“Is There Anything in America to Be Thankful for Anymore?” (Psalm 73; Malachi 3:13-18; Deuteronomy 8:1-10)

Day of National Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 24, 2022

“Is There Anything in America to Be Thankful for Anymore?” (Psalm 73; Malachi 3:13-18; Deuteronomy 8:1-10)

The fourth Thursday in November is set aside to be the Day of National Thanksgiving. That’s the reason why we have the day off from work. Because this is when all Americans are supposed to go to their churches and give thanks to God for his blessings on our nation.

Ha! Yeah, right. How many people actually do that? Not many. Give thanks to God on Thanksgiving Day? Are you kidding? That would interfere with our Thanksgiving! No, we need the time to baste the turkey. We need the time to get the house spiffed up for our guests. We need to watch the football pregame shows. Or, depending on which gender you identify with, we need to binge-watch some Hallmark Christmas movies. Anything but going to church and giving thanks to God!

“Thanksgiving” seems to be an odd idea in our culture these days. Because it implies that we are to give thanks to God. And God seems to have vanished from our national consciousness. For most Americans, is there a vital awareness of God’s existence and involvement in our lives? I think not.

Oh, well, but you are here for this Thanksgiving service. And that’s good. It’s good, right, and proper that we gather and give thanks to God for his blessings on our country.

But wait! Have you looked at our country lately? What a mess it has become! We have to ask the question: “Is There Anything in America to Be Thankful for Anymore?”

Frankly, we have to wonder. Every day we look at the news, and it looks like there’s not much to be thankful for. Bad things are happening all over, things that go against God’s will. And it seems like most Americans are okay with that. They even approve.

For example, did you know that Congress recently passed a bill called the “Respect for Marriage Act”? It kind of flew under the radar. The House passed a version of it in July, and the Senate voted in favor of it last week. Now the final version will go back to the House for approval before going to President Biden to sign into law.

Why is the “Respect for Marriage Act” a bad thing? Because it actually shows disrespect for marriage. This act will federalize homosexual marriage, whereas true marriage is meant to be between a man and a woman. And most of our representatives, the people we elect, are fine with this. That’s how sick America has become.

Another example: Crime in our cities. Now there has always been crime. Duh. Street crime, violent crime. And in our cities now, there are plenty of carjackings, muggings, flash mobs rushing in and stealing merchandise from stores, that sort of thing. But what’s different now is that many prosecuting attorneys–again, the result of our elections–the prosecutors are choosing not to prosecute. So, without the threat of punishment, the criminals are emboldened to rob and steal all the more.

So it looks like the bad guys are winning, all across our land. And what is God doing about it? Nothing, it seems. But then this is nothing new. It had seemed that way to the writer of Psalm 73. He sees the bad guys winning, and he says: “They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace.” “They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.” “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.”

In other words, why do the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper? This is the classic conundrum that has beleaguered believers throughout the ages. If this is the case, if God isn’t going to do anything about it, then what’s the use? And so the psalmist was thinking, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.”

Likewise, at the time of Malachi, people were saying: “It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.”

But here’s the problem with that kind of thinking. When we think like that–when we only focus on how the bad guys are getting away with things–then we are tempted to ignore our own sins, for which we ourselves ought to be punished. Just because we may know better and act better than the really bad people, this doesn’t mean that we are without sin. No, we are sinners, too.

And yet God treats us better than we deserve. In spite of our sins, both personal and national, God has blessed our country abundantly. Like the ancient Israelites, God has blessed us with “a good land, a land of brooks of 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.” That’s God treating us and the Israelites better than we or they deserve. Moses would remind the Israelites: “Do not say in your heart, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’. . . . Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.”

Friends, that’s us. That’s America. We are a stubborn people, a sinful people. And we’re not getting any better. So it’s not because of our righteousness or the uprightness of our heart that God has given us this good land. It’s because of how merciful and gracious God is. He treats us better than we deserve. God provides for us. He preserves and protects us. Why? It’s like we learned in the catechism: “All this he does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.”

So it is not true to say that there is nothing to thank God for in America anymore. That’s not true, because he is still blessing us big-time, in spite of our sins. And beyond what God is doing now in giving us these temporal blessings of abundance in our land, there is even more that God will do. He will straighten out the injustices of this life in the end. Then we will see a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve and acknowledge God, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, those who despise God and spit in his face and mock his people and think they’re getting away with it. Because in the end, they will be laughing no longer. A day is coming, says Malachi, when “you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”

But how will we survive on that day? Again, it will be because of God’s mercy and grace, not because of anything in us. We will survive, we will rise to eternal life on the day of judgment, because of God’s great mercy in Christ. Christ Jesus, our incarnate Lord, lived and died for us to win our salvation. His shed blood forgives our sins. His perfect righteousness makes up for our lack of righteousness. His resurrection becomes our resurrection. You are baptized. You are trusting in Christ’s merits for your salvation. Because he lives, we shall live also.

And so, after pondering the perplexity of the bad guys seemingly winning, but then realizing the final outcome of things, the writer of Psalm 73 can conclude–and we can pray with him to the Lord: “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.”

This is the good news of God’s grace and mercy! And here in America, you can still hear this good news of the gospel of Christ. We can still assemble here in our churches and practice our religion. They have not shut us down yet. And we pray that they will not be able to do so.

So, is there anything in America to be thankful for anymore? Oh, yes, there is much to be thankful for! God treats us better than we deserve. In spite of our sins, he continues to provide us with an abundance of material blessings. And even more than that, the saving gospel of Christ can still be heard in our land. Friends, this is something to be thankful for! Not all nations have this blessing like we do. In fact, this has been and still is our country’s greatest blessing: the presence of the church of Christ and the gospel of Christ in our great land! May we never forget this! May we especially give thanks to God today for this, his greatest blessing! “Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endureth forever!”

Published in: on November 23, 2022 at 10:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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