Thanksgiving is one of those traditional holidays that have lost much of their original meaning over time. Thanksgiving was, of course, originally intended as an occasion upon which to express gratitude to God for the blessings of the preceding year. It is loosely based on the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. Although most Americans have long since ceased to devote the day to the actual giving of thanks, that does not lessen the fact that we have much for which to be thankful. A moment of reflection is in order.
Psalm 145 is a hymn of praise that extols the providential care of God over His creation. "The Lord is good to all," the psalm proclaims, "And His tender mercies are over all His works" (v. 9: NKJV). This providential care is of two sorts. First, there is God's provision for the physical sustenance of all living creatures: "The eyes of all look expectantly to You, / And You give them their food in due season. / You open Your hand / And satisfy the desire of every living thing" (vv. 15,16). Secondly, there are God's answers to the prayers of the devout: "The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, / To all who call upon Him in truth. / He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; / He also will hear their cry and save them" (vv. 18,19).
At this point the modern skeptic is sure to protest. Nature works by natural means; thus there is no trace of divine providence in nature. To which we reply that we do not deny natural cause and effect. But who designed and created nature in the first place? In creating an entire ecosystem God graciously provided for the sustenance of life. But the evolutionist says, it is the species that is adapted to the environment, and not the environment to the species. To which we reply that life would not have been possible at all if God had not first created a suitable environment.
Indeed, one of the strongest arguments for Intelligent Design is the "fine tuning" of the universe. In order for life to be possible on earth a number of critical factors have to be in place. The planet has to be the right distance from the son, so that temperatures fall within a certain range. There must be the presence of water. The planet must have an atmosphere with just the right amount of oxygen. Gravity and electromagnetic force must all fall within a certain range. And then there is the sheer complexity of life itself, with each organism made up of several different coordinated systems. In order for evolution to be true, it would require a constant stream of near-miraculous advances from lesser to more complex forms of life, something that we don't witness in real life.
It all points back to an infinitely wise and all-powerful Creator. But it tells us something else about God as well. Why would the Creator have gone to such lengths to create an entire ecosystem that is so intricate and elaborate? The psalmist gives us the answer: "The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, / Slow to anger and great in mercy. / The Lord is good to all, / And His tender mercies are over all His works" (vv. 8,9). In other words, God genuinely cares about the creatures He has made. We do not inhabit an impersonal and amoral universe. Granted, we experience injury and disease, drought and pestilence, poverty and oppression, wars and natural disasters, and finally death. But evil is ultimately the result of our sin and depravity. The fault lies with us, not with God. God is the Creator and Sustainer, and every good in life that we enjoy comes ultimately from Him.
On this Day of Thanksgiving let us remember to "praise God from Whom all blessings flow."