Connections 03.10.2019: Remembrance, Gratitude, and Celebration

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

In our Scripture passage from Deuteronomy 26, we learn about three ways God wants us to respond to the gifts God gives: remembrance, gratitude, and celebration. When they recognize a gift from God, God tells the people to remember all the blessings from the past (vv. 5-9). Then, they are to show their gratitude to God with an offering that symbolizes their thanks (v. 10). Finally, they are to celebrate God’s generosity by enjoying God’s great gifts!

What has God given to you? How did you respond?

Among my greatest gifts in this life are my two daughters. From the moment they were born, I have been in awe of them. They are uniquely themselves, curious about the world and others, utterly different from one another, intense and intentional, questioning, kind, interested in their surroundings, talented, mindful, hilarious, lovely, and breathtaking. I could sit here all day coming up with adjectives to describe my girls. How can I respond to such a gift?

I remember what life was like as my husband and I waited for their arrival. I remember the first sight of their pink, crying little faces, the softness of their skin, and the intense fear and joy of taking them home and learning to care for them. I remember the long days of being a stay-at-home mom as well as I remember the way the years flew by. I remember their milestones. I remember their delight in the little things.

I am also overwhelmed with gratitude for my daughters. I am thankful for their health and growth, their giggles and even their fights, their sense of fun and excitement about the world, the way they make me laugh and wonder and question. I am thankful for the challenge they bring, keeping me engaged with the earth and its people.

Finally, I am filled with a sense of celebration over the gift of my girls. Of course, my husband and I celebrate their birthdays each year, remembering their entry into our lives with fun parties, time with friends and family, and good food. But we also celebrate them in little ways every day. Watching them figure out their homework. Listening to Samantha play a certain song on the guitar or piano, making mistakes and trying again and again. Enjoying Natalie’s comedic drawings and her funny take on life. Sitting side by side and hearing about their day. Taking a walk together with the dogs and breathing in the fresh air. All of this is a celebration of the wonderful gift of our daughters.

May I always take the time to remember, give thanks for, and celebrate God’s great gifts.

Discussion

  1. What has God given to you? How did you respond to this gift?
  2. What does it mean to you to remember what God has done in the past? Why do you think this is an important response to God’s gifts?
  3. What does it mean to you to show gratitude for what God has done for you or given to you? Why do you think this is an important response?
  4. What does it mean to you to celebrate what God has done and what God has given to you? Why do you think this is an important response?
  5. How can we be more aware of God’s gifts and more responsive to them?

Reference Shelf

“Wandering Aramean” (v. 5) probably refers to Jacob, who journeyed back to Haran in Aram (modern Syria) to make his fortune and begin his family. The references to “going down to Egypt” and “a great and mighty nation” (v. 5) recall portions of the story of Abraham (Gen 12:10; 18:18), however, suggesting the whole narrative of the patriarchs with great economy of terms. The account of the slavery of the Hebrews in Egypt (Exod 1) is summarized in a single verse (v. 6), as are the references to the Hebrews’ pleas for deliverance (v. 7), God’s saving response (v. 8), and the journey to Canaan (v. 9). None of the details recorded in Genesis–Numbers appear in this summary. It is history reduced to the essentials: God blesses his people; they experience hardship and cry out in their pain; because God, faithful to his promise to the patriarchs, continues to care for their children, he hears their cries and delivers them; he brings his promise to completion by leading the people to the promised land. This history of YHWH’s faithful dealings with Israel is the key to its faith in later times.

A striking feature of this and other such historical summaries in the Hebrew Bible is the consistent use of the first person plural pronouns “we” and “us.” Through these pronouns, the speakers of these confessions identify themselves with the whole prior history of the people of Israel. In the speakers’ view, the Egyptians did not merely oppress their ancestors. They maintain, instead, that the Egyptians “treated us harshly, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard servitude” (v. 6). Similarly, they recall (vv. 7-8) that, “We cried to God; he heard us and saw our need; he delivered us, brought us here, and gave us this land,” fulfilling his promise made for us to our forefathers (see v. 15). This sense of identity with the whole history of Israel’s experience of YHWH’s saving acts motivates the concluding statement. Here the speakers shift from historical résumé to a personal perspective and, “in a splendid foreshortening of time,” take their places in the history of salvation: “And now, behold, I bring the first fruits of the ground which you, O YHWH, have given me.”

This emphasis upon the direct link between the current generation and its predecessors constitutes a key element in the message of Deuteronomy, indeed of the Hebrew Bible. “Israel” is a multigenerational community. When YHWH called Abraham, he called all future generations.

Mark E. Biddle, Deuteronomy, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2003) 384.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (14) and Natalie (12), and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.

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