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When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and has built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” Deuteronomy 8:10-14

 

The focus of the national holiday, called Thanksgiving Day, is primarily for the harvest of crops in the Fall of the year. The church of Jesus Christ uses this holiday as the occasion to thank God for the harvest.

Thanking God is a spiritual activity. It is a spiritual activity whether the thanks is for material and earthly matters or for spiritual matters.

In our text Moses is calling Israel to thank God for those blessings that are material. The book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ farewell address at the Jordan River. He has led the children of Israel for forty years, out of Egypt and through the wilderness. Soon he will depart from them in death. But before he dies, he is used of God to say a few things to the nation.

In the first part of this chapter, Moses explains that during the forty years in the wilderness God had miraculously and wonderfully taken physical care of His people. By giving them manna from heaven and water from the flinty rock, God was teaching them humble reliance upon Him. He let them hunger and supplied them with manna so they might learn to live, not by bread alone, but by doing His will (vv. 2-4). They never lacked during the forty years, but it was only what they needed, just enough; there were no left-overs, no abundance.

God’s purpose in so chastening His children was that they might keep His commandments, walking in His ways and in His fear (vv. 5, 6; cf. 6:24).

Now Moses informs them that God would continue to teach them to heed His will, but in the way of an abundance of material things (v. 7). In sharp contrast, Israel would find Canaan to be a land of plenty. It was very fertile, often described as a land that flowed with milk and honey. They would find mature vineyards providing large bunches of grapes. They would find fields either with growing crops or crops ready to be harvested. The olive yards would be mature, already producing a great harvest. The barns would be filled with grain and hay. They would move into houses already built and furnished. They would find wells already dug. Their possessions would multiply, and their flocks and herds would multiply exceedingly. And they would find silver and gold.

For Israel, the prosperity of Canaan was a type of God’s rich covenant blessings in Christ Jesus. Canaan’s prosperity was a type of God’s great favor of everlasting mercy and never-failing grace. In short, Canaan was a picture of heaven! Canaan pictured the fullness of the blessings of salvation in eternal glory.

It is the general experience in Western civilization that there is an abundance of material possessions. We have food in abundance, fine houses, nice vehicles, vacation days, and so much more. While we experience the reality that we always have the poor with us (Matt. 26:11), it is also true that the majority of us are not crying out for help because of desperate need. We are not watching our children starve, nor are we wondering from where tomorrow’s meals are coming. But we have to be careful, because in the new dispensation earthly plenty does not typify God’s blessing as it did in the old dispensation. We also have to learn how properly and rightly to use the material things God has given to us. We are taught that God gives both much or little in His love. And we are called to use and enjoy whatever God gives, for “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (I Tim. 4:4). “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17b).

There are dangers that every sinner faces when it comes to prosperity. First, true thanksgiving is not natural to the old man of sin. This is because of the natural selfishness of the sinner. Natural man refuses to acknowledge God and His sovereign control over the distribution of earthly things. The natural man does not thank God nor glorify God as God (Rom. 1:21).

Second, it is so easy to forget God. This is Moses’ great concern for Israel (v. 11). When we experience fullness and security, then the memory of the reality of God fades and is easily no longer the governing principle of our daily life. Spiritual forgetfulness is not simply a kind of absentmindedness, but a ceasing to think of the reality of the living God for a period of time. To judge ourselves to be rich and increased with goods and in need of nothing includes the absence of a conscious need for God. The wise man expressed concern about having riches, “lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord?” (Prov. 30:9). The prophet Hosea also spoke of the same problem later in the history of Israel: “According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me” (Hos. 13:6). When we are not conscious of the great need for daily necessities, then we forget our God. Just as the healthy do not call for a doctor, so the rich think that they do not need help from the Almighty Giver; and those who do not confess their sins, think that they do not have a real need for the Savior. Often it is not that we deliberately forget Him, but that the lack of a conscious need of God occasions our lack of crying out for help.

Third, prosperity occasions the heart to be “lifted up” (v. 14). This is to exalt or to magnify oneself. Success in making money or in having money often leads to self-exaltation. It is very easy for prosperity to intoxicate ever so slowly, so that one trusts in riches rather than in the living God who gives the riches (I Tim. 6:17). The natural man wants to take credit for his prosperity, claiming that the riches came because of his strength and the fruit of the work of his hands. “And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (v. 17). When it is easy to obtain the things that we need (and more beside), then we tend to rely on ourselves and not on our God. A lifted-up heart is to be high-minded. It proudly claims for oneself success and prosperity.

The wise man is always aware of this inclination.

Moses explains that the danger of riches is not only that they will forget God, but especially they will “forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”

The forgetting of which Moses warns is our not remembering from where we have come and what we deserve. That is why Moses adds, “the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” We forget that we have been miraculously and graciously delivered out of the poverty of sin’s slavery and that we are still in the wilderness of this world’s sinfulness. We forget that we were born naked, that we brought nothing into this world, and that everything we have has been given to us. Every measure of health is a gift from Jehovah our God, as is every penny, every article of clothing, and all our food and drink.

Therefore, the fullness and prosperity that God gives us come with callings. We are to thank God. We are to thank Him by acknowledging, both publicly and privately, that we deserve nothing. We are to consider always that we have been greatly gifted by the Giver of all.

We thank Him by seeing Him as the source of everything. We are especially to thank Him for the Unspeakable Gift—Jesus Christ! We are to thank Him for delivering us from the slavery of sin, miraculously preserving in us the regenerated heart and faith. We are to thank Him for daily guiding us through the wilderness of this life. And we are to thank Him for promising us the glorious inheritance of the heavenly Canaan.

We are to thank God by blessing Him when we sanctify, enjoy, and use the material possessions He has given to us. “Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (I Tim. 4:4, 5). We do this by striving to use our material possessions in a God-honoring way. We do this by sharing our material possessions with others and by using them to support kingdom causes. We are to thank God by asking Him to forgive us whenever we forget Him, and when we are ungrateful.

And especially we are to thank God by striving to keep “His commandments, and His judgments, and His statutes” in every part of our life (v. 11). The essential nature of forgetfulness is described as the failure to keep God’s commandments. Positively, the thought of God’s goodness in material and spiritual blessings is to be expressed in a gratitude that desires to thank God and to thank Him His way, not our way. God demands that He be thanked by obedience to His commandments, judgments, and statues, that is, that we heed His will as given in His moral commandments, His civil judgments, and His ceremonial statutes. In grateful love we want to do, not only what we want to do, but what God wants us to do.