.................. .

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

[Note: A History of the Thanksgiving Holiday follows this Bible Study.]

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. However, 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 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)

     C. Some were even "appointed" to the office of giving thanks – implying it was important.

               2 Chronicles 20:21 (ahead of the battle)
               1 Chronicles 16:4 (the Levites)
               2 Chronicles 31:2

     D. It is essential to abiding/dwelling in his Presence.

               Psalms 140:1 Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the
               upright shall dwell in thy presence.

     E. The wicked are ungrateful.

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

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

               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 6:23

II. God commands us to be thankful.

               Psalms 50:14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High
               Colossians 3:15 (cp. Philippians 4:6) ... be ye thankful

     A. 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.

     B. It is "good" for us.

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

          1. It is an important part of entering his Presence.

               Psalms 95:2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving...
               Psalms 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:
               be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

          2. It causes us to abound in the faith.

               Colossians 2:7

     C. It honors and magnifies God.

               Psalms 50:23; 69:30

     D. It is God's will.

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

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
               Luke 17:12-18
               Psalms 26:7 That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell
               of all thy wondrous works.
               Psalms 107:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and
               declare his works with rejoicing
               Luke 2:38 And at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks
               to God, and continued to speak of Him to all ...

          2. In music.

               1 Chronicles 16:7

               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 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 psalms
               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
               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 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 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 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 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 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 Not that I speak in respect of want: 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 in
               Christ Jesus concerning you.
               2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2:13

     B. While entering his presence.

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

     C. Continually; habitually.

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

          1. In the middle of the night.

               Psalms 119:62 At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to Thee because of Thy
               righteous ordinances.

          2. Three times a day.

               Daniel 6:10 ...he continued 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.

          4. Constantly, night and day.

               Psalms 34:1; 35:28 (cp. Psalms 71:8) ...at all times... continually ...all the day long...
               1 Timothy 1:3 I thank God... as I constantly remember you in my prayers
               night and day. To what extent are God's people expected to be thankful?
               Ephesians 5:20 (cp. Ephesians 1:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:2) Giving thanks
               always for all things unto God...
               1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God
               in Christ Jesus concerning you.

V. For what should we give thanks?

     A. For victory.

               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.
               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 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.

     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. Psalms 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 ...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 17:16-18 and he fell on his face at his feet, giving thanks to Him...

     I. For the evidence of God at work in the people of God.

               1 Thessalonians 1:2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, making
                mention of you in our prayers.
               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 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

          4. For the extension of their faith into all the world.

               Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God throught 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.

               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 (cp. Psalms 44:8; 79:13)
               Psalms 45:17 ... the peoples will give thee thanks forever and ever.
               Psalms 52:9 I will give thee thanks forever ... (cp. Psalms 30:12)


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.


George 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

. .


Visual by

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)

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