It seems like every year that thanksgiving comes around I am shocked by how much the Bible addresses and elevates thanksgiving.
I was just recently studying Psalm 50 and came across a familiar theme of thanksgiving in verses 7-15.
7 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak;
O Israel, I will testify against you.
I am God, your God.
8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt offerings are continually before me.
9 I will not accept a bull from your house
or goats from your folds.
10 For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.
12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
and perform your vows to the Most High,
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” ESV
God is pictured here as a judge making his case against Israel.
Whenever we get a glimpse into God's view of how He makes judgments it should make us stop dead in our tracks and listen. This is God's view of things and God's view is ultimately the only one that matters. This is significant.
God rejects the sacrifices being made saying that the worship offered through the sacrifices was unacceptable.
He clarifies that his rejection has nothing to do with the amount of sacrifices they were making. The amount is not the problem here. They make plenty of sacrifices. They were incredibly efficient at making sacrifices.
The reason God rejected the sacrifices they made was because of the attitude of the worshiper.
They were making sacrifices as if God needed them or as if it somehow added something to God.
God says clearly that He does not need anything. He owns all the cattle on a thousand hills. That is a lot of cattle. He is the creator after all and therefore owns everything.
The attitude of the worshiper that God rejects is therefore an attitude of self sufficiency rather than utter dependence on God.
The were acting like God was no better than the pagan gods around them.
All of the nations surrounding Israel were in fact very needy. They had nothing and were nothing so they needed the sacrifices to give any appearance of validity to themselves.
What a disgrace to act like God was similar to the false pagan gods surrounding Israel.
The true God has no needs.
Every creature has great needs that only God can provide.
The true worshiper recognizes this reality.
What God requires in worship is an attitude of complete and utter dependence on God alone for everything.
God does not say "stop making sacrifices." Sacrifices were actually at the time required of God.
Instead God says that they are to offer God thanksgiving with there sacrifices.
Thanksgiving acknowledges that we have nothing to bring to God but everything we have comes from God.
God also says to call on Him in the day of trouble. He will deliver you and you shall glorify Him. God is glorified when we say I need you to deliver me and I cannot be delivered without you. When we cry out to God in the day of trouble we say that God is the one who delivers. We can't deliver ourselves. He is the only one who can save.
What does this mean?
This means that God is glorified when we view ourselves as coming to Him with nothing and as God having and being everything that we need.
A life that exhibits thankfulness to God for what He has done particularly in His saving work on the cross and depends on Him for salvation is a living sacrifice that is acceptable to God.
God requires an attitude of complete dependence on Him and an attitude that recognizes that I am completely insufficient in myself. It is an attitude that takes the rightful place as a creature before my creator.
This honors God and this what worship is all about.
Dependence on God is an essential ingredient in all acceptable worship.
Without dependence on God no matter what we appear like we are doing on the outside it is not worship at all. We might go to church every week. We might even read our Bibles. But our worship is unacceptable to God if it is not with a sense of dependence on Him. It is in fact self worship as if we had anything to bring to the table. Self worship is not acceptable to God. Worship that is acceptable is that which magnifies the truth about God.
I pray that we can speak the truth about God this thanksgiving. One way we speak the truth about God is by giving thanks.
Something that I have learned from my children is that they tend to make a big deal out of the wrong things.
Just a few days ago at dinner time I accidentally gave my 2 year old son the wrong cup. He was so upset that he broke down in tears. Having the right cup was apparently a BIG DEAL to him. At the same time this child will go out into a busy street full of traffic without giving it a second thought.Children have a difficult time knowing what is a big deal and what is not a big deal.
You and I can be very much like little children when it comes to spiritual matters. We have a difficult time deciphering what is a BIG DEAL and what is not. One of the consequences of the sinful nature you and I inherited is that we have difficulty figuring out what is a problem and what is not a problem. We tend to cry at spilled milk and then run into the busy street when it comes to spiritual matters.
This problem is much bigger than with the illustration I gave about children. Spiritual matters have eternal consequences. Heaven and hell lie in the balance. These matters are nothing like spilled milk or being given the wrong cup.
That's why the Bible is so helpful for us. It tells us what God thinks of things. The Bible gives us an accurate portrayal of ourselves. In the Bible God tells us what is a BIG DEAL and what is not.
God thinks that unbelief is a BIG DEAL. Don't take my word for it. You can see what God thinks of unbelief simply by looking at what He thinks of it in His word. In Mark 6:1-6 Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth. So far in Mark, Jesus has been ministering only around the Sea of Galilee. You might wonder how Jesus is going to be received. Will His hometown welcome Him? Of all people, you would think that they would respond with faith. After Jesus spoke in the Synagogue, this is how they responded; “…many who heard him were astonished, saying, 'Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?' And they took offense at him.” After watching Him grow up, after hearing of His miracles, and after hearing Him speak they responded with unbelief. What is significant is how Jesus responds to their unbelief. We are told in verse six that; "6 ..he marveled because of their unbelief." Jesus marvels at their unbelief. There are only two times in the gospels that Jesus is recorded as marveling- the first time is here in this passage, where He marvels at unbelief, and the second time is in Luke 7:9 where he marvels at the faith of a gentile Centurion. Apparently for Jesus unbelief is a BIG DEAL.
In fact, unbelief is the foundation of each and every sin. Unbelief fails to take God at His word and calls God a liar. Unbelief says God is not who He says He is, that He is not all knowing, that He is not good, His commandments are not good, and that I know better. The bottom line is that unbelief says that God is not a BIG DEAL. We can trace unbelief as the heart of the problem from the Garden of Eden, through Noah's flood, through Israel's rejection of God, the cross, all the way to your sin and my sin. The problem at the heart is rebellion - another word for unbelief. We are responsible to believe in Him.
John 12:10-13 “10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
John 3:18 "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Whether or not you and I believe in Jesus according to God's word is a BIG DEAL. There is nothing more important than what you believe or don't believe about Jesus. These are eternal matters. It is a much bigger deal than most of the things that we think are important. Oh that you and I would take God at His word. That you and I would see that God is a BIG DEAL and we would express this by believing in Him.
The Bible calls you and I to live by faith in Jesus Christ. This is not a momentary thing but a life long thing. What is amazing is that only when you and I look through the eyes of faith can you see the world the right way. When you look through eyes of faith God will look big and everything else will look small (including yourself). Only through eyes of faith can we make sense of life. Unlike Children who can't see things correctly; through eyes of faith we can call spilled milk what it is and we can see the danger of going out into the busy street.