From Whom All Blessings Flow

Throughout this month, I have been intentionally mindful about gratitude.  I have been using Facebook as a place to post things for which I am grateful.  Most of us live in such abundance (especially compared with most of the world.)  Yet we sometimes forget from whom all blessings flow.  We forget that it is not by our hand that all these blessings have come into our lives, but rather it is by God's grace, gifts, and presence that we have all that we need and then some.  

Today's passage that we will be reflecting on is one of the scripture passages that is typically designated for Thanksgiving.


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.  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.  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. 

Deuteronomy 8:7-18 (NRSV)



Moses is speaking to the Israelites, who have been walking in the desert for 40 years and are on the cusp of entering the Promised Land.  We remember as we read this text, all that God has done for the Israelites, all that God has brought them through.  God has freed them from captivity, rescued them from the pursuing Egyptians, provided their daily bread, their manna in the wilderness, brought water from a rock, and has been with them in all their times of need.  It has not been an easy road, but a road filled with mishaps and trials, some of which the Israelites have brought upon themselves because of their willfulness and disobedience.  Now as they are getting ready to enter this long awaited land, God through Moses, brings a fresh word.


Let's breakdown this text and see what it has to say for us, today.


Deut. 8:7:  "For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land . . .."

 

When we see LORD in all caps it is typically referring to the word Yahweh.  It reads literally “For Yahweh Your God is bringing you into a good land.”  Moses, as God’s messenger, as God’s mouthpiece, is beginning to ready the people of Israel for the coming days when they will enter the long awaited Promised Land.  Moses is reminding them that the most high God, who has chosen them as the people of God, who has brought them through the desert and who, over and over again, has provided for them in their time of need is still at work in their lives bringing to fruition what was promised.

 

" . . . a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills . . .."  

 

Moses goes on to start to give glimpses into what God will be providing in this Promised Land.  Abundance of life giving water is one of the key elements.  Not just that you will have water, but rather you will keep on having water.  It will come in the form of flowing streams, and even the ground itself will pour forth water.  In this wilderness and desert climate, the promise of abundant water gives peace, well-being, and hope.  Water is a matter of life or death.  The place that God has been promising will be a place of abundant life.

 

Deut. 8:8:  " . . . a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey . . .."  

 

Wheat, barley, vines, figs, pomegranates, olives, and honey are elements that make up what we would call la Dolce Vita – the Sweet life, the good life.  Wheat and barley give them the building blocks to make their daily bread, to give them wholesome grains.  Vines call to mind both wine and fruit, especially grapes.  Fig trees and pomegranates expound on this abundance of fruit.  Olive Oil used in cooking and healing.  And honey, which adds to the sweetness and wow factor.  God is not only providing what they need but God is doing it with flare.  Most scholars believe that this honey would have been from dates.  God is giving them a land whose plants will provide for all their needs.  Have you ever had date honey?  It is amazing.  I first tried date honey at a little food stand in the Holy Land.  This land that God is providing is more than they could ever hope for, especially after all that they have been through.  It is like Extreme Makeover – Wilderness Edition.  God is doing a new thing.  These Israelites who have wandered in the desert for 40 years are about to be ushered into a place that will offer abundant life and provide for all their needs.

 

Deut. 8:9:  " . . . a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing . . .."

 

Again, abundance is emphasized.  They will have a staple of life – their daily bread; they will not only have it, but it will be all that they need.  A land without scarcity and a place where they lack nothing probably seems incomprehensible to these Israelites.  From slaves to nomads in the wilderness they have yet to experience this kind of abundance and security.

 

" . . . a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper."  

 

This land is a source of wealth with its iron and copper.  The land around the Dead Sea is known for these minerals.  Not only is God giving them the food and water that they need, God is even providing them a way to make things of precious metals and to have a way to trade with other peoples.  

 

Deut. 8:10:   "You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you." 

Eat your fill.  This phrase implies more than enough food.  And because of the abundance and from whence it comes, the response should be to bless the giver.  “You shall . . . bless Yahweh Your God” for all that has been provided for you.  Moses is reminding them to give thanks.  This land they are about to enter is a gift of grace.  The fruits of this land is not because of anything they have done, but rather a beautiful picture of the grace-filled, abundant God.

 

Deut. 8:11:  "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."  

The Israelites are getting ready to move into a state of abundance --   something this generation has not known.  Moses is giving them godly instructions on how to stay in the will of God.  These parameters are meant for their good (just like the Ten Commandments have been all along).  God knows and wants what is best for them.  God also knows the dangers in excess.  


Deut.  12:  "When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them,  13 and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied,  14 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,  15 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,  16 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."

Moses advises them that when all these things have come to fruition, that they should not forget from whom all these blessings have come.  He goes on to recount, in a summary fashion, all that God has done for the people of Israel, all that God has brought them through.


Deut. 17:  "Do not say to yourself, 'My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.'  18 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."

Once again, Moses implores the Israelites to remember from whom all blessings flow.  He is also making sure that they understand that this gift they are about to receive is just that a gift.  Their labors have not in any way earned them this abundant life.  

When I started writing this devotional, I was sitting on the screen porch of my parents’ house on the coast, typing on my laptop, with my iPhone next to me, sipping good, fresh steaming coffee, listening to the waves crash upon the shore and the wind chimes tinkling in the breeze, with 2 dogs on my lap.  I am keenly aware of abundance in my life.  By the standards of the United States, I am not “rich” or “successful.”  I am a clergyperson, an artist, and a writer.  I do not make a lot of money.  I am married to a clergyperson.  We live within a tight budget, yet we live well.  Compared with the majority of the rest of the world we are rich beyond measure.  We live in a sort of Promised Land.  

Here in the States, most of us are richer than the rest of the world.  Even a lot of whom we would call poor, have more than some in developing countries.  We truly are blessed with abundance; yet, do we truly have eyes to see it.  Do we remember from whom our abundance comes?

Tomorrow, here in the United States, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving.  As we gather around the table, that some of us consider the Promised Land, may we remember from whom all blessings flow.

God seems to always be bringing us into a good land.  Even in the midst of our wilderness and desert experiences in life, we serve a God of abundance, a God who is always making things new.  So, when we feel we are in the deserts of life, let us remember the LORD our God who continues to carry us through and brings us into places of living water and abundance.  

Moses has been encouraging the people of Israel to cultivate habits of gratitude.  We, like the Israelites, sometimes forget from whom all belssings flow.  We, too, need to cultivate lives of gratitude (not just in the month or days in November).  One of the ways of cultivating a spirit of thanksgiving is to keep a gratitude journal.  People of all ages can participate in this activity.  What if each evening, at the close of the day, you as an individual or as a family, sat down and either shared aloud, or wrote down something you were grateful for that particular day.  In the world of abundance in which we live, we can keep choosing gratitude.  

Choosing gratitude acts as a paradigm shift.  When we choose gratitude and remeber from whom all blessings flow we learn to give thanks in all circumstances.  We also remember how connected we are to God who is our source of life, love, and goodness.

When life is going well, we sometimes forget our need for God, whom is our source of all good gifts.  And then when things are not going well, we tend to blame God or complain.  Yet scripture teaches us to give thanks in all circumstances.  We are to be thankful in our abundance.  And we are to be thankful in our suffering.  We are to be thankful when we have everything we could ever want.  And we are to be thankful when we have just barely what we need. 

In today’s text, as God gives a word of insight, God shows that God is well aware that when we have everything going for us, we can forget our need for God and forget all that God has done.

Remembering what God has done helps us to trust that God will continue to do what God has promised.  As we look toward Advent we are reminded that God is doing a new thing.  God is redeeming and freeing all of creation from its bondage and decay.  Today’s text leads us well into the season of Advent where we are encouraged to give thanks in all circumstances.  Because we know of God’s immeasurable love for us, that God breaks in on our scene bringing new life, hope, and redemption it helps sustain us with hearts of gratitude.  May we see the grace in simple abundance.  May we praise God in all circumstances.

As you celebrate Thanksgiving, tomorrow, may you be aware of the many blessings in your life.  Before you dive into those mashed potatoes, pause and give thanks.  May we start to shift our mindset to remember from whom all blessings flow.  In gratitude we come surrendering our lives to God.  Have a blessed Thanksgiving!


 



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