Giving Thanks at the Lord’s Table
We want to look at "giving thanks" in the holiday of Thanksgiving. To know the meaning of "giving thanks," we need to have a clearer understanding of the Temple sacrifices. At that you probably are saying, "You're kidding," but it's true. We must understand that the earthly temple and its worship was a shadow of the heavenly temple in heaven. The sole purpose of the sacrifices was to bring the people before God, and the priest was to be the one to assist the one offering the sacrifice. Today there is no temple, so how do we draw near to God? By the sacrifice of Yeshua. He is our sacrifice and our High Priest who assists us when we draw near to God.
So What is Thanksgiving?
We know that Thanksgiving is more than a national holiday. It is not about football or even turkey, but about being thankful. As believers in the one true living God, disciples of Yeshua (Jesus), we must be thankful for all that God has given us through His Son Yeshua. The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Messiah Yeshua." So what exactly is thanksgiving? Let's take a closer look; for if this is what the will of God is for us, then we must totally understand it's meaning.
Webster's dictionary tells us "to give thanks" is an expression of gratitude. The noun to be thankful or thanks is from the Greek word charis which means grace, favor, kindness, goodwill, or graciousness. This is why when we pray before our meals we call it "saying grace." The Greek word eucharistia is where we get the English word Eucharist, which denotes gratitude and thankfulness. The Eucharist is a sacrament of the catholic church, and is known as Communion in other Christian churches. So now let's look closer at all of this and see what it all means for believers.
The Peace Offering
The thanksgiving offering, freewill offerings, and the Passover lamb were all peace offerings. We want to start with the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb and giving thanks and continue this subject over the next several months. The Passover lamb was a peace offering, "Shelamim" in Hebrew. You may have heard the word "Shalom" which means peace. Ephesians 2:14 tells us, "For He (Yeshua) Himself is our peace." As believers, we know that Yeshua is our atonement. He is our sin offering (Hebrews 10:8-10), but He is our Passover Lamb also (1 Corinthians 5:7).
These are two different kinds of offerings, and yet I suppose in some respects they are the same because the sin offering reconciles us to God which brings us peace. The peace offering was a voluntary offering and was never offered for sin or for forgiveness, but it was made in thanksgiving or in gratitude in response to God's favor. Leviticus 3:1 tells us, "Now if his offering is a sacrifice of peace, and if he is going to offer out of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without defect before the Lord."
So first we must understand that this offering was just as important as any offering to God, and that meant that the animal had to be without any blemishes or defect. We can not give God our leftovers or rejections, but what is precious or important to us; in other words, it must have value. Yeshua was our Passover Lamb, our peace offering, and the Bible tells us that He was without sin (Hebrews 9:13-14): He was spotless, without blemish, the perfect Lamb of God. Unlike the sin offering, the peace offering was not totally burnt up; only the choice fat was burnt on the altar. The meat of the sacrifice was divided between the person who brought the peace offering and the priest who offered it on the altar.
So the peace offering, thanksgiving offering, and the freewill offering were an opportunity to share in the table of the Lord. It was a shared meal between the offerer and his family, even his friends, the priesthood, and God Himself. It was a time of fellowship between God and man. Peace offerings were made in conjunction with the festivals. Family would come to Jerusalem and offer their offerings, including their peace offering, and enjoy God's Appointed Times with their family and friends. Maybe this is where the tradition of the festival meals came from.
Messiah our Sacrifice
So we have seen that Yeshua is our Passover Lamb, which is one of the peace offerings. We also learned that the peace offering was a voluntary offering. Yeshua said that He gave up His life; no one took it from Him (John 10:11, 15, 17-18). We also learned that the peace offering was a shared meal. Yeshua, when celebrating the Passover Seder (which is a meal commemorating the redemption of Israel out of Egypt, the meal that He was partaking in when He said to His disciples, "When you do this, remember Me"), in His crucifixion (Luke 21:19-20), said that He was the Passover lamb, the peace offering and we are to eat of Him and drink of His blood, symbolically representing the shared meal at the table of the Lord, the Passover Seder (John 6:48-58).
So if a peace offering was in response to God's favor, then what did that have to do with the passover lamb and Yeshua, who is our Passover lamb? During the first Passover, the people were to place the blood of the Passover lamb on the lintels of the doorframe for protection, so that the death angel would pass over them during the last plague of Egypt, the plague of the death of the first born, thus reconciling them to God, redeeming them from Pharaoh; and so too with Yeshua: He has reconciled us to God, redeeming us by His shed blood, covering us (Colossians 1:18-20), thus taking us out of the kingdom of darkness and bringing us into His kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13).
We are no longer slaves to our sins (leaven) and we are no longer in bondage to Satan (Pharaoh). Scripture tells us that while we were still sinners, Yeshua died for us (Romans 5:8). Thus God's favor was towards us, and thus the peace offering was offered, and for this we are to be thankful!
So Give Thanks
Do you know the song? "I will enter your gates with thanksgiving in my heart. I will enter your courts with praise. I will say this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!" Giving thanks was a central part of Judaism. The prayer life of Jewish people is filled with thanksgiving. The Psalmist continually tells us to give thanks. In fact, Psalm 118 is what the people would sing as they went up to the house of the Lord. "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting." It was the Father's great love that sent Yeshua to die for us. We see in the life of Messiah that He always gave thanks (Matthew 15:36, Matthew 26:27) and all throughout the Apostolic Scriptures we are told to continually give thanks (1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:1, to mention a few) and Hebrews 13:15 tells us, "Through Him (Yeshua our High priest) then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name."
We too are to bring our peace sacrifice, for Yeshua has reconciled us to God. We even see a scene in the heavenly temple: the four living creatures giving thanks with the twenty four elders (Revelation 4:9-10, 11:17).
As we began this study, we saw in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 that it is the will of God for us to give thanks in everything. But Romans 1:21 tells us, "For even though they knew God they did not honor Him as God, nor gave thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." We do not want to neglect this commandment to give thanks in all things, for there will be consequences for those who do not appreciate God's loving gift of salvation to us. So not only on this Thanksgiving Day, but every day we must give thanks; when we rise in the morning and lay our heads down at night, we must give thanks; and at the table of the Lord, no matter if it is the kitchen table eating our meals, the Communion table, or the altar that we come to for prayer, we must give thanks with a grateful heart for all that our Father has given us through our Messiah Yeshua. Let's make it our habit to give thanks this Thanksgiving.