The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving
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“Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing.”—Psalm 107:21–221
The sacrifice of thanksgiving is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. It is first mentioned in Leviticus 7:11–15. These verses seem to indicate that the sacrifice of thanksgiving is actually a peace offering that is motivated by thanksgiving. This type of offering included an animal sacrifice as well as various sorts of cereal or bread offerings.
There are several features that characterize this sacrifice of thanksgiving. The first is that, like all peace offerings, it was a voluntary offering. It was not prescribed or required by God. It was offered by the worshiper on those occasions when he was motivated to express thanksgiving to God. The sacrifice was willingly presented to the Lord with a heart of joy and gratitude.
In addition, the sacrifice of thanksgiving, again like all peace offerings, was shared among the Lord, the priest, and the worshiper. This contrasted with other types of offerings, which were either entirely consumed (except for the skin) on the altar as an offering to the Lord or partly burned on the altar and partly consumed by the priest. …
Through this sacrifice, then, the worshipers celebrated together before God the blessings enjoyed through a relationship with God characterized by peace and wholeness. A sense of communion with and nearness to God resulted from the presentation of a gift to God, a portion of which God then graciously shared with the worshiper. This sense of generosity and communion was expanded as the worshiper in turn shared his portion of the offering with family and friends.
While the Old Testament system of animal sacrifice is now obsolete for the Christian due to the sacrificial death of Jesus, there are some principles here that continue to speak to us today. Though thankful hearts honor God and benefit us, God does not coerce or demand sacrifices of thanksgiving. Expressions of thanksgiving that flow freely from the depths of the heart are profound and meaningful for all concerned. And so God encourages and provides a vehicle for communicating and demonstrating the intensity of our gratitude.
In addition, it is appropriate and advantageous for us to express our thankfulness in such a way that it spills over to others. Certainly gratitude should be felt and expressed to God, who is the ultimate source of all beneficence and blessing in our lives. But maybe it shouldn’t stop there. Maybe the kindness and generosity of God should be an impetus to get us to express to others the same kindness and generosity that we have experienced.—Joy Mosbarger2
Sacrifices that cost
“I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.”—Psalm 116:173
A sacrifice is a thing that costs. … If thanksgiving, then, is described as a sacrifice, then biblical thanksgiving costs. It isn’t an overflow of the extra. … We have been given so much, from the daily provision of breath and existence to the provision of eternal security through the labor of Jesus Christ. If true thanksgiving is a sacrifice, what are we sacrificing? Anything that takes away or diminishes the favors God has shown to us.
We sacrifice our complaints. It is one thing to be aware of a situation that is not right and try to correct it, but it is another to grow bitter about something that you cannot change. It’s not good to be complacent, but many times God places His children in situations in order for them to grow and mature. If discontentment is our response to the will of God, then we have no room in our hearts for true thanksgiving. We have to realize we have no right to complain about things that God Himself ordained for our ultimate benefit and for His glory. Instead, give thanks that He cares enough to strengthen us in our spiritual walk.
We sacrifice our fears. If God feeds the sparrows and clothes the flowers,4 do we really have a right to live in distress? There are times when concern is appropriate, and it is foolish to go through life in the fantasy that everything is going to be sunshine and rainbows. But … He has said that He is the protector of His children. We have no right or reason to live as if He is too weak to control our situation. True thankfulness requires that we sacrifice our fears.
We sacrifice our wants. This is a tough one for anybody. We all have things we want to achieve, and most of the time these are good things. Wealth, good health, security, all these things are beneficial. But all too often these desires can become a distraction from God’s provision and will for our lives. … True thankfulness requires that we sacrifice our wants.
What is truly needed is an eternal perspective. Think on this: God, the one who is completely satisfied in Himself and had no need of us at all, has condescended to set His love on us and rescue us from eternal just condemnation. Not only that, but every day we are surrounded by evidence of His grace, and led onward by the promise of being made like Jesus Christ, able to dwell in the presence of God without a barrier or mediator to go between.
Suddenly the cares and concerns of our daily lives shrink. When our eyes are finally open to God’s provision, both for our earthly and eternal lives, our complaints, fears, and selfish wants become so trivial.—Jordan Chamblee5
A continual offering
“At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the LORD with music.”—Psalm 27:66
I was listening to the Bible, and something struck me as very interesting and inspiring. In Psalm 50, starting in verse 9, God points out that He has no need for meat sacrifices. In fact, everything is His already. However, what He really desires is that we offer to Him the “sacrifice of thanksgiving.”7 Thanksgiving comes from the Hebrew word yadah and can mean “adoration, a choir of worshippers, confession, praise, thanks (-giving, offering).”8
At first, I asked myself, how is it a sacrifice to give God thanks? Well, the truth is, sometimes it isn’t easy. … We are to thank God “in all circumstances” because this is God’s will for us.9 It is God’s will for us to thank Him always, every day, no matter what we are going through. …
It isn’t a sacrifice to thank God when everything is going great. In fact, it is pretty easy to thank Him when we are joyful and happy. However, does being thankful during the good times make us any different than the rest of the world? We are to be set apart, a unique people, His people, etc. What better way to show the world that we are different than by being thankful, even if from all outside appearances we “shouldn’t” be. Just think how different we are from the world when we praise our Father and Christ during trials rather than grumbling or complaining. …
Therefore, “let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”10 So, instead of … giving in to the negativity of the world, look around to find something to be thankful for, because as long as we have the breath of life within us, we should use it for God’s glory.—Brandy Webb11
Prayer of thanksgiving
Jesus, thank You for life and all it involves. When something goes wrong, we often say, “That’s life!” But life is so much more than the little things that don’t turn out the way we wish they had.
Waking up each morning with eyes that see and ears that hear—that’s life!
Talking with a child and catching a glimpse of the world through those innocent eyes—that’s life!
Pausing in the middle of a hectic day to watch a bird soar or a butterfly flit among the flowers—that’s life!
Chatting with an old friend and remembering just how special that friendship is—that’s life!
Receiving an unexpected word of encouragement—that’s life!
Holding a newborn baby and catching his first smile—that’s life!
Walking in nature, taking in its sights and sounds, and breathing that fresh air—that’s life!
Lying down to sleep at night and thanking God for all the blessings that the day brought—that’s life!—Bonita Hele
Published on Anchor November 2020. Read by Jon Marc. Music by Michael Dooley.
4 Matthew 6:26–34.
7 V. 14.
8 Strong’s Concordance.
9 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
10 Hebrews 13:15–16 NAS.