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).