Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving History and The Glory of God

The Man Named Squanto

As we prepare for our traditional holiday dedicated to the giving of thanks in our nation, permit me to share a fascinating thing that we see from the historical account provided by William Bradford, about the people we refer to today as the "Pilgrims". God's hand of provision for this small groups dwindling numbers in the early part of year following their arrival at what they called "New Plymouth".  Their first encounters with native American Indians are interesting and nothing short of miraculous. Keep in mind that the "frontier" of North America would have been literally at the beach line on the east coast. This group of Pilgrims was desperately in need of help in how to survive this new land with its unknown wildlife and other unforeseen dangers and hardships. With that in mind, let’s look at this account from Bradford's journal in the first months after landing at the northern tip of Cape Cod in November of 1620:

"All this while the Indians carne skulking [sneaking] about them, and would sometimes show themselves aloof [remote, unapproachable] off, but when any approached near them, they would run away. And once, they stole away their [the Pilgrims’] tools where they had been at work, and were gone to dinner. But about the sixteenth of March a certain Indian came boldly amongst them, and spoke to them in broken English, which they could well understand, but marveled at it. At length they understood by discourse with him, that he was not of these parts, but belonged to the eastern parts, where some English-ships came to fish, with whom he was acquainted, and could name sundry of them by their names, amongst whom he had got his language. He became profitable to them in acquainting them with many things concerning the state of the country in the east-parts where he lived, which was afterwards profitable unto them; as also of the people here, of their names, number, and strength; of their situation and distance from this place, and who was chief amongst them."

"His name was Samoset; he told them also of another Indian whose name was Squanto, a native of this place, who had been in England and could speak better English than himself. Being, after some time of entertainment and gifts, dismissed, a while after he carne again, and five more with him, and they brought again all the tools that were stolen away before, and made way for the coming of their great Sachem [chief, tribal leader], called Massasoit; who, about four or five days after, carne with the chief of his friends and other attendance, with the aforesaid Squanto."

Interestingly enough, what followed is not talked about much today, the next part of Bradford's journal records an agreement that was reached between these two groups. The journal records that "they made a peace with him [Massasoit]" (which continued for 24 years). This is important to note due to revisionist historians today that try to paint a distorted picture of the relationship between these early settlers and Native American Indians.  Just like depravity resides in all men today, it resided in all men at that time too. Just like there are "peaceful" people today, there were "peaceful" Indians back then.  Just as there are "wicked" people today, there were "wicked" people back then (both European and Native American Indian).  One cannot lump all of history into one sock so to speak. When we look at history from a Biblical Worldview, we ought to look at all of it; the good, the bad, and the ugly!  However, what we see in Bradford's account is God's hand at work bringing a group [tribe] of peaceful native Indians to the rescue of this group of English Separatists looking for the early vestiges of religious freedom in a new land. Take note of the items agreed to in Bradford's journal:

"1. That neither he nor any of his, should injure or do hurt to any of their people.

2. That if any of his did any hurt to any of theirs, he should send the offender, that they might punish him.

3. That if anything were taken away from any of theirs [the Pilgrims’], he [Massasoit] should cause it to be restored; and they should do the like to his.

4. If any did unjustly war against him [Massasoit], they [the Pilgrims] would aide him; if any did war against them, he [Massasoit] should aid them [the Pilgrims].

5. He should send to his neighbor’s confederates, to certify them of this, that they might not wrong them, but might be likewise comprised in the conditions of peace. [That is, different tribes should share members to prevent warfare or serve as hostages in case of war.]

6. That when their [the Indians’] men came to them [the Pilgrims], they [the Indians] should leave their bows and arrows behind them."

"After these things he [Massasoit] returned to his place called Sowams, some 40 miles from this place, but Squanto continued with them, and was their interpreter, and was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation. He directed them how to set their corn, where to take fish, and to procure other commodities, and was also their pilot to bring them to unknown places for their profit, and never left them till he died. He was a native of this place, and scarce any left alive beside himself."

Don't miss the significance of this, nothing short of miraculous is the fact that this group of English Separatists were originally bound and chartered for a settlement in Virginia but were blown off course and landed in a desolate location unknown to them.  A harsh winter is awaiting them, and they desperately need help from someone knowledgeable of the local area. Into this God sends an Indian that speaks broken English [Samoset], but who knows another Indian that speaks fluent English [Squanto].  Ask yourself what the chances are that this group of Pilgrims accidentally landing in a location with one of the few if not only friendly English speaking Indians in North America? Coincidence or the providential hand of God?  Today we have all kinds of revisionists historians that have tried to rewrite our nation’s history and rewrite the hand of God out of it...look closely at this and decide for yourself.  Recall Bradford's words that I quoted above, Bradford referred to Squanto as "a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation".Bradford records that in late September of 1621, a group from New Plymouth set out to help another group that had settled in a nearby area, that in Bradford's terms had "made havoc of their provisions" and realized that "want [or need] would press them" in the coming winter months. In other word's this group had made unwise choices for their provisions and needed help. So they set out with this group to help them. Bradford records the following:
"All things being provided, Captain Standish was appointed to go with them, and Squanto for a guide and interpreter, about the latter end of September; but the winds put them in again, and putting out the second time, he [Captain Standish] fell sick of a fever, so the Governor went himself. But they could not get about the shoals of Cape Cod for flats and breakers, neither could Squanto direct them better, nor the master durst venture any further, so they put into Manamoyick Bay and got what they could there. In this place Squanto fell sick of an Indian fever, bleeding much at the nose (which the Indians take for a symptom of death), and within a few days died there; desiring the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishmen’s God in heaven, and bequeathed sundry of his things to sundry of his English friends, as remembrances of his love; of whom they had a great loss."
God had used this incredible man, Squanto. God through His marvelous works had ordained for Squanto to be taken to England years before by an earlier north Atlantic fishing expedition. This Indian had learned fluent English, and miraculously had been returned to his native land a few years later. Think about that...think about the time we are talking you realize how utterly incredible those events are?  Then this group of Separatists from the Church of England set out to cross the Atlantic bound for a colony in Virginia...the end up in a place far from their intended destination.  They end up in a place where maybe the only fluent English speaking Native American Indian resides! God uses this man to train and help these early settlers and seekers of religious liberty.

The words of the Mayflower Compact tell us why these Pilgrims crossed the foreboding and dangerous north Atlantic ocean: "Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith".  These words tell us that they came to engage God's creation in a new world, they came to take God principles to the rest of His creation.  Let me be sure about one thing as I bring this to a close; these men were not perfect men, they were flawed men. But God was using them to take baby steps towards the liberty that we see written into the Bible. Lastly, don't miss what happened to Squanto! By all indications God used these Pilgrims to draw Squanto unto Himself, Bradford tells us that Squanto's last dying wish was to know this great God of these Englishmen and I am sure they were more than happy to share the good news of salvation with their Indian friend!

My hope is that you will read this incredible story of God's goodness to your families as you observe our great national tradition and gather for a Thanksgiving meal. Pass on these great historical events that point to the great guiding hand of Almighty God. Give thanks for all our Great God has done for us in this incredible nation, founded for HIS PURPOSES and for HIS GLORY!