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thanksgiving

A Word Study in Feasts

A Word Study in Feasts

By Evan Johnson

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners…”

- Isaiah 61:1

“We know that when good fortune favors two such men it stands to reason we deserve it, too.” 

- Fiddler on the Roof

 

As we near the most festive time of the year, different cultures from around the globe will be celebrating holidays that surround the winter solstice in different ways. Feasting has been a part of human cultures forever. The Vikings did it. The Hebrews did it. The Romans did it. Everybody loves to come together in celebration and not just eat, but feast. 

For Israel, though, feasting and celebration were often stirred out of God’s mercy. We can see this in the evolution of the word basar throughout the Old Testament. It’s a Hebrew word that refers to four things: flesh (animal or human), humanity’s frailty, the passing on of generations from father to son, and good news. These four things have almost nothing in common on the surface, but if we look at them more closely, we can see a line of God’s gospel moving throughout these events. 

Let’s break down the different meanings. 

Basar - Animal Flesh

Farming and pasture care was a big part of Israel’s society, especially since they began their nationhood as a largely nomadic people. As a shepherd or as a cattle herder, you know which animals are your best. This is why there are so many laws about animal husbandry. That’s who Israel was, and in Leviticus 25, God outlines a time in which Israel is meant to just enjoy the work that they have done for the past 49 years. This time was known as Jubilee, and it included much feasting. 

Basar - Passing on of generations

Whenever someone has a child, it’s a joyous celebration. We see this when the promised child of Isaac is born Genesis. This isn’t new today. People still celebrate at the birth of a child. In an incredibly nomadic culture, a birth was one of the most exciting events that could happen in that community. The other was a marriage, which also involved much feasting. 

Basar - Human Frailty

We’ve talked about the greatness that’s tied to this word basar, but what about when it refers to our frailty? Since it is still a word for flesh, it’s still a perfect indicator of the carnal nature of humanity. Since animal flesh needed to be cut in order to save Israel from their fleshly sins, the word basar is still connected to the reason for the sacrifice: human frailty.  

Basar - Good News

However, there’s always good news. The word basar constantly means good news throughout the Old Testament. It means good tidings, be it for a new born son or for bringing the good news of a Deliverer to Israel as in Isaiah 61:1: 

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners… 

Though our flesh may fail, there is hope in the sacrifice that Jesus offered on the cross. He his flesh in place of our flesh, so that we could be reborn.  

This is good news. This may sound like a stretch of the imagination when it comes to the word basar, but the common thread is there: we feast because we’re happy. 

As we move into the most festive time of the year, reflect on why you are feasting. Take a look around at the family that God has given you and celebrate with them the good food and the good grace that he has given you. 

Enjoy what God has given you to enjoy. 

Insensitivity and Thanksgiving: Sermon Response

Insensitivity and Thanksgiving: Sermon Response

By Sydney Gautier

When I think of Thanksgiving, I think about house-hopping from Joe’s family to mine. Two Thanksgiving meals in one day means way too much turkey and mashed potatoes—and probably too much pie (if that’s possible). However, in the midst of the house-hopping, food, and family chaos, the actual giving thanks part of Thanksgiving can get lost. It even happens in the regular busyness of everyday life, so just like Barry, I would say that I also struggle with thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving is worship.

Thanksgiving is a day set aside to give thanks to God for all he has blessed us with. It serves as a reminder to believers that thanksgiving is to be a regular rhythm in our lives. In Psalm 95, we get a picture of someone who is truly celebrating what thanksgiving looks like, and they don’t need pie, turkey, or mashed potatoes. In Psalm 95:1-2 we see that thanksgiving is worship, “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” This is a person who is truly thankful, calling for us to worship God for all he has done. 

Insensitivity hinders thanksgiving.

A grateful heart sounds great, but when everything seems to be going wrong, it can be difficult to be a thankful person. In the middle of what seems like a disaster, our natural reaction is not to give thanks and worship. It’s easier to feel hopeless, weak, and powerless. This can cause us to isolate ourselves. We can become callous and insensitive. The psalmist points to this reality with the Israelites in Psalm 95:6-8, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seem my work.” They had seen the creations of God and the miracles he had performed—and so have we, but with a hardened heart, we miss it all. I can think of many times during my life when everything seemed to be going wrong, and while I was busy feeling sorry for myself, I missed all the goodness of God that was right in front of me. Our hope here is that God is the softener of hearts!

We need to tear our hearts before Him.

Barry told us that God is the softener of our hearts, but the next question is how? In Joel 2:13 it says, “Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead. Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.” So how do we tear our hearts? We look to God and repent for the hardness and insensitivity of our hearts. We confess our sins to God and spill our hearts out to Him. We tear our hearts before Him and be honest with Him. 

When we tear our hearts before God, we see healing begin. With a softened heart, it’s so much easier to give thanks and worship. Instead of immediately noticing all of the things that seem to be going wrong in our lives, we look to God and can be thankful knowing that He is faithful and good. We can be thankful because we know He is working, and He is making all things new. With a softened heart we see all of God’s handiwork, and we rejoice and give thanks for all that he has done for us.

 

Thankful for Beauty

Thankful for Beauty

By Micha Kandal

Friends, 

Today, I encourage you to think about why this day is good, whatever “good” means to you—whether it be joy or contentment or simply an extra moment to breathe. I encourage you to do this because I don’t think we reflect on this often enough. I want you to know that my intention isn’t to give you another box to check off of your to-do list, or for this question to serve as a median of conviction. My intention is just a reminder, one that has changed my view on what’s good and how there is such truth and power in recognizing the good things. 

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with Samantha (dear friend and roommate), and I’m still thinking about it. Maybe it’s because I overanalyze all things, but this spontaneous conversation was too real not to share. It began with me venting all of my frustration, about my life and specifically how it doesn’t look like I thought it would at this point in time. I was justifying why I thought it was okay to be annoyed with God and why I thought I had the right to essentially demand the changes I thought I wanted. I’ve been in this season of waiting, a season I’m very familiar with—waiting to graduate, for a relationship, for connections with administrators for job offers, for fall to actually get here, to feel content. A considerable amount of waiting. 

(To compliment this season with my negative attitude, I was also treating my relationship with God like a formula. I was praying prayers of contentment and reading scripture that seemed like it applied to seasons of waiting, yet I woke up each day more frustrated and discouraged.)

It was after my rant that Sam asked, “Why don’t you just focus on something else? What if instead of thinking about what you don’t have or what you want, you focus on being thankful.” 

Mind blown. 

This idea didn’t even cross my mind. Yet Jesus directly spoke through Sam in that spontaneous-angst-filled conversation to open my eyes. I love when He does that. As a black and white thinker, those clear concise moments of instruction are total blessings, ones I rarely deserve.

So moving forward, in the weeks following that conversation, I began writing down why I was grateful. Having no idea where to even begin, my observations of gratitude varied from “thanks for coffee” to “God you are SO good, and the ways you provided for me in that random moment completely blows me away.” 

I also started reading Psalm 143, specifically meditating on verses 4 & 5 which says, “So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.” 

The combination of spending intentional time in scripture and honestly praying what I was actually feeling, resulted in a change that shifted my heart. My relationship with God started to feel more like an actual relationship. I began to subtly notice the shift of my thoughts and how dwelling on the wants and desires became less. Slowly, seeing the joy in the mundane and noticing things to celebrate each day became easier and more life-giving. 

Along with this change, comes my new responsibility in my relationship with God. A responsibility that requires honest conversations and moments of listening. Since I started this habit of being aware of what I’m grateful for, I have experienced true and genuine joy. I know this isn’t a coincidence because 1.) I don’t believe in those, and 2.) I’m still in a season of waiting, for all of the same things I mentioned before. God has completely transformed my way of viewing each day, simply because I let Him. I’m still learning how to see the beauty in everyday, but I’m also learning to love searching for it. 

I encourage you to look for the beauty, the good, the things to be grateful for. It might be the hardest thing you’ve done this year, or maybe it’s just a new perspective to use. Regardless of your circumstances, I encourage you to do your own searching for the beauty and for the things to be grateful for. I ask you this because I believe with my whole heart that your joy is waiting. 

Humbled and still learning, 

Micha