“For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper.” (Deuteronomy 8:7 – 9)
Thanksgiving of 2020 I think will be remembered as the Thanksgiving when few family and friends gathered together to celebrate the season. Or, more sadly, when we learned how to “zoom” our Thanksgiving feast. There is no way that the scripture passages for this week can portray an analogy or metaphor for this Thanksgiving season. Although, I just started looking at them.
The passage from Deuteronomy focuses on the location and not so much on the people. The very ancient called and chosen people had come out of a time of great wandering, and learning how to follow the Lord God that called them out. Of course, as they moved from being Hebrews to Israelites/Judahites and then to being Jews, they were always learning how to follow the Lord God.
“You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you. Take care that you do not forget the LORD your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied,
then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good.” (Verses 10 – 16)
“Do not exalt yourselves.” We think about the ancient called and chosen people as having gone astray in some way, and practicing worship that was not aligned to the worship that Yahweh wanted and expected. But what if the crux was the Israelites congratulating themselves for having built a kingdom and nation that looked very much like other nations that were around them, and promoting themselves rather than the Lord God who had called them out to live in freedom. Maybe if they had remained a humble nation who did not seek power and might over others, they would have been left alone. It is hard to know.
“Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.” (Verses 17 – 18)
The Hebrews were to remain humble, remembering that out of nothing the Lord God created a nation. It is easy to remain humble and grateful when you do not have much. In our common era we would do well to remember that we have our (relative) health, and that for the most part our relatives are healthy. From the first few days of the New Year there has been strive and turmoil on many sides. Some have not survived to be here. And we mourn them, giving thanks for the good and the impact their lives had.
And if it seems like we are re-building after a large loss, then we should give thanks that we can re-build. Furthermore, if we can and are able to re-build, let us prepare ourselves to re-build something that is worthwhile, worth the invest of energy, effort, and resources. The Celtic tradition of starting Advent two weeks early may serve us well in preparing ourselves, and garnering our resources. The opening verses of this passage enumerate the resources that the Hebrews had. You may find parallels to that list in your own life.
So maybe this scripture passage is an apt beginning for the week of Thanksgiving. Stripped down to our basics and essentials that the year has left us with, maybe what we need to do is find a solid common foundation, give thanks that we have the ability and might to re-build, and then set about to do the task.
May you, beloved reader, find a firm foundation in the Lord God; and buoyed up by the albeit distanced company of family and friends may you find things to give thanks for and the encouragement to move forward. Shalom & Selah!