- Sermon Notes
Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart
Let’s talk turkey. This week we celebrated Thanksgiving and of course turkey has become central to the whole event which is about gathering everyone together as a family and enjoying an amazing meal together… of turkey.
How did turkey become such an integral part of Thanksgiving? Of course, the first Thanksgiving was held in November 1621 when the pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians gathered for a harvest celebration feast and to watch football. That last part has not been verified by historians, but rumor has it that the Redskins were playing the Chiefs.
Turkey is indigenous to North America and Benjamin Franklin claimed that this made the turkey a more suitable national bird for the United States than the Bald Eagle. That idea got stuffed however, as the image of a turkey on our presidential seal wasn’t inspiring; it may have been more accurate, however.
What’s interesting is that the word for the turkey in Hebrew – Hodu - is the same word for giving thanks. That connection is merely coincidental, but the idea of giving thanks has a long history in Israel; it goes all the way back to the book of Leviticus, a book that instructed Israel in regards to their relationship to God.
God wanted the giving of thanks to Him to be an integral and significant part of their relationship to Him. God had a unique relationship to Israel, distinct from all the other nations of the world, but the distinction also had to be personal. God wanted each of them to have a relationship to Him that included having a heart that was thankful to God for all that He had done for each of them personally.
In the same way, we should also recognize that God wants us to understand the significance of giving thanks with a grateful heart for all that God has done for us.
I. No Thanksgiving Leftovers
- That’s one of the great differences between their thanksgiving meal and ours.
- Leftovers are a big part of Thanksgiving in our culture; some people eat turkey and cranberry sandwiches for a week.
- But the Jewish sacrifice of thanksgiving must be shared with others so that nothing is left over. Invite as many as necessary, share your offering of thanks; make sure everyone partakes to the full and nothing is left over.
- In other words, if you are truly thankful you want to share your blessings with others. If you have received unlimited grace, you can afford to be generous to others. Don’t be selfish with forgiveness or kindness or love.
- Thanksgiving was part of what were called fellowship offerings. Those at peace with God would express gratitude and have fellowship with God by eating the meal with God.
- There were three types of fellowship peace offerings; there was the offering for thanksgiving, the votive offering for a vow, and the freewill offering.
- Several scriptures in the New Testament tell us that thanksgiving and peace in our hearts come together. They are connected…
Colossians 3:15-16, Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
- In the thanksgiving offering, in particular, they were considered to be eating the meal with the Lord. Some of the offering was burnt on the altar, some was given to the priests who ate it as God’s representative, and the rest was eaten by the family and friends at home.
- For the Hebrews, eating together was of great significance. It was a picture of commonality, or communion, or oneness of relationship.
Illus – We had an opportunity to be with an African family and watch their traditions of eating a meal. It was interesting, but it certainly wasn’t fellowship.
Illus – The Hebrews would also eat without forks in those days. They would tear off a piece of bread, take a piece meat with it, and dip it into a common bowl of sauce, thus sharing everything together.
Illus – The Pharisees thought they were making a serious accusation when they said, “Jesus eats with publicans and sinners.”
A. Thanksgiving makes us fully satisfied
- There are only three places in scripture where they were instructed to eat all of a meal and have nothing left over and each of them were important.
- The Passover Lamb was to not see decay, so anything remaining at morning must be burned with fire. This was a picture of Jesus.
- They were to gather only enough manna for one day to demonstrate their faith in trusting God for each day’s bread. There was also a picture of Jesus.
- The thanksgiving offering was also to be fully eaten as a demonstration of being fully satisfied in God and that there is enough to share.
Illus – in many cultures eating everything demonstrates that you are completely satisfied.
- Likewise, the Thanksgiving meal for us is a day of being fully satisfied, no counting calories, just enjoying, eating to the full and having fellowship.
- If you have a lack of thanksgiving, then you have a lack in being satisfied. It is only in being thankful that our souls are full.
- If you don’t know how to be thankful, you’ll never be happy because there will always be something to complain about.
- Thanksgiving is a condition of the heart. God knows that having thanksgiving in the heart is part of living a happy and blessed life.
- The writer of the book of Hebrews captures this perfectly.
Hebrews 13:15, Through Him 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 need to offer a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips because of what it does in us.
- Thanksgiving is a sacrifice because our flesh doesn’t want to be thankful.
- In our flesh, we want to feel sorry for ourselves, we want to be cynical, and grumpy, and caustic, and say every rude thing we feel. If our flesh doesn’t feel good, we want everyone to know it.
- But if you want to have a full and blessed life, then you need to have a grateful and thankful heart.
- If we see only the imperfections in ourselves and in others and focus on those imperfections, then we will have little to be thankful for.
Illus – There is a story of a man in Budapest who had a complaint and went to see the rabbi, “Life is terrible, there are nine of us living in one room.”
- But when you learn to turn things over to the Lord with a heart of thanksgiving, then the soul becomes satisfied and peace rules in your heart.
Philippians 4:4,6-7, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! …Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Psalm 92:1-2, It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night,
II. A Thankful Heart Honors God
- Verses 31-33 speaks of God’s heart that the purpose of bringing a thank offering is to honor, or sanctify Him, in their hearts.
- I sanctify you so I want you to sanctify Me, God is saying.
Psalm 50:23, He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me;
A. Thanksgiving is a freewill offering
- In other words, God did not require them to have a heart of thanksgiving; He allowed this to be something that they could offer of their own free will.
- The New King James reads verse 29 in this way, “And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, offer it of your own free will.”
- When you come to God and respond to Him of your own free will, then your heart is blessed because of it.
Illus – When we’re training up our kids, we often make them do things that they really don’t want to do. Johnny bonks Billy over the head with a toy truck and we say, “Now Johnny, tell Billy you’re sorry!” The problem is that Johnny doesn’t mean a word of it!
- The truth is that it is not just important what we do, but why we do it. If we say we love God, then this will be seen in the way we live, but the reasons for what we do as well.
Proverbs 16:2, All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the Lord weighs the motives.
- But it is God’s best for you and He knows how to bless your life!
- There is an amazing aspect of the thanksgiving offering that many people do not see, but is actually very important to understand.
- In all of the offerings, when they were to bring bread, it was to be unleavened, which was a picture of sin, trials, and difficulties.
- But with the offering of thanksgiving, they were to bring both leavened and unleavened bread in the offering of thanksgiving.
- Many see this as an important lesson of faith; be thankful for the good things, but also be thankful in the midst of trials and difficulties.
- It’s not that you’re thankful for the trials and difficulties, you’re thankful in them.
Illus – Corrie Ten Boom and her sister were arrested for helping the Jews and were sent to Ravensbruck, a “work camp” for prisoners... “Thank you for the fleas…”
- Paul gave us this example in his own life when he wrote to the church in Corinth…
2 Corinthians 12:10, Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
- This is where the believer is distinct from those who have no faith because we know that God is able to use difficulties in our lives and we trust Him by faith that He will work in our lives for His glory and our good.
Illus – During the Depression…
Romans 5:3-4, And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
B. Enter His courts with thanksgiving
- Lastly, Psalm 100 gives us an insight into how God wants us to come near to Him…
Psalm 100:4-5, Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.
- Then when you are going through the valley of Baca, you can make it a spring. (Psalm 84:6)
Leviticus 22:29-33 NASB