“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open unto you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
“And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.
“And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.” – Malachi 3:10-12
A curse had fallen upon Israel. When Israel kept the laws of the Lord, they prospered, they were given victory over all their enemies, their fields yielded abundantly, and they dwelt in security and peace. But in the days of Malachi the commandments were not kept and want, distress, and afflictions overtook them. Then the prophet Malachi was sent to them. He told them the cause of their troubles. They had robbed God. Then the Lord told them through the prophet how they could again be prospered, though He knew that they would neither believe nor obey.
The Bible is God’s message to men for all time. It is true today that if men would keep the Divine laws summarized in the two great commandments, they would dwell in security, abundance, and peace.
But do people believe this? Today there are many who say, “What has the keeping of the commandments to do with the vine dropping its fruit in the green, or the weather being dry or pestilential?”
First it may be said that the Lord has absolute control of all things. By many a miracle He has proved this. It is only the gross materialism of the day and lack of knowledge concerning God that even prompts such questions. He not only governs in the spiritual affairs of men but He determines all things of nature. He created the world and all things upon it.
“He covereth the heavens with clouds. He prepareth rain for the earth. He maketh the grass to grow upon the mountains.”
“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He lifteth up the meek, and casteth the wicked down to the ground.”
But also “He causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth. He maketh lightnings for the rain.” “He preserveth man and beast.” “He openeth his hand, and satisfieth the desires of every living thing.” He is God from first to last, the Alpha and Omega everywhere. The universe is not out of His control.
What has this to do with us? Today our nation is celebrating the anniversary of that first harvest in New England which meant that the colonists had won a foothold on this continent. Little did they dream of the vast country which they had opened up, nor did they imagine that in three brief centuries it would become one of the great nations upon the earth. In a measure Malachi’s words have been fulfilled for us: “And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land.” Many from lands less favored continue to seek admission to our shores. The circle of our national influence has been widening until now it extends throughout the world.
We rightly give thanks to the Lord for all our blessings, for they truly come from His hand. The harvest is from Him, and it is the symbol of that spiritual harvest which is the purpose of life. The Lord is the source of all things good, both natural and spiritual. We have been tremendously prospered.
Yet today what we read in our newspapers and hear on the street is for the most part doubt and anxiety and complaint about our failures as a nation. Are we in danger of falling into the state of Israel in Malachi’s time? Have we been robbing God? Have we been worshiping ourselves, trusting in our own knowledge and strength, without thought that it is God who “ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever he will?”
We cannot foresee the future. But there is a way in which individuals and nations should walk, that the Lord’s power and protection may continually be with them. One service that our coming together today in worship performs is to bring into our lives and into the life of the nation universal recognition of God and thanksgiving to Him, to recall us to remembrance of the many blessings constantly bestowed upon us.
“Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might: let not the rich man glory in his riches.
“But let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.”
We should indeed give thanks to the Lord for our abundant harvests and for the wonderful increase in our material blessings. Still more should we give thanks that the seed of democracy has here taken root. But above all we should give thanks that the Lord God Almighty reigns in heaven and on earth. Without Him there could be no hope, nor blessing, nor thanksgiving. We may indeed say that not all have prospered, that there are many who are in want and who are afflicted in various ways. Yet it is not material things alone for which we should be thankful. There are the deeper things of the spirit. We all know of people who have an abundance of this world’s goods who are neither thankful nor happy, and we know others seemingly greatly handicapped and in material want who are nevertheless both thankful and happy.
The Lord’s mercy is over us in all things. The Psalmist tells us to praise Him not only from the earth, but from the heavens, not only for the blessings that come to us from the natural world, but for the light and love that come from the Lord through the heavens and give us knowledge and strength to overcome all our trials, temptations, and misfortunes. These can enable us to see the Lord’s kind hand in our afflictions, leading us away from false ideals and unworthy motives and from trust in self to a deeper sense of our need of the Lord and of trust in Him. They can lead us to look not at the things that are seen, for “the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Unless the Lord blesses us, we cannot be blessed. Making ourselves the center and regarding as good everything that promotes our selfish interests results in increasing conflict, unceasing vigilance to guard against loss, care, anxiety, and disappointment. When we are in this state we have no one whom we can trust. We have no sure foundation on which we can rest.
The Lord has made known to us the way in which nations and individuals should walk that they may offer to God perpetual songs of thanksgiving and praise. And above all else today we should give thanks for our knowledge of the Lord, and for whatever enlightenment we have received from His Word, making clear to us the way of life.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse.” How do we pay our tithes of thanksgiving to the Lord? Not merely by giving money! The little child gives thanks by its innocence, by its quick and affirmative recognition of the Lord, and its ready yielding to the voice of authority. The youth gives thanks by cherishing good and noble ideals. Those in middle age, who are laboring in the work of the world give thanks by doing their work faithfully, by seeking to serve others, by loving justice and mercy, and by laboring to establish the Lord’s kingdom on earth. And then there are those who are approaching the end of life’s journey here, whose gift is greatest of all because it is the fruit of a lifetime of obedience and trust. We read in the book of Revelation of a song of the angels that no one could learn save those who were redeemed from the earth. “These are they,” we read, “who follow the Lamb wherever he goeth, and who are without fault before God.” They are those who have believed in the Lord through trial and temptation, who have sensed their own weakness and have come into a child-like recognition of the Lord’s loving presence and power, renewing their strength from day to day and enabling them to see the things of eternal life. This thanksgiving song the man who lives only for this earth and its pleasures can never learn.