“Give thanks to the Lord, He is good; for His mercy endures forever,” הֹדוּ לַיהוָה כִּי-טוֹב: כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ (Ps. 107:1).
It is a precious sight, that of family and/or friends, the young and the old, gathered around a beautiful table of blessing, food prepared over the course of days for a single united time of feasting. Followed by, thankfully, careful preparation and distribution of abundant leftovers.
Many have a unique dynamic within their families that make the day of Thanksgiving a collection of cherished memories. For some, it is the enjoyment of hearing what their relatives are thankful for from the previous year. For others it’s the food and conversation. Some enjoy cooking. Others enjoy the leftovers that always seem to taste better the second or third time around. Finally, for some, it’s the enjoyment of a parade or a football game, and, I would add, for a few very special people, the hunt of Black Friday.
Still, Thanksgiving Day is not simply a remembrance of a bountiful feast long ago celebrated by Pilgrim settlers in Plymouth. It is a very real and present necessity for those who follow the Messiah: it is the necessity of being a grateful, or thankful people. Thanksgiving is not actually a Pilgrim or American creation, but an expression of gratitude rooted in the Bible.
Leviticus 7:11-12 says, “This is the law of the sacrifice of the peace offerings which he shall offer to the Lord: If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer, with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, unleavened cakes mixed with oil…”
וְזֹאת תּוֹרַת, זֶבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים, אֲשֶׁר יַקְרִיב, לַיהוָה
אִם עַל-תּוֹדָה, יַקְרִיבֶנּוּ–וְהִקְרִיב עַל-זֶבַח הַתּוֹדָה חַלּוֹת מַצּוֹת בְּלוּלֹת בַּשֶּׁמֶן
The thanksgiving offering, which is one expression of the peace offering, was regarded as a supreme type of sacrifice in the Holy Temple. In this sacrifice, the rabbis teach, all other sacrifices complete their educational purpose, as it teaches of the importance of gratitude.
Ingratitude, in biblical and rabbinic literature, is regarded as a sin that reduces man below the level of an animal, which is why we must be reminded, from time to time, to stop and give thanks.
The celebration that surrounded the thanksgiving offering was very much like our Thanksgiving observance today, as Alfred Edersheim comments, “Then, after the priests had received their due, the rest (of the thanksgiving offering) was to be eaten by the offerers (and their families) themselves, either within the courts of the Temple or in Jerusalem” (cf. Lev. 7:15).
Thanksgiving unto the Lord is encouraged throughout the Scriptures, as examples, “Offer to God thanksgiving…” and, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving…” and, “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving…” and as the apostle Paul wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…” (Phil. 4:6(.
Thanksgiving (תּוֹדָה) in Hebrew means “extending of the hands up in adoration;” it’s a demonstrative action of the body. In Greek, thanksigiving (ευχαριστία) is “grateful language to God;” this is an expression of the heart.
Dear reader, this Thanksgiving demonstrate thankfulness, gratitude, to the Lord in both action and speech. How do you do this? Demonstrate the love that you have for family, friends, and even strangers, with words of kindness that shows the love of Messiah. In doing so, you build lasting memories that will always be a memory of thanksgiving in action, and a lifting of hearts and hands in praise.
Be well. Shalom, and Happy Thanksgiving.