Songs of Thankfulness and Praise

Text: Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Thanksgiving is usually one of those lazy days. Maybe not for the people preparing all of the food, since that takes a lot of work; but for the rest of us, who only eat the food, Thanksgiving is just a day where we put on our loose pants, sit back, eat, eat some more…and maybe watch some football. This is what Thanksgiving has turned into recently, though the Thanksgiving Proclamation, which was given by President Lincoln in 1863 reads, “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”[1]

Outside of church people gather to give thanks for and remember all the good that they have received from those around them. We know and remember, as Christians, that all that we have and receive comes as a blessing from our Father in heaven. The fact that we receive good things is because of the reconciliation that Jesus has made between God and us by the shedding of His own blood for the forgiveness of our sins. We confess in the explanation to the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed:

“I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.”[2]

Today we gather to give thanks to God and to remember all of His gifts to us. We know that through the grace He has shown to us through His Son Jesus Christ we have more than enough, and the only required response on our part is to thank and praise Him.

I.

The whole system works rather nicely. God acts first, and then He brings us to act. Moses recounts this to the people near the Jordan River in our text from Deuteronomy 8. Earlier in his address he told them, “You are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number…but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore.”[3] He reminds them how it was not because of their righteousness, for they were a very stubborn people, but because of God’s righteousness and love that He has provided for them.

Moses writes, “Remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness… [how He] fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know…Your clothing did not wear out on you and your feet did not swell these forty years.”[4] All of these things were great blessings of God. While His children were in slavery, He heard their cries and led them up out of Egypt by His mighty hand. He even lead them away from the Philistines and through the Red Sea, fearing that they would abandon Him and go back to Egypt. When they got out in the desert God wanted to lead them straight to the Promised Land, but the people complained and wished that they had stayed in slavery. God provided them with water and sent them bread from heaven. When they complained about that He provided them quail to eat. When they yet rebelled against Him, God vowed that they would not enter the Promised Land for a generation.

But even then, He did not leave them. He constantly was with them and led them. He fed them. Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell. God did all these things out of His love; but in love He also disciplined them as a father would His children. This is why they wandered for forty years, and why God let them hunger – in order to show them that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”[5] This is illustrated so well in the reading from Luke where Jesus heals the ten lepers through His Word. As a father, God disciplined His children to teach them to live according to His commandments, but He does it while also leading them to the Promised Land. Moses said to the people that God is bringing them into a good land, full of many great things. Though they will continue to sin against Him, God continues to provide for them. All that He asks is for His people to remember Him.

II.

Moses continues, “You shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land He has given you.”[6] Notice that this is descriptive and not prescriptive. It is describing what God’s blessings bring about in His people. Luther describes it as our duty to thank and praise God, but both of those things are worked by the Holy Spirit in us through the grace that we receive in Christ. One of my professors at seminary taught that though God causes the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust, the reason that we receive good things is entirely due to Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. We were all born dead in our sin and trespasses. Our entire lives we carry the weight of our sin upon our shoulders and we deserve nothing but God’s wrath and punishment – both here in time, and in eternity in hell.

Therefore, as St. Paul writes, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to saves sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”[7] Though we were nothing but darkness, full of unthankfulness and without praise, Jesus died for us. He did this to win for us the forgiveness of sins and He rose from the dead for our justification, proving that He has conquered the powers of sin and death.

Not only has Christ brought us out of sin and darkness by the shedding of His blood, but it is because of Him that we receive all good things from God. Our heavenly Father richly and daily provides everything we have and need to support this body and life. Nowhere is that more important than in the forgiveness of sins that Christ brings to us. Through the words of Holy Absolution and the preaching of His Word we receive the forgiveness of all our sins. In the Sacrament Christ gives us His body to eat and His blood to drink for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith. The Lutheran Confessions say that God is truly “superabundant” in His grace.

All of these things are done out of His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness within us. What does God ask of us in return? Only to remember and give thanks to Him. He wants us to continue to receive all the good that He has to give. Martin Luther writes in the Large Catechism that God loves to continually give Himself to us. For all this it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. That is why we are here today. Luther also said that the ultimate worship of God is to do nothing but continue to receive His gifts and to look to Him for all good things. This we have through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


[1] http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm

[2] http://catechism.cph.org/en/creed.html

[3] Deut. 7:6-8

[4] Deut. 8:2-4

[5] Deut. 8:3

[6] Duet. 8:11

[7] 1 Tim. 1:15

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