Christians must be thankful people. God commands us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We should be “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). We should be known as “abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:7; cf. 3:17; 4:2). Likewise, Hebrews 13:15 commands us, “Through [Christ] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”
The terminology of sacrifice in Hebrews 13:15 stems from the Old Testament. Israelites gave peace offerings to thank God (cf. Leviticus 3:1–17; 7:12–15). A survey of instances of these offerings in the Old Testament illustrates for us today why people gave thanks long ago.
Men were to “offer sacrifices of thanksgiving” after God had rescued them from their own foolishness and its potentially perilous results (Psalm 107:22; cf. 107:17–22). The psalmist promised to “offer” to God “the sacrifice of thanksgiving” for having delivered him from death (Psalm 116:17; cf. 116:1–4). David likewise promised to “render thank offerings” to God for having “delivered my soul from death” when he was almost killed by the Philistines (Psalm 56:12–13; cf. 1 Samuel 21:10–22:1).
Moses commanded peace offerings for thanks once Israel had crossed the Jordan River and entered the land of promise (Deuteronomy 27:7; cf. 27:1–6). Israel gave peace offerings for thanks in victory over battle, whether Joshua after conquering Ai (Joshua 8:31) or Saul after conquering the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:15). The nation’s continued obedience would bring blessing and thus continued reason for these offerings (cf. Jeremiah 17:26). Peace offerings were given when David retrieved the ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6:17), when Hezekiah restored proper temple worship (2 Chronicles 29:31), and when Manasseh built a wall for the city, removed its idols, and restored the temple’s altar (2 Chronicles 33:16). God would eventually banish Israel from her land for her sins, restore her to His favor, and thus give the nation reason to offer peace offerings for thanksgiving once again (Jeremiah 33:10–11).
Two memorable narratives of individuals record peace offerings as well. Hannah brought a peace offering of thanks to God for answering her prayer for a child (1 Samuel 1:21–28). God promised King Solomon wisdom, riches, and honor, prompting his thanks in an offering as well (1 Kings 3:15).
Applying these experiences to us today, we can thank God just the same when He delivers us from death protects us from our enemies, answers specific requests that we give in prayer, returns to us what was lost, and provides for us in ways that we did not even ask. However we go about giving thanks, Hebrews 13:15 commands us to give a sacrifice of thanksgiving—praising God verbally for His goodness to us in every way.