Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Blessing the Lord

Day of Special Thanksgiving
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Everybody knows what “thanksgiving” is. Perhaps this is due to the fact that we have a national holiday called Thanksgiving and we get a day off and eat a lot of food and watch a lot of football. Or do a lot of shopping. (Different people are thankful for different things.) But even people who aren’t naturally grateful know what it means to be thankful.

But there’s an aspect to thanksgiving that we’d miss entirely if it weren’t for the Bible. Even though Thanksgiving Day isn’t an actual festival in the Church Year, Christians have more reason to be thankful than anyone. As abundant as God’s gifts to us are in this life, His eternal blessings do not compare. We aren’t able to give enough thanks to our gracious God.

But even though that’s true, that still tends not to be the reason we don’t give Him enough thanks. No, it’s usually along the lines of us taking things for granted. But maybe we also don’t realize fully what giving thanks is. The Bible shows us that there’s much more to it than simply being grateful.

Does it strike you as odd that the Old Testament reading says that the Israelites will bless the Lord? When it comes to God, we usually hear of and talk of Him blessing us. Why would He need to be blessed? Discovering what it means for us to bless the Lord opens up a new dimension for us of thanksgiving than simply being grateful for the things He gives us. The promise in the Old Testament to the people of God entering the Promised Land is this: “And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land He has given you.”

This is really interesting because the only reason they were entering the Promised Land was because the Lord was blessing them. He was the one that saved them and brought them into the Promised Land. He blessed them abundantly.

And this is what God does. This is what we’re used to. This is what we have come to know from God. He is the God of blessing; of helping His children and giving them His gifts.

And we’re the ones who give Him thanks for that, of course. We express our gratefulness to Him.

But how do we do that? Do we just say “Thank You”? Or is there more to it than that? Much more, in fact? Yes, there has to be. God who has given us all the abundant riches of His grace and mercy can’t be used by us only in the simple telling Him of our thanks.

So the Bible says that we also bless Him. We give to Him the highest glory. We don’t just acknowledge and appreciate His goodness, we live our lives in such a way that others see He is the center of our life and the reason for it. We bless Him in everything we do.

We do things not just because they are what we want to do but because God has given us holy lives to live in honor of Him and that will be of benefit to others. Without His blessing us we have nothing of eternal value. By His blessing us we live blessed lives that show forth His glory and lovingkindness, not our own pride.

It’s a different way of seeing who we are. People who are loved so much by God He would save them in order to bring them into an abundant land. People God cares enough about that He would send His very own Son to be born into the perils of childbirth and the rough life of ancient times. People God wants to bless in that very own Son in His even further humiliation by suffering our guilt and sin in our place.

How can we simply say “thank you” to such abundant blessings? We can’t. We see more and more in Scripture that this abundant love of God overflows into our hearts and minds and we become people who are not simply grateful, but people who bless their Lord. Just hear some of the ways the Bible shows us how we do this:

With [our tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. [James 3:9]

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? [1 Corinthians 10:16]

And the crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” [Matthew 21:9]

Jesus said: “For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’” [Matthew 23:39]

Luke says of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist: “And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.” [Luke 1:64]

And of Simeon, who took the infant Jesus “up in his arms and blessed God.” [Luke 2:28]

And the disciples after the ascension of Jesus “were continually in the temple blessing God.” [Luke 24:53]

God certainly gives us abundant blessings in this life and we can enjoy to our heart’s content tomorrow the football, the shopping, and the good meals we share. But the best thing of all is the day after and every day of our lives we may bless the Lord who has blessed us abundantly in Christ. Amen.

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