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A Thanksgiving Pilgrim Miracle

The amazing providential care of God for the Pilgrim Fathers through an English-speaking Indian named Squanto
A Thanksgiving Pilgrim Miracle

Squanto

 

The following devotional was given on Thanksgiving Day at Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in State College, PA.

The Thanksgiving holiday is quite special for our family.  One of the things I am most grateful for is a man by the name of William Brewster, one of the first settlers to come to America with the Mayflower Pilgrims.  Had he and his wife Mary, and their two children, Love and Wrestling, not made the perilous journey with that first little congregation of Separatist Christians, I never would have met my wife.  Sharon is a direct descendant of Elder William Brewster.  So was President Zachary Taylor.  And Bing Crosby, Cokie Roberts, Sarah Palin, and Naomi Judd.  Sharon will be signing autographs on your bulletins after the service.

Another person I’m very thankful for was a Patuxet (Pa-TUK-et) American Indian by the name of Squanto.  His story is remarkable.  He was kidnapped around the age of 12 by an English trader and taken to England where he learned English.  He was later brought back to North America where he served as an interpreter and guide.  He was then kidnapped a second time by another Englishman and sold into slavery in Spain.  There he was befriended by some Catholic friars.  He eventually made his way back to England, and worked for the treasurer of a company that was exploring Newfoundland.

Finally after returning to New England, he was set free and returned to his own home, only to find that his entire village, which had had as many as 2000 inhabitants, was completely deserted.  His entire tribe had died from an unknown plague and as far as we know, he was the only Patuxet (Pa-TUK-et) Indian left alive because, in the wisdom and sovereignty of God, he had been kidnapped and spent the previous few years living in England.

Because he spoke English, Squanto was used mightily of the Lord to secure the safety of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Amazingly, they had settled in the exact location of his former village.  Again, by God’s providential hand, He supplied the Pilgrims with an interpreter who helped them establish a peace treaty with the other local Indians that lasted 50 years.  Squanto, in essence, saved the Plymouth Colony from starvation and extinction.

William Bradford, the Governor of the Plymouth Colony, said, "…Squanto continued with [the Pilgrims] 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.

What a miraculous provision of God!  But not only had God supplied an interpreter, He had actually supplied the Pilgrims with the entire Western Hemisphere!  The Separatists were being prosecuted and persecuted by the Church of England for their conscientious and biblical objections to Church and State.  So they eventually escaped England, and at the risk of their lives, 102 people made the journey across the Atlantic to Plymouth, Massachusetts in the Mayflower.

As I was pondering all of this, it reminded me of the account of Peter’s arrest in Acts 12.  Ever since the days of the apostles, God’s people have suffered all kinds of tribulation and persecution.  In Acts 12, it is King Herod who decides to attack the Christians, killing some and imprisoning others.  It sounds very much like what Christians had to endure in England from their king in the 1600s.  Look with me at Acts 12 for a few moments.

1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also.  This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

Persecution and death were the lot of the early church, and it was the lot of the Pilgrims.  In both cases, it resulted in the spreading of the Gospel to places far away.  But here in Acts 12, we see Peter being kept in prison and the church praying earnestly for him.  They had very good reason to believe Peter would be killed just as James had been.  But the Christians prayed.

There was a second group of Pilgrims who were left behind in England while the Mayflower made it’s way across the ocean allowing their brethren to escape the wrath of the Anglican Church.  Surely they prayed earnestly for their brethren who had embarked on this treacherous journey.  The voyage itself was extremely dangerous, and if they made it to New England, then they would have to contend with even more dangers there.  I am certain that what the Church in Jerusalem did for Peter when he was in prison was the same thing the Pilgrims in England did for their brothers and sisters in the Lord as they sailed across the Atlantic as they sailed away towards religious freedom: Earnest prayer was made for them to God by the church.

Notice how God worked in answer to prayer:

6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell.  He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.”  And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.”  And he did so.  And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him.  He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city.  It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

The church prayed and God, in His great kindness, sent an angel to set Peter free from his persecutor.  Miraculously, his chains fell off and he walked away from his prison and his guards without being seen or heard.  Sometimes, God’s deliverances are wrought by angels.  Sometimes they are wrought by ships.  But in both cases, with Peter and with the Pilgrims, their deliverances were granted by the mercy of God.

12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.”  But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison.  And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.”  Then he departed and went to another place.

Seldom do we see precisely how God works among us in answer to our prayers.  But sometimes, even when we DO see what He has done, it’s hard to believe!  This account of Peter’s deliverance and the disbelief of the church would not be so humorous if it was not so typical of us.  We pray in times of trouble, hoping for the best, but usually expecting something less than what we ask for.  And when God unexpectedly blesses beyond what we hoped for, we often respond in disbelief.

I doubt the Pilgrims back in England ever even thought of praying for something as crazy as an English-speaking Indian to come alongside William Brewster and William Bradford to help them establish peaceful relations with the Indians that surrounded them.  But what actually happened was no less miraculous than Peter’s angelic prison break.  The Pilgrims were delivered from their enemies and wound up celebrating the first Thanksgiving feast (which lasted three days) with their friends the Wampanoag Indians.  And this happened largely because of one man, Squanto, an English-speaking Native American from an extinct tribe.  That’s almost as strange as Peter’s experience.  I can hear one of the Pilgrims back in England saying, “Rhoda, you are out of your mind!”

At the end of Peter’s visit with the church that night, notice what he said: “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” It is good for us to tell others, especially our brothers and sisters in the Lord, of the wonderful things the Lord has done for us.  We’ve been telling the story of the Pilgrim Fathers and the first Thanksgiving for nearly 400 years because we recognize it was by God’s sovereign workings among men that our forefathers survived those first few years in the New World.

And today, on this Thanksgiving holiday, we’ve gathered together as God’s people, His church, to tell each other the wonderful things the Lord has done for us, and to thank Him for His gracious and merciful dealings with us.

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!  Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! (1 Chronicles 16:8 &34 ESV)

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