May the peace of God rest upon your hearts and families. Today, I want to share with you God’s message through a thank offering among the peace offerings, an ancient ritual practiced by the Israelites.
Today’s message is: “Let us embrace God’s peace and live in harmony.” Through this message, my hope is that together we can cultivate a more abundant and joyful life. It is our sincere desire to witness the cessation of all conflicts and discord through the grace of Christ.
In our journey, we inevitably encounter both minor and significant conflicts. Take, for instance, our inner disposition. The multitude of challenges and stressful circumstances we face can easily disturb our inner peace. Furthermore, conflicts can emerge within various relationships, spanning from families, friendships, and partnerships to communities and even nations.
Nevertheless, in His infinite grace, God extends an invitation to His kingdom, where He lovingly reunites us and provides solace. God is calling us to the peaceful life through the message of “Thank Offering”.
As modern individuals, we no longer engage in the literal practice of Thank offerings. However, it is essential for us to understand its significance in our context. The Thank offering was a form of worship observed in ancient times, but it is no longer observed in its original form by Christians today.
Let me now explain the peace offering, which may seem unfamiliar to us. The Thank offering is a subset of the peace offering. The Old Testament encompassed various sacrificial laws, and the names assigned to these sacrifices varied based on the method and purpose of the offerings. The peace offering is just one example among these diverse offerings. What distinguishes the peace offering from others is that all the meat offered in this sacrifice is shared and consumed by both priests and worshippers, unlike other sacrificial offerings where the meat is exclusively reserved for priests.
Interestingly, the meat from the peace offering is meant to be consumed promptly, particularly in the case of the Thank offering. The priests and worshippers were required to partake in the sacrificial meat within one day.
Let’s contemplate the meaning of one day. Why does God intend the participants of the thank offering should eat the sacrificial meat within one day?
Is it because food could spoil? Absolutely! Back in those times, refrigerators were nonexistent. However, it is worth noting that other ancient rituals did not specify the need to consume the food within a short timeframe. Specifically, within the peace offering, there were votive offerings and freewill offerings, alongside thanksgiving offerings, and in the case of these, they could be enjoyed over a span of two days. However, when it came to the Thank offering, it was crucial to consume all the food within a single day. Failure to do so would render the offering unacceptable to God. Can you sense the special intention behind God’s instruction to consume the Thank Offering within one day?
Can you grasp the sense of urgency behind this regulation? Imagine the profound act of sharing everything with both God and others within a single day, immediately and without delay. As the worship service concludes, a bountiful amount of meat is presented before the worshippers, with the exception of the portion reserved for the priests. Without hesitation, the meat is swiftly distributed among all the participants, who joyfully partake in it together. Not a single trace is left behind. They wholeheartedly consume and share the sacrificial meat, embracing the spirit of joy and generosity. The essence lies in the act of joyfully sharing what is yours with God and those in your midst.
You may wonder why it is crucial to express gratitude through sharing food immediately. The answer is straightforward: gratitude tends to diminish with time. When someone does us a favor, let’s express our appreciation without delay. By doing so, we seize the opportunity to celebrate and share the joy with them. If we neglect to do so promptly, we miss the chance to directly convey our gratitude to that person. Furthermore, if left unexpressed, the gratitude within our hearts can easily fade away. This principle applies not only to our interactions with fellow humans but also to our relationship with God. By expressing our gratitude to God, we acknowledge His presence in our lives and commend Him for His unwavering faithfulness towards us.
I always cherish the excitement and joy that overwhelmed me when I received my first paycheck during my service in the Korean army. When I served it, the military environment in Korea, like many others, was fraught with danger, and living conditions can be quite challenging. It was a lonely and often violent environment where one must strive to survive. In light of these circumstances, I felt an immense sense of gratitude towards God for protecting me throughout, enabling me to overcome those hardships. Therefore, without hesitation, I promptly donated my entire first salary to the military church. I knew that if I hesitated, I might change my mind. However, I have no regrets. On the contrary, surrendering everything to God filled me with boundless joy and gratitude. The profound joy I experienced during that moment remains vividly etched in my heart.
Therefore, time is of the essence. Let us swiftly and promptly express our gratitude, ensuring we don’t let the opportunity slip away. By acknowledging and appreciating the kindness shown to us, we can provide ongoing encouragement for one another’s good acts and strengths. In addition, when we express our gratitude to God through words or actions, it pleases Him. As a sign that God receives our worship with joy, He graciously bestows upon us double the heavenly joy and peace.
The command to “eat immediately within one day” holds another profound meaning: the underlying desire of God is “sharing”. If the people of ancient times truly and joyfully embraced this law, how many peace offerings would have been made each day? Whenever something good occurred, they always expressed their gratitude. The specific reasons for giving thanks were not prescribed by the law. It could have been when a disease was cured, unexpected financial blessings were received, or when their children returned safely from long journeys, among countless other possibilities.
For example, in the case of the animal, which was taken from its herd, apart from the portions designated for the priests, such as the meat from the right hind leg and the breast, it would be impossible for two or three individuals to consume the entire meat within a single day. The worshippers would then extend invitations to their friends, but even then, there would still be leftover meat. Wouldn’t it be natural for anyone around the worship place to invite hungry individuals to partake in the abundance? The act of sharing and extending hospitality was ingrained in their society. It reflected their devotion to God and their care for those in need.
The message conveyed by God through the sacrificial act of thanksgiving reminds us of the profound beauty of sharing. Instead of being overly concerned about tomorrow, let us embrace the generous gifts bestowed upon us by God and share our time and abundance with others.
The ancient Hebrew term for peace, shalom, refers the image of each brick in a sturdy unity. As we embrace and practice the message conveyed by the thank offering, we invite the Holy Spirit’s blessings upon us, establishing a firm and unbreakable bond of love between us and God. Furthermore, through the practice of this message, we are bound together with strength and unity in God, allowing His goodness and love to overflow into our surroundings. May God’s peace be with you now and always!
3rd Sunday after Pentecost, June 18, 2023, Leviticus 7:15
Pastor John Kim, Lakeridge Lutheran Church