November 25, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations.”
The Psalmist’s words echo the benediction that the Lord commanded Aaron to give to the people. The words pray for divine blessing. He believes what the Lord can do, what He has promised to do, for His people. There will be blessing, provision that comes from heaven itself. That provision forms the basis for tonight’s giving of thanks.
But what is that blessing which the Lord gives? It can be identified, listed for people to know. The Psalmist writes: “The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.” Those words direct the hearts of the people to the material things which the Lord provides. That is what this harvest season often brings to mind.
The provision of what is needed to live was promised by the Lord to the Israelites. You heard what He spoke to them through His prophet Moses. As the people were to take possession of Canaan, Moses reminds them of that promise: “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks and water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the 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 in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land He has given you.” Here is listed a full catalogue of blessings, more than Sears, Penney, and Ward combined could stock or deliver!
Hearing what the Lord declares causes His people to recognize Him as the source of earthly blessings. He is the One who lets the earth bring forth its abundance. He works through the beings of His creation to give what is needed for others to live. This is what we also believe. We say so when speaking about the Lord’s work of creation: “He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all that I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.”
It is good and right to remember that what we have is not truly of ourselves. We are not the source of it; rather, it is bestowed upon us. We are given access to what the Lord has created and given for our good pleasure. He is the source of what we need to live. And we are exhorted to ask for those earthly blessings in the confidence of receiving them, as you heard the Apostle Paul declare: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
But it is good to go back to the Psalmist’s words and see that another emphasis is found in them. There is something more, something greater that he lists in connection to the promised divine blessing. Hear again how the psalm began: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations.” Why does the Psalmist want God to provide blessing? So that the Lord’s way of salvation may be known!
What the Psalmist speaks of is more than the receipt of earthly goods. While the Lord’s provision of such things may be received—and certainly not refused by His people—it is not all that He has to give. The Lord’s blessing extends to more than the physical; it encompasses the just as real and more important eternal and spiritual. And that is what the psalm declares.
The Psalmist’s words reflect the wanting of more than the earthly. He believes that the Lord does save, does have a righteous way. And it is for him and all his fellow people of God. But the people of God are not limited to one ethnic group or nationality. No, the Lord’s salvation is to be known among all nations. And those who receive it will bring thanksgiving from whatever corner of the earth they inhabit.
Note what the Psalmist exhorts you to do: “Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for You judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth.” The nations—the goyim—that’s you and I. We are to be glad. We are to praise the Lord. We are to give thanks. Why? Is it because we have been brought into a good land? Because we shall eat and be full? That may be true, but it isn’t what the Psalmist says. The reason for such praise is because the Lord’s saving power has been made known to you and me.
While we do say that it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey God for the earthly necessities that He gives out of His goodness and mercy, that is not the limit of our blessings or the worship that is given because of what we receive. It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to the Lord for what He has done. And that especially includes the work of Jesus Christ our Lord who overcame death and the grave and by His glorious resurrection opened to us the way of everlasting life. That is the Lord’s saving power. That is the way of life which He has made known to us. And as it was revealed to us to believe, we have become the Lord’s holy people.
Since we of many tribes, races, and ethnicities have become the Lord’s holy people, we can understand the Psalmist’s words in a different light. Remember what he wrote: “The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.” Those words may refer to the harvest seasons in Israel: “the land of wheat and barley . . . in which you will lack nothing. . . .” But perhaps it means a bit more: that it refers to the people of God who will come from all nations; that we are the earth’s increase—the people from the ends of the earth who have come to fear the Lord.
The Psalmist prays: “God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear Him!” That is what the Lord is accomplishing even this very day. We are the fulfillment of that prayer, just as our ancestors in the faith were. It is not something that we have achieved of our own ability, but it has been worked in us. The way of righteousness has been shown to us who were lost in our sinfulness. The Lord’s saving power has been displayed among us who were worthy of condemnation. These are now our possession—a treasure greater than even a land sworn to be given to inhabit.
So our thanksgiving extends beyond the gratitude shown for receiving our daily bread, “everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body.” Thanks is given for what the Lord has provided to save and sustain our souls. The Lord’s provision and the saving power that He has displayed preserves both body and soul unto life everlasting. And that is what you know and believe because the Lord has been gracious enough to show it to you.
So we pray to receive constantly the Lord’s provision. We do so in confidence that we are His people whose prayers He hears. So we pray with the Psalmist: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations.” We give thanks that we have received it. We ask that others may also have it and join with us in our blessing the Lord. And then the Day of Thanksgiving will not be limited to just one nation, but extend to the ends of the earth.
T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.