Text – Leviticus 7:12
Introduction: We have to go back roughly three and a half centuries to consider the first occasion of Thanksgiving, when the Plymouth Pilgrims sat down for a feast with their Indian neighbors in the fall of 1621. However, we have to go back roughly three and a half millennia to consider the first occurrence of the word, “thanksgiving,” in the Scripture. In Leviticus 7:12, Moses mentioned a peace offering that is offered “for a thanksgiving.”
Over the Years
Though many competing claims exist, the most familiar story of the first Thanksgiving took place in Plymouth Colony, in present-day Massachusetts, in 1621. More than 200 years later, President Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving. Congress finally made Thanksgiving Day an official national holiday in 1941.
Thanksgiving On the Table
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Minnesota is the top turkey-producing state in America, with a production total of 46.5 million in 2011. Six states—Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia, and Indiana—account for nearly two-thirds of the 248 million turkeys that will be raised in the U.S. this year.
In a survey conducted by the National Turkey Federation, nearly 88 percent of Americans said they eat turkey at Thanksgiving. The average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 15 pounds, which means some 690 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the U.S. during Thanksgiving in 2007.
The sweet potato is most plentifully produced in North Carolina, which grew 972 million pounds of the popular Thanksgiving side dish vegetable in 2010.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed 2,020 pounds and measuredjust over 12 feet long. It was baked on October 8, 2005 by the New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers in Ohio, and included 900 pounds of pumpkin, 62 gallons of evaporated milk, 155 dozen eggs, 300 pounds of sugar, 3.5 pounds of salt, 7 pounds of cinnamon, 2 pounds of pumpkin spice and 250 pounds of crust.
Interesting facts but these items are not the focus of Biblical Thanksgiving!
1. THE FOCUS OF THANKSGIVING
One of the great themes of Leviticus is approaching God, which is indicated by the frequent use of the term “offer” or “offering” meaning – “to approach.”
- Approaching God’s Presence
So, if the worshipper was to ” offer unto the LORD” (7:11), then the focus of this thanksgiving offering was approaching the presence of God.
- Appreciating God’s Provisions
Leviticus 7: 15 tells us that the “peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day that it is offered.“As Andrew Bonar stated, “Israel might hereby be taught to offer thanksgiving while the benefit was still fresh and recent,” because the focus of this thanksgiving offering was appreciating the provisions of God.
2. THE FEAST OF THANKSGIVING
Warren Wiersbe noted that “after the priest had completed the sacrifice, a large portion of the meat went to him; the rest went to the offerer who could then enjoy a feast with his family and friends.
- The Menu
The menu for the peace offering of thanksgiving consisted of some animal of the herd or flock, or a goat, accompanied by unleavened bread.
- The Meaning
It is fascinating to consider the meaning of these components in the peace offering of thanksgiving. As someone said, “We may not always be able to say what the exact relation is between the type and the antitype,” but it seems clear that the animals offered in the peace offering – whether bullock, lamb, or goat – – all pointed to Christ, “For He is our peace” Eph. 2:14).
The lack of leaven in the, cakes” and ”wafers” of Leviticus
- 12 further reminds us of Jesus, in Whom was “no sin” (1 John 3:5).
3. THE FELLOWSHIP OF THANKSGIVING
- If April showers bring May flowers what do May flowers bring? A: Pilgrims!
- Why did the turkey cross the road? A: It was the chicken’s day off.
- What sound does a space turkey make? A: Hubble, Hubble, Hubble.
- What kind of music did the Pilgrims like? A: Plymouth Rock
- Why do pilgrims pants keep falling down? A: Because their belt buckles are on their hats!
- How do you keep a turkey in suspense? A: I’ll let you know next week.
- Which side of the turkey has the most feathers? A: The outside.
It is interesting to note that this peace offering is sometimes called the “fellowship offering.” It was the only offering that was shared with the offerer, when both priest and worshipper become partakers of the remaining portion.
- A Lovely Fellowship
There is a lovely fellowship as, in this offering alone, we have the combination of “unleavened cakes” (7:12) and “leavened bread” (7:13), reminding us that the sinless Christ fellowships with the sin-laden creature.
- A Limited Fellowship
However, we are also reminded that continuing sin and uncleanness in the believer’s life brings a limited fellowship, and “that soul shall be cut off from his people” (Lev. 7:20, 21).
Conclusion: It was an amazing thing for the Puritans of thePlymouth colony to sit down and fellowship with the “heathen” Indians of the Wampanoag tribe so many years ago. But even more amazing is that the God of heaven would commune with savage man because Jesus, “having made peace through the brood of His cross” (Col. 1:20), has become our peace offering.
In a letter dated December 11,1621, one of the Pilgrims named Edward Winslow, recalled that preparations were made for that first Thanksgiving “so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together.” He began the letter by saying, “God be praised. And, to that, our thankful hearts can say, “Amen.”