the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
In Leviticus 7:15 we see that if an Israelite desired to offer a peace offering of thanksgiving, the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day it is offered. He shall not leave any of it until morning. This particular sacrifice was a freewill offering and was provided as an opportunity for the pious Israelite and his family to fellowship with Yahweh. A portion of the sacrifice was burned as a sweet smelling offering to the Lord; a portion was given to the priest, and the remainder was eaten on the same day it was offered, by the family and friends of the one who had made the sacrifice.
This peace offering of thanksgiving is very much like our Thanksgiving celebration here in modern America. The whole point of the sacrifice was to praise and thank God for his mercy and grace. It was designed to bring a man and his extended family into joint fellowship with Yahweh as they celebrated his love and provision. Since the worshiper could bring a victim from only the herd or the flock, the amount of meat to be consumed in a single day would have been significant. Thus, we may anticipate that the number of celebrants would be quite large – especially if the sacrifice were a mature animal from the herd. This was part of the purpose in requiring the consumption of the sacrifice on the very day it was offered. This is also the reason there was no allowance for the offering of pigeons or turtledoves.
One of the principles we discover in the peace offering of thanksgiving is the need to give thanks to God by blessing others. It is easy to simply say “thank you” and enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling we get as we consider how God has blessed us. It is more difficult to say thank you to God through the practical work of service. Granted, those who put together a traditional Thanksgiving meal now-a-days work hard to serve their guests. Yet even this is typically limited to the people we know best, folks who fit like a well-worn shoe.
Since the peace offering of thanksgiving was supposed to be eaten on the same day it was sacrificed it seems the participants in the ensuing feast would not necessarily be limited to the immediate household or even the extended family of the worshiper Indeed, the more wealthy the celebrant the more likely it would be that non-family members would be invited to partake of the thanksgiving meal.
It may not be practical for you to invite people who are not part of your family to your Thanksgiving celebration. Often times Thanksgiving dinners are planned weeks or even months in advance and involve dozens of people. Nonetheless, this Thanksgiving season I encourage you to reach out to folks you do not normally fellowship with. If you are unable to invite them to your Thanksgiving dinner, make an effort to bless them in some other fashion – drop by with a plate of cookies or some other goodies. You might also offer to help with the Thanksgiving meal at your local city Mission as a way of giving thanks to God. Or, locate your local food bank and make a donation during this holiday season. Use your imagination and give thanks to God this season in a fashion that replicates the principal we see in Leviticus chapter seven; thanksgiving to God in service to others.