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What Is a Sacrifice of Thanksgiving?

 November 17, 2021

As the American celebration of Thanksgiving approaches, we, here in the US, are reminded about the importance of giving thanks for all we have. The Psalms are full of words of thanks and praise, praising God for who God is and thanking God for all God has done. But what is a sacrifice of thanksgiving, as mentioned in Psalm 50, 107 and 116? Aren’t sacrifices something hard to do? How is it hard to give thanks?

Sacrifice in the Old Testament

Offering sacrifices to the pagan gods was a common practice in Old Testament times. So, it comes as no surprise that the early Hebrew community also offered sacrifices to their God. The book of Leviticus offers numerous instructions about sacrifices and the rituals surrounding them. There were grain offerings, burnt offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and trespass offerings, all to please God. A sacrifice of thanksgiving was the offering made to thank God for blessings received.

But in the Psalms, we see God as not being interested in the people’s sacrifices, a theme echoed in the prophets. God wants more.

Thanksgiving in the Psalms

There are numerous words of thanks throughout the Psalms. There are psalms of Thanksgiving, such as Psalm 100, and, depending on your translation, 24 references to thanks or thanksgiving. The writers of the Psalms routinely thanked God in advance for answering prayers, as David says in Psalm 52, “I will thank you forever because you have done it.” (9a)

Other passages include:

  • I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High. (7:17)
  • I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all they wonderful deeds. (9:1)
  • The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. (28:7)
  • Sing praise to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. (30:4)
  • Then I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you. (35:8)
  • We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks and call on your name and recount your wondrous deeds. (75:1)
  • Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name. (100:4)
  • O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples! (105:1)
  • Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. (106:1, 107:1, 136:1)
  • Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God upon the lyre. (147:7)

What is a Sacrifice of Thanksgiving?

Depending on your translation, Psalms 50, 107 and 116 refer to a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

  • Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. (50:14)
  • And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy. (107:22)
  • I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. (116:17)

In Psalms 107 and 116, this referred to the peace offering (Lev. 7:11-15; 22:29-30). However in Psalm 50 we see God is asking for something different. God tells the people, “I will accept no bull from your house, nor he-goat from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills … Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?” (50:9-13)

Radical! God was threatening a whole system of sacrifice and elaborate rituals. He tells them, he doesn’t eat flesh and blood, so what good to him are food sacrifices. The sacrifice God desires is a thankful heart—a heart filled with obedience and love. This is reaffirmed in Psalm 69: I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. (69:30-31)

What are You Willing to Sacrifice?

A sacrifice implies giving up something; it costs us. What do we have to give up in order to be thankful? What is the sacrifice God is asking for today?

It may seem easy to be thankful until you try to do it. If you are angry, jealous, fearful or whining, that detracts from your ability to give thanks. It’s hard to let go of our worries and fears, our complaints and wants, in order to be grateful for what we have. Yet that is precisely the sacrifice God asks of us.

What will you sacrifice today for thanksgiving?

For more on giving thanks, check out my article, The Thankful Mysteries, on my article page, or my booklet, Season of Gratitude.

This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and and receive a free copy of  Still Dancingthe second book in my Dancing through Life Series.      click here to sign up

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