Seafood Thanksgiving

Bible Book: Jonah  2
Subject: Thanksgiving; Gratitude; Thanksgiving Day

Very soon, millions of people in this country will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. The history of the holiday can be traced back to the Pilgrim Fathers, and the celebration they planned following their first harvest in 1621. Later, in 1789, America’s first president, George Washington issued a “Thanksgiving Proclamation” calling upon the citizens of the infant country to offer thanks to God for His blessings.

Today, though the holiday has retained its name, Thanksgiving has become less and less about gratitude and more and more about gluttony. Thanksgiving has become a day where prayer and thankfulness have been replaced by the uniquely American trinity of food, family, and football.

In spite of what the holiday has become, there is great value in remembering why the holiday began. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day in which we stop and give thanks to our God.

Admittedly, the book of Jonah is not the first book you think of when you think of thankfulness. And yet, in our text, that is exactly what you find. In verse nine of the second chapter we find that the rebellious prophet is no longer running from God, and is now reaching up to God with gratitude. Jonah says, “But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.”

This is by no means the traditional thanksgiving. In fact, this is a seafood thanksgiving that is offered by Jonah. As we prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, I want us to look at Jonah’s statement in verse nine, and see what we can learn about true thanksgiving.

There are three truths we draw from this verse.

I. The Setting In Which Jonah Was Thankful

Normally, we equate thankfulness with times of blessing and prosperity. As a result, we are often only thankful when sun is shining, the birds are singing, and life is blooming. That is not the case in the text before us. At the moment Jonah uttered his thanksgiving to God, he was imprisoned somewhere inside a giant fish.

The setting in which Jonah was thankful reminds us of the words of the Apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 5:18. He wrote, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Notice with me a couple of things about the setting in which Jonah was thankful.

A. It Was A Dark Place

Probably no section of Scripture has taken more heat from the skeptics and critics like the story of Jonah. The idea of a fish swallowing a man, and that man surviving for three days only to be puked up on shore is simply too much for the liberals to swallow (no pun intended). I, however, believe the Bible. If my God can create all that is in a matter of six days, then the story of the fish and the wayward preacher is not so outlandish to me. Therefore, when I read Jonah’s words in verse nine, I believe Jonah was literally inside the fish. Though I have never been inside a fish, I imagine, among other things, that it is a dark place.

While none of us can fully relate to the inside of a fish, we can all relate to the dark places. Life is often times lived in the shadows.

Jonah reminds us that God is to be thanked and praised, not just in the light, but in the dark as well. God is good all the time, and therefore God is worthy to be praised all the time as well.

In 1636, during what is known as the Thirty Years’ War, a German pastor named Martin Rinkart is said to have buried 5,000 of his parishioners in one year. During the darkness of that time, he sat down and wrote the following prayer for his children.

“Now thank we all our God,

With heart, and hand, and voices; Who wondrous things had done, In Whom His world rejoices. Who, from our mother’s arms, Hath led us on our way,

With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.”

When should you thank Him? Thank Him in the darkness, as well as the daylight. Thank Him for the battles, as well as for the blessings.

Notice something else we learn from the setting in which Jonah was thankful. Notice not only that it was a dark place, but notice also further that it was…

B. It Was A Divine Place

Look back with me please to verse seventeen at the close of chapter one. There it says, “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah…”

The reality is that Jonah could be thankful in the darkness of that fish, because the darkness of that fish was a part of the providential work of God in his life. As hard as the experience of the fish was for Jonah, the reality is that God was using that fish to work in the life of His wayward prophet.

Some may wonder, “How can I be thankful in the dark times?” It is hard to be thankful standing by the casket of a loved one. It is hard to be thankful facing the horrors of cancer. It is hard to be thankful when divorce severs a home.

Jonah reminds us that we can be thankful in the dark times, knowing that our God is ultimately in control. If He brings us into the dark, it is so that He can show us the light.

The great Scottish preacher, Alexander Whyte, was known for his uplifting prayers from the pulpit. Each and every Sunday, Whyte would lift his prayer of thanksgiving to God. One particular Sunday, the weather was so gloomy that one church member thought to their self, “Certainly the preacher won’t think of anything for which to thank the Lord on a day like this.” When Whyte came to the pulpit, and began his prayer, he said, “We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this.”

No matter where you are in life, in the hard times, or the happy times, trust that it is a divine place, and that in it, there is something for which you can be thankful!

There is a second truth we glean from this seafood thanksgiving. Notice not only the setting in which Jonah was thankful, but notice also secondly…

II. The Service With Which Jonah Was Thankful

Look again at our text in verse nine. The prophet cries, “But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed…”

In the words of the prophet, we learn another important truth about thankfulness. That is: thankfulness is not a merely verbal act. Gratitude is not just stated, it is ultimately shown.

Notice a couple of things about the service that Jonah intended to offer unto the Lord in order to show His gratitude.

A. His Offering

In verse nine, Jonah says, “I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving…” Notice that word “sacrifice”. It literally means to “kill an animal.” Jonah was saying that he would offer a blood sacrifice unto God.

We no longer need to offer the blood of lambs and goats. The perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus has forever satisfied the need for atonement. However, the idea of offering something to God should not be foreign to our lives. In fact, the New Testament calls us to make a willing offering to the Lord.

In Romans 12:1, the Apostle Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

One of the greatest ways in which we can express our gratitude to the Lord is by simply offering to Him our lives. In doing so, we do not merely say that we are thankful, but we show that we are thankful as well.

Judson Van DeVenter was a talented artist, and was strongly considering pursuing art as his career. Yet at the same time, Van DeVenter had felt the call of God upon his life to enter into evangelism. In 1896, the struggle ended while Van DeVenter was conducting a meeting in East Palestine, Ohio. Van DeVenter said, “At last, the pivotal hour of my life came, and I surrendered all.” As a result of that event, Judson Van DeVenter penned the words:

“All to Jesus, I surrender, All to Him, I freely give,

I will ever love and trust Him,

In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all, All to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”

If you truly want to say “Thanks” to the Lord this Thanksgiving; begin by saying, “I surrender all.” It is the service with which you can be thankful.

Notice something else about the service with which Jonah intended to show his gratitude. Notice not only his offering, but notice also further…

B. His Obedience

Look again at verse nine. Jonah says, “But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed…” Notice that second phrase again. Jonah said, “I will pay that that I have vowed.”

Jonah showed his gratitude to the Lord by keeping his word to the Lord. Jonah said, “What I have promised you, I will obey. I will keep my vows to you.”

As a Christian, you claim to be a follower of Christ. You are supposed to be, by virtue of your association with the Lord Jesus, obedient to the commands of His Word. And yet, how many times do we call Him “Lord, Lord”, and do not the things that He says? How often do we claim Him with our words, and deny Him with our deeds?

When I was a kid, there was a simple song they taught us in Sunday School. Perhaps you remember it. It says:


Obedience is the very best way, To show that you believe.”

I would submit to you that obedience is not only the best way to show that you believe, it is also the best way to show that you are truly grateful to God for what He has done for you.

Jonah reminds us that it is not enough to just proclaim our thankfulness. Our lives should portray our thankfulness as well.

There is one more truth that we find in this seafood thanksgiving. Notice not only the setting in which Jonah was thankful, and the service with which Jonah was thankful, but notice also thirdly and finally…

III. The Salvation For Which Jonah Was Thankful

Look again at verse nine. The repentant prophet says, “But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.”

Don’t miss that last phrase. Jonah proclaims, “Salvation is of the Lord.” In this last phrase, Jonah reminds us of the chief reason we have for giving thanks to the Lord.

If Thursday came around, and we had nothing; no food, no home, no clothes, no family; nothing but our relationship with Christ; we could still lift our hands toward heaven and say, “Thank you, thank you, ten-thousand times, thank you!” Salvation alone is grounds enough for gratitude.

When we think of this closing statement of verse nine, we are reminded of a couple of truths. We are reminded first of all that…

A. We Are Grateful For The Grace Of Our Salvation

When you read that “salvation is of the Lord” in verse nine, remember that this is coming from a rebellious, racist, running prophet. He had turned his back on an entire city of perishing sinners.

Jonah deserved to die in that ocean. He deserved the wrath of God to come upon Him. He certainly did not deserve to be spared. He did not deserve a second chance.

And yet, verse 10 says, “And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” After that surely pleasant experience, the third chapter tells us that the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.

There was no doubt about it, God was gracious to Jonah. Grace had been extended into the life of this now repentant preacher.

Need I remind you, that one day God came to where you were? You were wrecked and ruined by sin. You did not love God, nor seek after Him. And yet in grace He called your name, picked you up out of the miry clay, and set your feet upon a solid rock.

Now, you stand redeemed for all eternity. The reality is that you would be a nothing, headed nowhere were it not for the grace of God!

If there is no turkey, no dressing, no cranberry sauce; we still have more than enough reason to offer to God our total and complete gratitude.

Notice something else we draw from the last statement of this verse. We see not only that we are grateful for the grace of our salvation, but notice also further that…

B. We Are Grateful To The God Of Our Salvation

In many ways, Thanksgiving has become a generic holiday. What I mean is that people will talk about what they are thankful for, but very rarely whom they are thankful to.

Jonah said, “Salvation is of the Lord.” The reality is that every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord. He is the source of our salvation, as well as every other blessing we receive.

Thankfulness must have an object. When you realize how gracious God has been to you, He then becomes the object of your gratitude.

Over and over again throughout the Psalms, you find this phrase repeated. The psalmist will say, “O, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, His mercy endureth forever.”

This Thanksgiving, remember that salvation is of the Lord, and offer to Him your gratitude. Give thanks unto the One that truly deserves our thanks!

During his term in the White House, President Truman began a tradition that carries on to this day. On the Wednesday before thanksgiving, a turkey is brought to the White House Rose Garden, where the Commander in Chief grants him a presidential pardon. The bird is then taken to a farm where he is spared from the carving knife.

While there is something funny about a turkey receiving a pardon, there is also something familiar about it.

Were it not for God’s intervention, we all would be lost. Thank Him this Thanksgiving for sparing you from the death you deserved.


Pastor Jack Hinton had the privilege while on a mission trip, to lead the singing at a worship service that was being held in a leper colony on the island of Tobago. There was time for one more song, and so Pastor Hinton asked for any request.

A lady down front raised a fingerless hand. Her nose and lips had been eaten away by leprosy, and she was a pitiful sight. Yet, when Pastor Hinton acknowledged her, she requested they sing the song, “Count Your Blessings”. Jack Hinton became so overcome by emotions that he had to leave the service.

A friend followed him out, and asked him, “Jack, I guess you will never be able to sing that song again.” The pastor answered, “Yes, I will, but I will never sing it the same way again.”iii

This Thanksgiving we have much for which to be thankful. As we sit down together, with our respective families, may we all turn our hearts toward heaven, and remember the seafood thanksgiving of Jonah.

May our gratitude not be bound to circumstances. May it not be mere words. May it always be focused on the gracious God we serve.

i; accessed 11/15/07

ii; accessed 11/16/07 iii McHenry’s Stories for the Soul; p. 134