Basic Necessities (A Thanksgiving Sermon)
Terry Lee Hovey
Around this time of year, it would be my hope that just about every child in an American school would be able to tell you something of what happened in December of 1620.
I say this, because this month, being November... and Thanksgiving Day being celebrated this month on the 4th Thursday...
I would think that teachers in classrooms around the country would be decorating their classrooms with Fall colors and posters or other types of cardboard pictures of turkeys... cornucopia... and Pilgrims dressed in their tall hats and boots with big buckles. These teachers are probably also recounting the story of these Pilgrims and their landing on Plymouth Rock.
They might go into some of the history surrounding the Pilgrims leaving the “old world” for the “new world”... and tell of their desire for “religious freedom”, but with the way the world is today, I doubt they go much deeper than that.
I say this, because the Pilgrims that landed on Plymouth Rock, and then founded Plymouth Colony, were a deeply religious people. They were Puritans, who, as their name implies, desired to live pure and holy lives... unimpeded by the state church in England.
They had left England for the Netherlands in 1608, where they found refuge. Then in 1617 they decided to go to the New World where they would have even greater religious freedom... and after making the necessary arrangements, they set sail in September of 1620 and as I mentioned earlier... landed at Plymouth Rock in December of the same year.
Now... in my mind... there couldn't possibly be a worse time of the year to arrive in the New England area to begin building a new colony. After all, December in Massachusetts isn't like December in Texas.
And... December, in this hemisphere, is only the beginning of winter. Snow has more than likely already fallen a time or two prior to their arrival... and even if there were no snow on the ground when they came ashore (and I don't know if this was the case or not)... we can be pretty sure that it was cold and the ground was hard.
As we think of New England, 1620... and we try to visualize ourselves in their situation... we quickly realize that there are no established settlements in the area that can assist us with what we need to survive the coming winter.
There's no Best Western anywhere to be found. No grocery store where we can go to buy food. There's no water well with a pump or spigot we can turn to get water.
All those things that are necessary for basic human survival... shelter... food... and water... though, in 1620, they're all around... they're only in their most basic and primitive form. They're not readily usable yet... and being December... there's precious little time to make it so.
History tells us that the winter of 1620 in New England, was relatively mild. What that probably means is that there was only 1-2 ft of snow rather than 5-6 ft.
Many of us may also know that the first year in the New World though considered mild by New England standards... was a hard year for the Pilgrims because out of the 102 souls who had landed at Plymouth... 46 had died that first winter. Only 56 remained.
And... many more would have died had it not been for the neighboring Wampanoag tribe who helped the Pilgrims that first Spring by showing them how to plant and cultivate some of the native crops so that by the Fall of the following year, 1621... they had a good harvest
Then, in celebration of that good harvest and God's Providence... they had a 3 day celebration of Thanksgiving which involved not only the 56 remaining Pilgrims (only 4 adult women survived), but it also included the Wampanoag Indians who brought the venison...
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This is the back story behind our modern national holiday, Thanksgiving. It's a story of deep faith in God and trusting in His Providence. The Pilgrims knew that God is the Creator of all things and that as Creator, He is also the Sovereign who sustains all the things He has created.
He provided what was necessary... when it was necessary... and through perseverance and hard work... the colony survived and thrived.
And God's Providence is still at work today, and those of us who trust in our Creator can see His hands at work everyday in our own lives... providing us those same basic necessities of life...
I. The Basic Necessity of Shelter
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psa 18:2 NKJV)
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust." (Psa 91:1-2 NKJV)
You know, I have often thought about building a log cabin somewhere... and I can almost picture myself doing it... but if it ever happened, it'd be in the Spring or Summer... I would NEVER undertake something like this in the winter.
Beloved... I don't even want to change the oil in my car during the winter. I seriously dislike being cold and doing things outside in the cold...
But this is exactly what those Pilgrim's faced. From the moment they landed at Plymouth, the requirement for shelter was urgent. They had to build shelter that would be adequate for 102 people... and they had to gather firewood for heat and cooking.
Webster's defines “shelter” as: 1. That which covers or defends from injury or annoyance. 2. The state of being covered and protected; protection; security
Both of the verses that we read from the Psalms say that the Lord is our “fortress”, and Psalm 91:2 says that He is also our “refuge”.
Those who “dwell” in Him, have the Sovereign of the universe as their protection... their covering... their security.
There is no thing and no one who can lay siege against the walls of our fortress and prevail!
The walls around the ancient city of Babylon were said to be anywhere between 35 to 85 ft thick... depending on which ancient historian you believe Clitarchus or Herodotus
But the point is... even with protecting walls so thick that you could drive 3-4 chariots over it, side by side... they weren't strong enough to keep the Persians out who conquered Babylon in 539 BC.
The walls around Jerusalem couldn't keep the Babylonians out some 48 years earlier in 587 BC... and then again in 70 AD to the Romans. Both of these events occurred as judgments... because the Jews had forsaken God.
They had turned to pagan idols and false gods before God brought judgment against them through the Babylonians... who took them into captivity.
And because they had turned away from their promised Messiah some 620 years later and hung the Son of God on a cross. Judgment would come again... 37 years later through the Roman general and future Emperor Titus.
But beloved... those who “trust” in the Lord... and “dwell” in the Most High... are residing within an impenetrable fortress. Walls that cannot be scaled or torn down.
There is absolutely nothing that the devil can do to us that will amount to anything because He has absolutely no ability to enter into the hallowed halls of this fortress in which we reside.
No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me," Says the LORD. (Isa 54:17 NKJV)
Every weapon of war which is designed to hurt and destroy the people of God... shall be rendered useless... not one of them shall prosper in the hands of the enemy...
Every tongue that rises against those who abide in Christ and tries to bring a false accusation or an evil charge will have no real power over us... because we trust in the Lord.
The only power the enemy can have over us is what we give him. That wall around Babylon... the enemy was shown a back way in. The Great Wall of China that kept the enemy at bay... was breached several times because they were let in through a gate by someone inside...
We must trust in the One who “covers” us. For as the Scripture says... He is our Rock... our Deliverer... our Strength... our Shield... and our Stronghold...
We are to “trust” in Him, and as Paul says in Ephesians... “nor give place to the devil.” (Eph 4:27 NKJV)
Or as the ESV puts it... “and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Eph 4:27 ESV)
II. The Basic Necessity of Food
And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. (Joh 6:35 NKJV)
I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." (Joh 6:48-51 NKJV)
Now, I'm sure that when the Pilgrims landed, they had some food remaining which they had brought with them from the Old World. We don't know how much they had on hand... or how pressing their need was...
We do know that there is no way they could have carried enough food stores to last them indefinitely... so, they probably had to eat what food that remained while trying to hunt and forage for food at the same time.
It'd be sensible to do this... And I'm sure that they were grateful many times for the Wampanoag who showed them what plants were edible and what wasn't...
And as crucial to human survival as food is... our Pilgrim forefathers... and we ourselves know that there is a food that is even more crucial for life!
Jesus told us that in the gospel of Matthew that... "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD.' " (Mat 4:4 NKJV)
So He tells us that a source of nutrition even more important than physical food... the Scriptures nourishes our spiritual needs in such a way that will benefit us eternally.
In the same manner in which He tells us that we shouldn't concern ourselves so much with the clothing and raiment of this life... (Remember the “birds of the air” and “lilies of the field” illustration He gave in Mat 6:25-34?)
We are to rather, concern ourselves with feasting on that food which will satisfy our souls with eternal life.
You see... in the first part of this 6th chapter of John... we see that Jesus had just provided physical nourishment to 6,000 men with 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish.
Then later that night He walked on water... and the next day, the Jews that had caught up with Him and the disciples asked for another sign so that they might believe!
The Jews bring up the fact that Moses had fed the fathers in the wilderness with bread from heaven... not the simple and plain barley loaves like You just fed us with... (Can you imagine the arrogance there? Having participated in that miracle... they dismiss it... like it was nothing.)
But Jesus' response was that yes... Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. (Joh 6:49 NKJV) You ate the barley loaves I fed you, and that may sustain your life for a little time... but you also will die... just like your fathers did...
But if you want to live... then know this... I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever (Joh 6:51a NKJV)
The bread that I have to give is so much better that the manna that our fathers ate. If you eat THIS bread... you will live forever!
and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. (Joh 6:51b NKJV)
“If you want to live... then you must believe in Me!” This is what He's been saying throughout this chapter... Believe in ME and you will live!
"This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." (Joh 6:29 NKJV)
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. (Joh 6:47 NKJV)
If you eat of this Bread that I offer... If you believe in Me... you will live forever!
III. The Basic Necessity of Water
Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." (Joh 4:10-14 NKJV)
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (Joh 7:37-39 NKJV)
Next to the immediate need of shelter... finding drinkable water would be absolutely critical... Though man can go without food for weeks... he can go without water for only a few days.
Now it's possible that the Pilgrims could have melted some snow for drinking water... but we have to remember that unlike the Texas panhandle... New England has no shortage of rivers and streams... so it might not have been necessary.
But the water the Pilgrims found here in the New World... is just like the water Jesus spoke of at the well in Samaria. Anyone who drinks of it... will get thirsty again.
Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again (Joh 4:13a NKJV)
But there is water that He has to offer that will satisfy the thirsty soul for eternity! He tells us in the remaining verses...
but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." (Joh 4:13-14 NKJV)
This water that Jesus has to offer us isn't the stale and stagnant water that's drawn up from a well or cistern...
It's a “fountain” and it “springs up”... it's active... it's alive... And how can anyone ever thirst again who has within them a living and active spring of living water... bubbling up from within?
And as we'll see in the 7th chapter of John... this fountain of living water is the Holy Spirit.
Because when Jesus speaks of water again... it's in Jerusalem, during the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkoth. This was another of the 3 Feasts that required all males to come to Jerusalem to celebrate.
It was an 8 day celebration in which everyone lived in “tents”... and on the last day... the culmination of the feast... the Priest would go to the pool of Sloam to fill a golden vessel with water and then take it to the altar...
Next... they would fill another golden vessel with wine... and then both vessels, the water and the wine, would be poured out together into the basin.
The mixed water and wine would then flow down a conduit which carried the water to the Brook of Kidron located across from the eastern wall.
This ritual symbolized the prayer for the Fall rains upon which Israel depended...
It also pictured the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom in which the Holy Spirit would be poured on Israel and believers of all nations.
It was at this point that Jesus stood and cried out... "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (Joh 7:37b-38 NKJV)
...and then we read the explanation of what Jesus just said in the following verse...
But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (Joh 7:39 NKJV)
What a picture. Jesus uses the very symbolism of the Jewish feast to declare to them that, “Here I am!” “Your Messiah is here!”
“Believe on Me and that Holy Spirit you're waiting for will come upon you and will flow out of you... and He will be as a fountain within you... springing up into eternal life!”
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We can have those 3 basic necessities of life in this world. We can build a house for shelter... but it will eventually decay and go back into the earth... overgrown with weeds, vines and thistles...
We can also go to the store... or to McDonald's or Burger King and fill our bellies... but we'll only get hungry once again...
We can dig a well or turn the tap to get a drink of water whenever we desire... and that's a good thing... because we WILL desire it again, and again, and again...
Any of these basic necessities that we fill under our own power... and using our own hands... can only be temporary in nature...
It's only in Jesus that we find shelter that can never be destroyed.
It's only in Jesus that we find the bread that will give us eternal life.
It's only in Jesus that we can partake of that Living Water which He pours out upon all who believe.