The meal the New England settlers shared with Squanto and the Indian party certainly was an important meal, but I wonder if the first Thanksgiving meal wasn’t actually in the Bible?
In Leviticus 7, Moses gives instruction of a certain type of offering called the peace offering. These offerings were considered freewill which means there wasn’t anything that required these offerings. In Leviticus 7:12, God provides details for the peace offering that was for thanksgiving to God. As an Israelite prepared for this special offering, he would make 40 loaves of bread and take his prized sheep to the Tabernacle or the Temple.
Now consider first that this was a celebration before God that took extreme planning. Some of you have probably in the past celebrated Thanksgiving with family members abroad. Maybe you baked the pies and you carried them in your car. Not too difficult. Imagine as an Israelite, carrying 40 loaves of bread and your prized sheep to the Tabernacle that could be a day’s journey or more on foot with your pack mule! This wasn’t about convenience. This was all about worship.
Since the thanksgiving sacrifice was part of the peace offering, it is important that the Israelite would first go to the Temple and he would give 4 loaves to the priest and then the priest would begin to offer up the sheep. The priest would take the breast and front leg of the sheep for his own family. The Israelite would take the remaining barbecued lamb. The law required that he eat this lamb in one day with nothing remaining. Think about our twenty pound turkey and how much is leftover after your family descends upon the Thanksgiving spread! A sheep with maybe four times the meat of your holiday turkey would require an army of eaters to polish it off. This was designed by God to encourage his people to not be stingy. In order for the food to not go to waste, they would invite friends and family to enjoy the feast with them. They would even go into the street and warmly invite strangers to come and enjoy the feast.
As everyone was enjoying this wonderful thanksgiving meal, the faithful worshipper would then be able to give God public praise for what He had done. The meal was a tool to magnify God, not enlarge their waistband.
Giving thanks to God is not convenient. We must purpose to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Remember, the picture of the Israelite at the Temple with the first portion of his meal being dedicated to God which pictured the communion and peace he had with God.As a believer, you have peace with God. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Remember, the image of hospitality as the Israelite was in the street inviting strangers to enjoy the meal with him. The meal was a tool to direct other’s to a wonderful God.
“Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his namel (Hebrews 13:5).
As a parent, one of the things that I have tried to instill in my 3 children is the ability to finish a job. I say that word “have tried” because I frequently find that this is still a skill that my kids struggle with. Often a job of emptying all of the upstairs trash cans will result in trash cans not being put back where they belong. Or the quick task of bringing up something from the basement will still sometimes result in lights being left on or doors still being left open.
So while I continue to work with my children on this skill, we are reminded today that God is doing a similar work in our lives. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Paul says we can be very confident of this truth, i.e. we can be sure this will take place. The truth he is teaching is that God will complete the “good work” that He desires to do in our lives.
This work started when we came to know Christ as our Savior and will end on the “day of Jesus Christ”. Unlike the numerous references to the “day of the Lord” in the OT which speaks of a future day of judgement for unbelievers, it is generally accepted that the “day of Jesus Christ” refers to the rapture, which apparently Paul believed would take place in his lifetime. So what is this good work that Paul is referring to that will stretch from the time of our conversion until the time of the rapture or our death? It is the work of God sanctifying us and confirming us to be more and more Christ-like. God doesn’t save us and then expect us to just flounder around in this world until the day we go to Heaven. But instead He desires to work in us and allow others to see Christ working through us. And if we resist this work? Then God may have to do what is necessary to get our attention. No doubt many stubborn Christians have experienced his discipline or even an early death because they didn’t want to yield to His work in their lives. Far better for us to fall in line with what God wants to do in and through us-with a willing heart.
He was strangely missing. I came to work and noticed one of our coworkers was strangely absent. He was an extremely talented young man. He was adopted as a baby by a family who poured love into him. He was well-liked, so his absence was significant.
“When’s he coming in?” I asked my supervisor. He turned to me and quietly said, “He will not be working in our office any longer.” That was it. It was obvious asking for more information would not be advisable. Later, it was in the local news. A recent sting in the area was set up to catch prostitution and solicitation. This young man was out late that night and was stung. He was caught soliciting a prostitute.
I’ve asked teenagers in youth groups, “If you could have one dollar now or ten million dollars in eight years, which would you choose?” They’re pretty smart kids, and I’m sure we all have the same answer. I could wait eight years for ten-million dollars! Then I share with them, “Satan’s goal is to rob you of the ten million.”
The father’s advice to his son in Proverbs 5 and 6 is timeless. Human nature has not changed in a few millennia. He warns in Proverbs 5:3-5:
For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb,
And her mouth is smoother than oil:
But her end is bitter as wormwood,
Sharp as a two-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
Her steps take hold on hell.
The devil deceives people all the time. “God gave you these desires, so they must not be wrong,” he says. Scientists unleashed megatons of power when they discovered nuclear fission. This would provide consumable power for entire cities when properly contained within a nuclear reactor. It would accomplish so much good. Then consider the radioactive inferno unleashed when the same process is strategically aimed at a nation in a warhead. “Can a man take fire in his bosom, And his clothes not be burned’ (Proverbs 6:27)?
God has provided many things for us to richly enjoy, but mankind has a way of perverting it from its pure and wholesome purposes. Before we are quick to say, “I’ve never committed fornication or adultery.” Beware! The availability of inappropriate scenes in movies and TV shows is pervasive! Would you allow two people to drag a bed in your living room and reenact what you “safely” watch on TV? I dare say most would refuse such a display. How much different is it when it’s seen on a screen in the same living room?
“Remove thy way far from her, And come not nigh the door of her house: Lest thou give thine honour unto others, And thy years unto the cruel” (Proverbs 5:8–9). The guy in my office learned a lesson. If he would have listened to the wisdom of the father in Proverbs 5 and 6, he would have avoided so much regret.
Years ago I planned a family vacation to Canada. To feed all of those young mouths, I needed some extra money. The opportunity arose for an overtime assignment, so I quickly signed up. Twelve hours at a time-and-a-half would go a long way toward goodies around the campfire.
I set off and reported for duty. Not being a member of this unit, I was treated like a brat kid and sent to the worst post there was. This meant twelve hours on my feet in the blazing summer sun. There were times when I questioned the depth of my love for the kids!
It was a “rich” side of town and all day I witnessed the finest cars, clothes, and people whose only worry was what they were going to do with their money. I would be lying if I told you I did not wonder what it would be like to not worry about money. “But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked,” (Ps. 73:2-3). Likewise, Asaph was questioning the injustice. I was in good company and most would agree that we all have wondered.
Amongst this cavalcade, I noticed a street person sitting against a wall. It was coffee time and I brought a cup to him. I started witnessing and he told me his life story. He was an articulate man; not your average hobo. It seems he was a multimillionaire, owned a business in North Carolina with his brother and had a family. By worldly standards, he had it all. He told me he tried everything in his pursuit of happiness and none of it satisfied his void (he had not given God a chance).
I asked if he ever corresponded with his family and he said he only calls his brother about twice a year. He told me his brother always asks where he is at; so that, he can send a limo to take him to the airport, to meet their corporate jet and bring him home. How sad I felt when he told me his brother begs him, but he always says no. He had it all; yet chose this lifestyle. Sadder is, he was resistant to the Saviour.
I was taught a spiritual lesson that day. If I get to feeling the unrighteous are better off, I remember this encounter. Asaph spends the first half of Ps. 73 wondering about the perceived injustice, but the remaining verses show what the redeemed have and the unrighteous do not. In particular, Ps.73:24-25, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” It will be worth it all when we see Jesus! That alone makes us the richest people on Earth.