“DIFFERENT OCCASION, SAME MEANING” (Pastor YAU)
Text: 1 Kings 8:54-61 Thanksgiving 2011 November 20, 2011
1) In modern history: Because of severe religious persecution on Protestant Christians in the 15and 16th century England, some of the Christians fled to the new British colonies in North America in 1619, settling at Plymouth, New England. After suffering terrible weather and death in the winter, the pilgrims began to make a living through farming with the help of the American Indians. When they harvested their first crop in the fall, Governor William Bradford declared a celebration of thanksgiving both to God and to the Indians. President Lincoln moved to set up a date for National celebration in 1863 and was approved by the Congress in 1941. So Thanksgiving was set on the 4th Thursday in November.
2) In ancient history: Through out the 40 years of the Exodus, God’s presence with His people in a mobile structure called The Tabernacle. When the Israelis finally settled in the land God promised to Abraham, God had a plan for a permanent building called the temple. After it took 2 dynasties of Saul and David, King Solomon was able to build the first and the most glamorous Temple for Jehovah. (1 Kings 6-7) Solomon set a grandeur celebration to dedicate the Temple to God. The whole of chapter 8 is a record of how Solomon gave heartfelt thanksgiving to God for His blessing on him and his kingdom throughout the history. His confession of sin for the nation and his generosity in giving sacrifices to the Lord set an unprecedented example for any Thanksgiving occasion, ancient or modern.
THE OBJECTS OF GIVING THANKS: (8:1-16)
1) First we need to thank the Lord: “Solomon said: Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who with his own hand has fulfilled what he promised with his own mouth to my father David. For he said: Since the day I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city in any tribe of Israel to have a temple built for my Name.” (8:15-16) Solomon did not forget to thank God for his will in building a temple. It is never what we want to do things for God, but God wants to use us to accomplish his work and we need to give God all our thanksgiving when something is done in his name.
2) Then we need to thank the people: “Then King Solomon sum -moned into his presence at Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israeli families to bring up the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Zion, the city of David.” (8:1)To build such a great structure, to set up such a grandeur celebration, Solomon shared the responsibilities to all the elders, heads of tribes and chiefs of all families. He did not claim the credit of achievements to himself. Instead he listed all the people in his records who had contributed to the success of the building of the Temple. Often times, God sends us people to help do his work and we need to give these people the credit and honor they deserved.
THE REASONS OF GIVING THANKS: (8:16-26)
1) Thank God for personal blessing “My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the Lord, the God of Israel. But the Lord said to my father David: Because it was in your heart to build a temple for my Name, you did well to have this in your heart. Nevertheless you are not the one to build this temple but your son who is your won fresh and blood, he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.” (8:17-18) All vv 20-21, Solomon recounted the special favor God had shown on him as the one to build the temple. Being chosen by God to do his work is a very special privilege and honor. To give thanks to God for such special favor is both right and biblical.
2) Thank God for national blessing: “Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel. He spread out his hands toward heaven and said: O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below, you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.” (8:22-23) Solomon also expressed thanksgiving to God for his blessing to Israel and all who walked wholeheartedly in the way of God. Solomon did not thank God in general terms. He counted all the blessing God had bestowed on him, his father and the people of Israel. When we truly want to thank God, we need to count his blessings one by one, with substance to support the truthfulness of our hearts.
ATTITUDE OF GIVING THANKS: (8:27-54)
1) Acknowledge our unworthiness: “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet give attention to your servant'’ prayer and his plea for mercy, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.” (8:27-28) A humble heart is the best heart to give thanks to God and to man. Even though Solomon spent a great fortune and 20 years to build the temple (9:10) and it was remembered by history to be the most glamorous temple in Israel, he was so humble to acknowledge his unworthiness in doing all these in his prayer. If you think you deserve all the favor of God and man, you won’t have a heart to give thanks.
2) Acknowledge our sinfulness: “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you; and when they turned back you and confess your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple. Then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them back to the land you gave to their father.” (8:33-34) In his long dedication prayer, Solomon confessed of sin many times: 8:33, 35, 38 and 46-50. His awareness of sin showed us the proper attitude we need to have in giving thanks to God. We are sinners and do not deserve anything from God. Any and every blessing, big and small, is God’s grace and favor to an unworthy person. Listen to his words: “When they sin against you---for there is no one who does not sin....then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea and forgive your people who have sinned against you.” (8:46-50)
ACTIONS IN GIVING THANKS: (8:62-66)
1) Giving gifts to the Lord: “Then the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifices to the Lord. Solomon offered a sacrifice of fellowship offerings to the Lord: twenty-two thousand cattle and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats. So the king and all the Israelis dedicated the temple to the Lord.” (8:62-63) Giving of gifts to God at Thanksgiving is the most appropriate act of expressing gratitude. We need to show our God in giving gifts to his temple in sacrificial ways. Do it more than just with words but also with gifts to return a generous portion of what God has blessed you, your family, your job or business.
2) Give thanks more than one day: “So Solomon observed the festival at the time, and the people of Israel with him. They celebrated it before the Lord our God for seven days and seven days more, fourteen days in all. On the following day, he sent the people away. They blessed the king and then went home joyful and glad in heart for all the good thing the Lord had done for his servant David and his people Israel.” (8:65-66) It is good to have special date we call Thanksgiving to express our sincere gratitude to God and man. But being thankful and expressing a thankful heart is not restricted to one day but everyday of the year. Remember we didn’t bring anything to this world when we came here. All that we have are results of love and good will of God and people around us. Without them we have nothing.
1) Count your blessings: Don’t take Thanksgiving as a holiday for days off from work or for travel to visit family and friends or for big parties and food. It is more appropriate to sit down and count all the blessings you have received from God and people around you through the year. Think of what life could be like without God and all the good people around you. Be humble and thankful for all the good things given you by God and people at home, at work, in church and all other areas of life.
2) Give at Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving is the best time to give our gifts to God and people to express our gratitude to them. Giving to God is the highest goal at Thanksgiving. You can also give to those who have given you so much through the year to express your gratitude. You can also give to charity for the needy and the unfortunate. When you have much to hold, let loose your grip and share with others at this best time for sharing.