November 23, 2023 Deuteronomy 8:1-10
v.3 And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Dear friends in Christ, a very blessed Thanksgiving to you all!
Truly, we have much to be thankful for, don't we? Indeed, without too much effort, we could probably fill pages and pages of things for which are thankful--bountiful blessings we have received from the Lord. Indeed, Dr. Luther enumerates quite a list for us in his explanation to the First Article of the Apostles' Creed, when he writes: "God has made me and all creatures; He has given m e my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil…" Wow. Quite a list. And, amazingly, even with all those good gifts of God, we could still add even more: good government, nice weather, peace, cars and snowmobiles, hunting and fishing, electronics and more…and we dare not forget to give thanks for indoor plumbing! Yet, with all these gifts--all these manifold 2 blessings from the Lord--there are still times when we just don't feel very thankful. In fact, sometimes we are incredibly angry and upset with God. You know. You have felt this in your own hearts as well. Despite the blessings--despite the gifts of family and friends, clothes and food, and things--we just don't feel like giving thanks. Such was the case for the Israelites in our text. They had been delivered from dreadful bondage and slavery in Egypt by the Almighty hand of the Lord. He had graciously sustained them throughout their 40 years of wilderness wanderings--yet, they weren't always thankful. Just like you and me. Many of us--many of our family and friends--feel this way. Particularly when we suffer. Perhaps it is financial stress that is eating away at you. "How am I going to put on that fancy Thanksgiving dinner? How am I supposed to buy all the presents that I want to give when my credit cards are still maxed out from last year? How can I survive in my retirement when my savings just don't cover my expenses?" We feel it in our hearts in terms of our relationships with family and friends. Things aren't going well at home. "There is too much fighting--too much hardship--too much stress. Not to mention the boss is breathing down my neck at work and I've got a bunch of incompetent coworkers!" Perhaps, worst of all, however, is when health issues arise--either personally or when our loved ones are 3 afflicted--wasting away before our very eyes--and we are powerless to stop it. How can we be thankful then? How are we to be thankful when all we really want to do is scream and shout in frustration and anger toward God. "What's the big idea God? We are your followers! Why would you let this happen? Why are you allowing me to suffer like this?" Don't you think any of the 10 lepers ever asked themselves that same question? Why should they be afflicted? Why should they have to suffer like that? What about the Israelites in the wilderness? Why, after all the trouble God went through to get them out of Egypt, would He now keep them hungry? Why should they suffer in that way? Well, we find the answer to that in our text. "And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna…that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." So…God allows us to hunger--to suffer--so that in this life we may learn that we do not live by bread alone--all these good First Article gifts of God: government, spouse, children, toys, tvs, cars, and cabins--but rather that we live by the Word of God--the Second Article gift of Christ Jesus the Lord--the very Word of God made flesh who has come to redeem us from our sin. This Word of God humbles us to see what our true needs are--not the 60" LED flatscreen TV on sale at Best Buy for $399. Rather, we see that in the end--all of these good gifts of God pass away--tvs fade and break, cars break down, 4 even our family and friends--and our own bodies--die. We have nothing left to put our hope or trust in, EXCEPT God's Word to us--that which is truly everlasting--Jesus. Our true needs as sinners, ultimately, are not new houses, bigger or better cars, or even a joyful and peaceful Thanksgiving dinner with close family and friends. No, indeed, our needs as sinners can only be met by God Himself coming to us in human flesh and bleeding and dying for us on the cross to take away our sin. Christ Jesus, with His innocent suffering and death, has taken care of your greatest need and given to you pardon and peace by His shed blood. And it is your faith in Christ, beloved, this simple trust in Jesus' work for you--that gives you cause to praise and thank God, no matter what you are going through: whether you are facing plenty or hunger, abundance or need. The work of Christ has redeemed you and set you free from this life of suffering and death and brought you into light and life eternal. This is why suffering can be so good for us. It is helpful to strip away all the non-essentials and distractions of this life and put things into proper perspective. What matters most is Jesus. Always Jesus. His dying and rising, which means that our own dying is not the end. This is why we give thanks to God--not just in the midst of suffering--but actually FOR our suffering. For in our sufferings we are 5 brought nearer to Christ by the Holy Spirit. We focus on Him and all He has done for us in gaining for us forgiveness, life, and salvation. In the end--the final end--our death--and the Last Day--the true and final end of the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting--what matters most--what we are most thankful for--will not be the Turkey dinners at Thanksgiving with family and friends--nor will it be the wondrous gifts left for us under the Christmas tree. No, indeed, what matters most--is Jesus. His blood. His life. For you. Truly, thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen