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Sunday, November 24 2019
A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Now consider this, you who forget God,
Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver.
He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me;
And to him who orders his way aright
I shall show the salvation of God.
Psalm 50:22-23

In this Psalm written over 3000 years ago, God is livid because although His people were going through the motions of pleasing Him through ritual sacrifices, what they really wanted was to please themselves.

To be fair, the Old Testament does seem to list more required sacrifices than one can count. It seems those ancient folks were constantly commanded to give something back to God in a specific manner that pleased Him. And they did want to please God and worship Him. But they just wanted to be free to do it when they felt like it, and in the manner that moved them.

And it wasn’t like God discouraged that mindset, either. One of those sacrifices, called the Peace Offering, was also known as the Thanksgiving Offering and could be offered at any time. But there was an important stipulation attached to this sacrifice: “And when you will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the Lord, offer it at your own will.” Leviticus 22:29.

Thank about it. If God COMMANDED His people to give thanks, who would ever know if it was genuine or sincere- except God Himself. The admonition was that it must be offered out of individual freewill, from a willing and grateful heart. But that still that does not mean that it can be offered OUTSIDE of God’s will.

Indeed, fallen mankind has tripped over this truth for many a millennium. Our lesson today unfolds from the annals of the history of the ancient nation of Israel, who stumbled majorly on this one.

In 1 Kings 11-12, we read about a King who was given the blessing of God to lead part of the nation of Israel, split into 2 kingdoms following King Solomon’s death. Jeroboam was the newly appointed king of the northern kingdom of Israel. Because it’s new capital had been moved from Jerusalem to Shechem, he was fearful that the people wouldn’t return after attending special times of worship in Jerusalem as God had commanded. Jeroboam still wanted to honor God’s commandments and appointments. He just amended them a little to suit the needs of his nation, changing the venue and times. He set up his own version of worship unto God in the cities of Dan and Bethel. He used the same time of the month that God had given to celebrate His Holy Day of Tabernacles, but moved it to a month later.

Maybe Jeroboam figured it would be okay with God if he followed the order of religion, but gave it his own political and national twist. He also added a personal spin by recreating worship from the Exodus days of Aaron and the Israelites by setting up a version of the golden calves, altars of sacrifice, and priesthood. Of course, Jeroboam stood at the altar as high priest.

This so-called religious system of worship was followed by all the seceding Kings of northern Israel. Because of this, Jeroboam is referred to in scripture as "The man who made Israel to sin." Notice the phrasing. He didn’t do it alone. Israel sinned. The people were only too eager to worship a religion that promoted convenience and prosperity. The shrines “built on high places” were “new and improved” and “grand and glorious”! It was a great time to be called an Israelite! Sound familiar?

It didn’t last long. The priests of the high places were killed on the very altar in which Jeroboam had once stood as THE high priest. 2 Kings 23:15-20. “the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day.” 2 Kings 17:21-23)

This first festival appointed by King Jeroboam to replace one of God’s appointed Holy Days, also known as Feast Days, was indeed the first “holiday” (a contraction of holy and day) conceived by mankind. Timely for this Thanksgiving season, Jeroboam appointed the holiday on the 15th day of God’s 8th month, November 12 on our 2019 Gregorian calendar.

On the surface, it doesn’t seem like such a terrible thing to add our own feast day into the worship of the Almighty, as our traditions have appointed. After all, the date IS recognized nationally as a time to give thanks. But today's lesson would have us learn from another nation who did the same thing, and remember they were judged mightily for their transgression.

And rightly so.These 3500 year-old Holy Days were appointed to be fulfilled by the Almighty's Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. God's anointed spring Holy Days include PASSOVER, when Jesus went to the Cross; UNLEAVENED BREAD, when Jesus' sinless body was placed in the tomb; and FIRSTFRUITS, when Jesus rose from the dead, the first of mankind to do so, guaranteeing our bodily resurrection. On God's summer Holy Day, PENTECOST, Jesus sent back the Holy Spirit as He promised. During God's appointed Fall Holy Days, the trumpet will sound on the DAY OF TRUMPETS to announce His second coming; Jesus will stand on the DAY OF ATONEMENT as Messiah; and during TABERNACLES Jesus will again tabernacle with mankind, climaxing in one great and glorious LAST DAY that will never end!

Now consider this, you who forget God,
Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver.
He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me;
And to him who orders his way aright
I shall show the salvation of God.
Psalm 50:22-23.

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