“It is not over your sacrifices that I reprove you; your offerings are before me continually. I will not take a bull from your house or from the folds of your goats. For all of the animals of the forest belong to me along with the beasts on a thousand mountains. I know all of the birds of the mountains and the things that move in the fields are mine. Were I hungry, would I not say that to you? The world and its fullness is mine.”
Oftentimes people will ask, “Why does God command blood sacrifices if in places like this (as well as in the prophets) God turns around and reproves the people for their sacrifices. Cannot God make up his mind? Of course, God’s mind is made up and it was made up before the eternities shifted into creation and began to be measured by time. What we find is a contrast between the way the offerings were being made and the way our God expects them to be made.
You see, the people were clearly obeying the letter of the law with regard to sacrifices, but their hearts were far from him. God is not interested in obedience unless that obedience is given with a heart of thanksgiving and praise. Indeed, there is sacrifice needed to come before God, for their is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). Yet, those sacrifices were not meant to simply be a matter of mechanical obedience; the obedience must stem from a desire to show gratitude to God for his deliverance and mercy to us.
And so God reminds us of one additional great truth. Those things that we give to God, whether it was the sacrifices of the Old Testament era or it is the tithes and offerings we bring into the church today, God already owns it all. Thus, it is truly not our “gift” to God, but only a sign of our gratitude for permitting us to have and enjoy some of His good things. I heard a preacher once say, “It is not what percentage of your wealth that you give God that is most important, it is what percentage of God’s wealth that you keep for yourself that indicates where your heart happens to be. There is great truth in this statement and the Psalmist will develop that idea further.
For us, it is important to grapple with our own service to the church. Often service can be confused with piety and people assume that because they are involved with event “x” or activity “y” that they are a “good Christian.” That is not true at all. Our works avail us nothing when it comes to satisfying God’s eternal demands. Works should flow out of a heart of gratitude, but they don’t always do so. In turn, we must be wary of our own motives to serve. Service acceptable to God is only that service which flows from a gratitude and submission to God’s Law through faith in Christ Jesus. We cannot generate that in ourselves; that must be generated in us by the work of the Holy Spirit. Will you pray for that sort of heart so that your offering of thanksgiving may truly be an offering of thanksgiving that is acceptable to God.