Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to bribe God

Psalm 50:1-23 highlights the misguided attempts of those who try to manipulate God to their side by their religious practices. Do people actually think they can bribe or appease God by their attempts at personal goodness? The answer of course is no; but it doesn’t stop people from trying.

It’s actually a form of paganism or idolatry. Worshipers believe the “gods” are fickle and arbitrary. Anything can upset this delicate balance, so the worshiper has to provide a constant stream of sacrifices to the gods to keep them happy. Sacrifice a child, animals, crops, and things will go well.

Some of this is going on in Psalm 50: 1-23. But God will have none of this. In court-room style, the Mighty One, God the Lord – who is not comparable to the gods of the earth – summons two groups people to answer charges of religious bribery. Ps. 50:1-6

Insiders
God does not need religious sacrifices Ps. 50: 7-9; because everything – animals, birds, cattle – everything, belongs to the Lord. Ps. 50: 10-13. God wants from Israel sacrifices of thanksgiving, obedience, and dependence on God to deliver in times of trouble. Ps. 50: 14-15
It seems to me God rejects Israel’s sacrifice, because while they brought their external sacrifices to God, they with held their hearts from the Lord. Remember what Samuel told Saul? I Sam. 15: 22

Outsiders
Almighty God questions the strange practice of those who audibly recite God’s Laws but reject those same laws through their lifestyle choices! Ps. 50: 16-17
They had perfect recall of the Law of God but failed in 5 main ways:
1. You hate discipline by casting my words behind you Ps. 50: 17
2. You support thieves and keep company with adulterers Ps. 50: 18
3. You gossip about other people, tell lies, and speak evil against siblings Ps. 50: 19-21

Mercy
Psalm 50 opened with solemn, scary words of judgment, now ends with mercy and the hope of salvation Ps. 50: 22-23. Isn’t this just like God? God’s grace is always greater than sin. God shows mercy to those who are near and to those who are far off. God will not be manipulated or bribed by superficial religion. The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.

Tomorrow, as we gather with others for worship, don't think God is pleased with mere outward forms of religion. Go deeper. Look at your heart; ask the hard questions: do I live each day as if God really matters? Do I believe that sees me from the inside out and nothing can be hidden from him?

Lord, thank you for your mercy and grace. You are just in all your ways, and your judgments are true. We deserve your wrath. Forgive us for giving sacrifices without giving our lives to your rule and reign. Forgive us for hiding behind our empty religious activities that cater to our sin. Thank you for Jesus who lived a perfect life and died as our sinless sacrifice to remove our sin. Help us now from this day to love you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Amen