by R. J. Rushdoony
The origin of Thanksgiving is in the harvest festival of the Old Testament. The early American celebration was a self-conscious adoption of the Old Testament observance together with many other things. Throughout the year, the Hebrews constantly were summoned to thank God for His mercies and blessings. Many Psalms resound with thankful praise, especially Psalm 136: “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.”
Today our tendency is to thank God only for His blessings. Our attitude too often is, no blessings, no thanks. In effect, we say, “What have you done for us lately, God?” In Scripture, the central aspect of thanksgiving is gratitude for God’s mercy. Every verse of Psalm 136 concludes with the words “for his mercy endureth for ever”; twenty-six times this refrain is sounded.
“Mercy” was once a popular name for girls; the Puritans delighted in God’s merciful nature and celebrated it. We speak little of God’s mercy now. Apparently we feel that we deserve everything He gives and more.
But Scripture tells us that we are the objects of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ. Mercy is so important that it is stressed in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7).
Psalm 85:10 tells us, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Mercy is linked to truth, righteousness (or, justice) and peace. Obviously, mercy is very important in our sight. We neglect it at our peril.
We all have our problems; certain things oppress and trouble us. We can all provide a catalogue of things wrong with our lives and the world. Thanksgiving is a time when we must forget these things to remember God’s mercies.