Another Thanksgiving Sunday

There are some books of the Old testament that are rarely read. Deuteronomy is not too bad.  Many of us would have browsed through the book of Deuteronomy some time or the other. However, I am not sure how much each of us will score if we do a Bible Quiz on Deuteronomy.  The Book of Deuteronomy can broadly be split into four parts. Moses, the author of most part of this book, starts by reminding Israelites about what god has done for them, in the first four chapters, and then, goes on to give detailed instructions for godly living in the next many chapters. Then he gives another passionate call for commitment to God. The last part of the book, believed to be written by Joshua, after Moses’ death describes Moses’ last days and the change in leadership. 

Chapter 26 stands out in a way that is marks the end of purely legal matters discussed in the earlier chapters and switches to detailed instructions on performance of two rituals, or liturgy, viz; the presentation of first fruits and the presentation of the tithe of the third year. I would like to focus this morning, not so much on the liturgy itself, but on the purpose behind it and it’s implications to us in the current scenario. When I look at all the persecution that is going on, my belief that the end times are near is getting stronger, and I get a feeling that I am closer than ever before, to the promised land that the new covenant offers in Revelation 21:16-27. So this morning, even as we remember the rituals that the Israelites were asked to perform once they enter the promised land, I would like us to pause and think about what we need to do, to enter our promised land, that land described in Rev 21:16-27. 

Though there are many themes and lessons to be drawn from this chapter in Deuteronomy,  I would like to draw our attention to just three things this morning.

1.  The confession of faith (Vs. 5-10)

2.  Reminder of the declaration (by the people) that Israel would accept the terms of the covenant that God offered them (Vs 17)

3.  Reminder of the declaration (By God)  that God had given Israel a special status, as His people, His treasured possession. (Vs 18 – 19)

The confession of faith given here is a simple one. We acknowledge who we were, we were in bondage, we cried out to the Lord, the Lord heard our cry, and the Lord delivered us from bondage, and the Lord has given us this promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey. All of you would have heard that beautiful hymn, Amazing Grace, which describes our status before and after salvation.

Let us talk about faith. There is a story told by Narayanamurthy, the founder of Infosys. A group of IT company CEOs were invited by an airplane manufacturer for a special flight. They were welcomed well and were requested to be seated inside the aircraft. When all of them were in and strapped up, an announcement was made that this flight is a experimental flight without pilots, using the latest software. They were trying out the new unmanned flight concept. Secretly and individually each CEO was also told that the software used in the aircraft was developed by his own company. Slowly, one by one, the CEOs started to make excuses, and soon, there was only one CEO left in the aircraft and he seemed undisturbed. So the organizers of this test came and congratulated him on his faith on the software product of his company and his software engineers. The man smiled and told them. “Yes, I have absolute faith in my software engineers. If my engineers designed the program, I am sure the flight would not even take off.”

If I ask you this morning, what is Jesus to you, what would be your response? Saviour, friend? King? Do you know what is the  most commonly used title in the Bible, to describe Jesus? It is “the Lord”. I want us to pause for a moment and understand the real meaning of the word Lord. Lord is some one who owns everything, Lord is some one, whom we obey always, Lord is some one who we do not question, Lord is some one who we pay respect. The dictionary meaning of “Lord” is that of a man who has immense power and authority. I want us to keep this in mind and open our bibles to Romans 10:9. Just as the confession of faith given in our reading of Deuteronomy is simple, Paul gives a simpler route to salvation here.   Just confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in His resurrection.  This Thanks giving Sunday, I want us to once again ask, can I sincerely confess that Jesus is Lord of my life? Have I given him control over all aspects of my life? Have I allowed him to enter into my all the rooms in my heart? Can I really say that he is the Lord?

Let us now go back to Deuteronomy and look at 26:17. The Lord, through Moses, reminds the people that this day, they have declared that the LORD is their God and that they will keep His decrees, commands, and laws and obey them. This is the reminder to the people about the covenant that they have accepted. History shows that the people forgot this declaration multiple times. I am reminded about an elderly lady who went to the post office to send a bible to one of her relatives. The postmaster asked her, “Madam, is there any thing breakable in this package?” She replied, “Nothing, other than the Ten Commandments.” Don’t you think that is true? If there is a Guinness record for laws that are broken, the Ten Commandments would make the entry with no close contestants.  By the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord had realised that the old covenant is not going to work with the obstinate people that he had to deal with, and he declared his intention to make a new covenant. Jeremiah 31:31-32, makes this intention of the Lord clear. “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel  and with the house of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was their master,” declares the LORD.

Now, you and me, sitting in this church, very well know how God made good that prophesy. The Israelites were called upon to seal every one their covenants with the sprinkling of blood. Without blood, there was not final covenant. This law stayed, till one fateful evening, one man, took the cup in his hands and declared, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”, and then walked with the cross and got crucified , so that, with one act, the new covenant was sealed. The book of Hebrews puts it beautifully when the author reminds us, in Hebrews 9:15, that Christ is the mediator of the new covenant, that the Lord made with us. Most of us sitting here have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal saviour and hence have accepted the new covenant that was sealed through Jesus’ blood. Can we, this morning, be reminded about the new covenant? Just like the Lord reminded the Israelites through the liturgy of first fruits and tithes in Deuteronomy 26,  He is asking us, remember, you accepted the new covenant that I set up through the blood of my own son. Do you value that today? Are you thankful for that?

Let us look at the third theme that God wants us to look at, this morning. This is found in 26: 18. Here, the Lord turns the table and reminds them about his own declaration, that this day, the Lord has declared that they are His people, His treasured possession.  Let us look at that phrase again.. “treasured possession”.  The Lord has never shied away from expressing his love for the people of Israel, the chosen people. He has repeated this over and over again. The NIV translation records the use of the exact same term “treasured possession” at least six times, thrice being in the book of Deuteronomy itself. And in many other places using various other terms, but conveying the same message. I am reminded about the story of a man who went for dinner at his friend’s house. The man was really amazed to see that the man of the house always used some endearing terms like Honey and darling etc, to address his wife after every request. They have been married for several years and apparently still madly in love. When the wife picked up the dishes and went to the kitchen, the man turned to his host and said “I am amazed at the love that you have for your wife.” The host whispered back, “you want to know the truth? I have forgotten her name 10 years back, and dare not ask her again.” Fortunately for us, our God is not like that. If there is one thing that no one can miss, while going through the bible is the love the Lord has for us, and his desire to have an intimate relationship with His creation. I can venture to say the whole purpose of creation, is to have fellowship. And, this was broken by the fallen angel’s design. Satan too enjoyed intimate relationship with the Lord, before his fall, and, after his fall, Satan was banished from the Lord’s fellowship. This must have made Satan feel very rejected and this feeling of rejection is what is making him continue to do everything possible to prevent us from enjoying that intimate relationship. He succeeded in his attempt through Adam and eve, and ever since, the relationship has never been restored completely, till God decided to come down himself, and make that correction, through the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

A short passage in the book of Isaiah has touched my heart, and I want to read it out to you. This is Isaiah 43:1-4. I would like to read out “The Message” translation of the verses, which really convey the meaning powerfully.  Please listen to this carefully

“But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,  the One who got you started, Israel: “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.  I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.  When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.”

Just go over the last two phrases again, can you believe it? The Lord says “I will sell off the whole world for you, I will trade the entire creation for you, that is how much I love you.” Next time when you are troubled, next time when you feel like asking, “where are you God?” Next time when you feel unloved, next time when you feel like asking “why me, God?” remember these words of our Lord. He says, “I will sell off the whole world for you, I will trade off the entire creation for you. That is how much I love you.” To me, there is nothing more required. No further assurances, no further actions. My Lord loves me, loves so much that he is ready to trade off the entire creation just for me.

And, as if His word required demonstration, He did just that… He proved this prophesy too, by sending His only son to the cross. One thing which I have always struggled to understand is the question of why ever did Jesus have to die a painful death that he did? Why could he not devise a simpler, easier way to win over evil. There is an answer in the book of Hebrews ch 9. Let us go there. This is another of my favorite passages.  Hebrews 9:16-17. You see, if I had a rich uncle, and this person wrote a “will”, giving all wealth to me, the “will” is just a worthless piece of paper till the time he dies. He can change it at any time, and he can destroy the will. A will becomes effective only when the author of the will dies. This is the earthly law. Now consider this, God loved us so much that he wanted us to have all of his grace, the joy and peace and fun and enjoyment and everything, that was taken away from us when Adam and Eve sinned. And God “willed” it to us, and to comply with the earthly laws of making the will effective, the author had to die. And he did just that.

My dear friends, brothers and sisters, do we still doubt at times if God loves us enough? This Thanksgiving day, can we be reminded of God’s declaration that he loved us so much that He gave us his only beloved son , so that all who believe in Him can have eternal life?

So, Thanksgiving days and harvest festivals will come and go. And they are celebrated for a reason. This year, may I take the liberty of asking us to be reminded that we have Jesus to Thank God for, and we can celebrate this Thanksgiving day by,

·      Confessing that Jesus is Lord

·      Accepting the new covenant offered to us through the blood of Jesus Christ

·      And lastly, by knowing that my Lord loves me so much, that he has demonstrated that love through sending his only son to the world, and that nothing can prevent me from enjoying that love.

Let us pray.

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