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  • Writer's pictureMatt Garris

Expectation in Thanksgiving

In the United States, when we think of Thanksgiving, we picture the Pilgrims. However, people gave thanks long before then. In Scripture, Cain and Abel gave thanks in Genesis 4:3-4: And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat.

Cain brought his offering “in the process of time” or “at the end of days.” We tend to judge Cain, but I think he is a little like us. He worked hard and was able to glean a harvest from the cursed earth. Despite having no commandment to give and no example to follow, Cain chose to honor the Lord with his produce. It’s as if he looked back at the end of the harvest and wanted to thank God for His goodness. This is what the Pilgrims did and what we often do, but God rejected it.

Why did God reject Cain’s offering, but accept Abel’s? Many scholars have tried to explain the reasons God viewed their offerings differently. I believe one answer is found in Hebrews 11:4, which says that “by faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” Faith requires expectation based on evidence. Abel expected God to provide more sheep (expectation) because he knew God as a provider (evidence). Thus, he confidently sacrificed the firstborn of his flock because he knew God’s character.

Some of us know God wants to bless us. We identify a need, find a verse, sow a seed, and wait for God to deliver. While this is not inherently wrong, the danger is becoming so focused on the expectation that we overlook what God has already done in our lives.

Others of us think God has already done more than enough for us. We focus so much on what God has done that we don’t expect Him to do anything more. It’s important to be grateful, but we can become so thankful that we abandon our expectation. I think that’s what happened with Cain.

Cain gave with gratitude, but Abel mixed gratitude with expectation and gave with faith. Cain responded with an offering, but Abel gave his offering in advance of God’s blessing because of his expectation. Cain was thankful for what God had done in his life, but Abel understood that God was a giver. Cain appreciated the evidence of God’s goodness, but he did not have the expectation that comes from knowing God as “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Without that belief, it was impossible for Cain to please God.

Abel knew God as a provider and gave the firstborn of his flock by faith. Abel didn’t give because God had provided or to cause God to provide, but because he knew God as a provider. Noah sacrificed one of every clean animal and bird (Genesis 8:20) because He knew God as a provider. Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:10) because he knew God as a provider. God gave us Jesus (John 3:16) because He is a provider.

God is Jehovah Jireh, and He gives abundantly because of His goodness. It doesn’t matter if you need it, want it, or have room for it. You should expect more than enough because that’s who God is. This Thanksgiving, mix your gratitude with expectation. Give thanks with faith because you know the God who provides.


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