Just as we Americans have a Day of Thanksgiving in which we, and our families, pause to think about our blessings and give thanks to God for bringing us to this land and making us a nation, so Israel also had a Day of Thanksgiving. In Deuteronomy 26:1-19*, God gave them instructions, through Moses, on what they were to do and how they were to go about giving thanks to God.
1. God promised them their own land and they were to bring the first fruits of that land, as an offering, to where the presence of the Lord was:
Verses 1-2: When you have come into the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance and possess it and live in it, 2 You shall take some of the first of all the produce of the soil which you harvest from the land the Lord your God gives you and put it in a basket, and go to the place [the sanctuary] which the Lord your God has chosen as the abiding place for His Name [and His Presence].
2. They were to bring these first fruits and present it to the priest and make a confession to him of all that the Lord had done for them, their fathers, and their nation:
Verses 3-9: And you shall go to the priest who is in office in those days, and say to him, I give thanks this day to the Lord your God that I have come to the land which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us. 4 And the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God. 5 And you shall say before the Lord your God, A wandering and lost Aramean ready to perish was my father [Jacob], and he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and numerous. 6 And the Egyptians treated us very badly and afflicted us and laid upon us hard bondage. 7 And when we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice and looked on our affliction and our labor and our [cruel] oppression; 8 And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, and with great (awesome) power and with signs and with wonders; 9 And He brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
3. They were to worship the Lord with their offering and rejoice in all the good which God had given them:
Verses 10-11: And now, behold, I bring the firstfruits of the ground which You, O Lord, have given me. And you shall set it down before the Lord your God and worship before the Lord your God; 11 And you and the Levite and the stranger and the sojourner among you shall rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given you and your household.
They brought the first fruits of all their crops and animals to God as evidence of their gratitude to Him. These offerings were used for Israel’s great feasts so that everyone could share and partake of the Lord’s goodness together.
4. The seventh year was a special Sabbath year and every third year of the six years between these years was a special year of tithing that went to help the poor, the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. The Israelites brought it before the Lord and made a confession of the integrity of this tithe:
Verses 12-14: When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce the third year, which is the year of tithing, and have given it to the Levite, the stranger and the sojourner, the fatherless, and to the widow, that they may eat within your towns and be filled, 13 Then you shall say before the Lord your God, I have brought the hallowed things (the tithe) out of my house and moreover have given them to the Levite, to the stranger and the sojourner, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed any of Your commandments, neither have I forgotten them. 14 I have not eaten of the tithe in my mourning [making the tithe unclean], nor have I handled any of it when I was unclean, nor given any of it to the dead. I have hearkened to the voice of the Lord my God; I have done according to all that You have commanded me.
5. Then they asked for God’s continued blessing – they asked Him to look down from Heaven and bless them and the land He had given them:
Verse 15: Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us as You swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.
6. The Israelites made a public declaration that they would continue to serve and obey the Lord their God:
Verses 16-17: This day the Lord your God has commanded you to do these statutes and ordinances. Therefore you shall keep and do them with all your [mind and] heart and with all your being. 17 You have [openly] declared the Lord this day to be your God, [pledging] to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes and His commandments and His precepts, and to hearken to His voice.
7. The Lord openly declared again to them His promise to always bless and keep them:
Verses 18-19: And the Lord has declared this day that you are His peculiar people as He promised you, and you are to keep all His commandments; 19 And He will make you high above all nations which He has made, in praise and in fame and in honor, and that you shall be a holy people to the Lord your God, as He has spoken.
In the same way, we should remember God’s goodness toward us by bringing our tithes and offerings. We should not bring it mindlessly, but we should remind ourselves of how good He has been to us, reiterate our commitment to Him, and remind ourselves of His promise to always bless and preserve us as well, so that He may continue to bless us and keep His promises to us.