Thursday, January 22, 2009

THANKSGIVING TIME!

The subject of thanksgiving came to me recently during a time of great personal heaviness. At the time, our church building needed major work. Parishioners’ problems were piling up. Everyone I knew seemed to be going through some kind of trial. And I was feeling the burden of it all.

I went into my office and sat down, feeling sorry for myself. I began to complain to God: “Lord, how long will you keep me in this fire? How long do I have to pray about all these things before you’ll do something? When are you going to answer me, God?”

Suddenly, the Holy Spirit fell upon me—and I felt ashamed. The Spirit whispered to my heart, “Just begin to thank me right now, David. Bring to me a sacrifice of thanksgiving—for all the past things I’ve done for you, and for what I’m going to do in the future. Give me an offering of thanksgiving—and suddenly everything will look different!”

Those words settled in my spirit. But I wondered: “What does the Lord mean, ‘a sacrifice of thanksgiving’?” I looked up the phrase in Scripture and was amazed at all the references I found:

“Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:22).
“I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:17).
“Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2).
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4).

We live in a day when our high priest, Jesus, has already presented the sacrifice of his own blood to the Father to make atonement for our sins. Christ has wiped out all our transgressions, never to be remembered against us. So, for us, the work of atonement is finished.

Yet, like the Israelites, we also are to come into the Lord’s courts as Psalm 100 says—with thanksgiving and praise. And we are to bring with us two “goats.” “Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips” (Hosea 14:2). The word “calves” here represents our lips, or words. The full meaning of this phrase in Hebrew is, “We will offer young bullocks, even our lips.”

Our offering of thanksgiving is to be made with the two goats we bring—an offering of our lips, or voices. God is saying, “Bring into my presence your words of thanksgiving. Speak, sing out your praises to me!”

We are no longer to bring to God sacrifices of blood or offerings of silver and gold for atonement. Instead, we are to bring him a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving from our lips: “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15). The “fruit of our lips” is gratitude and thanks!