An Acceptable Thanksgiving


Three grandmothers were sitting together for lunch one day. Two of them complained endlessly about how ungrateful their grandchildren were – so much that they despaired of the impending Christmas Holiday. After some time it became apparent that the third lady was not speaking but only smiling. When they asked her about her grandchildren she immediately replied that they always were courteous and thankful – that in fact every one of them always took the time to come thank her in person for the monetary gifts she sent them. Obviously these first two women were flabbergasted and they asked her how much she was giving that elicited such a response. “Oh, the gifts are never very large at all, it’s quite simple really,” she began with a smile, “I simply neglect to sign the checks.”

She must have been related to the lawyer who through much labor had finally worked out all the problems of one poor woman. She came to him asking the simple question, “How
can I ever thank you?”
"My dear woman," he replied, "ever since the Phoenicians invented money there has been only one answer to that question."1

I guess that’s the lawyer’s take. But it did cause me to wonder, what is the Bible’s answer to the question, “How can I say thank you?” Or maybe to put it another way, “what is an aceptable thanksgiving to the Lord?” I’m fairly certain that it involves at least a little more than eating too much turkey and passing out on the couch in a tryptophan coma.

In order to learn the proper way to say “thank you” to our God we need to start with one of my absolute favorite Old Testament books, the book of Leviticus. While Leviticus describes a series of different offerings that were mandatory there is one type of offering in particular that was
specifically set aside to be spontaneous as a means of celebrating fellowship with God. It’s named the “peace offering”. The peace offering was a sort of communion like meal with God.

The peace offering itself was divided into three types of offering: Thanksgiving (for worship), A vow offering (for when a vow was fulfilled) and a freewill offering (for when there was no particular occasion but you wished to make an offering). This morning I want to look at the offering of thanksgiving.

And now please stand as you are able to honor the reading of God’s word.
Read Leviticus 3:1-5,17 7:11-15, 19-21,28-36.

The Thanksgiving offering.

The Old Testament Peace offering provides a model for us to give thanks to God. It includes aspects of Pardon, Provision, Party and Purity.

Pardon

The thanksgiving offering would normally2
follow a sin offering. In the sin offering the head of the household would offer a sacrifice for his own sins as well as the sins of his family. The sin offering was offered at the altar, but the peace offering was offered at the door of the sanctuary instead of at the altar. As the beast was brought to the door, the one offering it would lay his hands upon the animal’s head and then kill it while the priest would collect the blood which was poured out at the base of the altar (Lev 3:2).

Then he (Lev. 7:30 “His own hands are to bring offerings by fire to the LORD.”) would collect what was considered to be the very best pieces to be burned and present them. This included the fat which was considered to be a delicacy, thus the very best part was reserved for God and placed atop the altar of burnt offering.

Inherent in the concept of sacrifice, is redemption. Pardon from sin is the reason that blood was poured out as a testimony before God at the base of the altar.
Once their relationship to God was restored they would be prepared to worship God with a thanksgiving meal.

Provision

But the meal and the celebration was never self contained. God also used this thank offering as an opportunity to provide for his people. The meat was not entirely consumed by one family it was to be shared and in this way the needs of God’s people to be met. This was accomplished a three different ways.

First, in the Levitical sacrifice, the right thigh of the animal was given specifically as a meal for the officiating priest (Lev. 7:30-32).

Second, The breast meat was also set aside and given to the priests and their families in general together with an offering of bread which was for the priests.

Party

In the third instance the provision turns into a party.

Third, The remainder of the animal was taken home by the offerer for his family to consume. But here’s the rub, for a thanksgiving offering it was mandatory that the entire
animal be consumed the same night.

Now think about this for just a moment. You might consider what this means. Go over to the Moweaqua packing plant and pick up a side of beef (which is just half the cow). You’re going to come home with several boxes of meat. Even if you have a large family, let’s say a family of twenty members – you’re going to have to invite some people over if you intend to eat it all in one night. Deuteronomy 12:12, 18–19 Commanded them to invite the Levites who lived nearby.3

It’s immediately recognizable to see how God intended offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving to Him would turn into a party, a celebration with family, friends and neighbors.

Worshipping God with thanksgiving isn’t to be isolated it is to be expressed. Worship in any form is very seldom a private affair in the Bible. That’s because God intends for his name to be proclaimed with thanksgiving to all the
world.

The last aspect of the thanksgiving offering involved personal purity.

Pure (sinlessness)

In Leviticus 7:19-20 you can see that those where were ceremonially unclean could not eat the sacrifice, but only the ceremonially clean could.

Now in Leviticus, clean and unclean had nothing to do with hygiene. Nor were they synonymous with sin and holiness. They are separated aspects of ritual preparedness. We just finished an election so for the purpose of brevity let me simply say that clean and unclean can after a fashion be compared to being registered to vote. If you’re not registered you can’t vote, if you are registered you can.4

Having said that I want to say that there is an aspect of clean and unclean being relative to holiness. Unfortunately there’s not time to dive into the issue there. Let it suffice to say that the impure were not able to partake of the
thanksgiving celebration.

The thanksgiving celebration is reflected in Psalm 66

I shall offer to You burnt offerings of fat beasts, With the smoke of rams; I shall make an offering of bulls with male goats. Selah. 16 Come and hear, all who fear God, And I will tell of what He has done for my soul. 17 I cried to Him with my mouth, And He was extolled with my tongue. 18 If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear; 19 But certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer Nor His lovingkindness from me. (Psalm 66:15-20 NASB )

An acceptable thanksgiving to the Lord is modeled in the Old Testament sacrifice of thanksgiving. I praise him that Jesus Christ has become our sacrifice. He is the priest, he is the offerer and he is the offering. We cannot come to God outside of Christ, and therefore we cannot truly praise and
thank him without salvation.

As we celebrate this thanksgiving as well as throughout this wonderful holy-days season all through Christmas, let us remember that the way we love others is indicative of the way we love God. Let us therefore love with deeds as well as words, helping those we can with generosity overflowing to praise.

Go ahead and enjoy your thanksgiving feast this Thursday and don’t forget in so doing to celebrate the Lord’s faithfulness and goodness to us. And if it’s not too late, you may want to extend an invitation to someone else you might know so that they can celebrate Christ together with you.

And finally, since we come to the Father through Christ to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving with our lips. Let us approach him with clean hands – untainted with sin and clean with Christ’s perfection.

Have a happy thanksgiving, as you joyfully celebrate the blessing of our God.

2Though apparently not always – nevertheless the order of the peace offering being placed atop the whole burnt offering indicates that it followed national if not personal expiation.

3Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale reference library (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 973.

4ESVSB
p212 Leviticus Introduction.