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Worship and the Expression of Thanksgiving

Ann Voskamp, a farmer’s wife and mother of six, wrote the bestselling book, One Thousand Gifts, where she chronicles how keeping a gratitude journal and counting God’s blessings transformed her. "Thanksgiving is inherent to a true salvation experience; thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life."

The offerings described in today’s reading are voluntary offerings of thanksgiving. Unlike the burnt offering, the grain and fellowship offerings are not made to secure atonement. But the worshiper still bears a solemn consciousness of his sin; the demands for perfect, unblemished offerings remain. For the fellowship offering, the worshiper lays a symbolic hand on the head of the animal before its slaughter, and the animal’s blood is thrown against the sides of the altar.

The grain offering is composed of flour, either unprepared or baked in an oven, griddle, or pan. Because flour is a food staple, even the poor can offer this. In fact, we’ll later see that flour can substitute for an animal sacrifice if that’s all a poor man can afford. Provision is made for every person—rich and poor alike— to make offerings to God. Prohibitions against mixing yeast and honey with the grain offerings signify purity. That the offerings should be seasoned with salt symbolizes the long-lasting nature of the covenant.

For the fellowship, or peace offering, an animal is slaughtered. Unlike the burnt offering, it is not entirely burned up at the altar. The best portions—the fat and the important organs—are reserved for the Lord. Prohibitions against eating the fat and blood remind the worshiper that the best portions must be devoted to God, who grants atonement only through blood. The rest is consumed in a meal shared by the worshiper, his family, and the priests.

Apply the Word

The burnt offering provided a way for acknowledging God’s holiness and the need for atonement. The grain and fellowship offerings provided a way for acknowledging the goodness of God. Thanksgiving is the way we continue coming to God. Consider reading Ann Voskamp’s book and starting your own gratitude journal.

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church.

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