ST. STEPHEN’S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Striving to speak God’s saving truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School | Beaver Dam, WI | 920.885.3309
Sermon on Deuteronomy 8:16-20 for Thanksgiving, November 22 and 23, 2017.
There are certain things that are worth remembering. We want to remember where we left our keys. Many might spend countless minutes searching pockets, counters, drawers, and hooks in a desperate search to find car keys. Gentlemen never want to forget their wife’s birthday or their anniversary. When I was in Texas, the big saying everyone knew was “Remember the Alamo”. All these are important to remember. We need to find those keys so that we are not late for an appointment. We do not want to be in the doghouse. A fierce battle became the rallying cry for Texas independence.
Could we ever forget about God? Could we ever take all his blessings for granted? We cringe at this thought. We wonder how it could ever be. We could never do such a thing, could we? We come together today to celebrate another Thanksgiving, which gives us time to consider this thought:
Remember the Lord!
The nation of Israel stood on the brink of the Promised Land. For forty years they wandered in the wilderness. They witnessed God’s amazing protection and preservation for all those years. Now, they see their final destination. Before them spanned the land God swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their descendants as their inheritance. Before they entered the land, God wanted to remind them of something.
Once they entered into that land they better not forget about God. He tells them, “But then you are to remember that the LORD your God is the one who gives you the ability to produce wealth, to confirm his covenant that he promised to your fathers with an oath, as he does to this day” (Deuteronomy 8:18). God took them all the way back to Abraham. God promised to give this land to him. God promised to make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. Those promises both saw their fulfillment.
They also could not forget about the other promise God had given. God promised to bless all the nations on earth through Abraham. God chose Israel to be his own people. God would send his own Son from the Jewish race. His people should remember what God has done for them. However, they let this go their heads. They turned God’s grace into a reason for national pride, which led to their downfall. When Jesus came, they did not recognize him as the Messiah. All of Jesus’ work to save the world from sin they ignored.
We might wonder, “How could I ever forget about God?” We come to church to hear all about what God has done for us. Our worship service is built around that wonderful message that Jesus Christ died for me, while I was still a sinner. The Bible builds its entire message around Christ who came to save us from our sins. How could I ever forget about the good news of Jesus Christ?
How much of our life is lived not recognizing Jesus and his work? We let sin become an important part of our life. It becomes so much of our life that we even start to boast in that sin or make excuses for that sin. It is not a big deal that I drink too much. It does not hurt anyone. It is okay to live together outside of marriage. Everyone else does it. My church attendance has been shaky, at best. At least I am not as bad as my neighbor, and the things they do. It plants the beginnings of forgetting our Savior.
It gets so bad that all the things of this life, the joys, treasures, pleasures, desires, and wants, soon help us completely forget about Jesus and what he has done for us. Let’s think of it this way. If Jesus did not come into this world to die for us, would we still be able to celebrate Thanksgiving? If we had all the things and stuff this world had to offer, but remained in our sin, would we still have reason to be thankful?
The answer is a resounding “no”. We need to remember what our Lord has done for us. He took our sins and went to the cross. He suffered and died, so that we would not have to. He gives us forgiveness, life, and salvation through faith in him.
These alone give us reason to give thanks. Even though we might have nothing else in this world, we have Jesus. Even though we might not be rich in the eyes of the world, we have the riches of God’s mercy. Even though we do not live in mansions in this world, we have a mansion in heaven prepared by Jesus himself. Jesus and his wonderful gift of salvation give us reason to rejoice this Thanksgiving. We remember what the Lord has done for us.
It does not stop there. The floodgates of Jesus’ generosity burst open. We remember the Lord first and foremost for what he has done for us. We also remember the Lord for all he given to us.
The children of Israel would soon face a great temptation once they occupied the Promised Land. God had provided for them in the wilderness, “Do not forget the LORD, who in the wilderness fed you manna, which your fathers had not known before, to humble you and to test you so that it would be good for you later on” (Deuteronomy 8:16). Every day the children of Israel went outside their tents to find manna on the ground. Their sandals and cloaks, despite forty years of wandering, never wore out. This numerous nation survived in the harsh conditions of a desert.
Soon they would go into a prosperous land. No longer would they need to collect manna every morning, for the land would produce bountiful harvests. The struggle for survival would no longer be such a struggle in the land flowing with milk and honey. The people in this land would be driven out, often without the people having to break a sweat. God would certainly bless this nation greatly.
The temptation would be to boast in themselves, “You might say in your heart, ‘My ability and the power of my hand have earned this wealth for me’” (Deuteronomy 8:17). Instead of reliance on God, the people would rely on themselves. Instead of thanking God for all good things, the people would give themselves a pat on the back. They would say their good planning increased their wealth. They would tout their military strength for taking over the land. Where is God? Where is his power?
“But then you are remember that the LORD your God is the one who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18). Don’t let the prosperity and good fortune ruin your faith. Remember the Lord. He took care of you for forty years of wandering in the wilderness. He will continue to take care of you throughout your time in the land of Canaan.
Despite this stern warning, the people of Israel forgot. They followed other gods. They trusted in their own power. They boasted of themselves. They let their riches and good life take over. God carried out his warning to them. They became like the nations around them. God destroyed them.
In times of prosperity it is easy to forget about God. We look around us and we are blessed, abundantly blessed. God gives us homes to live in. Our fridges are stocked with food. We have computers, smartphones, and clothing. Today, we will indulge in too much food. So often we turn our back on God. We think it is all our hard work that produces this. We think it is all our effort that leads to success.
Remember the Lord. He is the one that gives us all things. He said it is not good enough just to take care of their spiritual needs, but I will also provide for their physical needs. In a few minutes we will confess our faith with Luther’s explanation to the First Article. We see all our Lord has given us. We see how blessed we are. We see how much we have. We see how good and loving our God is.
We come in humble thanksgiving to our Lord. We do not do this just once a year on a Thursday in November, but we come every day to our Savior to thank him. Our hearts trust firmly in him, and we will never forget.
Remember the Lord! When times are tough, give thanks for the Lord for he is good. When times are good, give thanks to the Lord for he is good. He has accomplished our salvation. He has opened paradise for us. He opens his hands and satisfies every single desire we have. He allows us to live in prosperity all our days. He gives us all good things. Remember the Lord. Amen.