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)
In other words, there is a wrong way to say "Thank You" - even to the Lord. . . Do you remember when your brother or sister told on you for punching them, or breaking their toy? Your parents said, "You tell her you’re sorry." With a scowl on your face, fists clenched at your side, you snapped, "I’m sorry" in a not-so-apologetic tone of voice.
If you clench your fists and grit your teeth to say your thanks to the Lord, it’s either a sign that you need an attitude adjustment, or that you are tough and are determined to praise the Lord even in pain!
Hebrews says to offer your praise the way Jesus did. Watch Him lift the bread which represented His body, and give thanks before He breaks it, and commands us to eat it. Then watch as He takes the cup, symbolic of the blood sealing God’s new covenant with us - His blood. With full knowledge of its symbolism He again gives thanks.
Let’s give thanks like Jesus did.
Next, the writer of Hebrews tells us to do this "CONTINUALLY." Repeatedly. Unceasingly. He says the sacrifice of praise is the fruit of lips that confess (the name of Jesus). If we call on the name of the Lord, "praise is comely on the upright."
Our hearts - hearts made new by Jesus’ blood - are a garden. Our lips are the "fruit-shute" - the fruit stand. The things we say place the contents of our hearts on public display. (Jesus said, "from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." Mt. 12:34) What percentage of your "fruit" is praise? . . .