1688) Reminders to Be Grateful (pt. two of two)

     (…continued)  This story of Isak is not from the Bible, but it is certainly consistent with what the Bible says about thankfulness.  Isak is a man who deeply appreciates what he has received.  He not only expresses his thanks in words, but he lets his gratitude shape his whole life, including his obedience to his king.  When King Olaf tested his servants in the first half of the story, Isak dramatically showed that nothing would get in the way of his obedience to the word of his king.  In the second half of the story, we learn the source of that obedience.  Isak lives in gratitude for all that the king has done for him.  “All that I have is a gift from you,” he declares.  That thankfulness leads not only to obedience, but also to trust, wisdom, and even love for and forgiveness of his enemies, those who are jealously trying to get rid of him.

     Thankfulness, obedience, trust, wisdom, love, and forgiveness—all are Biblical virtues and all are present in this good man Isak, and the source of all of them is his gratitude.   But the story has yet another lesson for us.  At the heart of Isak’s gratitude is yet another quality, and that is remembrance.    Isak was thankful because he remembered where he came from, remembered what he was without the king, and took time every day to do that remembering.

     The others in the king’s court were not like Isak.  They were not loving, kind, forgiving, wise, and obedient.  They were mean-spirited, bitter, hateful, jealous, and self-serving.  They were perhaps at one time deeply thankful to the king for giving them such a high position.  And even now, if asked, they would probably say, yes, they were grateful to the king.  But their lives did not reflect this.  They took their blessings for granted, they were proud, and they wanted more.  They resented Isak’s favored position and wanted him out of their way so they could be closer to the king; and, they greedily rushed into the secret chamber thinking of all the gold that they thought would be theirs.

     Isak was not that way, but remained as humble and grateful as the king found him in that field, tending sheep.  Why did he remain thankful?  Because he remembered where he came from.  Every day he went to look at that old tattered coat and the old homemade boots, and he was reminded to be thankful.  That is the moral of the story, and that is the purpose of Thanksgiving Day.  It is a day to remember to be thankful.

   It is so easy to forget.  It is so easy to forget the big picture of how things really are, and where we would be without God.  The temptation is to see only the little picture, only the person across the street, and say, “Why does my neighbor work fewer hours and make more money than me?”  Or, “How come she is always able to buy new clothes, and I can’t?”  Or, “Why do all my friends get to spend their retirement traveling, and I can hardly get out of bed without help?”  We don’t remember the ten million good things God has given us.  We don’t remember that he has given us life itself.  We don’t remember that he has given us Jesus Christ, in whom we have the promise of eternal life in his perfect home.  When we forget all that we can become bitter, and not thankful; and such bitterness can eat away at our relationships with others and with God.  We can’t be thankful when we don’t remember.

     God knew how important such remembering would be for us.  It is so important that God made it one of the Ten Commandments.  “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy,” says the commandment.  What is it do we do on the Sabbath Day?  We keep it holy by worshipping God that day, and that reminds us of the big picture.  We are reminded that we are nothing without God.  We are reminded that as the Bible tells us, “every good and perfect gift is from above.”  We are reminded again of the old, old story of Jesus and his love; and all of that builds into us a spirit of thankfulness.

     Isak remembered the goodness of King Olaf by going up to that secret room every day, and looking at those old boots and that old coat.   We remember our King and Lord and Savior by worshiping Him at church, by giving thanks to Him in prayer, and by reading his Word.

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     Without such reminders, we will forget to be thankful.  It is remembering that leads to gratitude.

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Psalm 77:11  —  I will remember the deeds of the Lordyes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

Deuteronomy 5:12  —  Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

II Timothy 2:8a  —  Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.

I Corinthians 11:23-25  —  For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you:  The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

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PSALM 103:1-2:

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits.