The Power of Gratitude
July 13-14, 2019
I mentioned before that the Book of Leviticus is a book of worship. It gives instructions to them in regard to the sacrifices and the offerings that were a significant part of that worship. There were sin offerings, there were guilt offerings, now we can understand, there's a need for that. Then there also were burnt offerings and I mentioned before, I don't like the word 'burnt', because it sounds like they can't cook.
What they would do is, these were offerings, they were put on the altar, and literally cooked them all night, to wholly consume them. It was like a soothing aroma, wholly consumed on the altar. It represented complete restoration to relationship to God. Really, it's a beautiful picture. Then there were offerings that were considered freewill offerings. In other words, you just bring them because you want to, and oftentimes, they would do so out of gratitude.
For example, they're harvesting their barley or they're harvesting the wheat and they want to recognize that God blessed this crop. That was God's hand that blessed his crop and so they bring a grain offering to say thank you out of gratitude. They could also bring a peace offering. Now the idea of a peace offering was not an offering in order to get peace. Kind of like a husband who brings flowers to his wife hoping to smooth things over. No, it's not that at all.
Rather that the worshipper would bring a peace offering as a way of showing gratitude. In other words, the peace offering, it says there was a peace offering for Thanksgiving. It was brought with meat, it was brought with bread. Some of the bread was unleavened, some of the bread was leavened. Some of it was offered as a soothing aroma on the altar. Some of it was given to the priests who would eat it and enjoy it.
Some of it then was a partaking often eaten by the family that brought it their friends and their guests. It would end up being like a big Thanksgiving meal together. It's a very, very beautiful picture. Now, what's interesting is that the Book of Leviticus emphasizes this many times. It brings it up several times. Here we are in Leviticus 22, he brings this as a reminder of the importance of this sacrifice, this offering for Thanksgiving. It's a vital part, it's paramount that they understand it.
Now, it's important for us, there's an application here. You see because there is power in having a heart that's thankful. There's power in gratitude. There's a connection to our soul. I can tell you; you could do a study through the whole of the Bible and you will find that this is a theme that God brings out. It's important because God has brought a special relationship. When you have Thanksgiving in your heart, it changes your perspective. It causes you to see life differently. It touches on the very meaning of life, the very quality of living.
Now we have a whole holiday dedicated to Thanksgiving, but it's one day a year. In the Hebrew sense of it, it's not one day a year. You need to have this as an attitude that is constant in your life. You can bring it many times. Anytime you're stirred, you can have a Thanksgiving meal, you might say. Now, our Thanksgiving meal, of course, it's for the same idea, to be thankful. It has a long history back in 1621, the pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians, gathered together for a great harvest celebration feast and to watch football.
That last part there has not been verified by historians. Rumor has it that the Redskins were playing the Chiefs.
I'm just saying. I think the Chiefs won actually. Now today, when people think of Thanksgiving, we often associate it with turkey. Here's an interesting factoid. In the Hebrew, the Hebrew word for turkey is hodu. Same Hebrew word for giving of thanks. That's just an interesting coincidence, an interesting factoid. God wanted the giving of thanks to be integral in that relationship to the Lord because God has made Israel to be distinct, unique amongst all the people. Above all the nations of the world, Israel is distinct.
He wanted this to be part of that distinction. Now, this is important to recognize, that distinction is not just national, it must be individual, it must be personal. God wanted that attitude, that perspective of giving thanks to be integral in that relationship. I want us to see how it applies to us, because we're distinct amongst the peoples. God has called us out to be different. You're not in the world anymore, you're in the kingdom of God now, and that brings a different relationship. Thanksgiving and gratitude is integral in our relationship to the Lord.
Let's read it. Leviticus 22 and we'll begin in verse 29, "When you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted." Now he makes this emphasis, "It shall be eaten on the same day. Leave nothing of it until morning. I am Jehovah I'm saying this to you, nothing is to be leftover, consume it all. Keep my commandments and do them. I am Jehovah. Do not profane my holy name."
Let's look at this it's key, "I will be sanctified among the sons of Israel, for I am the Lord who sanctifies you." Now, that's a really key phrase, "I've set you apart. I've sanctified you. You are distinct among the peoples. I've set you apart." Therefore, God says, "Set me apart. Set me apart in your life. Have that special place in your heart for me." He says, "I am the one," verse 33, "who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God."
II. Share the Grace with no Leftovers
That's why I brought you out. That's why I called you. That's why I brought you. I am the Lord, I'm your God. These are the verses I want us to look at. Of course, we'll look at the other verses around it on Wednesday at our verse by verse study. I want us to apply these, starting with this idea which we can get out of this. To share the grace with no leftovers. This is the key to it. One of the differences between the Hebrew meal for Thanksgiving in Leviticus and our Thanksgiving meal, one of the key differences is leftovers.
Leftovers is a big part of our Thanksgiving. People eat turkey and cranberry sandwiches for a week. In Hebrew, it's different. The Jewish sacrifice of Thanksgiving must be wholly consumed. Invite as many people as you need to invite. You're going to wholly consume it all in one day, make sure of that. Invite as many people. See, because if you're truly thankful, and you were to bring this thank-offering, you make sure that you share the blessings with other people. I love that principle.
I was thinking of a story in my own experience. When I was in Bible College, many years ago, I was working as a server in a restaurant. It was a high-class restaurant. We were high up in a hotel and close to the city. I remember this one day very, very well when this small group came in, and they asked for the best table in the house, which happened to be in my section that night. One of the guys had sold his business and was so happy, so thankful, that it all had worked out that he wanted to just blast.
He brought his friends in and he said, “We're going to order the most expensive thing of everything, lobster and steak, and see how much we can spend." He's going to share the blessing and with me. I will tell you now, it was the record for one table's tip. One table's tip, $140 tip. Yes, right. Because I was just a poor college student.
I know. I got this tip right and so then I stopped on the way home and got some sparkling cider and some treats to bring home to Jody. Anytime I'll walk through the door with sparkling cider, she knew it was a good night. Share. Let's just celebrate. God is good. God is blessed. That's the idea. Have you been blessed? See, how much grace has God given you? "Oh, God's given me a lot of grace." Well, then can you bless with that grace? Can you give other people that grace? Don't be selfish with grace.
A. Thanksgiving and peace go together
How much has God forgiven you? God has forgiven a lot. Then don't be selfish with Thanksgiving. If God has forgiven you that much, can you not forgive? Can you not be generous with God's blessing on your life? How much kindness has God shown you? "Oh, He's been so good, so kind." Then don't be selfish with that. Be kind, share that. What we see is that the Thanksgiving offering was part of the peace offering. The point of it is that Thanksgiving and peace are intricately connected. Thanksgiving and peace go together.
In fact, there are several New Testament Scriptures that make that same point. For example, Colossians 3:15-16 where it says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you are 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." It's part of the peace offering.
Now, when a worshipper brought this offering, the sacrifice for Thanksgiving and shared this meal, it was very well understood that they were having this meal with God. See, when we have our Thanksgiving meal, we know we invite our family or friends. That's the idea over having a meal with family or friends, but in the Hebrew idea, it's very, very clear they understood it. Now you having this meal with God, God is having this meal with you.
It reminds me so much when Jesus said "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in, I will sup with him, I will have a meal." Can you just imagine having a meal with the Lord? It's beautiful, isn't it? Powerful picture and the Hebrew understanding was clear. We're having this meal with God. God is having this meal because part of it would be put on the altar, as a soothing aroma. Part was consumed by the priests and the rest by their family, was very clear.
Therefore, with the Hebrews, eating is of great significance. When you eat with someone, it's a great significance of picture commonality, communion, oneness. One of the reasons I love the fact that we eat so much together here at this church. It's integral in the fabric of our church because of the fellowship, because of the family, because of the sense of relationship. It's important.
I remember when we were in Africa some years ago and we were going through this village. I remember we had an opportunity through this experience to see an African family and see how they experienced this meal. It was very interesting but it was not fellowship. What it happened was, we're going through this village and then a downpour, literally a torrential downpour came in. As we needed a place to get a shelter, we happen to have the village chief with us and so he got us into this little hut.
We're standing there by the door soaking wet. They're having this meal and they just continue having the meal. We just kind of watched them and observed. I'm telling you this is not fellowship. Number one, the women are in a separate room. Okay, well, that's not fellowship. Then number two, the guys would sit around and they did not have tables or chairs. They would sit around a common plate.
Then the old man, he would eat some and leave. Then the next oldest man would eat and leave and go down to the youngest, who would have the rest. I said to the chief later, I said, "That is interesting why, why is this done this way?" He said, "Well, it's tradition to have the women separate." I said, "Okay, but why the men like this?" He said, "We want to make sure that the boy has enough, so the old man leaves."
Okay, I see. It's about provisions, not enough food, I see but it's not fellowship. See, the Hebrew idea, oh, no, it's not just about eating, it's about communion. It's about relationship. The Hebrews, they also would not eat with forks, they would take a piece of bread. Take a piece of meat, dip it into the sauce, take a bite and double-dipping is part of the whole thing. Just dip it right back in again and everybody sharing together as part of communion.
When Jesus had meals with sinners, the Pharisees would start wagging their tongues. "Would you look at that man? Would you look at that man? He's with sinners. He's with publicans and sinners." They thought that was an accusation. I tell you what? I am thankful that Jesus eats with sinners, anybody else? It's a glorious thing because the eating with sinners says something. He pursues relationship. He's the one who reaches out.
B. Gratitude satisfies the soul
Then what we understand is that gratitude touches the soul. Gratitude satisfies the soul. In the Scriptures, there are three different meals that they would eat, where it must be completely and wholly consumed. This is one of them. The Passover. The Passover lamb must be wholly consumed. So picture Jesus. Jesus is the Passover lamb, dedicated himself holy to the Lord, holy consume.
The manna. In the desert, they would go out, they would harvest the manna enough for the day and it must be a holy consumed. Jesus said, "I am that bread of life. I am that manna that has come down from heaven, holy consume." In many cultures, eating everything on the plate signifies. It has a meaning. It means I'm wholly satisfied, completely satisfied because if you have a lack of gratitude, then you have a lack in being satisfied.
It's only in being thankful that your soul is filled. If you don't know how to be thankful, you don't know how to be thankful, you'll never be happy because there's always something to complain about. There's always something to complain about. This is a broken, imperfect world. There is imperfection in every single person. I know I'm shocking you. There is imperfection all around us. There's always something wrong.
There's always something to complain about, but thanksgiving, gratitude, it's a condition. It's a condition of the heart. God knows that having gratitude is part of the blessed life. It's part of being filled. It's part of the soul being satisfied. The writer of Hebrews makes this clear to us. Hebrews 13:15, "Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God. That is the fruit of lips." That gives thanks to His name. Fruit is good. It's sweet. It's delicious. It's tasty. That's the idea. The fruit of your lips.
C. Thanksgiving is a sacrifice
Jesus said, "The good man or the good treasure of his heart brings forth what's good. For a mouth speaks from that which fills the heart." If there's gratitude, if the soul is filled with things to God, the fruit of your lips is sweet. It's good. It's blessed. That's one of the things we got to see through this. Thanksgiving, He says is a sacrifice. The reason that we say Thanksgiving is a sacrifice is because in our flesh, see the flesh does not want to be thankful. The flesh, I mean the nature of man. The natural condition of man is to not be thankful.
The natural condition, we want to feel sorry for ourselves. We want to be cynical. We want to be grumpy. That's the natural condition of men. Grumpiness, sarcastic to say every rude thing that we feel. If the flesh doesn't feel good, then we want to know. We want people to know it. If you want to have a full and blessed life, then you need to have a grateful and thankful heart because if you only see the imperfections, there's imperfections all around us. There's always something wrong with everyone.
If you only see the imperfections in yourself and others and focus on those imperfections, then you will have little to be thankful for. Reminds me of an interesting story. I read of a story of a man who wanted to become a monk and so he entered a monastery. When he entered, he was told by the father of the monastery that he must take a vow of silence, but that he would be allowed to have two words that he could speak every five years.
He entered the monastery, he took the vow of silence and five years went by. He sat down with the Father of the monastery who said, "My son, you have been five years now and your vow of silence and you have your allotted two words. What two words would you like to say?" The man responded, "Bed hurt." He continued with his vow of silence and five years went by and he sat down again with the father of the monastery who said, "My son, it's been five years more and you've been in your vows silence and you now have your allotted two words. What two words would you like to say?" The man responded, "Food bad."
Well, he continued in his vow of silence another five years and the father of the monastery sat with him and said, "My son, it's been another five years and you now have your allotted two words. What two words would you like to say?" The man said, "I quit."
The father of the monastery responded, "I'm not surprised. You've been complaining ever since you got here."
All right. That's a great story. The point is that when you learn to turn things to the Lord with Thanksgiving, the soul become satisfied and peace rules your heart, they're connected. They're intricately connected. Look at Philippines 4:4 and then 6 to 7. "Rejoice in the Lord always." Then he says, "Let me say it again. Rejoice, be anxious for nothing." Notice the connection to faith. It's part of faith. Be anxious for nothing. Anxious, anxiety, fear, insecurity. Be anxious, no, for nothing but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and will guard your minds in Christ Jesus."
How about Psalm 92:1-2. "It is good to give thanks to the Lord." It's good. God is good. It's good to give thanks to the Lord. It's good to sing praises to your name, "O Most High, to declare your loving-kindness in the morning and to declare your faithfulness by night." Here's the point that I want us to come to as we look at Leviticus 22 and it's this. That a thankful heart is honoring to God.
II. A Thankful Heart is Honoring to God
It honors God. That's why verses 31 to 33 speak of God's heart in the bringing of that thing offering. It says, "I sanctify you. I set you apart, amongst all the people, you're different." I set you apart. Now, sanctify me. Set me apart. That honors God when you do that. That's why it says Psalm 50:23, "He who offers a sacrifice of Thanksgiving."
A. Thanksgiving is a freewill offering
It's clearly known that you're doing it as a way of saying thank you, God. "He who offers a sacrifice of Thanksgiving honors me."
Here's what we got to see connected to this. Thanksgiving is a free-will offering and here's the point. God did not require them to have a heart of Thanksgiving. He wanted it to be something they could bring of their own free will. I love the New King James translation of verse 29. "When you offer a sacrifice of Thanksgiving, offer it of your own free will," because you want to. When you come and respond because you want to. Your heart is blessed because of that.
When we're training up our kids, we often make them do things that they don't really want to do. Johnny bunks Billy over the head with a toy. So he say, "Now Johnny, you go say you're sorry to Billy for bunking him on the head." Johnny goes over there to Billy, "I'm sorry." The problem is, he doesn't mean a word of it. It's a whole different thing when you mean it. When it comes to our relationship to the Lord, I tell you, it's a whole different thing when you mean it.
When you worship and you mean it. When you say to the Lord, "I love you," and you mean it. It's a whole different thing because God knows the heart. God's blessed when you mean it. It's a blessing to God. God knows. Proverbs 16:2, "All of the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives." God knows. Therefore, we have to recognize. It says, "In all things, therefore give thanks."
B. In all things give thanks
There's an amazing aspect of the Thanksgiving offering that many do not see but it's very important. In the offerings, when they would bring bread, it was typically unleavened bread. Leaven is a picture in the Scriptures of sin and trials and troubles and difficulties. When it comes to the offering of Thanksgiving, it was different. They must bring both. They would bring unleavened bread, but they would also bring cakes of leavened bread in that offering.
Now, there's an important lesson in it. Be thankful for the good things, the unleavened things you might say, the good things. Be thankful in the trials, the troubles, the difficulties. It's not that you're thankful for them but you can be thankful in them. It's like, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Notice that verse does not say, "Give thanks for everything." It says, "Give thanks in everything."
I was thinking of an illustration. I was thinking of the ten Boom sisters, who wrote an account, of course, of their experience in World War Two and suffering they went through. I wanted to just read one little bit of a story because it illustrates the point. Corrie ten Boom writes, "My sister Betsy and I were roughly pushed into Barracks 28 at Ravensbrück, a work camp for prisoners. We stared at the stacks of wooden sleeping platforms crowded into the large room. Only a narrow walkway cut between.
The platforms were three deep, covered with dirty stinking straw and there wasn't even enough room to sit up. We had just arrived by train, along with hundreds of other prisoners, crushed together for three days with 80 women in one freight car. Exhausted, we crawled onto the platform that had been assigned to us. Within moments, I sat up quickly and bumped my head on the platform above fleas. I jumped down to the floor. This place is crawling with fleas. I don't know how I can cope living in such a terrible place. "Corrie", my sister said, "I think God has given us an answer."
What was that verse we read from the Bible this morning? I pulled up my Bible from the bag of war on a string around my neck. In the dim light I read, 1 Thessalonians 5, "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In all things, give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." "Betsy, it's too hard in a place like this." "Come on, Corrie, we must try. What are we thankful for?"
Well, I said, "If we must be in this awful place, then I'm thankful that we're together. I'm thankful that the guards didn't find that Bible hanging around your back, Betsy." I nodded, "Grateful" "Maybe we should thank God for how crowded we are in here because now more women will hear the Word of God when we read it out loud." "That's right." Betsy's eyes danced now and thank you, God, for these fleas. No, I cannot thank God for fleas. There is nothing good about fleas.
Every day we awakened at 4:30 and we're forced stand outside in the cold for roll call. Then we worked 11-hours a day. We were given black bread for breakfast and thin soup of turnips for supper. The only thing we had to look forward to was when all of us stumbled back to the barracks at night. Before we went to sleep, Betsy and I would open our smuggled Bibles and read God's Word to the other women.
At first, we posted lookouts to keep watch for the guards. Anyone caught with a Bible would most certainly be killed. Day after day passed and no guards came to Barracks 28. Soon we read the Bible twice a day, more and more women listen. No one bothered us. One day, Betsy grabbed my arm and whispered, "I know why no one has bothered our Bible studies? I overheard some of the guards talking, none of them wants to come to Barracks 28 because of the fleas." I wanted to laugh. "All right, Lord. All right. Thank you for the fleas.""
Paul, himself, gives an example of this very thing. This one he writes in 2 Corinthians 12:10, "Therefore, he said. 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. I know that God can move. I know that God can act." This is where the believer is distinct from those who have no faith because we know that God is with us. In the troubles, in the trials, in the difficulties and we know by faith that God can work all things in our lives for His glory and for our good.
Even the difficulties themselves and even the difficult people God can use for His glory. Reminds me of a story that came out of the Great Depression. Remember the Great Depression, times were so hard that it was difficult just to put food on the table. There were these two cabins some distance out of town, just separated by a small galley and in one cabin lived a crotchety old man, angry, atheist, and the other lived an old woman, a devout Christian. Every morning the old woman would come out on her porch and she would cry in prayer, out loud, "Oh, God of heaven, be our great provision. Hear my heart and answer my need."
The old man across the galley would hear her and he would call out, "No one's listening to you. You're wasting your time with those prayers." Next morning, she'd get up faithful, stand on the porch, call out to God out loud, "Oh, God of heaven, hear my prayer. Be our provision. Help in time of need." The old man would call out again, "No one's listening to those prayers, you're wasting your time."
The old man at one point came into some money, $15, so he went into town, bought two bags of groceries for himself and then he bought one extra bag of groceries. That night when the old woman went to bed, he snuck over and put a bag of groceries on her porch. Next morning, sure enough, there was a bag of groceries, so she stood on the porch, she started calling out to God, "Oh God of heaven, thank you for this great provision."
The old man was waiting, and he called out, "That was me. I'm the one. I put those groceries on your porch." She looked over at him and didn't miss a beat. She just kept on with her prayer, "Oh God, thank you for these groceries. Thank you for your provision and thank you for making the devil pay for them."
Amen. Let's give the Lord praise. Amen.
Paul writes it this way in Romans 5:3-4, "Not only this," he says, "We exult in our tribulations knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance and perseverance brings about proven character and proven character brings hope."
C. Enter His courts with thanksgiving
Lastly, we'll close with this. When you enter the courts of the Lord, he says, when you draw near into the presence of the Lord, you enter His courts with thanksgiving. You enter. When you draw near, you bring Thanksgiving.
Psalm 100:4-5, "Enter His gates with thanksgiving. Enter His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him. Bless His name for the Lord is good and His lovingkindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness is to all generations." Let's pray. Father, we do thank you so much. You have blessed us over and over and over again. You blessed us. We want to just say it. We're so thankful to you. Thank you, God. Church, today, when the Holy Spirit stir up your heart, would you say to the Lord, "I love you. I love you, God for all that you've done for me and I want to just say thank you for it and I mean it. I mean it."
Church, today, would you say that to the Lord? "I mean it. I mean it, Lord. I love you and I thank you. You've been so good. You've been so kind. You've been so generous. There's plenty to complain. There's plenty that's wrong but I choose today, I choose today to say thank you and I mean it. I love you." Church, would you say that to the Lord today? Would you say it by raising your hand? I mean this. I love you. I love you, Lord. I mean this.
Would you just raise your hands to the Lord? I want to just say it. I want to just say it. "I love you and I mean it. I mean it. Thank you, God, for all you've done. We give you thanks. We give you praise. We give you honor today in Jesus' powerful name and everyone said amen and amen. Can we give the Lord praise and glory and honor? Amen