Thanksgiving: Celebrating Divine Goodness

  • Deborah Wuehler Devotional Editor, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
  • 2011 2 Nov
Thanksgiving: Celebrating Divine Goodness

We cannot go through the month of November without thinking, “I have so much to be thankful for!” But, instead of thinking the same old Thanksgiving thoughts, I want to encourage you to look at Thanksgiving in a slightly different way this year.

Noah Webster was a man who knew his own history. In his 1828 dictionary, he defined Thanksgiving as: “The act of rendering thanks or expressing gratitude for favors or mercies; 2) A public celebration of divine goodness; also a day set aside for religious services, specially to acknowledge the goodness of God, either in any remarkable deliverance from calamities or danger, or in the ordinary dispensation of his bounties.”

A celebration of divine goodness and remarkable deliverance. These concepts were probably at the root of the feelings of gratitude in the pilgrims. I believe they were more than simply thankful for their families, friends and their feast. I believe it touched those things but also went much deeper than that. I believe they were thankful for the God of their feast. Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it. Of course they were thankful for their God – aren’t we all? But just how are we thankful for our God today? I would guess that most of our thankfulness has to do with His provision and not necessarily His Person. The pilgrims knew that His provision was because of His character.

From my historical readings, the first Pilgrims knew their God! They knew Him to not only be a Provider, but a God of Mercy; their Creator; Redeemer; Life-giver; Deliverer; Rescuer. They knew Him to be all these things and were filled with Thanksgiving that He would even acknowledge mortal men!

How about us? Do we know Him in this way? At this time of year especially, we tend to give thanks for what God does for us, more than for who He is.

So, my recommendation is not to simply celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday – but celebrate the God behind the holiday and give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!

Here is a great thing to do with your family the week before Thanksgiving. Psalms 136 together, and verse-by-verse write down things that come to mind regarding our God on little slips of paper. You may need to break the Psalm up into a week’s worth of daily reading and writing. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, pass out the slips to friends and family and read what you have all written as reasons for giving thanks. I have listed below some things to think about and write down as a reminder of Who God is and why we can be thankful for Him.

Psalm 136

1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.

One of the main reasons we can give thanks to the Lord is because He is good. In describing the character of God, we can say, "God = good." Exodus 34:6 says He is abundant in goodness. Goodness defines Who He is. Have your family write how God is good and how He has been good to them.

According to every verse in this Psalm, we can see that God is good because "His mercy endures forever." Talk about His mercy. What is mercy? How does God show mercy? Write down how He has shown mercy to you personally.

Go through each remaining verses of the Psalm in the same manner writing your findings on the little slips of paper.

2 Oh, give thanks to the God of gods! For His mercy endures forever.

(He is the One True God. Why are we thankful for this?)

3 Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords! For His mercy endures forever:

(He is the Lord of lords. Talk about how He is ruler over all kings and governments.)

4 To Him who alone does great wonders, For His mercy endures forever;

(He does great wonders. Have children name some of the great wonders in their own lives.)

5-6 To Him who by wisdom made the heavens, For His mercy endures forever; To Him who laid out the earth above the waters, For His mercy endures forever;

(God is wise. God created the heavens and the earth. Talk about why it is important to know that a good, wise God created all things. Psalms 100:3, “It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves.” Talk about the false god of evolution.)

7-9 To Him who made great lights, For His mercy endures forever; The sun to rule by day, For His mercy endures forever; The moon and stars to rule by night, For His mercy endures forever.

(He cares for us and provided light in the darkness. Talk about how Jesus is the light that came down from heaven to bring light to our darkness.)

10-11 To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn, For His mercy endures forever; And brought out Israel from among them, For His mercy endures forever;

(Talk about the greatness of God in delivering His children from the wickedness of Egypt. Talk about how the children of Israel were saved from death by the blood of the lamb over their doorposts. Tell how Jesus is the lamb that was slain to deliver us from death and bring us eternal life. Don’t forget to write these things on the slips of paper.)

12 With a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, For His mercy endures forever;

(God is strong. Talk about the arm of God. Why is His strong arm important in our own lives?)

13-15 To Him who divided the Red Sea in two, For His mercy endures forever; And made Israel pass through the midst of it, For His mercy endures forever; But overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, For His mercy endures forever;

(Talk about God’s miraculous deeds. Talk about how God not only delivers His children, but also defeats their enemies. Write down why you are thankful for this.)

16 To Him who led His people through the wilderness, For His mercy endures forever;

(Talk about how God provided a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night as He led His people. Talk about how God provided for all their needs in the wilderness. How does God lead you? How does He provide for you? Write it down.)

17-20 To Him who struck down great kings, For His mercy endures forever; And slew famous kings, For His mercy endures forever — Sihon king of the Amorites, For His mercy endures forever; And Og king of Bashan, For His mercy endures forever;

(Talk about God’s sovereignty in placing and replacing kings according to His plan. How does this show His mercy? Has He placed authority in your life? Who has He put in authority and why is that good?)

21-22 And gave their land as a heritage, For His mercy endures forever; A heritage to Israel His servant, For His mercy endures forever.

(God gives us an inheritance in Jesus Christ. What is an inheritance? Why is it good?)

23 Who remembered us in our lowly state, For His mercy endures forever;

(God thinks about us. He remembers us. He knows us. The God of heaven actually considers and communes with mortal men.)

24 And rescued us from our enemies, For His mercy endures forever;

(God rescues us. How has God rescued each family member?)

25 Who gives food to all flesh, For His mercy endures forever.

(God feeds everyone. The rain falls on the just and the unjust to show His mercy. Jesus is the Bread of Life for all who will partake. He fills not only the hunger of our flesh, but more importantly, the hunger of our souls.)

26 Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever.

(From the earth below to the heavens above, He is God and He is worthy of our thanks. Not only that, He is worthy of our lives. His mercy endures forever -- one of the greatest reasons to give thanks!)

Before you feast on food, feast on Him who gives us richly all things to enjoy.

Deborah Wuehler is the devotional and e-newsletter editor for  The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Deborah lives in Roseville, Calif., with her husband Richard and their seven gifts from heaven. You may e-mail Deborah at Also, visit her blog at

This article originally published Nov. 15, 2006

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