commands us to be thankful.

            Psalms 50:14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto
                   the most High
            Psalms 97:12; 100:4; 105:1; 106:1; 107:1; 136:1-3, 26
            Ephesians 5:3, 4, 19, 20
            Colossians 1:12; 2:6, 7; 3:16, 17; 4:2
            Colossians 3:15 (cp. Philippians 4:6)  ...be ye thankful
            1 Thessalonians 5:18
            1 Timothy 2:1

      A.   Every gospel depicts Jesus, who is our example, giving God thanks.

                          Matthew 11:25, 26; 26:27, 28
                          Matthew 15:36 ...and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks...
                          Mark 14:23 And when he had taken a cup, and given thanks...
                          Luke 22:17, 19
                          John 6:11, 23; 11:41

      B.  Daniel was obedient to be thankful even when forbidden by the authorities.

                          Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the document was
                          signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had
                          windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling
                          on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks 
                          before his God, as he had been doing previously.

      C.  It is "good" for us.

                           Psalms 92:1 It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord ...

            1.  It is a mighty tool in ushering us into the Presence of God.

                            2 Chronicles 5:12, 13
                            Psalms 95:2 Let us come before his presence with
                            Psalms 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and 
                                into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and 
                                bless his name.
                            Psalms 140:1 Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto 
                                thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.

            2.  It causes us to abound in the faith.

                            Colossians 2:7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished
                                in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein 
                                with thanksgiving.

            3.  It yields the peace of God in our hearts and minds.

                            Philippians 4:6, 7

      D.  It honors and magnifies God.

                            Psalms 50:23
                            Psalms 69:30

      E.  It is God's will.

                            1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is
                                 the will of God...

      F.  It is a good spiritual indicator of our spiritual condition.

           1.  The wicked are ungrateful: "For ... they did not honor him as God,
                or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and 
                their foolish heart was darkened" (Romans 1:21)

           2.  But "the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name." (Psalms 140:1)

III.  How should we give thanks?

      A.  Audibly: with our voice, not just in our thoughts.

                  Psalms 34:1 (cp. Psalms 71:8; 109:30) ...in my mouth...
                  Psalms 35:28 ... with my tongue...
                  Hebrews 13:15 (cp. Isaiah 5:3; Jeremiah 30:19) ... let us offer
                       ... the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

            1.  In verbal testimony.

                       1 Chronicles 16:8 (cp. Psalms 105:1) Give thanks unto
                            the Lord, ... make known his deeds among the people
                        Psalms 9:1 ... I will give thanks to the Lord with all my 
                            heart; I will tell of all thy wonders.
                        Psalms 26:7 That I may publish with the voice of 
                           thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.
                        Psalms 105:1, 2 O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon
                            his name: make known his deeds among the people ... 
                           talk ye of all his wondrous works.
                        Psalms 107:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of 
                           thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing
                        Luke 2:38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks 
                           likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all ...
                        Luke 17:12-18

            2.  In music.

                        1 Chronicles 16:7
                        2 Chronicles 5:12, 13

                  a.  With song.

                            2 Samuel 22:50 Therefore I will give thanks unto 
                                 thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and I will sing
                                 praises unto thy name.
                            Nehemiah 12:8, 27 And the Levites...in charge of the
                                 songs of thanksgiving ... with hymns of thanksgiving
                                 and with songs ...
                            Nehemiah 12:46 ...in ancient times, there were leaders
                                 of the singers, songs of praise and hymns of 
                                 thanksgiving to God.
                            Psalms 28:7 (cp. Psalms 7:17; 138:1) ...with my song
                                 I shall thank Him.
                            Psalms 95:2 Let us come before his presence with 
                                 thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with 
                            Isaiah 51:3 ...joy and gladness shall be found therein,
                                 thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.

                  b.  With musical instruments.

                            Nehemiah 12:27 Now at the dedication of the wall of 
                                  Jerusalem they sought out the Levites ... so that they
                                  might celebrate the dedication with gladness, with 
                                  hymns of thanksgiving and with songs to the 
                                  accompaniment of cymbals, harps, and lyres
                            Psalms 33:2 Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre...
                            Psalms 147:7 Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing
                                  praise upon the harp....

            3.  With prayer.

                            Nehemiah 11:17 ...the leader in beginning the 
                                   thanksgiving at prayer...
                            Ephesians 1:16 ...giving thanks for you, while making 
                                   mention of you in my prayers
                            Philippians 4:6 Be careful (anxious; worried) for nothing;
                                   but in every thing by prayer and supplication with
                                   thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto
                            Colossians 1:3 We give thanks to God, ... praying 
                                   always for you
                            Colossians 4:2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the
                                   same with thanksgiving.
                            1 Thessalonians 1:2 We give thanks to God always for
                                   all of you, making mention of you in our prayers.
                            1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, 
                                   supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of 
                                   thanks, be made for all men.
                            2 Timothy 1:3 I thank God... as I constantly remember 
                                   you in my prayers night and day
                            Philemon 1:4 I thank my God always, making mention 
                                   of you in my prayers

                  4.  With shouts of joy.

                            Psalms 100:1 (cp. Jeremiah 30:19)

      B.   Publicly.

                            Hebrews 12:28 ...let us show gratitude...

            1.  Among the nations (heathen).

                        Psalms 57:9 (cp. Psalms 18:49; 108:3) I will give thanks
                             to Thee, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing 
                            praises to Thee among the nations.

            2.  In the company of God's people.

                        1 Chronicles 16:4, 7; 23:30
                        2 Chronicles 31:2 ...to minister and to give thanks and to
                             praise in the gates of the camp of the Lord.
                        Psalms 11:1; 22:22, 25
                        Psalms 35:18  I will give Thee thanks in the great congregation...
                        Psalms 42:4 These things I remember...I used to go 
                             along with the throng and lead them... with the voice 
                             of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival
                        Psalms 52:9 I will give Thee thanks forever ... in the 
                             presence of thy godly ones.
                        Psalms 109:30 (cp. Psalms 105:1, 2) With my mouth I will 
                             give thanks abundantly to the Lord; and in the midst of
                             many I will praise Him.
                        Psalms 111:1 I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, 
                             in the company of the upright and in the assembly
                        Acts 27:35 And having said this, he took bread and gave
                             thanks to God in the presence of all...
                        1 Corinthians 14:14-17 Otherwise if you bless in the spirit
                             only, how [they] say the Amen at your giving of thanks...?
                             For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other man
                             is not edified.

      C. Privately, at home.

                   Daniel 2:23; 6:10

IV.   When should we give thanks?

      A.  In every circumstance.

                    Ephesians 5:20 (cp. Ephesians 1:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:2)
                          Giving thanks always for all things unto God...
                    Philippians 4:6 ... in everything ...
                    Philippians 4:11 ... for I have learned, in whatsoever state
                          I am, therewith to be content.
                    1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is 
                         the will of God ...
                    2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2:13

      B.  While entering his presence.

                    Psalms 100:4 (cp. Psalms 95:2) Enter into his gates
                         with thanksgiving ... be thankful unto him...

      C.  Continually; habitually.

                    Ephesians 1:16; 5:20 "always"
                    Philemon 1:4 "always"
                    1 Thessalonians 1:2 "always"
                    2 Timothy 1:3 "constantly ... night and day"
                    Hebrews 13:15 "continually"
                    Psalms 34:1; 35:28 (cp. 71:8) "...at all times... continually
                         ...all the day long..."

            1.  Even in the middle of the night.

                         Psalms 119:62 At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to Thee ...

            2.  Three times a day.

                          Daniel 6:10 ... kneeling on his knees three times a day, 
                               praying and giving thanks ...

            3.  Every morning and every evening.

                          1 Chronicles 23:30 And they are to stand every morning
                                to thank and to praise the Lord, and likewise at evening.

V.   For what should we give thanks?

      A.  For victory.

                    Psalms 18:47-49 It is God that avengeth me ... He delivereth
                         me from mine enemies ... Therefore will I give thanks....
                    1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us 
                         the victory...
                    2 Corinthians 2:14 Now thanks be unto God, which always 
                         causeth us to triumph in Christ ...

            1.  Over sin.

                         Romans 7:23-25

            2.  Over death and the grave.

                         1 Corinthians 15:57

      B.   For his goodness and mercy (forgiveness).

                         1 Chronicles 16:34-35 O give thanks to the Lord, for He
                              is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
                         1 Chronicles 16:41 ... give thanks to the Lord because
                              his lovingkindness is everlasting.
                         Ezra 3:11 And they sang, praising and giving thanks to the
                              Lord, saying, For He is good...
                         Psalms 54:6 ...I will give thanks to Thy name, O Lord, for
                              it is good.
                         Psalms 100:4, 5; 106:1; 107:1, 8, 15, 21, 31
                         Psalms 136:1-3 (cp. Psalms 106:1; 107:1, 8, 15, 31; 
                              118:1, 28, 29) O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is 
                               good: for his mercy endureth forever...
                         Isaiah 12:1 I will give thanks to thee, O Lord; For although
                               thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, 
                               and thou dost comfort me.
                         Jeremiah 33:11

      C.  For his protection.

                    2 Samuel 22:49 And that bringeth me forth from mine enemies:
                         thou also hast lifted me up on high above them that rose up 
                         against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.

      D.  For his holiness and faithfulness.

                    Psalms 30:4 (cp. Psa 97:12) ... give thanks at the 
                           remembrance of his holiness.
                    Isaiah 25:1 I will exalt thee, I will give thanks to thy name; 
                         for thou hast worked wonders, plans formed long ago, 
                         with perfect faithfulness.

      E.  For the wonders of creation and life.

                    Psalms 139:14 I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully 
                         and wonderfully made; wonderful are thy works...

      F.  For his truth, his righteous ordinances and judgments.

                    Psalms 119:7, 62; 138:1, 2

      G.  For food, drink and other provisions.

                    Matthew 15:36 ...and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks...
                    Mark 14:23 And when he had taken a cup, and given thanks...
                    Luke 22:17, 19 (cp. 1 Cor 11:24)
                    John 6:23 (cp. John 6:11) ...the place where they ate the bread
                        after the Lord had given thanks.
                    Acts 27:35   ...he took bread and gave thanks to God in the
                        presence of all...
                    Romans 14:6   ... he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he
                        gives thanks to God...
                    1 Corinthians 10:30 If I partake with thankfulness....
                    1 Timothy 4:3, 4 ... [Some advocate] abstaining from foods, 
                        which God has created to be gratefully shared.... For 
                        everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be 
                        rejected, if it is received with gratitude
                    2 Corinthians 9:11, 12 you will be enriched in everything for 
                        all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to
                        God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully 
                        supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing 
                        through many thanksgivings to God.

      H.  For healing.

                    Luke 17:12-18 and he fell on his face at his feet, giving thanks
                        to Him...

      I.  For the evidence of God at work in the lives of God's people.

                    Psalms 109:30, 31
                    1 Corinthians 1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf for 
                        the grace of God which is given you...
                    1 Thessalonians 1:2 We give thanks to God always for all 
                        of you, making mention of you in our prayers.
                    1 Thessalonians 1:3
                    2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we should always give thanks to 
                        God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because 
                        God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation
                        through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
                    Ephesians 1:16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while
                        making mention of you in my prayers
                    Philippians 1:3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you
                    Colossians 1:3 We give thanks to God, the Father ... praying
                        always for you
                    1 Timothy 1:3 I thank God... as I constantly remember you 
                        in my prayers night and day
                    Philemon 1:4 I thank my God always, making mention of 
                        you in my prayers

            1.  For their zeal.

                        2 Corinthians 8:16

            2.  For their love and growing faith.

                        2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to
                            God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your
                            faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of 
                            you toward one another grows ever greater

            3.  For their generosity in donating toward the work of God.

                        1 Chronicles 29:6-14

            4.  For their acceptance of truth and obedience to the teaching.

                        1 Thessalonians 2:13 ...we also constantly thank God
                            that when you received from us the word of God's 
                            message, you accepted it...
                        Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God that ... you became
                            obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to 
                            which you were committed

            5.  For the proclamation of their faith into all the world.

                        Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ 
                            for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed 
                            throughout the whole world.

      J.   For spiritual gifts (i.e., speaking in tongues) and ministry.

                   1 Corinthians 14:18 I thank God, I speak in tongues more 
                        than you all.
                   1 Timothy 1:12

      K.  For salvation and conversion of the unsaved.

                   1 Corinthians 9:15
                    Romans 6:17
                    2 Thessalonians 2:13

      L.  For wisdom and power.

                    Daniel 2:23 ...I give thanks and praise, for thou hast given
                         me wisdom and power...

      M.  For answered prayer.

                    John 11:41

      N.  For everything.

                    2 Corinthians 9:11
                    Ephesians 5:20

      O.  For all men.

                    1 Timothy 2:1

      P.  For the preciousness of God's presence.

                    Psalms 75:1

VI.  The secret of maintaining a grateful heart is contentment.

      A.   Thank him daily.

                    Psalms 68:19 Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us 
                        with benefits...

      B.  Thank him no matter what happens.

                    Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I 
                        have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
                    1 Timothy 6:6, 8 But godliness with contentment is great
                        gain.... And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
                    Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without 
                        covetousness; and be content with such things as ye 
                        have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee...

VII. This is what we will be doing "forever" in eternity (Psalms 30:12; 44:8; 45:17; 52:9; 79:13) – even as the angels and 420 elders in heaven at the reign of God (Revelation 4:9; 7:11, 12; 11:16, 17).

© 1999 by Diane S. Dew


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