Conspicuous Absences of Thankfulness – Leviticus 7 & 22 [Totally Hip Gratitude]

Leviticus 7 Bible with Justins Milk Chocolate Organic Peanut Butter Cups

Today’s ChocolateJustin’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Today’s PassageLeviticus 7:11-15, 22:29-30

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled trip through the minor prophets to bring you a new series: Totally Hip Gratitude. In this study, we’ll examine the topic of thankfulness, and we’re going to intersperse installments of it between prophets. To kick the study off, we’re going to look at a few passages from Leviticus, as well as a few passages where thankfulness doesn’t directly come up.

The words “thankfulness” and “gratitude” don’t show up in the Bible in any form until Leviticus 7. This may come as a surprise to some of you, given how on more than one occasion Paul presents thankfulness as normative (e.g. Ephesians 5:20, Colossians 3:15). You might expect Joseph to offer up a prayer of gratitude as he rises to prominence in Potiphar’s household (Genesis 39:1-4) or when Pharaoh grants him authority over all of Egypt (Genesis 41:40-45) or when he sees his brothers again (Genesis 42). And with all the events of Moses’ life throughout the Exodus, there’s no explicit mention of thankfulness until the Levitical laws are given–and even then, it’s instructions on how to offer sacrifices. God tells Abraham he’ll make him a great nation through which all the peoples of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:5-11), and Abraham can’t even offer up a “thanks, God?”

Of course, the conspicuous absence of the word “thank” until Leviticus 7 doesn’t mean that no one was thankful for anything prior to that point. Plenty of people make altars to commemorate God’s great, history-making works in their lives, and after Isaac, the child of the promise, is born Abraham throws a feast to celebrate (Genesis 21:1-8). One can reasonably infer that people appreciated to some degree the good things God did for them, even if the narrative doesn’t see fit to note their gratitude explicitly.

All the same, it’s peculiar, especially in the Garden of Eden. The garden is essentially God’s gift to humanity. Eve is God’s gift to Adam. Yet this world without disobedience is also a world without overt gratitude. Why is that?

I can think of two possible explanations. Adam enjoyed uninterrupted fellowship with God in the garden, but it may be possible that he didn’t appreciate it until he knew its absence. I’m reminded of the line from Sara Groves’ “Painting Pictures of Egypt:” “If it comes too quick, I may not appreciate it; / Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?” The second–and in my estimation the more likely–explanation is the same reason why, when asked by a fellow fish, “How’s the water?” a fish replies, “What the #%$ is water?” As Adam enjoys the new world and his companionship with God, gratitude never comes up because he’s swimming in it.

You know what, those are some pretty substantial thoughts. Let’s save the actual mentions of thanksgiving for our next entry in this series. Tomorrow: Joel!



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