The Scripture states in Psalm 50:23, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me.” In November we have designated one day for Thanksgiving, however I have often encouraged families to take a month for thanksgiving. Since the Scriptures are permeated with the theme of thanksgiving, our lives are to be permeated with thanksgiving as well. The Hebrew word for thanksgiving is todah. Todah means more than just showing appreciation, it also means praise and confession: “Now therefore, make confession (todah) to the Lord” (Ezra 10:11, see also Psalm 32:5). Here we see giving thanks as a confession of faith in the righteousness and justice of God.
The thanksgiving offering found in Leviticus 7 was simply called todah, or thanks, and was actually part of the peace offerings. “If he offers it [the peace offerings] by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil…of the sacrifice of his thanksgiving peace offerings” (Lev. 7:12,15). It is only when we have true peace with God that we can offer true thanksgiving to God. If we lack a thankful heart before God then perhaps we should see if we have genuine peace with God. How do we have peace with God? “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Messiah Yeshua” (Romans 5:1). It is only by faith in Messiah Yeshua that we have peace with God. This is because He is our sin offering: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin [offering] on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). In the Hebrew Scriptures an offering is often referred to by simply using the descriptive word of that particular offering. So in 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul uses this same Hebrew phrase, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin.” Yeshua did not become sinful, but became our sin offering. This is why Yeshua is also our “peace [offering]” in Ephesians 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one.” Both Jews and Gentile are made into one family in God by partaking together in Messiah our peace [offering]. Indeed, peace with God is the basis for peace with one another.
Thanksgiving Expresses our Reliance on God
The Scriptures mention three occasions where no leftovers were permitted:
1) The Passover lamb for salvation, “And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire” (Exodus 12:10).
2) The manna for their daily bread, “And Moses said to them, ‘Let no man leave any of it until morning’” (Ex. 16:19).
3) The thanksgiving offering, “Now as for the flesh of the sacrifice of his thanksgiving peace offerings, it shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it over until morning” (Lev. 7:15). There was sense of urgency to be thankful as a testimony to God’s faithfulness. Our giving of thanks must not be left over until morning.
So often we want to wait to see how things will turn out before we give thanks to God. But this wait and see attitude reveals a lack of faith. In the midst of problems faith testifies that “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”(Rom. 8:28). This is why the New Covenant teaches, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Messiah Yeshua” (1 Thes. 5:18). Do not wait to see how things will turn out, instead, give thanks to God now! Thanksgiving is a sacrifice of faith that reflects trust in God’s sovereign will. In fact, those who left over the todah (offering) for a later time committed a sin and were not accepted before God. (see Leviticus 7:18).
Thanksgiving Expresses our Faith in God
Thanksgiving is a result of faith that freely trusts in God. “And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, offer it of your own free will” (Leviticus 22:29). God does not force us to believe; we believe Him because He is trustworthy. Personal faith in God means dependence on who He is. Sometimes our circumstances are so difficult that giving thanks to God is truly a choice--a free will offering of faith. This is exactly the same faith demonstrated by the prophets: “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving…Salvation is from the LORD” (Jonah 2:9). In Hebrews 13:15 we read “Through Him [Yeshua] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Likewise, we are exhorted to offer the fruit of our lips, the sacrifice of thanksgiving to our God today, this month and forever!
Thanksgiving Expresses Recognition of God's Sacrifice for Us
In light of the peace we have with God through the sacrificial gift of Messiah for our sins, how can we not give thanks to God? “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15). One way we can give thanks to God is by sharing His love with people who do not have His peace. As we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and for peace in the Middle East, let’s remember that for peace between Israeli and Palestinian there must first be peace with God through the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Therefore, let us give thanks to God for making us His children and one family in Messiah. “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord...” (1 Thes. 1:2,3). We are thankful to you and for you, as together we are reaching out to Jewish people around the world. There is no better time that this Thanksgiving season to express our deepest appreciation to you and say, Todah rabah! Thank you very much. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.
The Feast of Booths (Sukkot) is a harvest festival. Sukkot was a way of both looking back to remember God’s provision in the wilderness for forty years and also rejoicing in God’s goodness and blessing of the present harvest in the promised land. As a harvest feast, it reminds us of the Lord’s wonderful provision for our lives. One of the provisions from the Lord is His security when we are vulnerable.
In the wilderness, the Israelites appeared easily conquerable by the desert tribes living there, but the Lord was their secret weapon that guaranteed victory. As Israel was redeemed from Egyptian bondage by God’s power, so they are kept through the wilderness trials by God’s power. It is all the sovereign work of God. At Sukkot we are reminded of Passover, where we see the secret to enjoying both the sufficiency and security the Lord has for our lives. During Sukkot we are commanded to dwell in a booth or sukkah for seven days as a memorial. The booth pictures not only freedom from bondage, but also true security in God.
Today, in our ‘wilderness journey,’ reliance upon Him is still our hope and protection. Sukkot reminds us that the people of God can never live as if we could manage spiritually on our own (Leviticus 23:43). We need the Lord. He is our sufficiency. As illustrated in the wilderness, our protection is in the Lord, for He Himself is our booth. As John writes: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14)
The Greek word used for “dwelt” among us is skeine, which is the verb form for the sukkah, alluding to Sukkot. Messiah appeared weak, frail, flimsy, just as a booth would appear. Little did people realize that beneath that ordinary exterior was the fullness of the omnipotent El Shaddai, God Almighty, the Holy One of Israel.
The word sukkah means to cover, as in protection. God’s hand was Moses’ sukkah in the cleft of the rock. When Moses asked the Lord to show him His glory, God said to Moses: Behold, there is a place by me, and you shall stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passes by, that I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and will cover you with my hand while I pass by.” (Exodus 33:21-22)
Whatever victory king David achieved, he acknowledged that the Lord was a sukkah of protection in the battle. He praised God with this song of deliverance from Psalm 140:7, “O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle.”
And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain. (Isaiah 4:2-6)
When the Scripture promises, “there shall be a tabernacle” that, too, is the sukkah. In the Kingdom, Messiah will be all the protection Israel or any nation will ever need. Our security is not found in our own abilities or possessions, but in Him, our Sukkah. Though to the world we may look weak and frail, in Messiah we are secure and strong. He will cover and protect us. Paul seems to hint at this very idea when he writes, Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
In Yeshua we are a new creation, but only in Him. Whether in war or wilderness, in Yeshua our Sukkah, and in Him alone, we are secure. God has fully provided our salvation and new life.
There is an additional reason God wants future generations to remember the wilderness experience. Sukkot testifies to the transitional nature of this world, and helps us remember the temporary nature of this life. There was no true rest in the wilderness. The booth itself had to be a temporary dwelling, we are to “dwell in a temporary abode” (Leviticus 23:42).
When you live in booths you testify to your neighbors that this world is temporary and is not your home; we are all just passing through. Whatever you and I own now will one day pass away. My certain hope is to one day be with God, in the true Promised Land of Heaven. Even the Patriarch Abraham had this hope.
By faith he [Abraham] lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:9-10)
All of this present age (Olam HaZeh) is like the wilderness. Therefore, just as we were not to live as permanent residents of the wilderness, so let us not live as though this temporal world is our permanent home. Like Abraham, we also look forward to our heavenly home, which our Lord has gone ahead of us to prepare:
Yeshua said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2-3)
OUR ETERNAL SUKKAH
One day we will be in the very presence of the Lord, and still Sukkot will be pictured as the eternal hope of all who believe in Yeshua. There will be no more hunger, thirst, or weeping because “the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17). Why will this be so fulfilling? We will be covered by “the Lord’s tabernacle [sukkah]” (Revelation 7:15). Every nation, tribe, people, and language will give honor and praise to Yeshua, the Lamb, the Lord of hosts, “when He comes, in that day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe” (2 Thessalonians 1:10). This will happen because Messiah our Sukkah will dwell among us:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3)
As we anticipate Thanksgiving Day, let us be thankful for His protection and provision in all circumstances, and appreciate the covering He provides in all seasons of our lives.