"Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel and I will testify against you: I am God, your God. I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me. I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. 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, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me."
Have you ever had that dream where you're back in school and you find out that you have a pop quiz or a test that you didn't study for? That kind of sinking, unprepared feeling is the worst. What’s really bad though is when this happens to you in real life! When it's a dream, you get to wake up and be relieved. In real life you have to deal with the consequences. In Psalm 50 God gives us a kind of pop quiz. It isn’t a math test or a history test or even a religion test. It's a test of our lives. It is a pop quiz to help prepare us for the final judgment, or life’s Final Exam if you want to think about it that way.
You will need to read the entire psalm to get the full pop quiz, but in verses seven through fifteen God focuses in on the kind of worship (sacrifices) His people offer Him. He finds fault with them because their worship appears to be just an outward show. Faith is absent. They offer sacrifices upon sacrifices but do so only as a ceremony to garner favor with God. They have an “I scratch your back, you scratch my back” sort of attitude toward worshipping the Lord. They think of their sacrifices as a way to “buy God off” or to make Him owe them in some way. But that is not how worship works! Worship isn’t just going through the motions in a ritualistic way without any faith. This isn’t pleasing to God; it draws His reprimand. God has already done so much for us that we could never pay Him back. You owe God so much that He could never owe you! So thinking that somehow by your worship that you could make God owe you something and earn gifts from Him is crazy.
But we do this too! We give money to the church, serve as Sunday School teachers or Deacons and then think that God owes us something. We think we have done God a big favor. We sing in the choir or play an instrument, attend church every Sunday, even read our Bible daily but do so only out of ceremony and ritual. We think that somehow God is pleased with us simply because we do these things. We don't do them from a grateful heart. We just go through the motions, because we think that the ritual is all that matters to God.
But this isn't the kind of worship that God wants. In verses fourteen and fifteen God tells us what He wants. He says that He wants us to give thank offerings and to fulfill our vows. Now these are two types of offerings that people offered just because they wanted to. The Israelites were never required to offer these sacrifices. So, God says in essence, “I want you to worship me, and serve me, and give me your tithes not because you have to but because you are grateful for all I’ve already given you and because you want to."
If God were to judge you today, what would He say about your worship? Are you only obeying God so He will owe you? Are you simply going through the motions of an empty ritual with no faith behind them and thinking that that is all God wants from you? Worship and serve God out of gratitude for all He has done for you. This is the kind of worship that is pleasing to Him.
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