The first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims came after an intense battle for freedom. They came from a place of confinement where religion & multiculturalism was trying to squeeze spiritual life out of them. Their desire to worship led them across the ocean to the New World, a promised land. God showed them the way and they risked it all for freedom. After the arduous journey in which many died, the surviving pilgrims did not get to sit back and enjoy their freedom. They were still fighting to establish a new way of life. The territory was unfamiliar and the natives were not always friendly. They had to rely on establishing relationships in order to learn how to build their new community. They had so much to learn in this new land. Sickness and death threatened to wipe them out while hunger drove them on. Yet, God provided and kept His hand upon them. They persevered and their crops grew. While on their journey to the new land, the Christian pilgrims had spent time in Holland with a community of Sephardic Jews. They learned of the Feasts of the Lord and experienced the Feast of Tabernacles in a way they probably never had done before. The Feast of Tabernacles is a celebration of harvest. It also is a time of remembering how the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt (bondage) into the Promised Land. I’m sure the pilgrims felt an instant connection with the Jews since they were in the middle of their own journey to their Promised Land. When their first harvest came in the New World, they celebrated by giving thanks and praise to God, their Deliverer and their Sustainer. The heart of their celebration was the same as that of the Jews. When you have come through that intense battle, no one has to tell you to be thankful! You just are and your heart desires to worship the One who brought you through. President Lincoln later declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, but the Spirit of the holiday is based on the Feast of Tabernacles. In God’s Word when speaking about the millennial reign of Christ, He says,
“Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of host, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.” Zechariah 14:16-18
The Feast of Booths or Tabernacles is one of three feasts that the Lord says will be celebrated “perpetually throughout your generations.” It has eternal significance to the Lord and is His appointed time to celebrate His Deliverance and Provision. Any nation that participates in the celebration will continue to enjoy His blessings, but the nation that does not will suffer the plague. America celebrates Thanksgiving, which is rooted in the Feast of Tabernacles. We are a blessed nation!
The Feast of Lights, or Hanukkah, is also about a struggle against persecution and regaining identity. In 167 BC, the tyrant ruler, Antiochus IV, of Greece outlawed Jewish religious observances and forced the Jews to conform to Greek culture. He desecrated their temple by offering a pig on the Lord’s altar and filling it with pagan idols.
The Jews rose up under the initial leadership of Matityahu and then by his son, Judah the Maccabee, and fought a three-year battle. Against all odds, the Maccabees finally defeated Antiochus’ armies and reclaimed Jerusalem in 164 BC. The Jews had regained their right to worship God and be who God created them to be. Their victory was reason to celebrate. They set to work rebuilding and purifying the Temple, but before they could hold a worship service they would need oil to light the lamp. They found only enough oil to light the lamp for one day. It would take eight days for oil to be consecrated, but they did not want to wait. They were eager to rededicate the Temple and worship God so they committed themselves and their resources to God and decided to go ahead anyway. The miracle came when the lamp did not go out for eight days until the next supply of oil was prepared. For this reason, Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration of God’s miracle-working deliverance and provision.
So today we celebrate the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. These two celebrations have never fallen on the same day since Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863. They will not coincide again for another 79,000+ years. Is God saying something to America today? I believe He is. He is sending a strong message of His Love and Desire to bless this nation. He is sending a reminder of Who He is – Deliverer and Provider – for His people. He is calling us to return to our roots and remember why we live in this nation. It is His doing! He established this Nation for His purpose. No government or worldly system can deliver us from the mess we are in, but He alone can. He has proven Himself faithful time and again. His Light burns brightly calling all those with eyes to see. Consider this:
Throughout the Word, God reveals His Presence in light. The first thing God created was light. A distinctive feature of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jesus’ day was the radiant light that emanated from the Temple. Huge menorahs lit up the Temple courts so brightly that their glow could be seen across the Judean hillsides. The menorahs were so big that the priests had to climb ladders to fill their bowls with oil. On the last night of the Feast, the menorahs were not lit. The brilliant light had been shining for seven days was giving way to darkness. It was on last day of the Feast, while Jesus was still in the Temple courts teaching, that He revealed Himself as the “Light of the World.”
Jesus clearly linked Himself to the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles. He came in the flesh to dwell among us and He is the promised Light that had been spoken of through the prophets.
Further study of the timing of Jesus’ birth reveals that He was born during this Feast. Scripture shows that the angel visited Zechariah, the priest while he was on duty in the Temple. According to 2 Chronicles 24, Zechariah belonged to the division of Abijah which would have served in late June or early July. The angel said Elizabeth would have a son and as soon as Zechariah got back home, she became pregnant. Six months later Mary became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. This would have occurred during the Hanukkah season, which is called the Festival of Lights. From the last day of Hanukah to the first day of Tabernacles is 280 days, the exact length of a pregnancy.
Is it any wonder then that when speaking of the celebration of Hanukkah, the ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus narrates in his book Jewish Antiquities XII “And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival.” 1
In 1620 after landing at Plymouth, William Bradford, the leader of the Pilgrims wrote about their purpose in coming to America, “Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many…”2
I believe that God is reminding us that Jesus is the Light of the World, He is our Savior, He is our Deliverer, and He is our Provision. He is calling us as a nation to return to Him, to put our trust in Him and to repent for driving Him out of our nation. He has not forgotten us, but we have forgotten Him. We have tried to figure this thing out and make it on our own, but it’s not working. There is still time, America, to return to the One that Delivers and Heals, but time is short.
To those that have grown weary in fighting for what is right, fighting to regain identity, fighting for the rights that God bestowed on us – Freedom and Liberty – I say, remember those that have gone before, the Israelites, the Pilgrims and many more….We are not alone in our pursuit of the Promised Land and we do not fight in vain. We stand our ground, God fights the battle. We give Him what little we have and He gives the increase. Believe in His miracle working power to sustain you until your next level of supply is formed. Miracles are on the way!
Thanksgiving brings joy, joy brings strength and strength brings victory! Praise God, today, no matter what you’re going through. He is here, and His desire is to bless. He loves us, He is not condemning us, He is beckoning us to come home!