To read today’s portion of scripture, you can purchase The One Year Bible (paid link) or find the following in your Bible:
If I were hungry I would not tell you,
for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
Sacrifice thank offerings to God.
Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me.Psalm 50: 12-14, 23
How many ways can one contemplate God? I can think of five:
- With denial: “Since I can’t see You, You’re not there.”
- With indifference: “Since I can’t see You, I’m not certain You’re there. But even if You are, I’d rather You not interfere with my life.”
- With anger: “You had the power to _____________ (give me what I wanted; stop that thing from happening; intervene on my behalf), but You didn’t.”
- With fear: “I believe You’re there and that You are easily irritated. I’m terrified that I might displease You in some way, because I don’t know what You’ll do to me in return.”
- With gratitude: “You rescued me when I could not help myself; You took on my sin and shame, and died, and rose—all so I could have the hope of heaven, and a place there with you for eternity. I was not a prize, Lord. You knew what You were getting with me—nothing I have done or ever will do is a surprise to You … and yet You still love me, and call me Your own. How can I ever thank You enough for Your endless goodness toward me?”
The common thread among the first four is ignorance. The atheist worships the created (we all worship something) but is ignorant of the Creator. The indifferent has not had an encounter with God and therefore is ignorant of how much better his or her life would be with God at the center. The angry are ignorant of the fact that a God who gave us everything we wanted or who jumped at our command would be no god at all. The fearful are ignorant of God’s character, or they would know that yes, He is just, righteous, wrathful (toward sin and what it does to us), and holy—but He is also loving, kind, long suffering, patient, merciful and good, and that “He knows we are but dust” and is much less hard on His children than we are on ourselves.
I would love to say that all Christians fall into the fifth category, but I think a lot of us live in that fourth state of mind. “I didn’t have a quiet time today, so I will hang my head until I can start over tomorrow and do it right.” Or, “I have asked forgiveness for this sin a thousand times; surely now I’ve reached the end of God’s patience.”
Leaving aside the atheist, the indifferent and the angry, we who call ourselves Christians can either minister to Him out of fear, or we can minister to Him out of gratitude. In this passage of Psalms, He makes clear what He wants. Does He need the work of our hands? No. No more than He needs the blood sacrifice of Israel. They needed it—not Him. They needed it because it afforded them a chance to say ‘thank You.’”
And so with us. God will not force us to be grateful; it’s an act of our will to look up in gratitude. It’s our small gift back for all the love He has lavished on us.
“All sacrifices are God’s before they are offered, and do not become any more His by being offered. He neither needs nor can partake of material sustenance. But men’s hearts are not His without their glad surrender.”Maclaren