Summary: This is a Thanksgiving sermon.
Sometimes Thanksgiving seems a bit perfunctory. Turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and the like set on the table. Christmas is coming: trees, gifts, travel and cards. Thanksgiving often becomes a stop over on the way from Halloween and Christmas.
Read Deuteronomy 26:1-11.
The nation of Israel is on the verge of the Promised Land. This was a prescribed ceremony once they entered the land so they would remember what God had done and be thankful.
1. God’s mercies should be REMEMBERED
God desired that when the Israelites entered the Promised Land that they would remember what he had done for them. When things go well, sometimes its difficult to remember what God has done for us, especially when it was a long time ago. We often pray to God when things are bad, but we forget to give thanks when he answers prayers.
A. NATIONAL mercies
In Israel, religion and national identity were intricately intertwined. God had brought this nation into prominence. When Jacob took his family down to Egypt, there were only 70 people in the extended family. When Moses led them out there were 2,000,000.
It is interesting that they were to be thankful for the firstfruits. God was not only the God of the harvest, but he was also the God of the land that produced the crop.
What do we have to be thankful for? Freedom. The right to assemble as a church. What else can you think of?
B. CHURCH mercies
Again, Israel had an intertwined religion and national identity. Our thought process doesn’t really recognize that. God had taken them to a land where they could worship him freely and openly.
At the same time, we need to be thankful for what God has done for our church. What has God done for our church?
Verse 7 says that God saw there “affliction…toil and…oppression.” God sees the hard work we are doing. The Israelites never thought they would get out of the desert. Sometimes it may seem like we are in the desert. If we remain faithful and work for God, he will bless this church.
C. PERSONAL mercies
I am thankful for my family, health, you, life, and salvation.
What do you have to be thankful for? What has God done for you? Bart Simpson once prayed, “Dear God, we paid for this food ourselves, so thanks for nothing.” Is that our attitude toward God and his mercies on us?
Has God answered any prayers for you this year? Do we fully realize that God is the source of all we have?
2. God’s mercies should be ACKNOWLEDGED
When someone does something for us, it is only common courtesy to offer some form of thanks. We send thank you notes for wedding and birthday presents. What can we do to acknowledge what God has done for us?
A. By RECITAL before God
Verses 5-10 were a recital of what God had done for the nation of Israel. Throughout the OT you see the phrase “the Lord God who brought us out of Egypt.” It occurs in one form or another over 30 times. The name Israel is the name that God gave Jacob. The name was a reminder of what God had done.
We read portions of scripture to remind us of what God has done for us. We sing praise songs to remind us what God has done.
B. By free-will OFFERINGS
What can we offer God for what he has done for us? Look to Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual [or reasonable] worship.”
God deserves our best and first. God desired to receive the firstfruits, the first of the produce of the land. There is something fascinating about the first produce of a plant. In ancient times, it was seen as magical and led to superstitions. God was reminding the people that he was the provider.
God doesn’t need our offering. Psalm 50:10 says, “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.” It is our act of love that we offer resources and ourselves to God.
C. By HOSPITALITY and CHARITY
God isn’t just happy when we drop a couple bucks in the offering plate. He wants our entire being. He wants us to be hospitable and charitable.
Notice that in verse 11 the people are instructed invite the sojourner into their house for their feast of thanksgiving. God always instructed the Israelites to be kind to the sojourner. A sojourner is a traveler, a temporary resident, one who journeys. Israel had been the sojourner in Egypt. Until they came into the Promised Land, they were a wandering, nomadic people. God wanted them to remember their roots, where they had come from.