Summary: Sacrifices of Thanksgiving should be offered in the manner Jesus gave thanks, should be given continually, and should find thankful expressions.
"Sacrifice of Thanksgiving"
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess His name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
"Now I lay me down to sleep:
The sermon’s long and the subject deep;
If he gets done before I wake,
Someone give me a gentle shake."
Matthew Henry, the British scholar famous for his commentary on the Bible, was once held up by thieves who stole his wallet. After the incident he wrote in his diary:
"Let me be thankful
first, because I was never robbed before;
second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life;
third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and
fourth, because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed." (7700 Illustrations, #6578)
Now, in light of such an attitude of gratitude, I am sure you and I can come up with something for which to be thankful before we go to bed tonight.
Focus on the phrase in our Scriptures, "sacrifice of praise." In other places it is called "the sacrifices of thanksgiving." Like you, I have heard this phrase described as the praises you give when you don’t feel like praising. It’s a "sacrifice" of praise.
In the Bible the words "sacrifice" and "offering" were fairly-well interchangeable. (Judging by the way some of us give, they still are... ) When you sacrificed your ox, or sheep, you offered it to God, praying He would accept your gift. - This buying, and bribing, and "paying" God is an unscriptural concept of giving.
There were categories of offerings in the OT. One of those categories was the "peace offering" or "fellowship offering." These sacrifices were made by those who were at peace with God as expressions of gratitude to the Lord. it was a way of saying thanks to God for bringing them into a right relationship with Him.
The "thank offerings," or "sacrifices of thanksgiving" fell into this category of peace offerings. "They were not commanded to be offered at any set time, except Pentecost ... and were presented spontaneously as the feelings of the worshiper prompted..."
Thank offerings were given in recognition of unearned and unexpected blessings. So, if an Israelite realized God had blessed him - say a crop did exceptionally well, or if their donkey tires got great tread-wear (they’d pro-rate them!), or their child was restored to health; if they reflected on God’s goodness, mercy, and grace to them - they could bring an ox, a sheep or a goat as an offering. A portion of the meat was given to the priest, the rest was eaten by the offerer and his friends in the sanctuary of the Lord.
Like Jesus Did
Now, the first thing we notice in our passage from Hebrews is that our sacrifices of praise are to be offered "THROUGH JESUS."
A contemporary version says, "in Jesus’ name." (CEV) The Living Bible says, "with Jesus’ help." So, Jesus becomes the filtering screen through which our praise is sifted. (GB) Leviticus cautions, "When you sacrifice a thank offering to the Lord, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf." (22:29)