True Thanksgiving

In 1983 I took a trip to Turkey sponsored by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, OPIC. It was a government sponsored trip to seek investment opportunities in Turkey. My last night I spent in Izmir having dinner with my interpreter and a business owner interested in doing business in America. They ordered for me and out came this huge Black Sea Bass (whole) sitting upright on a potato concoction. I ate the fish, but that night I got deathly sick, so sick I missed my early morning flight to Istanbul.

That fish gave me nightmares for several months, because it meant that I had to rent a car and drive 600 kilometers through at least three military check points, in unfamiliar towns and then into Istanbul late at night trying to find a place to stay. It was an exciting and terrifying experience to say the least. That is why I don’t like eating whole fish to this day.

Jonah Eats Fish at Thanksgiving

The book of Jonah relates a story that you are all familiar with, of a man who tried to run away from God’s will, and ended up being swallowed by a giant fish. Now if I had problems eating fish after my experience, I can just see Jonah being afraid to get on a ship or even go near the ocean or a lake. Every time he would hear a splash I can just see him running for cover.

But when I read what he wrote in chapter 2, I know that isn’t the case. In fact from the Psalm he wrote, I know that every Thanksgiving, Jonah would eat the biggest fish he could get.

Jonah 2:1-10 (ESV)

1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying, “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. 3 For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. 4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ 5 The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head 6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. 7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. 8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. 9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” 10 And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.

How did Jonah come to experience True Thanksgiving in the belly of the Great Fish?

1. Remember God (even when your life stinks)

Jonah:

The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever;

Jonah sunk to the bottom of the sea. He saw where the mountains started. He was being choked by seaweed, he was losing consciousness.

He remembered God and cried out.

He thought he could run away from God, but Jonah realized that God was there, even when he was rescued by the fish.

Prodigal Son

He was lying down in pig slop, which if you ever smell will cause you to quit eating bacon for a long while.

Even there he realized he needed his Father. Even in that stench he remembered the love his father had even for servants.

2. Realize God is your only hope of steadfast love.

Remember the song “Looking for Love in all the wrong places?” It is so true for most people. Adam and Eve had all the love they could want, and it wasn’t good enough.

King David had all the women, all the wealth, all the power he could ever want, and it wasn’t good enough. He got into a mess of trouble because he committed adultery with another man’s wife, and then had him killed to cover it up.

We see this today…people making stupid decisions for the hope of love. People’s lives ruined because of choices, choices they think will bring them love, excitement, acceptance.

Jonah made a decision to run away from God rather than witness to some terrible enemies. He put himself and his selfish desires before God. He hoped he could get away from God.

What are you hoping in? Are you running away from God? Are you avoiding Him and hoping He goes away? Are you facing difficulties in your life today because of poor choices in the past?

Let me assure you, even though you are trapped in a stinky mess, being tossed to and fro, facing hardship after hardship, there is a Creator God who made you, knew every one of your poor choices, knew every one of your sins, and yet He desires to take you in his arms and cover you with His steadfast love.

Jonah discovered that God still loved him when he was at the bottom of the sea, breating his last breath. He discovered God’s love when he was in the belly of the great fish. Seaweed and fish guts were all over him. I can’t imagine the stink. Yet God’s steadfast love was there.

What is the secret to discovering God’s steadfast love even though you are covered in rotten seaweed and stinky fish guts? Jonah discovered it, but Paul reveals how we get there, covered in guts and stench:

Romans 1:21-23 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

NOT EXPERIENCING GOD’S LOVE?

So if you are wondering why you are not experiencing God’s steadfast love in the midst of your trials and hardships, understand what is preventing you from experiencing God’s steadfast love:

A.You have a problem honoring God.

Whatever you believe about the great men who founded this nation, it is super evident in 95% of their writings that they lived their lives with a principle that is missing in our leaders today. Our founding Fathers honored God as Sovereign God over the affairs of men. They realized God has the final say so in our lives.

B.You have a problem allowing God into your life.

Not only do we not honor God’s sovereignty, but we fail to give thanks to him in every aspect of our lives. We thank him for the rain, we thank him for winning the lottery, we thank him for food. Do we thank him when we lose our job. Do we thank him when we lose a loved one? Do we thank him when our friends turn against us?

Paul says that when we fail to honor God and allow Him ownership of all that happens in our lives (by giving thanks) our hearts become darkened and our minds become futile (or wasted or stupid) in our thinking. We exchange the glory of God for something stupid like a woman, a car, a job, a house, anything we put before God and say this is mine!

On November 11, 1620, Governor William Bradford and the leaders on the Mayflower signed the Mayflower Compact before setting foot on land. They wanted to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in their lives and their need to obey Him. The Mayflower Compact was America’s first great constitutional document and is often called “The American Covenant.”

Life was hard in the New World. Out of 103 Pilgrims, 51 of these died in the first terrible winter. After the first harvest was completed, Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and prayer. By 1623, a day of fasting and prayer during a period of drought was changed to one of thanksgiving because the rain came during their prayers. The custom prevailed in New England and eventually became a national holiday.

3. Return your life to God

Have you given God ownership of your life?

It is one thing to say God is sovereign, but it is quite another to allow Him to be sovereign over all of your life, family and possessions. Can you honestly say that God is in control of everything in your life? Is there anything in your life that you are trying to keep control of, apart from what God may want to do? If you found yourself in the belly of a fish, covered with fish guts and seaweed, would you worship God’s sovereignty over your life, or would you be screaming “Get me out of here!”

From (AW PINK, SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD)

  • „ The sovereignty of God! What do we mean by the expression of the Sovereignty of God?
  • „ We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the Godhood of God.
  • „ To say that God is sovereign is to declare that God is God.
  • „ To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him, What doest Thou? (Daniel 4:35).
  • „ To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the possessor of all power in heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purposes, or resist His will (Psalms 115:3).
  • „ To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is “The Governor among the nations” (Psalms 22:28), setting up kingdoms, over-throwing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleases Him best.
  • „ To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the “Only Potentate, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords” (1Timothy 6:15).

How do you return your life to Sovereign God?

A. Confess and declare that GOD is SOVEREIGN OWNER OF YOUR LIFE.

  • When you declare that God is sovereign over your life, you affirm His right to govern your life, your world, your family just as He pleases, because you were made for His Glory.
  • You affirm that He is the potter and you are the clay: that He may mould you into whatever form He chooses.
  • You affirm that God is under no rule or law outside His own will and nature, and that He is under no obligation to give an account of His decisions to you are anyone else.

Jonah discovered he could not get away from the sovereignty of God. So Job made a decision to accept the Sovereignty of God over his life. When he did, when Jonah prayed with thanksgiving in his heart, Jonah experienced the most amazing miracle. He experienced the love of God in the most horrible of circumstances.

B. Sacrifice with Thanksgiving (todah)

Jonah 2:9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

Discovered the power of tôdah Thanksgiving![1]

Psalm 42:4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

There are two pictures presented by “TODAH”

1. ADMIT

Tôdah has a deeper meaning than simply thanksgiving or gratitude:

At its core, todah is to admit.What a concept! The gist of thanks is to admit – but what are we admitting to? When we say tôdah, we are admitting that we are lacking and that someone else is giving to us. We are admitting that we could not do something alone. We are admitting that you helped us accomplish something. We are admitting, that we have been given “more than [our] rightful share” thanks to God![2]

This is why Joshua told Achan to confess to what he had done by admitting and confessing the Glory of God over his life.„

Joshua 7:19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise (todah) to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”

The psalmist pictures the need to confession in proclaiming thanksgiving unto God:„

Psalm 26:6-7 I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O LORD, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.

To give “todah” to God always involves a sacrifice or offering on your part. You give your life to God. You allow Him to own your life. Admit it to Him!

2 Chronicles 29:31 Then Hezekiah said, Now you have consecrated yourselves to the Lord; come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings into the house of the Lord. And the assembly brought in sacrifices and thank offerings, and as many as were of a willing heart brought burnt offerings.

Jonah had to sacrifice his will, his pride, his prejudices against the Ninevites, and admit that he needed to follow God, he needed the provision of God and yes, he needed the sovereignty of God over his life!

2. WORSHIP LOUD!

“Todah” pictures thanksgiving to God so great that you start shouting and singing at the top of your voice!

Picture a huge Choir Singing thundering Songs of Praise, accompanied by a huge orchestra. Can you hear the SHOUTS of thanksgiving! When Nehemiah dedicated the wall he had all the leaders get on the wall and had a huge assembly of Levites playing instruments and singing praises to God.

Nehemiah 12:27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.

Nehemiah 12:31 Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. One went to the south on the wall to the Dung Gate.

Two great choirs were on opposite sides, with the rest of the people in the middle. It was like the battle of the choirs, each one trying to praise God louder than the other. It was the ultimate thanksgiving celebration!

Are you experiencing true Thanksgiving this year? I am not speaking of “blessings” or anything you can attribute to what you have done. Millions of families celebrate a thanksgiving based upon how fortunate they have been, or how much they have because of good luck and hard work.

I want you to experience True TODAH Thanksgiving.

Todah Thanksgiving happens no matter how messed up your life is!

Remember…Realize…Return…Admit and Worship.

Believers

If you have already been born again, take this time to examine your life, and remember God and His sovereignty. If you have gotten away from Him by putting other things first, Realize that He is the only source of genuine love. Return your life to Him, Admit your need for him and lay your life on the altar and say God do as you wish with my life. Then Worship Him Loud. Don’t be shy, don’t be afraid your friends will hear. WORSHIP LOUD!

Lost in sin

Remember, life is a journey, and no matter where you are in your journey, God is there. Realize that He loves you even with all of your rebellion and ugliness and stench.

Run to your creator God, just like the Prodigal Son ran home.

Admit you need God, that you have made a mess of your life through your pride and sin and rebellion. Admit you need Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Worship God by believing that He has your life, that the blood of Jesus has cleansed you and made you right with God.

Allow your Worship to be with you whole life, with your whole voice, Constantly give thanks and praise to God out LOUD! Allow the light of Jesus Christ to break through the darkness over your heart.

John 3:17-19 (NKJV) 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Do you love darkness rather than God’s light? Have you accepted the stink of your sinful, rebellious life? Wake up and take a good sniff! It is time for you to cry out with Jonah: Salvation is of the Lord.”


[1] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – Old Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “tôdāh”

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