The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving: From Ritual to Relationship

The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving: From Ritual to Relationship

The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving: From Ritual to Relationship

I. Introduction

Setting the scene: Thanksgiving as a ritual

Imagine a family gathering for their annual Thanksgiving meal. The table is beautifully decorated, the feast is abundant, and everyone is dressed in their finest attire. The atmosphere seems pristine, and yet, if we listen closely, we might hear a subtle silence—a lack of true connection and gratitude.

Each person carefully takes their place at the table, but their minds are preoccupied with capturing the perfect Instagram-worthy photo of the meal. Between bites of food, they check their phones, responding to messages and scrolling through social media feeds. The conversation is polite, but it lacks depth and genuine sharing of experiences and gratitude.

In this scenario, Thanksgiving has transformed into a ritualistic celebration rather than a relational one. It has become about the decorations, the appearance of abundance, and the desire to project the perfect image to the world.

II. Historical Exposition of the Old Testament Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

A. Context and background of the Old Testament sacrificial system

  • Purpose of animal sacrifices in worship and atonement for sins (Hebrews 10:4)
  • According to the book of Leviticus, there were five main types of sacrifices or offerings:
    • the burnt offering (Leviticus 1; 6:8–13; 8:18–21; 16:24)
    • the grain offering (Leviticus 2; 6:14–23)
    • the peace offering (Leviticus 3; 7:11–34)
    • the sin offering (Leviticus 4; 5:1–13; 6:24–30; 8:14–17; 16:3–22)
    • the trespass offering (Leviticus 5:14–19; 6:1–7; 7:1–6).

B. Focus on the sacrifice of thanksgiving

  • Description of the specific rituals involved in the sacrifice of thanksgiving (Leviticus 7:11-15)
    • “These are the instructions regarding the different kinds of peace offerings that may be presented to the Lord. If you present your peace offering as an expression of thanksgiving, the usual animal sacrifice must be accompanied by various kinds of bread made without yeast—thin cakes mixed with olive oil, wafers spread with oil, and cakes made of choice flour mixed with olive oil. This peace offering of thanksgiving must also be accompanied by loaves of bread made with yeast. One of each kind of bread must be presented as a gift to the Lord. It will then belong to the priest who splatters the blood of the peace offering against the altar. The meat of the peace offering of thanksgiving must be eaten on the same day it is offered. None of it may be saved for the next morning.
      • Differences – voluntary, person making the offering was allowed to eat the meat, emphasized a personal connection and gratitude to God
  • Examples of instances in the Old Testament where people offered thanksgiving sacrifices (Psalm 107:21-22)
    • Let them praise the Lordfor his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and sing joyfully about his glorious acts.
  • Emphasis on the gratitude and worship that accompanied these sacrifices (Psalm 100:4, Psalm 116:17)
    • Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.
    • I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.

C. Highlighting the purpose and symbolism behind the sacrifice of thanksgiving

  • Thanksgiving as an act of expressing gratitude to God for His blessings and deliverance (Psalm 50:8-15, Psalm 69:30-31, Psalm 95:1-2)
    • “I have no complaint about your sacrifices or the burnt offerings you constantly offer. But I do not need the bulls from your barns or the goats from your pens. For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it. Do I eat the meat of bulls? Do I drink the blood of goats? Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”
    • Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving. For this will please the Lord more than sacrificing cattle, more than presenting a bull with its horns and hooves.
    • Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
  • Thanksgiving as an act of worship and acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty and provision (Psalm 136:1)
    • Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
  • Thanksgiving as a way to demonstrate trust in God’s faithfulness and goodness (Jeremiah 33:10b-11)
    • Yet in the empty streets of Jerusalem and Judah’s other towns, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will be heard again, along with the joyous songs of people bringing thanksgiving offerings to the Lord. They will sing, ‘Give thanks to the Lordof Heaven’s Armies, for the Lordis good. His faithful love endures forever!’

III. The Fulfillment of the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving through Jesus

A. Explanation of Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice

  • Introduction to Jesus’ role as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29)
  • Emphasize how Jesus’ sacrifice brought forgiveness and salvation to humanity (Ephesians 1:7)

B. Drawing parallels between the Old Testament sacrifice of thanksgiving and Jesus’ sacrifice

  • Jesus’ sacrifice as the ultimate act of gratitude and worship to God (Hebrews 10:12)
    •  But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.
  • Jesus’ sacrifice as a demonstration of God’s abundant love and provision for humanity (Romans 5:8)
    • But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
  • Jesus’ sacrifice as an expression of thanksgiving for the deliverance and redemption of mankind (2 Corinthians 9:15)
    • Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

C. Illustrating the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice in our lives today

  • Encouragement to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving through our daily lives (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
    • Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
  • Acknowledgment of the transforming power of gratitude and worship in our relationship with God (Psalm 100:4)
    • Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.
  • Prompting the congregation to reflect on the freedom, forgiveness, and eternal life found in Jesus’ sacrifice (John 3:16)
    • For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

D. In Summary – Connecting the Old with the New

  • The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving is an offering born out of genuine gratitude rather than obligation.
  • It emphasizes the relational aspect of presenting the sacrifice, rooted in a personal connection with God.
  • In the Old Testament, this sacrifice allowed the person making the offering to partake in the meal, symbolizing joyful celebration and gratitude for God’s blessings in addition to the Priest who performed the sacrifice.
  • Looking ahead to the new covenant, it foreshadows the voluntary expression of thanksgiving made possible through Jesus’ sacrifice.
  • In the light of the new covenant, our acts of thanksgiving are no longer confined to specific rituals but stem from transformed hearts.
  • We are invited into a deeper relationship with God, where gratitude flows freely as a response to His grace and mercy.
  • May we approach God with thanksgiving, not out of obligation, but as a joyful outpouring of love and gratitude.

IV. Application and Conclusion

A. Practical ways to live out a sacrificial life of thanksgiving

  • Cultivating a heart of gratitude and praise through daily prayer and reflection (Colossians 4:2)
    • Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
  • Expressing thankfulness to God through acts of service and kindness towards others (Matthew 25:40)
    • And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
  • Choosing to trust in God’s faithfulness and provision in all circumstances (Philippians 4:6-7)
    • Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
  • Remember to pay it forward (2 Corinthians 4:14-15)
    • We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.