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A Thanksgiving Sermon (Why Three Jewish Thanksgiving Festivals) October 26, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Leviticus, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.


Although I have not been able to verify this with 100% certainty, it appears that the Jewish culture that was established by Moses in the wilderness is the only culture to have multiple harvest festivals within the year. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was held in early spring in conjunction with the Passover and celebrated among other things the barley harvest. Then fifty days later in late spring the wheat harvest was celebrated by the Feast of Weeks (the Feast on which we are focusing this morning). Finally, at the end of the fall the Feast of Tabernacles was held to celebrate the final harvest before the winter begins.

I want us to understand this morning why God through Moses established three thanksgiving feasts. As far as we are concerned, a thanksgiving festival at the end of the year, like our American Thanksgiving seems to be sufficient. There is not a clamor for another time to give thanks among us, irregardless of our religiosity. Certainly, here in Vermont it would be possible to have a thanksgiving feast in late winter when the sugaring season starts. We could also have one, say in July when the various berries are being harvested. But we do not. One thanksgiving feast is enough for us, even for us Christians.

It was not, however, enough for God. Today we want to understand of the thanksgiving feasts and also focus on understanding what God demands from us as believers in Jesus Christ, as illustrated by these thanksgiving feasts.

God wanted the heads of the households to present themselves before him three times a year (Compare verses 18-21 with Exodus 34:22-27). These three times had several things in common. They were intended to celebrate a harvest. They were also intended as a time of free will offering to God based on how God had blessed them.

Psalm 84 illustrates for us the attitude that these people were to have when they came before God.

1 ¶ To the Chief Musician. On an instrument of Gath. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts!

2 My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

3 Even the sparrow has found a home, And the swallow a nest for herself, Where she may lay her young––Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, My King and my God.

4 Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; They will still be praising You. Selah

5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.

6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, They make it a spring; The rain also covers it with pools.

7 They go from strength to strength; Each one appears before God in Zion.

8 ¶ O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah

9 O God, behold our shield, And look upon the face of Your anointed.

10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.

12 O LORD of hosts, Blessed is the man who trusts in You!

As you can see, these three times of presentation before the Lord were intended to be times to be anticipated and intended to be times when faith in God was expressed in a special way. Remember, these men were not allowed to enter the tabernacle or the temple. The reason that these times were exciting, was because they had the opportunity to sacrifice together to their God. The particular feast that we are looking at this morning is the Feast of Weeks. There are three types of animal sacrifices that were associated with this feast that help us to understand what it means to present yourself before God.

The first offering mentioned is the burnt offering (verse 18) with which they would consecrate themselves before God. This is a general sacrifice for the purpose of dedicating yourself or something to God. It was most often offered with a grain offering and a drink offering. It was intended to be a sweet aroma to the LORD. This offering reminds us that true thanksgiving goes hand in hand with dedication to God, with submission to His will. Psalm 116:16-17 says, “O LORD, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, And will call upon the name of the LORD.” It is one thing to be grateful, it is quite another to submit yourself to the one who has shown you kindness. When someone shows a kindness toward me, I appreciate it. I say, “Thank you.” Perhaps I will even seek a way to return the favor. This goes much deeper though. This is someone who recognizes God’s kindness toward them as well as His Lordship over them and they submit themselves to God. If your thanksgiving to God is not characterized by submission and dedication to God, then you are not thankful in the way that God demands.

Then there is the sin offering, given to make atonement for sin (verse 19a). There is a sense in which that all the sacrifices were a recognition of one’s own sin and provision for forgiveness but the sin offerings were sacrifices specifically offered so that one might have forgiveness of sin. This is the primary picture that we have in the New Testament, that of the sacrifice that Christ paid for our sin on the cross. He died as the sacrifice for my sin. He is my sin offering. Ps 107:17-22, “(17) Fools, because of their transgressions and because of their iniquities were afflicted. (19) Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble and He saved them out of their distresses. (22) Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, And declare His works with rejoicing.” Someone who refuses to acknowledge their sinfulness and God’s provision of forgiveness cannot be thankful because they have not received God’s blessing. They may have a good harvest. They may have the blessings of the earth. All that does is condemn them because, according to Romans 1, they take from the one who created them and then worship another, descending into all manners of sin and evildoing. It is essential, for a man to truly be thankful, to deal with his sin problem, otherwise, he cannot present himself before God. Otherwise, God will refuse him and cast him out.

Finally, there is the peace offering, give in order to thank God for His blessings (two loaves of leavened bread with a peace offering, verses 19b-20). The peace offering in the Old Testament was not for forgiveness of sin, nor was it as a sacrifice of commitment to God, but rather a sacrifice that signified a close relationship with God that is going well. It was often given in answer to prayer or as a payment of a special vow that had been given to God. The emphasis of the peace offering was thanksgiving to God. God wants us to come before Him, not only as submissive servants and not only as sinners in need of forgiveness but also as His friends, His children, His body, His people and the sheep of His pasture. That is the peace offering. All three of these offerings were demanded of the one who would present himself before God.

God continually wants to be the priority in the lives of His people (Leviticus 23:15-17, 22). God could have said, “Once a year is enough. I know your heart. I know if you are truly consecrated, truly forgiven, and truly thankful.” Instead God says, “I know you. I know how easily you get distracted from your devotion to me. I know how quickly you fall into sin. I understand how easily you come to depend upon yourselves. Come to me and let me remind you of the priority I should have in your life. This is illustrated in a number of ways but I want to mention just two.

Both the special (unleavened) and the commonplace (leaven) of our lives belongs to God (Compare verse 17 with verse 6). There is the mistaken idea that leaven in the Bible always speaks of sin. Obviously, from this verse, that is not true. During the time of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, leaven was taken out of the houses in order to remind the people how that God had delivered them in haste from the land of Egypt. At the Feast of Weeks, God orders something quite different. He says, this time celebrate with leaven. The special unique things in our lives come from God and the ordinary, mundane things do also. Those things to which we hold great significance and which mean much to us belong to God as well as those little things that everyone has and we put little value on, God has given them to us also and those things belong to Him. There is nothing in your life that does not belong to God. We should live that way.

When God is a priority in our lives, others will be blessed as a result (verse 22). When everything we have belongs to God, then we will have no problem sharing with others because what we have belongs to Him. That is the purpose of the gleaning of the fields by the orphans and the widows and the stranger. This applies though to much more than what we own and earn. It applies to our strength. My strength belongs to God for me to do His will. My time belongs to God to invest in Him and in His work. My children, both earthly and spiritual, belong to God for me to bring them in fellowship with Him. Tonight we will remind ourselves again that children are a blessing from the Lord and that we, not just as parents, but as a church have a responsibility to give our best to the children in our church and in our community and around the world. Why have none of our men volunteered to pray for our Awana program? I hope it is because I have not communicated it well. I trust that it is not because God is not a priority in our lives. If you regularly attend this church, you should be here tonight, if for no other, to remind yourself that you show the priority of God in your life by how much of your time and money and strength and interest you invest in those for whom Christ died.

INVITATION: Let us present ourselves before God this morning. Are you thankful for His blessings great and small? Are you thankful for answered prayer? Are you thankful for the promises that God has kept on your behalf? Have you given Him your life as His submissive servant? Are you consecrated, dedicated, committed to making God a priority in your life no matter what the cost may be? If not, present yourself before Him now, confess your sin, and make the changes that He is demanding in your heart at this moment.

There are some of you who cannot present yourself before God because your sins have not been paid for. God demands payment for sin and Jesus Christ died to provide that payment. Someone has to pay. For you there are only two choices: Jesus Christ on the cross or yourself in hell. Which will it be? Will you trust Christ for salvation. There is no other way. You cannot be good enough. You cannot be perfect and that is God’s standard. Jesus Christ lived perfect and died perfect so that He could be the perfect sin offering for you. Will you accept Him in faith today?




1. moni - November 21, 2009

your message helped me to prepare my childrenschurch message. thank you so much.

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