Thanksgiving Day is traditionally a time of giving thanks for the blessings of the harvest and the preceding year. Several other places around the world observe similar celebrations. In America it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, which is today. (As you’ve no doubt noticed it is quite late this year.) The day is celebrated on the second Monday of October by our Canadian neighbors. Thanksgiving has its historical roots in both religious and cultural traditions, and has long been celebrated in a secular manner as well. Christians, in particular, should enjoy the day, a day which has generally been unencumbered by the monetary trappings of other holidays. I personally lament that for the first time, at least in a noticeable way, this day is becoming more and more about commerce with more retails stories having pre-black Friday sales today!
This is a day when many of us will gather with family and enjoy a special time for remembrance and gratitude. With this before me my mind is drawn to the words of Deuteronomy 8. These are not words directed to America but rather to the covenant people. One can thus direct them to Christians, not to the secular nation. We should all read and ponder these words this special holiday.
A Warning Not to Forget God in Prosperity
8 This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. 2 Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. 3 He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 The clothes on your back did not wear out and your feet did not swell these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a parent disciplines a child so the Lord your God disciplines you. 6 Therefore keep the commandments of the Lord your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. 10 You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.
11 Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. 12 When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 16 and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 17 Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. 19 If you do forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the Lord is destroying before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.
Read, ponder and pray. Pick out one word or phrase in this text and then pray it over and over, doing what is called Lectio. Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose love endures forever. Ask God to give you a heart of joy filled to overflowing with deep gratitude.
The late unbeliever Carl Sagan once said, “If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you first have to invent the universe.” Not bad for a skeptic. We can start with creation and move forward as we give thanks.
The writer David Steindl-Rast noted that it is not enough to give thanks, we must do thanks. By this he meant that we must share our blessings with others. This is pretty clearly to be seen in Deuteronomy 8. The heart of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the heart of a God who warned Israel to do acts of mercy and charity for others if they were truly thankful. Let us do the same today.
Soli Deo Gloria.