I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. Psalm 116:17 (ESV)
The act of thanksgiving in worship has been around for many years. In fact, God made provision for it in the Levitical law. There were three types of peace offerings; thank-offerings, offerings for vows, and free-will or voluntary offerings. James M. Freeman in is his book Manners and Customs of the Bible writes, “The offerings were accompanied by the imposition of hands and by the sprinkling of blood around the great altar, on which the fat and the parts accompanying were burned.”
Another aspect of the peace offerings was that parts of the offering were waved and others were heaved. According to Jewish tradition the parts of the offering were laid on the hands of the offerer. The priest would put his hands under those of the offerer and move them horizontally for the wave offering and vertically for the heave offering. This action was intended to be a presentation of the offering to God acknowledging him as the supreme ruler of heaven and earth. It was also offered as a thank-offering to God for his deliverance from death.
The sacrifice of the thank-offering can be seen in the life of King David who wrote, I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. (Psalm 56:12-13 ESV) King Solomon (1 Kings 3:15), King Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:31) as well as Ezra and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 12:31) offered thank offerings.
The importance of giving thanks has always been a part of the church age. Jesus gave thanks (Matthew 15:36; 26:27) and in his first epistle to the Thessalonians Paul exhorted the saints, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)
The Hebrew word used for thanksgiving in Psalm 116:17 is towdah. Towdah means an extension of the hand; adoration, a choir of worshipers, confession, sacrifice of praise or thank offering. The psalmists exhort us to come into God’s presence and his gates with thanksgiving (Psalm 95:2; 100:4). They also exhort us to sing to the Lord with thanksgiving (Psalm 147:7) and to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving (Psalm 107:22).
In modern day worship services there is a popular trend of lifting and even waving hands. It is important that as we life our hands we have a proper understanding of its significance. You see, the offerer of the Old Testament sacrifice could have waved his hands, but without the blood sacrifice it would have not been acceptable to God. Therefore, the waving or lifting of our hands to God in thanksgiving is an acknowledgement that we have been delivered from death by the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ and that we are in covenant with God.
Are you grateful to God that you have been delivered from spiritual death and are in covenant with him? Do you express your thanks by lifting your hands in acknowledgement of his might acts?
Scriptures for meditation:
Colossians 2:7; 3:17