THANKSGIVING FOR THE HARVEST
Dr. J. (Rabbi) Duncan*
“Lord, thou preserves! man and beast.” Ps. 36.5-8
… Well, then, Jehovah preserveth man and beast. God cares for the beasts; He made them, and He has a pleasure in them. “There go the ships, there is that leviathan whom Thou hast made to play therein.” Of what use are leviathan’s gambols in the mighty ocean? The Lord Jehovah hath made him to play therein, and the Lord Jehovah looks down with pleasure on leviathan’s gambols. He cares not only for leviathan,Â—He feeds the young ravens. They cry and seek their meat from God, and God feeds them. They know not to whom they cry, but God calls that instinctive cry which He has put within them a crying to Him. God has put something into them that corresponds to prayer in man, and He will have that unintelligent recognition from them. Then God cares for the sparrows: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing, and not one of them is forgotten before God?” Yes, He cares for the vegetables: “Consider the lilies of the field how they grow! Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” And it is said, “He causeth it to rain on the wilderness where no man is, to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth.” Wherefore does God so clothe the grass of the field? Would it not be as useful without so beauteous a dress? In the wilderness, where no man is, what is the use of it? It blooms and blossoms in God’s own eye; God himself delights in its beauty.
“O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast.” The creatures cannot give God intelligent thanks; in their own way they do it, yet not intelligently. But man can give a voice to it. God preserves the beasts as well as the men, and man comes as the High Priest of creation Â— a sinner, yet encouraged by the grace of life Â— and gives thanks in creation’s name to Him from whom all good things come. “O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast.” God preserves them in having placed them in an atmosphere for which they are both so wondrously constituted. But the special exercise of God’s preservation of them is in His giving fruitful seasons. And we have met together this day, because, in the multitude of His mercies, it has pleased the Lord to make the earth bring forth abundantly, so as there is plenty in our land for man and beast.
But mark how from this first step, the preservation of man and beast, the Psalmist ascends. Whoever comes near to God in any way must come near to all that is in God; for he comes near to Himself. He comes near to the Preserver, but the Preserver has other characters as well. Thus the Psalmist is led up from the consideration of the food which supports temporal life to that which
supports spiritual, everlasting life. “How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God!” What meat is there for human souls to feed on? The lovingkindness of the Lord Â— on that a soul can feed. It is spiritual food for a human soul, that is a spirit, and the spirit born of the Spirit can and does feed on it. “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God!” “We will remember thy love more than wine.” “Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.” Preserved by Thee, and loaded with temporal benefits, they not only receive them as being Thy creatures; they receive them on the ground of Jehovah’s faithfulness, and so put their trust in Thee. “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house.” “Thy house,” the Church of the living God. … Well, this Church, this house of God, has its fatness, “the fatness of thy house.” The kingdom of heaven is set forth under the parable of a feast: “My oxen and fatlings are killed;” and Christ explains His meaning in words which I need but repeat to you: “My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” You who have tasted therein will not all say ‘Amen! indeed, indeed, indeed!’
“They shall be abundantly satisfied.” In order to satisfaction there are two things needful, Â— that things be satisfying in their nature, and that they be satisfying in their quantity. If a man get a stone, that won’t satisfy his hunger; it is not of a satisfying nature. And if he got a small crumb of bread, that won’t satisfy him either. He has got a little bit of a satisfying thing; all that he has to complain of is that it is so little; he does not want another thing, he wants more of the same. But the assurance is here given as regards this house of God, that the things are not only of a satisfying nature, but of a satisfying quantity. “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house.” If God had given us a scanty harvest, so as we should have had to say, ‘We are like to be almost at the starving pinch this year,’ there would have been cause for gratitude. But God has given us an abundant harvest. And so with the fatness of His house, “They shall be abundantly satisfied.” When shall we learn that God is a bountiful Giver? When shall we sit down at His table, and do honour to His invitation, “Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved”? “And thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.” Shall there be plenty of drink as well as of food? Yes, God will make His people drink out of the river; and so, though they drink for ever, they cannot drink the river dry. Just because they are to drink out of a river God will have a thirsty people, and He often lets His people be very thirsty Â— “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst” Â— even this God, although He be so bountiful, and because He is so bountiful, will suffer that; He will have them have a great thirst, that they may be able to drink of His great supply.
“When their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.” Hear how the words gush; it seems as if God would melt the solid earth into water; and so He will rather than His people should want. “I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”
Well, is He not a bountiful God? Is He not bountiful in the revisions of His providence and in the provisions of His grace? And are we not foolish people and unwise? And have we not cause for ourselves and others to take up these words, “O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” But, blessed be His name, the grace of gratitude is among the other provisions of His abundant table. May He give us grace to eat our meat, which He has provided for us, with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God!
* From ‘Pulpit and Communion Table’.