A THANKSGIVING COMMANDMENT
“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word  that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall 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 of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the 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 in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
In the name of Jesus:
In the history of America and of the United States, there have been many Thanksgiving proclamations. In 1779 President George Washington wrote that it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge God’s goodness and mercy, to be grateful for His benefits, and that the citizens of this country should have a day of public thanksgiving and prayer so that all would unite in giving thanks to God for His providence and protection.
Later, other Presidents would issue similar proclamations, recommending the citizens of the United States to give thanks to God. That is all any one President or person can do, that is, recommend that human beings give thanks to God. No human being can force another to be thankful. It must come from the heart. That is why these Thanksgiving proclamations are carefully worded, so as to not give offense and so that others will not take offense. But this is not the case when God speaks. God does not recommend that His creatures give thanks, He COMMANDS that they give thanks. His voice THUNDERS FROM HEAVEN ABOVE, calling on His creatures to remember His bountiful goodness, and then God demands thanksgiving. He commands and demands that everyone remembers and gives thanks.
But do we? If we are honest, we fail to give thanks to God, more often than not; we take advantage of God and expect more. We wolf down a meal to feed our hunger rather than pausing to remember who gave us the food so that we might give thanks. We pray to God for healing and help in times of need, but are too busy to set time aside to come to worship and remember and give thanks. We use and sometimes abuse the resources that God gives us, spending our money on frivolous things, and then complaining that we don’t have enough, instead of recognizing that God is good and His mercies lasts forever.
This is why God commands we give thanks, because we fail to give thanks. Like the Israelite people of old, we have forgotten what God has done. In our text for tonight, Moses recounts before his death the history of what God had done for His people. God reminds His people through Moses that: “that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word  that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.”
God tested His people, and they were found wanting. They were not thankful to God for what He had done. God had every right to demand that His people remember, and because of their sinfulness, God had every right to punish those who broke His commands. Moses failed to go into the Promised Land because of his pride and sinfulness. Aaron died before entering the Promised Land because he made the calf out of gold. And others who complained and forgot about God’s benefits were similarly punished.
And so it is with us today. God disciplines those whom He loves. He chastises us in our forgetfulness and gluttony. Just as a father will correct a son out of love so that the son will follow in the paths of wisdom, so too God tonight calls us to repentance. He shows to us this Thanksgiving the hardness of our hearts, He reveals to each of us the times when we have not remembered God’s mercies, when we have taken God and His love for granted, and the times when we have hoarded His blessings rather than sharing them. Even as God has punished those who broke His Law and failed to give thanks, so too tonight God promises to punish all who break His commandments. We have failed to keep one and keep all of God’s commands. We have listened to our sinful hearts rather than God and have loved the world in place of God and our neighbor. We really and truly deserve no good thing from God, only His anger and His punishment.
But, thanks be to God, God IS merciful to those whom He loves. God showed mercy and showered His blessings upon the Israelite people on the way to the Promised Land, for God spoke that “For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the 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 in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.” None of the Israelite people deserved this, God provided it because He was merciful and forgiving, loving His people with an everlasting love.
And God loves YOU with an everlasting love. Even though we are sinners, God so loved us and the world that He gave His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. God saw His creatures fall from grace and in need of a Savior. God earnestly desires that every sinner be saved from sin and Hell; He seeks to save those who are lost. And so He sent His Son to lead His people to the Promised Land of eternal life with God. The trail was blazed by Christ, who is the Way to eternal life. He came to pave the way to the Promised Land, living His life in perfect love and thanksgiving to God, placing God first in His life and loving sinners even to the point of death on the cross. By His shed blood you are forgiven, you are saved, not by your efforts, but by the work of Christ. His gift of eternal life is a free gift, paid by the Savior Jesus. Thankfully, God in Christ has done everything needed so that we would be saved. Through His revealed Word the Spirit reveals to sinners their shortcomings and transgressions, and in the story of God’s Good News of Christ the same Spirit creates faith and sustains faith. You have been claimed as God’s child in the washing of your Baptism, you are fed with the Body and Blood of Jesus, and you have tasted the goodness and the mercy of God in Christ, of sins forgiven, of God’s providence and care, of His protection and provision. You have tasted and seen in your own life how good and loving God is, you have tasted that the Lord is good and that His mercy endures forever.
This day, God calls you to remember and give thanks. His commandment to those who are in Christ is not a burden, but a blessing. For we have seen and witnessed what God has done. We have remembered not only God’s mighty acts of mercy in the past, but His mighty acts of grace today. We remember that we have been bought with a price and that all that we have and all of who we are is of a free gift of God’s love for us in Jesus.
We remember what God has done for us this day, and we are humbled. Who are we, to receive these bountiful blessings? We in and of our selves are nothing. But God loves us in Christ. In Him we live, move, and have our being. Sinful as we are, we humbly confess our sin beseeching God to be merciful and gracious. If the Lord would remember sins, who of us could live? But He is faithful and just and forgives sin and cleanses us from all unrighteousness, including those times when we forget His mercies. And for that, we can truly give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His mercy endures forever.