St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches


Thanksgiving sermon on Deuteronomy 8:10,11

Text: When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.

What does Thanksgiving mean to you? I would suppose that Thanksgiving means different things to different people. For some, Thanksgiving is all about the wonderful meal, with all of the trimmings. For others, Thanksgiving is about getting together with family and catching up with what has been going on in their lives. It is a chance to reconnect. Some will be excited about the football or parades on TV, while others will be deciding on a strategy to hit all of the best deals later that day or on Black Friday. What does Thanksgiving mean to you? As we study this portion of God’s Word from Deuteronomy, we are going to see that THANKSGIVING is 1. A Time To Reflect and 2. A Time To React.

Our text comes to us from the book of Deuteronomy. The people of Israel were on the border of the Promised Land. Moses had led them for the past forty years. Because he knew that he would not go with them into the land, he used this opportunity to address the people one last time. He wanted to encourage them as they were about to take possession of the land. He, especially, wanted to remind the people of the laws of the Lord that were given to them on Mount Sinai and to encourage them to remain faithful to the Lord.

In the first verse of our text, Moses looks ahead into the future. He said, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.” Because God had promised that this land flowing with milk and honey would be theirs, it was as good as theirs. This would not mean that it would not be easy. There were people who were living in the land. It would be years of conquest before they could call this land their own. However, Moses was confident that the Lord would fight for Israel and the land would be theirs.

He foretells of the time when they would have eaten the best that the land had to offer. This would have been especially meaningful to the people who had spent the last forty years in the wilderness. To be sure, the people had been well-taken care of in the wilderness. God had provided food every day in the form of manna and quail. Now, however, God was going to provide for them by giving this land that would produce everything that they needed.

As they ate of the fat of the land, Moses reminds the people to “Praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.” It would be easy for the people to bow down and praise the Lord for all that he had given to them. After all of those years of hardship in the wilderness, they had finally made it. They were enjoying all of the blessings that God had promised them. He had protected them as they made this land their own. They had seen his power as they crossed the Jordan River on dry land. They marveled as the walls of Jericho had come tumbling down. Now, as they were at rest, they were to praise God, to thank God for all that he had done for them and had given to them.

In many homes, it is a custom at Thanksgiving for the people who are seated around the dinner table to tell what they are thankful for. You will hear people say that they are thankful for their families, their jobs, the harvest, the creature comforts of life, and the food that they are about to enjoy. The list goes on and on of all the things that we can be thankful for. We are truly blessed to live in this country. If you would compare our lifestyle to many places around the globe, you would quickly realize how much we have been given. Even the poorest in our country are better off than many people around the world. If you have ever talked to anyone who lived through the Great Depression in our United States and you heard how tough things were for them, you quickly realize that you have much to be thankful for.

As we pause to reflect on all of the blessings that we have been given, it can be a temptation to pat ourselves on the back for all of the hard work that has gotten us to where we are today. It is good for us to hear again Moses’ words to the Israelites, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.” Remember where it all came from. Everything that you enjoy is a blessing that has come straight from God’s own hand. James put it this way in his epistle, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” (James 1:17) As we reflect on all of the blessings that are ours, let us remember where it all came from. As Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 5:19, “When God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil — this is a gift of God.”

Yet, as wonderful as all of these blessings are, there is one thing that is true about all of them. They are all temporary. They only last so long. When our eyes close in death, they will all be gone. However, there are blessings that God has given to us that will last for an eternity. The greatest of these blessings is the salvation that Jesus won for us. We were in desperate need of this gift, because we are all sinners. For example, today is Thanksgiving Day. Are we always thankful for what God has given to us? Because we have been so richly blessed, do we take all that we have for granted? Do we forget to say “Thank you” to God for all that he has given us? Are we thankful even when things aren’t going that way that we would like them to? That might sound strange, but we have God’s promises that he does not forsake us. He has promised that, ultimately, everything will work out for our benefit. We are to be thankful, yet we know that we often are not. This is just one of the many sins that we commit. God, in his justice, could have banished us from his sight for all eternity.

However, God chose to love us. He loved us so much that he sent his Son into the world to be our Savior. Jesus showed his love for us by rescuing us for the punishment that we deserved. He did so, first of all, by living a life of perfection for us. There are various places in the gospels that tell of Jesus thanking his Father for various things. Nor did he complain when things were not going perfectly. This was done for our sake. Then, in the ultimate outpouring of love, he went to the cross where he suffered the full brunt of his Father’s justice. Because of his death, our sins have been forgiven. His resurrection assures us that he is whom he said he was and that the Father accepted his payment for all of our sins. Since this has happened, we also have the assurance that we have a heavenly home to look forward to. We know that he will hear and answer every one of our prayers. The list goes on and on of the many ways that God has blessed us.

As Moses reminded them of the many blessings that lay in the future for the Israelites, he also told them, “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.” (Verse 11) As the people enjoyed this land flowing with milk and honey, they were not only to not forget the Lord. They were also to obey the commands of God. Note which came first. God blessed them. The people were to obey God. In other words, this would be the way that the people of Israel could show that they knew where their blessings had come from. This would be the way that the people could thank God for all that he had done for them.

We can understand this. If someone has gone out of their way to do something special for you, you are filled with gratitude. One of the ways that you could thank them is to do something that shows your appreciation. If they like a ceratin restaurant, you might give them a gift certificate to eat there. If you know that they like a particular singer, you give them a recording from them. It is only natural for us to want to show our gratitude, even if all you do is say “Thank you.”

When we look at where we were and what we deserved because of our sins and the fact that Jesus has paid for all of them and given us eternal life, we cannot help but be thankful. There are many ways that we can do this. We can come to him in prayer, thanking him for the many ways that he has blessed us. We can lift our voices in song, praise God for all of his goodness that he has shown to us. Another way that we can show our gratitude is to obey his commands. We don’t do this or else we get into trouble. We don’t do this to try and earn something from God. Rather, we see this as a way that we can thank God for all that he has done for us. There will be a wealth of opportunities for us to do this every day. For example, as we gather together with our family and friends, we can look for ways that we can serve the others, rather then expecting them to wait on us. If we are in a crowded store, we can show love and patience to the other shoppers. We can look for the best things to say about other people, rather than looking for opportunities to tear them down. We also see these activities not as something that is burdensome, but a joy. They are a joy because they are opportunities to thank God for all that he has done for us. After we reflect on all of the blessings that God has given to us, we react by praising God will all of our lives.

The art of writing a “Thank you” note seems to be a vanishing thing. If someone does something for us or gives us something, we write a quick email to them. We text them and say “Thank you.” While there is nothing wrong with these things, the Thank you note said a little more. It showed that the recipient had received what had been given to them or done for them. The fact that they took time to compose a Thank you note showed that they appreciated the gift. It took effort on their part to sit down and write this note. While the days of the Thank you note may be coming to an end, an attitude of thanksgiving to God never goes out of style. As we pause on this Thanksgiving, may we reflect on all of the many blessings that God has poured out upon us. May this move us to fill our lives with thankful service to God for all that he has given us. Finally, as wonderful as Thanksgiving is, it is just one day. When we reflect how richly God blesses us each and every day, we have every reason to be filled with thanksgiving on the other 364 days in the year. We join with the psalmist, who wrote, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 106:1) Amen.