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Shemot/Exodus 29:38 And this is what you shall do upon the altar: sheep, a year old, two for a day, continually.
Later to be known as - the regular burnt offering - or even just - the regular - this text lays the foundation of the sacrificial system: the morning and evening sacrifice that is to be made each and every day, Shabbat included, as a point and time of meeting between HaShem and the people.Abravanel asks, "Why are only the 'regular' offerings mentioned here and none of the other offerings that the Israelites were eventually be instructed to make?" He then answers his own question: "The alter and the priestly service in general are not for sin offerings - better that a man should never sin and have no need to bring one - but for this regular offering in thanks to G-d for what He did for His people" (in Carasick). The Baal HaTurim points out that the initial letters of the phrase - two each day, continually - make the number 730, which is the number of lambs that will be offered (2 x 365) in each solar year!
Sarna comments that the importance of the daily offering grew through time. It heads the list of public offerings in B'Midbar 28-29, and its re-instatement after the return from Babylon preceeded even the construction of the Second Temple. Its suspension by the Selucid king Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BCE was regarded as a disaster. Prophesied by Daniel (8:11-12, 11:31, 12:11) and recorded by the Maccabees (1 Maccabees 1:41-45), the Mishnah includes this as one of the five disasters that occurred on and are still remembered on the fast of 17th Tammuz (m. Ta'anit 4:6). The memory was still so current in Yeshua's time that He was able to re-prophecy about the "abomination of desolation" (Matthew 24:15).
Ibn Ezra emphasises that one lamb was to be offered in the morning and one in the evening, while Don Isaac Abrabanel considers the specific gifts for which Israel was to thank G-d each day. He connects the morning offering with the spiritual gift of the Torah, which was given "as morning dawned" (Shemot 19:16), and the evening offering with the physical gift of the Exodus from Egypt, which was marked by the slaughter of the Pesach lamb "at twilight" (Shemot 12:6). The prayer services that take place in the synagogue each day still commemorate these two offerings, with the central prayer - the Amidah, or Standing Prayer - being considered a replacement , in lieu of the Temple, for the offering of the lamb. Although it contains some stanzas of petition, which are not said on Shabbat, this prayer is framed by thanksgiving and praise of HaShem, declaring His holiness and power, remembering some of the specific acts that He performed for our people and blessing His name. There are passages in the Jewish writings that suggest that early oral forms of some of these prayers may pre-date the destruction of the Second Temple or even come from the time of the Babylonian Exile.
Rav Sha'ul encouraged the early believers to continue in the same way. "In everything give thanks, for this is what G-d wants from you who are united with the Messiah Yeshua" (1 Thessalonians 5:18, CJB); thanksgiving was to be a major part of worship: "Always give thanks for everything to G-d the Father in the name of our L-rd Yeshua the Messiah" (Ephesians 5:20, CJB), "as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude to G-d in your hearts" (Colossians 3:16, CJB). Just as in the Amidah - stanzas of petition surrounded by praise and thanksgiving - our prayer is to be a blend of thanks for what G-d has already done and requests for His continued involvement in our lives: "First of all, then, I counsel that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made ... this is what G-d, our deliverer, regards as good; this is what meets His approval" (1 Timothy 2:13, CJB). Indeed, Sha'ul continues: "That is, everything you do or say, do in the name of the L-rd Yeshua, giving thanks through Him to G-d the Father" (Colossians 3:17, CJB).
In our busy lives, constantly under pressure and on the run from one thing to another, we need to maintain a healthy balance between thanksgiving and requests. We need to avoid the somewhat prevalent "I/We" focus that is to be found in much modern worship music; sometimes these songs talk more about us than about G-d and concentrate on our feelings rather than on praise of G-d. Instead of asking G-d to give us a nice feeling when we think about Him, we should devote ourselves to truly worshiping Him and let our feelings catch up later. G-d is to be worshipped at all times and places, even when our feelings would forbid it: "Don't worry about anything; on the contrary, make your requests known to G-d by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving" (Philippians 4:6, CJB).
Further Study: Colossians 4:2; Psalm 55:17-19(16-18); Isaiah 63:7
Application: Have you become too focussed on yourself during prayer? Are your conversations with G-d more about you than about Him? What not start a change by coming before G-d just to thank Him twice a day - morning and evening - to revolutionise your prayer life.
© Jonathan Allen, 2009
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