Author’s Note: Interested readers can find all previous volumes of this series here.
When starting to write this holiday-themed Bible Study, I Googled “Myra Adams Thanksgiving” to refresh my memory of prior Turkey Day op-eds with (honestly) the intention of “stealing” some thoughts or quotes. Seriously, how many times can one reinvent the “real” meaning of Thanksgiving when Divine concepts and the holiday’s biblical basis remain static and well-documented?
Besides, stealing thoughts or quotes from holidays past is not specified as contravening one of the Ten Commandments – "You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15).
Hence, let’s begin with the “Father of Our Country” George Washington, who also fathered the Thanksgiving holiday. As you read his brief proclamation dated Oct. 3, 1789, notice how Washington incorporated reverence, obedience, recognition, and praise for “Almighty God.” Remember when Washington wrote this proclamation, the U.S. government, under its new Constitution, was only seven months old. This was an underlying reason why he offered “a day of thanksgiving and prayer” acknowledging God’s role in that bold endeavor. The proclamation reads:
"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor -- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
"Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be."
Allow me to speculate that Psalms from the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) could have influenced Washington’s proclamation, such as:
"Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms (Psalm 95:2).
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name(Psalm 100:4).
Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples!(Psalm 105:1).
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. (Psalm 118:1).
Let’s move ahead 153 years to Thanksgiving 1942 when Psalms were central to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s proclamation. Keep in mind 1942 was our nation’s first and very tough year of combat in World War II.
Roosevelt began his proclamation with a verse from Psalm 92:1 – "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord." The president expressed “our dependence upon Almighty God” and asked for “holy Protection.” Read how he incorporated all of Psalm23 into the proclamation, a Psalm of trial, suffering, death, praise, and gratitude:
"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord. Across the uncertain ways of space and time our hearts echo those words, for the days are with us again when, at the gathering of the harvest, we solemnly express our dependence upon Almighty God.
"The final months of this year, now almost spent, find our Republic and the Nations joined with it waging a battle on many fronts for the preservation of liberty.
"In giving thanks for the greatest harvest in the history of our Nation, we who plant and reap can well resolve that in the year to come we will do all in our power to pass that milestone; for by our labors in the fields we can share some part of the sacrifice with our brothers and sons who wear the uniform of the United States.
"It is fitting that we recall now the reverent words of George Washington, "Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy Protection," and that every American in his own way lift his voice to heaven.
"I recommend that all of us bear in mind this great Psalm:The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
"Inspired with faith and courage by these words, let us turn again to the work that confronts us in this time of national emergency: in the armed services and the merchant marine; in factories and offices; on farms and in the mines; on highways, railways, and airways; in other places of public service to the Nation; and in our homes.
Roosevelt concluded by asking,“Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1942, and New Year's Day, January 1, 1943, be observed in prayer, publicly and privately.”
Like those dark days of 1942, Americans in 2020 also face a “national emergency” while the pandemic ravages our economy and every aspect of our lives, health, and well-being. Therefore it is my sincere hope and prayer that the proclamations of Washington and Roosevelt imbued you with trust in the Lord to persevere while giving Him thanks – not just on Thanksgiving Day – but always.
Finally, to lift your holiday spirit, you might enjoy listening to three vastly different renditions of my favorite Thanksgiving hymn, “We Gather Together.”
Amen, and Happy Thanksgiving to God Day!
Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. She is also Executive Director of www.SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to educating people about the Shroud of Turin. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or Twitter @MyraKAdams.