Thanksgiving Offering – Leviticus 7
Celebrate this Thanksgiving by learning a beautiful lesson from the Bible about Thanksgiving! We dig into Leviticus this week for a special lesson. You’re probably not familiar with this law from the Lord unless you’ve done your homework in the fine details of the Law. But Chris draws our attention to Scripture this week for a look at why our Thanksgiving meals today are reminiscent of the thanksgiving offering in Leviticus 7.
At Thanksgiving we stuff ourselves with turkey until we can’t eat anymore. But the Levitical offering of thanksgiving had a rigorous rule: Those presenting the offering had to eat the entire meat sacrifice—which could be 200 pounds of lamb, far too much for one person to eat! So how did the Israelites fulfill this seemingly impossible law? And how does the law remind us of Thanksgiving today? Tune in for a remarkable lesson about being thankful!
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover and with me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. Christmas is right around the corner and we have the perfect gift idea for you, our Christmas gift boxes. Each festive box is packed full of authentic Israeli flavors that includes honey, chocolate, tahini, salts, spices, and more. Celebrate the birth of Jesus this season with the tastes of the Holy Land. Order yours today at foi.org/giftbox.
Chris Katulka: Now, Steve, before we get to Christmas, first, we have to get through Thanksgiving. I don't know what kind of guy you are when it comes to listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, but I like to get through Thanksgiving first. We're going to talk all about Thanksgiving, but from a biblical perspective, actually going to a book that maybe you would've never thought to even look for a verse on Thanksgiving. That's the book of Leviticus and the Todah, the Thanksgiving offering.
Steve Conover: Stay with us for that. But first in the news, Turkish authorities detained two Israelis after they photographed Erdogan's Palace and sent the photos to their family. The couple and their family insist they did not know it was illegal to do so and media reports have said thousands of tourists, including Israelis, regularly take photos of the palace. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says Israel is working around the clock to ensure the release of Mordi and Natali Oknin.
Chris Katulka: Steve, this is interesting. First, our listeners should know that Turkey is a hotspot for Israeli tourism. When Israelis want to go on vacation, they'll hop a flight from Tel Aviv up to Turkey. It's a great place to vacation for them. They love going up there. But recently there has been some tension with Israel and Turkey. And this is just, again, showing how that tension is living on.
We're seeing right here that two bus drivers, Natali and Mordi, they're two bus drivers from Modi'in, take a vacation to Turkey and they end up being detained by Turkish authorities. This could be a real problem and Turkish President Erdogan should be careful to release these innocent people before there's an escalation.
Chris Katulka: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. The giving season is such a great way to stop for a moment and to give thanks to God for every blessing he's given to us. It's a gracious gift, a blessing that he's given to us to be able to say “thank you” to the Lord. The Hebrew word for thank you is todah. If you want to say thank you very much in Hebrew, you say todah rabah.
And when you travel to Israel, which I hope you do with us one day, when we get back to traveling to Israel, you can come with us, and you can put your Hebrew to work. You can say todah to whatever Israeli, whoever Israeli you run into, because todah is one of the first words that you learn in Hebrew when you get to Israel. It just means “thank you.” And what's amazing about Hebrew that's spoken in Israel today is that it's actually a resurrected language.
For nearly 1,700 years, Hebrew was only spoken during prayers and used in synagogues. But a man named Eliezer Ben-Yehuda in the late 1800s believed that if the Jewish people were going to return to the land of Israel, they needed to speak a language that would bind them together. He really believed Hebrew was that language. Ben-Yehuda turned to the Bible, the Talmud and other Hebrew texts, he turned to them to begin to compile a dictionary of the Hebrew language that Jewish people could speak as a common language.
Now, if you read through the Old Testament, the very first place that you find the word “thank you” or the word associated with gratitude is actually found in Leviticus 7. And that's where we get our word “todah.” Todah, thank you in Hebrew, is a word that's found in the Bible and it's connected to the very idea of Thanksgiving. It's the term of gratitude. And the very first time it's used is here in Leviticus in the section actually connected to the sacrifices that the Israelites would offer to God.
Now, the Book of Leviticus is full of commands and laws from God for the Israelites to offer up sacrifices on certain days, at certain times, for certain reasons, and the majority of these sacrifices were required. No ifs, ands, or buts. If you sinned, then you were required to bring a sin offering. If you trespassed, you were required to bring a trespass offering. You would bring these to the high priest or the priest at the tabernacle or the temple.
However, there is one sacrifice in Leviticus that wasn't a requirement. This sacrifice was to be a pure expression of todah, of thanks to God. It's this offering that's mentioned in Leviticus 7, our todah offering, and it falls under the section of peace offering, shalom offerings. If you wanted to give a peace offering, there was a subcategory of todah-to give thanks to God. So here it is.
As an Israelite living under the law, if you simply wanted to say “thank you,” todah to God for all the blessings that he's bestowed on you as one of his children, you would follow the law outlined in Leviticus 7:11-15. I want to read that for you. Listen to this.
“This is the law of the peace offering sacrifice, which he is to present to the Lord:
If he presents it on account of todah (of thanksgiving) along with the thank offering, he must present unleavened loaves mixed with olive oil, unleavened wafers smeared with olive oil and well soaked ring shaped loaves made of choice wheat flour mixed with olive oil. He must present this grain offering in addition to ring shaped loaves of leaven bread, which regularly accompany the sacrifice of his Thanksgiving peace offering.
He must present one of each kind of grain offering as a contribution offering to the Lord. It belongs to the priest who splashes the blood of the peace offering. The meat of his Thanksgiving peace offering must be eaten on the day of his offering. He must not set any of it aside until morning.”
Now, listen, this is the reason why you probably don't do your devotions in Leviticus. What you just listened to was the legalese of the text. It was the fine print of the law.
It's probably the reason you don't hear many sermons preached from Leviticus. Again, this is the legalese. Let me share how this law from Leviticus 7:11-15 got worked out in real life in order to say thank you to God. According to the rabbis, the thankful Israelite, follow me here, the thankful Israelite would bake 40 loaves of bread mentioned in Leviticus 7:12-14. And after baking his loaves of bread, he would choose his finest lamb or goat and travel to the temple in Jerusalem.
This walk could be a couple of minutes, depending on how close you lived to Jerusalem, or it could be a day's journey, depending on where they were living in Israel. All this just to say todah, thank you, Lord. Think about the investment that's already there in saying thank you to God, a sacrifice that wasn't demanded to be offered. It was something that you did on your own volition. When the thankful Israelite would arrive at the temple, he would give a portion of his bread to the priest.
The priest would take the offering, the lamb or the goat, and they would sacrifice it to the Lord. And afterward, the offering would be returned to the thankful Israelite and he would barbecue that lamb and then he would have to eat it. And according to Leviticus 7:15, that thankful Israelite was required to eat all of it by the end of the day. Did you hear that in Leviticus 7:15? The flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering for Thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day it is offered.
He shall not leave any of it until morning. The thankful worshiper was left with the task to eat the entire lamb or goat by the end of the day. And that sounds more like torture than it does giving thanks. Let's put this into context here for Thanksgiving. Maybe you've already done this. You've purchased your turkey and it ranges from 12 to 20 pounds and it can feed eight to 15 people. Inevitably, there are leftovers for turkey sandwiches and turkey casseroles.
That's what I look forward to. Now, that's 12 to 20 pounds feeding multiple people and there's still leftover food. Now, according to Leviticus, that thankful Israelite was required to eat all of the lamb, that's 200 pounds plus, by the end of the day. Now, this Israelite has a ton of bread and he has 200 pounds of lamb to eat. This seems impossible. What would the Israelite do? Okay. Well, before we get to that, I want to share with you a way that you can show your thanks to the Lord today.
It's actually an amazing opportunity for you to connect with somebody and to share a great gift as we're talking about being thankful. Christmas is right around the corner. And if you need a fun, festive, and delicious idea for your loved ones, I have a perfect one for you. Our festive Christmas gift boxes are loaded with the most delicious tastes of the Holy Land.
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Steve Conover: The deadline to order for an on-time delivery is December 13th. Order yours today at foi.org/giftbox. Again, that's foi.org/giftbox.
Chris Katulka: We're looking at the very Hebrew word for thank you this Thanksgiving season. The Hebrew word is todah. And the first time it appears in the Scriptures is Leviticus 7 for the todah offering, the Thanksgiving offering when an Israelite out of his own volition would gather 40 loaves of bread and take his finest lamb or goat and bring it to the tabernacle or the temple and say thank you to God.
And maybe that Israelite is saying thank you to the Lord for the way the Lord provided a great harvest for the year. Or maybe he's saying thank you for healing a sick family member in his household. Either way, the todah offering was not required. An Israelite could go his entire life and never say thank you to God, which is a very sad thing to think about. But God wants a thankful heart. He doesn't want to force a thank you from you. That's disingenuous.
God wants a grateful heart of gratitude. When we left the last segment, do you remember the thankful worshiper would bring his bread and his choice lamb or goat, offer it up, and then the law demands that he must eat all the food before the end of the day. And you're probably asking, how would he eat all of that food? Well, check this out.
The thankful Israelite would take his abundance of meat and his abundance of bread that he used to show thanks to God and he would set up a table outside the tabernacle or the temple and he would begin to share his Thanksgiving offering with others. He would bless family and friends and even strangers with a meal. As they would sit around to eat, they knew that this was a todah offering, a Thanksgiving offering.
So inevitably, a stranger eating a free lunch would ask the Israelite, "What are you thankful for," which gave them an opportunity to glorify the Lord and what the Lord has done in his life. It's a Thanksgiving meal. It's amazing. Now, Rabbi Isaac Abarbanel, who comes from the 15th century, wrote in his commentary on Leviticus 7 that the fact that a great deal of food that must be consumed in a short time leads to a thankful person to invite relatives and friends and acquaintances to share in his meal and his joy.
He will thus have the opportunity to tell them of the wonders and miracles that were done for him and God's name will be publicly glorified. I love the way that the Lord structures this sacrifice. First, it wasn't required, which means God doesn't want a manufactured thank you. Instead, he wants us to give him the praise and thanks he deserves from the heart. Second, the Lord didn't take the sacrifice for himself. Just think about that for a minute.
The offer could have left the whole lamb for God to say thank you, "Here you go, God. I'm saying thank you. I'm giving this to you because of a blessing that you've given to me." God doesn't want you to buy his blessing. Instead, God's blessings are always free. God instead demands that the thankful Israelite take his own offering and eat the whole thing by the end of the day, forcing him to show the thankfulness that he has to the Israelites around him, to bless the Israelites around him.
So think about it. Now not only is God blessing that Israelite, but now through that blessing, the Israelite is blessing so many people and saying, "I'm giving thanks to God and let me show you why." Friends, saying thank you to God isn't like a line that has a beginning to end. And here's what I mean. When God blesses you with something, it's a blessing that comes from our source of life. When you receive it and say thank you, that doesn't mean being thankful is over.
Saying thank you isn't the finish line. Thankfulness isn't linear. Being thankful is cyclical. God blesses you. You say thank you by blessing others and pointing people back to the source of the blessing, which is the glorification of God, as Rabbi Abarbanel wrote. Do you know what happens when you forget to live out the thankfulness to God by blessing others around you? You're forced to eat a 200 pound lamb with lots of bread all by yourself. That's not a blessing.
That's painful to think about. But when we recognize that true thankfulness to God is actually blessing others as he's blessed us, just like the thankful Israelite who fed many people on the sacrifice that he brought to say thank you to God, that's when thankfulness is truly realized.
King David's last words, his last recorded prayer to God actually comes from 1 Chronicles 29. And in it he says this, "Todah, Lord." Listen to these final words. “Oh Lord, God of our Father Israel, you deserve praise forevermore. Oh Lord, you are great, mighty, majestic, magnificent, glorious, and sovereign over all the sky and earth. You, Lord, have dominion and exalt yourself as the ruler of all. You are the source of wealth and honor. You rule over all.
You possess strength and might and magnify and give strength to all.” Verse 13. “Now, oh God, we give todah, thanks to you and praise your majestic name.” Think about that, King David's last words to God, “thank you.” As we wrap up, I want you to think about this. Giving thanks to God isn’t an annual event reserved for Thanksgiving. In fact, the Prophet Jeremiah returns to Leviticus 7, the thanksgiving offering, and he says that in the future millennial reign of Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah 33:11, it says this. “Once again, there will be sounds of joy and gladness and the glad celebrations of brides and grooms. Once again, people will bring their todah offering, their thanks offering, to the temple of the Lord and they will say,” “"Give thanks to the Lord who rules over all, for the Lord is good and his unfailing love last forever."” We will forever say todah to our Creator and Savior. Todah Rabah, Lord. Have a joyous Thanksgiving season.
Steve Conover: Thank you, Chris. That was really an encouragement to my heart and I'm sure our listeners. So now that we know this word todah and Thanksgiving is coming up, what do you think could some of our listeners use this as an entry point for discussion?
Chris Katulka: I love it when we all learn a new Hebrew word. When you're sitting around your Thanksgiving table, it'll be a great time to stop and say, "Hey, I learned a new Hebrew word, todah." It's a great way to say thank you to the Lord. Todah rabah.
Steve Conover: And todah to you, Chris. Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: People all around us are lonely. I have such a neighbor. He stays distant from everyone. I became burdened for him. How could I show love to him? In Israel, we are not free to give about books, tracks, or to speak about the Lord. Here we must first become friendly with such a person. I wracked my brain trying to figure out how to do this, so I fell on my knees and asked the Lord to show me. God answered my prayer two weeks later on a beautiful Sabbath day.
My family and I were walking to the center of Jerusalem where we have our prayer meeting. As we were walking, who did we meet, but this poor lonely man. I suggested we walk together. I prayed silently. Oh Lord, please help me to show him how to open his heart to you. I could not believe this obstinate man became friendly as we walked. I asked, "Why do you act so strange? It would be easier to go to the moon than to be friends with you." He said, "You are the first person who has been friendly to me."
"I am glad you feel that way. I am your friend and you can open your heart to me." He asked, "How? I do not know you well." I told him a little about myself. And then he said, "I am alone in this world. I have been disappointed by people in life. How can I know you will not turn against me also?" And then said to my children, "Let us sing the song from Psalm 118," and we sang the Lord is on my side, I will not fear. "This is a nice song," he said. Then I asked, "Do you believe in God?"
"Why should I? What has he done for me?" "Do you have a job? Are you healthy?" I asked. "Yes." "Every day you see the beauty of the world, the sunshine and the kindness of people all around you. For all these things you must thank the Lord," I said. He replied, "I never go to synagogue. So how can I pray?" I said, "You can pray anywhere. The Lord is everywhere and he can always hear your prayer." "Why did you want to befriend me?"
I said, "I saw in you what I see in everyone, the need to be saved. The Lord in his mercy has provided a way for us to be saved through his Son. I and my family have been saved by his mercy and blood. He loved us before we even knew him. And when we come to him in faith, he forgives and forgets our sins." He said, "I feel like I have been raised from the grave and I'm alive again. I have a greater desire to live than ever before. But how can I be sure this feeling will never leave?"
I told him, "You must come to the Lord in faith. Then he will be your guide and show you the way to life and light." I was so grateful for this opportunity to share God's love with this lonely man. Please pray that he will continue to seek the Lord so he might know true joy and happiness.
Chris Katulka: The impact of Zvi's life in ministry in Israel, it didn't end when he went home to be with the Lord. In fact, Zvi's legacy lives on. Our Friends of Israel Ministry representatives continue to share the gospel in Jerusalem, Israel, and really all throughout the world. We also serve Holocaust survivors and their families. We provide free food, medicine, and clothing, and we even promote the safety and security of the State of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere.
When you give to The Friends of Israel, your donation actually allows us to advance the gospel of our Messiah Jesus. You can give online by visiting foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org. You can click right there on our donate link. Also, be sure to let us know where you listen when you contact us.
Steve Conover: Thank you for joining us today. A quick reminder to order a Christmas gift box, visit foi.org/giftbox. Remember, you have until December 13th to do so. That's foi.org/giftbox. Chris, where are we headed next week?
Chris Katulka: Yeah. We're wrapping up Thanksgiving. I hope everybody has a fantastic Thanksgiving Day with your family, with your friends, with your loved ones. But next week, we're going to come back and look at how God preserved and protected the Jewish people through the story of Hanukkah. It's going to be something you're not going to want to miss.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold, and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. And one last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org.
The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people. From all of us here at The Friends of Israel, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.
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Apples of Gold: Why Did You Befriend Me?
Zvi became burdened for an obstinate, lonely neighbor. He asked the Lord to allow him to befriend this man. One day as Zvi was walking, he saw the man and asked if he could walk with him. Surprisingly, this man said yes! Zvi knew the man’s heart was troubled, so he shared a song of hope from Psalms. Hear how God opened the man’s heart through Zvi’s friendship to hear the truth of Scripture.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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