I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Genesis 12:2-3
Did you know there is a Thanksgiving Day story in the book of Genesis?1 It’s tucked in chapter 12 and very easy to miss. It reveals Abram thanking God for future blessings. The chapter opens with God promising Abram (later becomes Abraham) that He would make a great nation out of him. God’s promise:
In order for this promise to become a reality, God required something of Abram. Abram had to obey God and go where God instructed him. That meant leaving his home and moving to a new land, called Canaan. Abram complied and he and his wife, Sarai (who later becomes Sarah) took all that they owned and traveled to the land of Canaan.2
Upon their arrival in Canaan, “the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land”’(v. 7). “From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and invoked [petitioned] the name of the LORD” So he [Abram] built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him” (V.8).
Many religions built altars for sacrifices, but with God’s people, building an altar was not just about sacrifices. The altars also represented communion with God, prayer, worship, memorializing special encounters with Him, and in Abram’s case, a visual reminder of God’s promise. For Abram, blessing God in return was giving thanks back to God.
Today, we also give thanks to God for our blessings. We don’t build altars, but we do make a traditional meal, along with a thanksgiving prayer commemorating God’s blessings in our lives and relationships. We give thanks for the blessings we’ve received.
But have you ever considered giving thanks for future blessings? If you didn’t catch it, this is exactly what Abram did. He didn’t simply give thanks for blessings he already received, but also for the blessings that were to come in the future. How could he do this? Because God made a covenant (promise) with Abram. He promised certain things would take place and Abram knew he could trust God’s spoken word.
But there’s more. Not only did Abram give thanks for future blessings he hadn’t received yet, but he didn’t live long enough to see the future blessings God promised!3 Abram didn’t live to see the Promised Land that God assured Abram’s descendants. But Abram still gave thanks for those blessings anyway, because He knew His God always kept His promises.
Call to Action
Giving thanks to God should be a normal spiritual discipline for Christ-followers. Feeling a sense of gratitude is pleasing, but expressing it to our heavenly Father takes it up a notch. Telling God thank You is gratitude expressed.
This Thanksgiving, while you’re thanking God for the blessings you and your loved ones have received, why not also give thanks in advance for those blessings yet to be realized in the future, even if it means you might not be around to witness them.
Grace and Blessings to You this Thanksgiving,
1 Craig McLaughlin, Pastor of Marysville Church of the Nazarene, 2014