Eat, Love, PrayAugust 13, 2012 - 5:00 am
“You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.” — Joel 2:26
The prophet Joel says: “You will have plenty to eat, until you are full and you will praise the name of the Lord your God . . .” This is a direct paraphrase of Deuteronomy 8:10, which states: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” In both places, the message is that earth’s bounty is a blessing from God and we should recognize that with gratefulness.
However, the Torah worries that instead of being grateful, we will become forgetful. Just two verses later we read, “Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God . . .” (Deuteronomy 8:12–14).
How ironic! Just when we should be the most thankful, we are the least grateful. Instead of encouraging us to thank God, our many blessings lead us away from Him. It seems that when we are hungry and needy, we naturally turn toward God. But once He has satisfied our needs, we no longer need Him.
The saying goes, “you should remember who butters your bread,” but the Torah teaches us that man’s nature is to forget who gave him his bread in the first place.
This is why the Torah encourages us to make blessings not just before we eat but after we are satisfied as well. Deuteronomy 8:10 is the source for the Jewish practice of reciting a grace after meals. In doing so, we combat our human nature to forget who satisfied our needs once they are taken care of. We take extra care to remember that our satisfaction – in all areas of our lives – is a direct blessing from God.
If the Scripture’s encouragement is not enough to convince us to thank God once we are satisfied, then history should be. The prophets remind us repeatedly that every time the children of Israel took their blessings for granted, they lost them. Every time they forgot about God, He appeared to forget about them.
We can understand Joel’s verse this way: “You will have plenty to eat . . . and you will praise the name of the LORD . . .” Then, because you paused to say thank you, “never again will my people be shamed.” When we are thankful for our blessings, we become worthy of keeping them.
Don’t wait until your blessings are gone to appreciate them. We live in a time of unprecedented abundance. We dare not squander the opportunity to be grateful.