The cattle on a thousand hills - 15 October 2018

Xanthe Hancox

“Listen, my people, and I will speak; I will testify against you, Israel. I am God, your God. I do not reprimand you because of your sacrifices and the burnt offerings you always bring me. And yet I do not need bulls from your farms or goats from your flocks; all the animals in the forest are mine and the cattle on thousands of hills.  Psalm 50:7-10 (GNT)

What does God want from us? The civilizations that shared the ancient Near East with the Israelites believed that their gods wanted, and in fact needed, sacrifices. People were forever offering up, among other things, animal sacrifices so that the gods could feast, be strong, and defeat their enemies in battle.

The Israelites kept up the practice of sacrificing, and cattle would have been a valuable commodity to the Israelites, but God is not pleased. Why not?

God reminds them that he is not like the pagan gods around them. And while their sacrifices are fine, he doesn’t need them. He owns all the cattle and goats anyway. What he wants is a thankful heart.

What about us? There could be any number of sacrifices you make like volunteering at the church or tithe, but those things without a thankful heart are empty. Psalm 50 ends with these words: “Giving thanks is the sacrifice that honors me, and I will surely save all who obey me.”

Both the Old and New Testaments emphasize that above everything else, God wants thankfulness. Give thanks in all circumstances, says Paul, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Why is this? It is because thanksgiving only comes because of having received something. You do not give thanks until you have received something from someone else. Thanksgiving is the proper expression of our faith because we have received the greatest gift of all – eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Forgive me Lord for the times my giving has been a matter of habit, rather than a humble spirit. Grant that I might obey your truth out of a heart of gratitude. Amen

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