Thanksgiving Through a Jewish Lens

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Let’s start the day with a bit of Hebrew trivia: 

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There you have it!  Our God is God of every tiny detail, and it is no coincidence that turkey is the traditional fare for Thanksgiving.  Cool, huh!

Now, about that “Give thanks” part…yesterday we learned that the “Thanksgiving passage” appears in Scripture five different times!  God must want us to pay attention! 

So, put on your Hebrew glasses and focus on Psalm 136:1-3:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

That says it all, doesn’t it!  Thanksgiving is perfectly compatible with Messianic Jewish observance and you could easily turn this day into a “Thanksgiving Seder” by reciting Kiddush (a Jewish blessing to mark the beginning of a holiday)!  The appropriate blessing is called the “Shehecheyanu.”  Give it a try:

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, Master of the Universe,
Who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this season.”

Since Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s steadfast love, what better way to give thanks on Thanksgiving than to share how His great love has sustained us another year. Here is a simple plan to add a taste of the Hebrew Feast of Sukkot to your Thanksgiving celebration:

  • Kick off your Thanksgiving gathering by reciting the Shehecheyanu (in Hebrew and/or English)
  • Hand everyone a copy of Psalm 136:1-3 and ask them to join you in reading that passage (in Hebrew and/or English)
  • Before or during the meal (or as part of a pre-meal corporate prayer), invite family and friends to give thanks to God by praising Jesus, our Savior, King and Lord!

For my American friends, I wish you a most blessed Thanksgiving Day.  For the rest of you around the world, I encourage you to join us in thanks and praise!

Hodu la-Adonai!

Give Thanks to the Lord for He is Good!

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Yesterday we began a series examining the roots of our American Thanksgiving holiday.  We were reminded that pilgrims came to this land to “fulfill a fateful mission to build an ideal Christian commonwealth.”  Upon arrival, however, they faced difficulty, but eventually were miraculously blessed by Native Americans who helped them learn to survive harsh new realities.  Together with the natives, those pilgrims celebrated a 3-day harvest festival, inspired by the Jewish feast of Sukkot.

Jews celebrate Sukkot as part of their remembrance of God redeeming them from Egyptian exile.  The pilgrims, in a sense exiles in their own right, celebrated their religious freedom by giving thanks to God.  But,what was the core of their thanks?

In Scripture, when the Lord wants to emphasize something, He repeats it.  There is a fitting passage that appears five times in God’s Holy Word: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 106:1, Psalm 107:1, Psalm 118:1, 29, Psalm 136:1-3)

In each case, it is clear God’s love for us is the primary reason to give thanks to Him!  It’s not because of the material things we have, or what we have achieved…it is because of HIS great love for us!  The ultimate expression of God’s steadfast love toward us is Jesus the Messiah!  That is cause for great thanksgiving! 

Now, think back to that first Thanksgiving.  Who was perhaps the key figure in it all?  How about the Native American, Squanto, a young tribesman who had been taken into slavery by an Englishman (thus, knew how to speak English), AND he understood that Jesus was the ultimate expression of God’s great love. That Christian Native American was very instrumental in sharing Christ’s love, which ultimately led to the celebration of Thanksgiving! 

Food for thought…Is our celebration focused on Christ’s love for us, or upon the material things and/or achievements we have enjoyed this year? 

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Check back in the morning for a fresh idea to bring extra blessing to this Thanksgiving Day!

For Zion’s Sake – November 2018

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Greetings friends!  Indeed, time spent in prayer is never wasted, so I hope it is your habit to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, as Psalm 122 exhorts.

On the first Wednesday of every month we join believers from all over the world to do just that.  Our Father in heaven is pleased when His children unite together at the foot of the throne.  Today’s the day, so let’s go there!

PRAISE:  Lord, we praise You that You are a God of encouragement.  A great Salvation is coming for Israel, as this great Salvation came for us.  We praise You for Jesus, Messiah of Israel.  Amen.

Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth,
Say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your salvation comes;
Behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.”
~Isaiah 62:11

PONDER:  In spite of the variety of deadly enemy campaigns against Israel throughout the ages, there is a promise that this darkness will fail.  We are called to encourage Zion with the assurance that a great deliverance is coming, that there will be a blessing, and that this salvation is embodied in a person, the Messiah, who died for them.  His reward for Israel is with Him, to the embarrassment of all who have ever hated Israel, including (at times) the Church.  There is a glorious future beyond the present which is a blessing to Jerusalem and a blessing to us.  Let us usher Him in with our prayers.

PRAY:  See this month’s prayer points, posted by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and pray accordingly.  Find the “Current Prayer Guide” here.  (Hint: there are several prayer points, so why not split them up and pray for a few of them each week throughout the month of November.)

Losing Nikki Haley at the UN

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Nikki Haley’s lone vote at the UN in support of Israel on December 18, 2017

As you likely know, US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, resigned yesterday morning.  Since then, numerous people have expressed concern about losing Israel’s most staunch supporter (other than the Israeli ambassador) at the UN.  How will this impact Israel and the way they are seen and treated by the UN?

Well, I have no “inside track” to know what will happen, but I do have thoughts regarding this critical departure.

First, I believe there are other ambassadorial candidates (Dina Powell, for one) who are also extremely committed to standing with Israel in the face of anti-Israel sentiment in the UN.  Will the new ambassador be as steadfast and eloquent as Nikki Haley?  Perhaps not, but Haley has laid a very firm foundation.

Secondly, there is more behind this move than we know.  President Trump and Nikki Haley are two of the best strategist in government today.  I can’t help but believe there is a plan in the works.  Could we see Nikki Haley in a cabinet position while being groomed for a presidential run in 2024?  Or, could she show up as Attorney General if Jeff Sessions fails to survive disdain from President Trump?  Who knows.  But I would be shocked if there is not some sort of plan in place.

Finally, losing Haley at the UN is a blow to Israel, but President Trump’s administration remains the most pro-Israel administration ever.  Most importantly, though, our great God is still in control!

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
~Psalm 121:4

Let’s rest easy, my friends!  Neither our hope, nor the hope of Israel, lies in the UN or in the Trump administration.  Our hope is in the Lord.  Thus, we keep looking for the Blessed Hope…the return of King Jesus!  (Titus 2:11-13)