PSALMS 50:14-15 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
What does God want from me? Think about this question for just a moment. Psalms 50: 9-12 says “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 insects in the fields are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine and all that is in it”. Now the Lord tells us three simple things here. He says: ”I own everything there is.” ”I have everything I need.” ”I do not need anything.” Now although there is nothing that God needs, there are some things that God wants. There are some things that God desires and that God deserves. But it will amaze you at how little God desires compared with how much God deserves. It will amaze you how little it really takes us to please God. You are going to discover that pleasing God is so much easier than pleasing men. We Christians naturally want to please God and make Him happy. But what exactly makes God happy? To please God, we first need to know what He wants. Otherwise, we can spend a lot of time doing things we think He wants, but end up not pleasing Him. Let us take a look at what we think God wants, and what God actually wants for our Christian life. Some of our ideas about a life that pleases God include things like good behavior, helping others, and endeavoring to live in a way that sets an example for people. All these are not bad. But are they what God wants from us? Actually, we should not assume our own ideas match what God really wants.
To really understand what God wants, we have to go all the way back to creation. God created human beings to share His divine life with them so He could be their life, and they could be His expression. This is why He created us not as instruments or tools to use, but as vessels to fill with Himself. And even after mankind fell into sin, this desire in God’s heart didn’t change. But it is impossible for fallen human beings to have God’s divine life since God can never fill a vessel contaminated by sin. Instead of giving up, however, God became a man named Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect human life on earth and was crucified on the cross to take away our sins. Through His sacrifice, our sins can be washed away. When we believe in Jesus Christ and receive Him as our Savior, we receive forgiveness of sins. But that is not all. After three days, Jesus resurrected from the dead. In 1 Corinthians 15:45 so it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.” In resurrection, He “became a life-giving Spirit.” As the Spirit, He enters into us the cleansed vessels that believe in Him. God—in Christ, as the Spirit—comes to live in us. How incredible! But He doesn’t just want to exist in us; He comes into us to be our life so He can be expressed through us. This is why God created us and why God saved us.
We go to church every Sunday. We read our Bible in the morning. We pray every night before we sleep, put offering each week, tithe every month and even talk to a stranger about our faith every now and then. But even as we do these things, do we really know what God wants from us? We want to please God with our life. At the same time, in all honesty, sometimes we get tired trying to live the perfect Christian life. Fortunately God taught me something in Scripture that totally freed me from this highly responsible, performance mind-set, so that I could see God again and deeply enjoy my relationship with him. God does not demand perfection in us. God is not expecting us to measure up. God never thought that we could live the Christian life, nor does he expect that we could actually meet his holy standards. If he thought that we could, he wouldn’t have come to earth to die for us. But he did. What are you here for? Are you here to make as much money as possible? Are you here to have and care for a family? Are you here to become famous? Nothing wrong with those things, but do we think that is God’s ultimate expectations for us? If not, what does God expect of us? God expects you to trust Him, Love Him and pattern yourself after His Son, Jesus Christ. Does God have a check list of things that He expects us to do if we are following Him? Of course the Bible has many lists of things which we as His children are expected to do. It is good every once in a while to look over some of these check lists to see if we are doing what God wants us to do. An interesting one appears in Psalm 50 and I would like you to read Psalm 50:7-15 and think about what God wants of us.
In verse 7 we read, “Hear, O my people and I will speak…I am God, your God.” Most often, in the Psalms, it is the Psalmist speaking to God. It is unusual that God is speaking, so we need to listen because He is giving us a check list of things which he wants of us. When God established a relationship with Israel, he gave them a list of the sacrifices he required of them. We read about the burnt offerings, sin offerings, thank offerings and so on. They were a central part of the religious environment of Israel. In Psalm 50, we read that God does not rebuke them for bringing these sacrifices. They had been quite faithful in doing so, and yet, there is a rebuke here. The problem was that their sacrifices had become a ritual. They brought them out of duty and for reasons that God never intended. They brought the sacrifices as if they were doing God a favor. They thought that if they brought them, God would be pleased because they saw God like we see each other. But God points out how foolish this perspective is. God has never needed the sacrifices they brought. God didn’t need an animal from them, He owns the “cattle on a thousand hills” so what could they give him that he did not already have? A rhetorical question in verse 13 implies that God does not eat the meat of bulls or drink the blood of goats. “God is not a hungry God who depends on what we bring Him.” They had forgotten that the covenant was about a relationship to God and not about a ritual by which they could make God happy. God is actually looking for the sacrifice of thanksgiving from His people. Although we do not bring animal sacrifices to God, we are victim to the same kind of thinking. We think that if we give God our time or our money, that we will somehow be able to please God and move him in favor of us. If we are trying to please God and move him in our favor by our gifts and sacrifices, we have misunderstood what it is that God wants of us. The word “sacrifice” which is found in verse 8 where it refers to animal sacrifices, is the same word as that found in verse 14, there we are told that the sacrifice God wants is a sacrifice of praise or thanksgiving. This is not the only place in the Bible where we are called to a sacrifice of praise or thanksgiving. In I Thessalonians 5:18, we are called to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This is what God wants from us. Why does God want us to bring a sacrifice of praise? God wanted thanksgiving emerged from human lives full of joy. Why do we need to give thanks to God? It is because as we do, we recognize that everything we have comes from God. Have you ever sat down and made a list of everything that God has given you? Let’s start with our life. What about a roof over our head, the meals we eat today, our friendships, meaningful work, a Savior, eternal life and the list could go on and on. Not only does thanksgiving recognize the gifts we have, it acknowledges them. God is, as the Bible says in another place, the giver of every good and perfect gift. When we offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, we acknowledge Him as the source. No matter what our situation, we can think about what God has given and thank Him. Furthermore, in Psalm 50:23, we realize that when we rejoice at God’s gifts to us and thank Him, we honor God.
What are the promises or vows that you have made to God? Have you promised to live for God and follow in a relationship to Him? Perhaps there are other vows that you have made in the presence of God. What about the marriage vow that those of us who are married have made? Or have you ever promised God that if He got you out of trouble you would give a gift to Him? Have you ever made a pledge to donate a certain amount of money to a mission or to a needy person? Perhaps during a revival you made a promise to God about how you will live your life. How frustrating when people promise to do something for us and then forget or fail to follow through and we are left standing alone because they did not show up or we are left having to cover for them because they did not do what they promised. Broken promises between people cause a rift in their relationship. We weep when marriage vows are broken and the relationship is destroyed. Young people go to Bible school or to camp and have a tremendous spiritual experience and in their heart are quite sincere in the promises they make to God, but a few weeks or months later, the promises are forgotten. We proclaim to the whole congregation, when we are baptized, that we are followers of Jesus. A few years later, it is hard to see evidence of that commitment. What has happened to the covenant we made? Both Jacob and Hannah made promises in the presence of God and when God had answered their prayer, they kept the promises they had made. Psalm 50:14 says, “fulfill your vows to the Most High…” If we keep the promises we make to God we build relationship with Him and that is what God wants of us.
James 5:13 says “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise”. Life sometimes brings a day of trouble. It might be a medical crisis, an emotional breakdown or a relational struggle. Life is seldom a bowl of cherries every day. When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane wrestling with his upcoming crucifixion, it says in Luke 22:44, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly…” What did Jesus, Paul and Silas do in their situation of distress? When Paul and Silas were in prison, Acts 16:25 tells us that “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” In a similar way, in Psalm 50:15 God invites us to “call upon me in the day of trouble.” That is what God wants of us. He wants a relationship in which we know that we need Him and in which we know Him well enough that we will be free to ask Him for help when we are in trouble. This verse is interesting because of the connection between our need, prayer, God’s deliverance and giving glory to God. This is why we are invited to go to God in our time of trouble. When we do, He helps us and meets out our need. But this verse also contains a promise. When He meets our need, we recognize that we have been helped because of His grace and as a result the glory goes to Him. If we know that we can’t do it ourselves, then we have nowhere to turn, but to God and God helps us and it is obvious that help comes only because of what God has done. When that is the case the glory goes to Him. He wants us to depend on His love to help us when we have times of trouble because He wants to help us and so bring glory to His name. I don’t know about you, but these are things which I gladly do because they allow me to recognize God’s goodness, relate to Him in love and gladly bring honor and glory to Him. Let’s make these things a regular part of our lifestyle.