In this weekend of giving thanks followed by a crazy expression of materialism (a.k.a. Black Friday), I am reminded of a passage in Deuteronomy 8. Moses was addressing the Israelites as they were about to enter the Promised Land. Throughout the Bible, God instituted different ways to help His people to remember what He had done for them. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, Joshua instructed them to take twelve stones from the River into their camp in the Promised Land, so that the stones could stand as a reminder of how the Lord stopped the waters of the River to allow them to cross. The entire Passover meal is a reminder of how God rescued the Israelites from the hand of the Egyptians. As believers, we know that Jesus instructed us to remember His death by partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
In Deuteronomy, Moses addresses this issue of memory. He knew that when the Israelites settled in the Promised Land, they would become comfortable and be tempted to forget all that God had done.
“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. 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. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. …
You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your ancestors, as it is today.”
– Deuteronomy 8:10-14; 17-18
As Americans, we are blessed to live in a country where a day is set aside to intentionally remember and give thanks for everything God has done for us. In 1863, in the midst of Civil War, President Lincoln signed his Thanksgiving Proclamation, which included these words, “To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. … They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”
Thousands of years after the events of Deuteronomy, Lincoln echoed the words of Moses so beautifully. Without intentionally remembering and giving thanks to Almighty God, we enjoy His gifts, provision and intense acts of kindness toward us and yet somehow think they come from our own hand. God, forgive us for our pride and forgetfulness. May we continually remember Your goodness to us and give You thanks.