"How to Have a Great Thanksgiving"

By Pastor Shelton Cole
Faith Baptist Church, Great  Barrington, MA

Text:  Nehemiah 12:27

Introduction:  "Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with
game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.
 Now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, one thousand, six hundred and twenty three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings."     William Bradford

Two different times of GREAT thanksgivings by two very different people for two distinct reasons but amazingly enough both strikingly the same in content.

In our text today we are going to look at what it takes to have a Great Thanksgiving this year.

Theme:  What you need to have a Great Thanksgiving:

I.  You need Great Examples

Illustration:  Where ever you go and whatever  you do you need leaders and followers to make your way.  In Everyday Discipleship for Ordinary People, Stuart Briscoe writes:    One of my young preacher friends was officiating at the funeral of a war veteran.  The dead man's military friends wished to have a part in the service at the funeral home, so they requested the pastor to lead them down to the casket, stand with them for a solemn moment of remembrance, and then lead them out through the side door.  This he proceeded to do, but unfortunately the effect was somewhat marred when he picked the wrong door.  The result was that they marched with military precision into a broom closet, in full view of the mourners, and had to beat a hasty retreat covered with confusion.
 This true story illustrates a cardinal rule or two.  First, if you're going to lead, make sure you know where you're going.  Second, if you're going to follow, make sure that you are following someone who knows what he is doing!

Note:  In our text we see that Godly men set the example for a great thanksgiving.

Nehemiah 12:27-30  And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps. 28 And the sons of the singers gathered themselves together, both out of the plain country round about Jerusalem, and from the villages of Netophathi; 29 Also from the house of Gilgal, and out of the fields of Geba and Azmaveth: for the singers had builded them villages round about Jerusalem. 30 And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the wall.

        A.  Note first the preachers

                1.  They prepared themselves
                2.  They prepared the people

        B.  Note secondly the princes

Nehemiah 12:31  Then I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great companies of them that gave thanks, whereof one went on the right hand upon the wall toward the dung

Note:  These were the heads of the families.  In order to have a great thanksgiving we need:

                1.  Godly husbands that are thankful
                2.  Godly dads that are thankful.
                3.  Godly men that will publicly and courageously declare thanks unto God.

Nehemiah 12:37-38  And at the fountain gate, which was over against them, they went up by the stairs of the city of David, at the going up of the wall, above the house of David, even unto the water gate eastward. 38 And the other company of them that gave thanks went over against them, and I after them, and the half of the people upon the wall, from beyond the tower of the furnaces even unto the
broad wall;

Transition:  A great thanksgiving was beginning by a group of men who encouraged men to be the leaders they need to be and join in public thanksgiving.  God is interested in men like this.

Theme:  What you need to have a Great Thanksgiving:

I.  You need Great Examples

II.  You need a Great Place

Nehemiah 12:40-42  So stood the two companies of them that gave thanks in the house of God, and I, and the half of the rulers with me: 41 And the priests; Eliakim, Maw-see'-ah, Min-ai'-awmen, Michaiah,
Ela-oh-ee'-nai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; 42 And Maw-see-ah, and Shemaiah, and Eleazar, and Uzzi, and Je-ho-ha'-nan, and Malchijah, and Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang loud, with Jezrahiah their overseer.

        A.  They stood in the house of God and gave   thanks.

Note:  The focus of what we call the first thanksgiving in this country was the church.  Their meeting place on the hill where the pastor would preach and the people would thank God.  On Thanksgiving we
will meet for about an hour of praise and thanksgiving.  They met for 3.  I had a lady tell me one time that I shouldn't have a service on Thanksgiving morning because there was just too much for ladies to
do and cook on Thanksgiving morning.  Folks, without church you cannot have a great thanksgiving.

        B.  They Sang Loud

Illustration:  The voice is the only instrument that we all have to praise God.  Throughout the Bible shouts and public declarations of the goodness of God is prevalent.

 Margaret Sangster Phippen wrote that in the mid-1950's her father, British minister W.E. Sangster, began to notice some uneasiness in his throat and a dragging in his leg.  When he went to the doctor, he found that he had an incurable disease that cased progressive muscular atrophy.  His muscles would gradually waste away, his voice would fail, his throat would soon become unable to swallow.
 Sangster threw himself into his work in the British home missions, figuring he could still write and he would have even more time for prayer.  "Let me stay in the struggle Lord," he pleaded.  "I don't mid if I can no longer be a general, but give me just a regiment to lead."  He wrote articles and books, and helped organize prayer cells throughout England.  "I'm only in the kindergarten of suffering," he told people who pitied him.  Gradually Sangsters's legs became useless.  His voice went completely.  But he could still hold a pen, shakily.  On Easter morning, just a few weeks before he died, he wrote a letter to his daughter.  In it, he said, "It is terrible to wake up on Easter morning and have no voice to shout, "He is Risen!" -- but it would be still more terrible to have a voice and not want to shout."

                1..  They sang loud so that all could hear their praise.
                2.  They sand loud to show their thanks.

Transition:  A great thanksgiving must be focused on God's house and praising him publicly together.

Theme:  What you need to have a Great Thanksgiving:

I.  You need Great Examples
II.  You need a Great Place

III.  You need a Great Gift

Nehemiah 12:43  Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.

Note:  Before we go on and talk about the great gifts, I want you to note that the wives and the children were there to rejoice and the only real biblical explanation of this is that the husbands and fathers took the spiritual lead in giving thanks.  A godly wife and mother will follow a godly husband.

        A.  They gave offerings of thanks.

Note:  A thank offering or sacrifice was made up of the best that you had.  In thanksgiving to a righteous, holy and benevolent God they did what comes naturally from a heart filled with thanksgiving -- they gave back.  Worship involves giving.

Illustration:  During his reign, King Frederick William III of Prussia found himself in trouble.  Wars had been costly, and in trying to build the nation, he was seriously short of finances.  He couldn't disappoint his people, and to capitulate to the enemy was unthinkable.   After careful reflection, he decided to ask the women of Prussia to bring their gold and silver jewelry to be melted down for their country.  For each ornament received, he determined to exchange a decoration of bronze or iron as a symbol of his gratitude.  Each decoration would be inscribed, "I gave gold for iron, 1813."   The response was overwhelming.  Even more important, these women prized their gifts from the king more highly than their former jewelry, and thus was established the Order of the Iron Cross.  Members wore no ornaments except a cross of iron for all to see.
 When you come to Jesus Christ and accept him as your personal savior you exchange what we hold dear in this life for cross.   In thanksgiving illustration of what God has done for us we offer thanks with our offerings of sacrifice.

        B.  They offered the sacrifice of praise as well.


A Great Thanksgiving begins with great examples.  Are you the man you need to be?  Are you the husband and father that sets a godly example for all to see?  How well does your family follow?

A Great Thanksgiving focuses on the house of God.  Are you giving God's house it's rightful place in your life?  Do you testify and thank him with your singing and praises?

A Great Thanksgiving involves sacrifice offerings of thanksgiving.  What is the last sacrifice offering of thanks you gave?  An offering was brought to the house of God in thanksgiving and given.  Offerings with your lips cost you little but are an essential sacrifice offering of thanksgiving.

O Thou whose bounty fills my cup,,
With every blessing meet!
I give Thee thanks for every drop --
The bitter and the sweet

I praise Thee for the desert road,
And for the riverside;
For all Thy goodness hath bestowed,
And all Thy grade denied.

I thank Thee for both smile and frown,
And for the gain and loss;
I praise Thee for the future crown
And for the present cross.

I thank Thee for both wings of love
Which stirred my worldly nest;
And for the stormy clouds which drove
Me, trembling, to Thy breast.

I bless Thee for the glad increase,
And for the waning joy;
And for this strange, this settled peace
Which nothing can destroy


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