If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.
— Psalm 50:12-15, 23a
Since I became a believer in early 1998, I have heard and talked a lot about glorifying God. Perhaps there has been a resurgence of such talk over the last decade. Either way, the church of Jesus Christ has certainly always talked about glorifying our Father.
I read Psalm 50 the other day as I was making my way through the Psalms. And two particular sections struck me with penetrating truth and sweetness: “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (v. 14), and “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me” (v. 23).
It seems a bit disproportionate to read the detailed Law of Moses given by God at Sinai, and then to hear God say simply through Asaph, “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.” But there is also a refreshing, unburdening confidence that washes over my soul when I consider that God is most pleased by simple, humble gratitude.
How quickly do we begin to think that God is most pleased with our rituals, our devotions, our meetings, and our offerings. We become the givers, and He becomes the recipient. We become the benefactors, He the beneficiary. We busy ourselves and run ourselves ragged attempting to please Him through activity and efficiency, sadly forgetting the sweetness of His grace and the simplicity of the gratitude that He desires.
The danger of sacrifices and rituals is that we are increasingly tempted to believe that we have something to offer God, when the sacrifice is actually meant to demonstrate that we are coming to God as His debtors. We start to assume that God needs what we’re presenting to him, an idea as offensive as it is ridiculous. We become like a convicted criminal congratulating himself on his morality as he offers his monetary fine to the judge who gave him a merciful sentence.
With incredible yet subtle audacity, we find ourselves believing that God is actually impressed.
Not only is this blasphemous and horrifically backward, it is also binding. Once I believe that I have impressed God, I am bound to have to do it again. Like making a magical first impression that I can never live up to, I am enslaved to endless and exhausting efforts to win Him over.
This is why I am grateful for Asaph’s rich meditation in Psalm 50. Because he tells us, freeingly, that there are two simple ways to glorify God: to ask (v. 15) and to thank (v. 23).
Better to come to God with no offering and a heart of gratitude than to come with the riches of a king and a spirit of self-sufficiency. Of course, better still to pour out offerings and sacrifices from a spirit of gratitude. Either way, may we always remember which one the Lord loves first, and loves best.
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” This a precious admonition to the humble in heart, to those who tremble at God’s holiness and find themselves desperate before His perfect law. He is pleased most of all when we need Him, when we cry out to Him, when we call upon His name. In Psalm 50, God does not want my devotion. He wants my desperation, so that grace can overflow into gratitude.