A Wandering Aramean (Deuteronomy 26)
- Order of Service: Evening Prayer
- Hymns: LSB #895, 806, 577
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we consider Moses' exhortation to the Israelites about the firstfruits offering. Tonight we look at one of the early creeds of the Israelites. A creed of thanksgiving for everything God had done for them in bringing them into the Promised Land.
As we look back through history with the various Thanksgiving traditions, we see one thing in common. They invariably revolve around the gathering of the harvest from the fields. The appropriate god was praised and given offerings of thanksgiving due for the abundant harvest.
If we look back to the origins of our own national celebration, it goes back to the first harvest after the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts. After a harsh winter, the Pilgrims had an abundant harvest. To thank God for His provision in the New World, they invited the Native Americans around them to feast upon the firstfruits of that harvest. Throughout the centuries since, Thanksgiving has lost most of its religious significance. However, we do well to think about all God's blessings in this life. Not only the daily bread that comes from the harvest, but the life and breath which keeps us going in His mission every day.
We look to the Israelite's confession and see God's provision throughout history. Repeated yearly at the firstfruits offering, these words reminded the Israelites of everything God did for them. Just as the repetitive usage of our creeds remind us of God's provision for us. Creeds are to be repeated regularly. So we began our service this evening singing, "Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices, who wondrous things has done, in whom His world rejoices; who from our mothers' arms has blest us on our way with countless gifts of love and still is ours today." This Israelite creed shows our thankfulness.
"A wandering Aramean was my father." Not just wandering, Jacob was near the point of death because a severe famine was ravaging the world. God spared the family by sending Joseph down to rise to power and make Egypt a land of plenty in the midst of the famine. God provided for them despite themselves and their sins.
"Few in number, and there he became a great nation." Seventy souls went down into Egypt to take up residence in Goshen. After five centuries, that number grew to more than six hundred thousand men (besides women, children and the elderly). So few in number, so oppressed by those who enslaved them, but God still provided great abundance in their homes.
Then, of course, comes the greatest showing of God's provision for Israel. God delivered them with mighty signs and wonders. "A mighty arm and outstretched hand." God fought for His people and delivered them through the waters of the Red Sea. He lead them through the wilderness for forty years. "He brought us into this place and gave us this land." God fulfilled His promise to Abraham. Every place Abraham stepped throughout the land of Canaan would be given to his descendants. An everlasting inheritance. God had provided all things for them. God provides all things for us.
He commands our firstfruits back to Him as an offering of thanksgiving. St. Paul tells the Corinthians, "Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and who ever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." But Jesus also warns us, "One's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." God commands us to present the firstfruits of our labor to Him to remind us that everything comes from Him. He wants us to remember, as we often pray after receiving Communion, that He is the "fountain and source of all goodness."
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, let us remember that first, we should be thankful for our redemption. As David said in our Psalm, "When iniquities prevailed against me, you atone for our transgressions." Salvation is God's greatest gift. All other gifts flow from this source. Thank God for salvation and all the grace He shows you every day. Amen.
- LSB #895.1
- 2 Corinthians 9:6
- Luke 12:15
- LSB p. 201
- Psalm 65:3