Summary: Stuffing, turkey, and football. This is what we think of with Thanksgiving. Yet, as Christians, it's also a day in which we, yes, give thanks to God.
When you hear the word “Thanksgiving,” what do you think of? I’m guessing the first word to pop into your minds was turkey. But, if you gave yourself a few more moments to think of it, I’m sure you could think of plenty more. Football, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, family. But really, Thanksgiving, at least for me, is the overlooked holiday. And I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who feels that way.
In a lot of people’s minds, Thanksgiving is just the forerunner to the biggin: to Christmas. When do most people put up their Christmas trees? The day after Thanksgiving. When do a lot of people shop for Christmas? Black Friday (which has started to begin on Thanksgiving night) and the Monday that follows. When do you begin to see a lot of Christmas commercials and Christmas movies and hear Christmas music? Right around Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving kind of serves as the ok for people to get into the Christmas spirit.
In a sense, this is too bad. There’s nothing wrong with getting ready to celebrate the Savior’s birth and enjoy all the other secular aspects of Christmas. But, it’s important to see that Thanksgiving is not just the precursor to Christmas. Nor is it just the day to fill your tummies so much with turkey and pumpkin pie that you have to lay down the rest of the day. Nor is it just a day to be with family. It is a day in which we are specifically reminded of all the blessings God has given us.
Yet, Thanksgiving is not the only day in which we are to thank God for his blessings. Our life should be a perpetual thanksgiving. And so for that reason, God reminds us in the text to thank him. When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 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. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 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. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 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 forefathers, as it is today.
According to the first verses in the chapter, God had brought his people, the Israelites, to the brink of their promised land. As great as this was, there were many dangers awaiting them as well. The greatest of them being that they would forget their God. When life is tough, as it would have been for the Israelites those 40 years in the desert, it’s very easy to see that we are weak. These times also teach us that God has an awesome shoulder to lean on. Just think about some of the things the Israelites saw after they left Egypt. At one time, they were in between the most powerful army in the world, who by the way wanted to capture them, and the Red Sea. At another time, they were running out of food. Still other times they dealt with a lack of water, or scorpions, or venomous snakes. The wilderness was not a kind place to live. For all these times, who could they turn to but God? He is the only one who would have been able to heal poisonous snake bites, or divide the Sea, or cause water to flow from a rock. But when they entered into the land flowing with milk and honey, into Israel, it would be much more difficult to remember him. Sure, they’d still have their problems. But comparatively with the desert, they’d be puttin’ on the ritz. They’d dress in fine clothes, have all the food they’d need, and build fine houses for themselves to live in.
And, after they received these blessings of God, God showed them that it would be very easy to fall into temptation. As they looked at their homes and felt the feeling of being full of good food and settled down, they could easily say, “Look at all I have accomplished! With my own two hands I have built for myself all these good things!”