THANKSGIVING: A Day of Grief and Joy

Thanksgiving is a secular holiday emphasizing a godly discipline, yet many Christians still have much to learn about being a thankful people. In Nehemiah 8:9–12, we are confronted by our need to rejoice for the blessings of our Lord. When we read His Word and become truly aware of what God has done for us, we should have the reactions found in this passage.

There must be repentance. The reading of the Law made the people keenly aware of their failure and guilt, and caused them to weep and mourn. As God’s Word was spoken, they became deeply convicted. When was the last time we experienced this reaction? While our grief must be short-lived, we must feel the grief of our sin in order to be truly thankful.

There must be thankful reverence. We all have unique ways of acknowledging God’s power and presence. Some people cry, others shout, and some just stand in awe. When the Levites said to the people, Be quiet, for this day is holy (v. 11), they were expressing the rare insight that reverent silence itself can be a positive response to the presence and greatness of God. How long has it been since you took the time to express thankful reverence? We seem to have lost a sense of this and we need to recapture it.

There must be joyful thanksgiving. The reading of the Law was an occasion for joy and thanksgiving in ancient Israel, not of grief and sadness (Psalm 19:7–10). The relationship with God proclaimed by the Bible is never a burden to be borne, but an opportunity for genuine joy and spiritual fulfillment. It is also an opportunity to share God’s goodness. When we see the good that God has done, we must rejoice. When we recognize His sacrifice, it must bring joy!

When the author said the joy of the LORD is your strength, (v. 10) he was expressing a profound truth for all generations. In the midst of a cold world of hate, despair, and sin, we have a refuge. When you reach the point of joyful thanksgiving to the Lord, you have found a refuge of warmth, love, and forgiveness.

Thus the real Thanksgiving is a day of grief, confronting our sin, and joy, knowing that Christ’s sacrifice has covered that sin and provided a refuge for believers. Let us learn to be a truly thankful people this Thanksgiving season, experiencing repentance, reverence, and joy so that we may come face-to-face with God’s loving care.

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