Deuteronomy 8:1-10 (Thanksgiving Eve)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
November 24, 2021
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Old Testament lesson recorded in Deuteronomy 8:
1The whole commandment that I am commanding you today you will be careful to do, in order that you will live and multiply and come in and possess the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers. 2And you will remember all the way which Yahweh your God led you these forty years in the wilderness in order to humble you and to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3He humbled you and caused you to hunger and He fed you with the manna which you did not know (and your fathers did not know), in order to cause you to know that man does not live on the bread alone, for man lives on all that goes forth from the mouth of Yahweh. 4Your clothing did not wear out from upon you and your feet did not swell these forty years. 5And you know with your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so Yahweh your God disciplines you. 6And you will keep the commandments of Yahweh your God to walk in His ways and to fear Him. 7For Yahweh your God is causing you to come to a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, going out in the valleys and in the hills; 8a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron and from whose mountains you will dig copper. 10And you will eat and be satisfied. And you will bless Yahweh your God on account of the good land which He has given you.
Remember. We do a lot of remembering. In school we are taught so that we remember facts and figures, formulas and vocabulary, if not beyond our schooling, at least for the test. In the workplace we are asked to remember data and information, protocols and routines. “Remember the Alamo!” was a rallying cry. Who doesn’t remember December 7, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor? My generation remembers vividly the space shuttle Challenger exploding after lift-off. Of course, we now remember September 11, 2001.
But not all remembrances are of bad things. Every birthday you celebrate is a remembrance, and I hope a happy one. Your wedding anniversary is another joyful remembrance, and I pray that it is. The time you ran your first race or played your first championship baseball game or got your first soccer goal, these are happy remembrances. Moses, in Deuteronomy 8, gives the children of Israel reasons to remember—“to remember all the way which Yahweh your God led you these forty years in the wilderness in order to humble you and to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”
As the time drew near for the Israelites to enter the Promised Land of Cannan, the Lord through Moses wanted His people to keep in remembrance all that He had done for them during the wilderness wanderings. The Lord wanted them to remember that they could not supply food for themselves in the wilderness. They could not rely on their own ingenuity or on themselves in any way. The Israelites were completely dependent on God for food each and every single day. And did the Lord ever fail them? Not once. He fed them with the manna. He fed them with quail. God caused water to flow out of a rock to quench their thirst (Deut. 8:15). Moses reminded the people, “Your clothing did not wear out from upon you and your feet did not swell these forty years.”
Since Yahweh did this for His people in the wilderness, the Israelites were to remember His goodness and mercy to them then when they come into a land that has everything they need now. Moses said to the people, “For Yahweh your God is causing you to come to a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, going out in the valleys and in the hills; a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron and from whose mountains you will dig copper. And you will eat and be satisfied.” In other words, the children of Israel would not be without anything as they were in the wilderness. They would have a good supply of water and food and natural resources in order to make a secure home and livelihood in the land that God was giving to them according to His promise.
And the point was, when you get all this good stuff, “Remember!” Remember what God did in the wilderness and what He is doing now in gifting you all these good things which you didn’t work for. Dr. Luther said it this way in his classroom lectures, “And again, where abundance prevails, do not be puffed up or carelessly forget God. Whether everything is on hand or everything is lacking, cling to your God always with the same heart, knowing that He who gives plenty will give it even when want bears down upon you.”
Israel would run into trouble when they did not remember God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, who led them through the wilderness of Sinai supplying food and water, persevering their clothing and shoes, setting them on the doorstep of a land with olive oil and honey. When Israel forgot the Lord, human concerns took to the forefront of their minds and hearts, shoving the gracious work of God on their behalf into the background of their hearts and minds. And when the Israelites forgot, they did not keep and do “the whole commandment that [God was] commanding [them] today.” When their immediate experience in the Promised Land became one of security, the living memory of the reality of God’s gifts and blessings easily faded and even stopped being a part of their daily life. Prosperity can so easily lead to pride. To be proud is to think that the prosperity has been gained as a result of one’s own human achievement. And to think this way is to forget Yahweh your God.
The danger of which Moses warned the children of Israel is that when they came to experience the good which God was preparing for them, then they might forget the actions of God that had led them to that good and ultimately forfeit the good that God had granted to them (think of the Assyrian conquest in 722 B.C. and the Babylonian Exile in 586 B.C.). Is not forgetting God a danger for us as well? At this time of national thanksgiving, we are called upon to give thanks to God for the blessings that He daily provides for us here in our town, our state, and our nation. Even more than that, we take the time to remember, to remember God’s actions in the past and to trust that He will continue to act for us in the preset and in the future.
Buried in our text are some (hopefully) familiar words. God allowed the people of Israel to face hunger in the wilderness, “in order to cause you to know that man does not live on the bread alone, for man lives on all that goes forth from the mouth of Yahweh.” What does this mean? Again, Dr. Luther, “Thus the meaning is: God wanted to show you this goodness of His through your own experience, that in hunger you might learn to believe the Word of Him who promised, be sustained by it in hunger and not perish, and then finally by this faith receive the satisfaction of your bodily needs. All this He does in order to remove from you the idol of your belly and to teach you that the life of man does not rest in this, that the belly is provided with its bread, but that both parts belong to it, namely, soul and body. This you would never learn if your belly were always satisfied and you never learned through the Word to trust in God while your belly is in need. . . . You see, therefore, that nothing but faith is taught by these words. By it we hold onto God and believe that we ‘have God,’ as the First Commandment says.”
We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. That’s what it means to “have a god.” And that’s what it means to remember God and all that He is and all that He has done for you. Each and every day we are totally reliant on the Lord for the things of this life. We cannot become so proud of our accomplishments that we think “look how well I provide for myself and my family.” It’s not about you or me. It’s about the gracious provision of God. From the Small Catechism, “In fact, God gives daily bread without our prayer, even to all evil people, but we ask in this prayer that God cause us to recognize what our daily bread is and to receive it with thanksgiving. What then does ‘daily bread’ mean? Answer: Everything included in the necessities and nourishment for our bodies, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, farm, fields, livestock, money, property, an upright spouse, upright children, upright members of the household, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”
We live by all that goes forth from the mouth of the Lord. He causes the seasons, the seedtime and the harvest. He blesses people with ingenuity and understanding for manufacturing, for healthcare, for good government, for everything. And so we are called upon to remember this, not only on the fourth Thursday of November each year, but every day. “For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true” (Small Catechism).
Our Lord Jesus, when He was in the wilderness and tempted by the devil to forget the blessings of God and turn stones into bread, quoted Deuteronomy 8 to Satan’s ugly face, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4 ESV). Life doesn’t depend on food or possessions alone, but on the Word of God. And it is the very Word of God who became flesh and faced the temptations in the wilderness and faced hunger. He endured thirst, especially on the cross, where He was then forsaken by the Father as He bore our sins in His body on the tree. There, stripped of every blessing, Jesus died for our sins of forgetting God, for our sinful pride, and for our selfishness. Jesus, on the cross, was exiled from the good—God the Father—so that you might never face exile from the Father’s good here and now and then and there in eternity.
You live by the Word of God—Jesus Christ—in the forgiveness of sins. You live by the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures, reading and remembering what the Lord has done for you and for your salvation so that you might be assured of His goodness and mercy all the days of your life.
We have much to remember and to give thanks to God for this Thanksgiving and every day. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, remember all the way the Lord has led you all your years. Remember your Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. Remember all the physical blessings He has provided to you. And bless the Lord your God for all the good He has given to you, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
 Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Accordance electronic ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 357.