The Rev. Paul J Cain
Thanksgiving Eve, 24 November 2010
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, but of great importance for Christians. Scripture reminds us to give thanks again and again. We see that especially in the Psalms. We see it in our Communion liturgy, “it is right to give Him thanks and praise.
The theme of Deuteronomy, the proper motivation for obedience, we see in our text this evening. It rings true in our ears as well. Scripture provides us with the proper motivation for giving thanks. God provides us with a multitude of blessings, things we associate with the First Article of the Creed (creation and provision) or the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer (daily bread). We have not only those things, but also the greatest gift, salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, that which we see in the Second Article of the Creed. John reminds us in his first epistle, “We love because He first loved us.” There, again, is the proper motivation for giving thanks to God.
Deuteronomy’s main point is the proper motivation for obedience, the spontaneity of love in contrast to legalism. We will see this very theme display itself in our text. This portion of Deuteronomy is from the second of three sermons Moses gave to the people. Moses has already repeated the Ten Commandments. Israel stands on the threshold of the Promised Land.
Be careful to [exercise great care over] (follow) every command I am giving you today, [in order] (so) that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers.
The Israelites were to exercise great care over these commandments in doing them. The word usually translated Lord with small capital letters in an English translation is God’s name, Yahweh. God’s name was a statement of grace in itself, reminding the people of everything that “I AM” had done for them.
2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
Here we find out what Moses is getting at. Here we find out the purpose of wandering through the wilderness for forty years. Remember is a key word in Deuteronomy. Remember the God who has remembered you. We see just how much God has remembered His people. Moses points the people back to all that God has done for them. He led them through the wilderness for 40 years for a purpose, to humble them, to test them, to know what was in their hearts. Earlier in Deuteronomy we read, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
This verse reminds us that the physical things in our lives are not what are most important. What is most important is the Word of God, receiving His gifts, everything that comes from the mouth of God. Jesus quoted this passage in Matthew 4:4 as He fought off the temptations of the devil.
4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.
God continued to provide for the physical needs of the people along their wilderness wanderings. Here we have First Article material, Daily Bread material.
5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
As God humbled and tested the Israelites to see what was in their heart, God was disciplining them as a man disciplines his son. We see God’s fatherly love for His people. He provides for their needs and guards against them falling into pride and forgetfulness. Remember Hebrews 12: And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.
6 Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him.
The theme of Deuteronomy is very apparent here. We see the proper motivation for obedience to God. God has provided for his beloved people. He has treated them as sons by disciplining them, watching over them, and keeping them from falling away. God was disciplining and educating. God Himself works in them the desire to exercise great care over these commandments in keeping them. The whole point of the education was to train them to keep His commandments, that they might walk in His ways and fear Him.
7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.
Here we see God’s work, what God had promised and what God is delivering to the people. He is bringing them into a land with such richness and plenty. These abundant things may get the best of the people when they are in the land enjoying them. They run the risk of becoming prideful and arrogant, forgetting the One who provided these tremendous blessings for them.
10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
Moses tells the people what is the proper order of things. God provides such richness for His people. The people eat and are satisfied. What results from such blessing is to bless the Lord, to give Him thanks for what He has done. To bless the Lord means to acknowledge Him as the Giver of gifts and the Source of every blessing. The proper response of thanksgiving comes from tasting and see ting that the Lord is good. He acts. We respond.
The Fourth Petition: Give us this day our daily bread. What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
We see how true thanksgiving begins, with the receiving of the gracious gifts of our God. However, we often forget to say thank you to God as we get wrapped up in abundance, turkey, trimmings, parades & football all day on TV. We get clouded by the material possessions and the good life that we have. In the midst of those things, it is hard to remember where the blessing comes from. More importantly, we forget that man does not live on bread alone, but on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
What counts is not our daily bread, but the ultimate bread, the Word made flesh, the Bread of Life come down from heaven—Jesus Christ. Thanksgiving begins by receiving our Lord and the fruits of His death and Resurrection, Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, Holy Communion. Have a Holy Thanksgiving in Jesus Name. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.