True Thankfulness

Reading: Psalm 50.1-15
Our age has placed high value on "doing our own thing." We might even go so far as to class this as "integrity." After all, we are just living out consistently what we really are - our true identity and nature.

In Shakespeareís Hamlet, Polonius says to his son Laertes,

He is calling Laertes to a higher degree of values and action. It is assumed that our "true self" is the best we were intended to be - Godís best - and that to be true to ourselves isnít to act out our brokenness, but to heed the call to a higher idealism.

If our car has a blockage in the fuel line, it could just as well be said that the engine was being "true to itself" if it stepped coughing and spluttering and just died altogether. Not so! The car needs to go to a mechanic who can return it to the makerís specifications.

In Psalm 50, the Lord summons the whole world "from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets" to witness his judgment of his people. This is directed specifically against Israel - the ones who have been consecrated to him with a covenant (v. 5). These are the ones who have accepted the Lord as their God and all the responsibilities of being his people.

A covenant was a solemn and binding relationship between two persons or groups of people. The curious Hebrew idiom for making a covenant is literally "to cut a covenant." It typically involved a sacrifice. It was more than a "gentlemanís agreement" that people might shake hands over.

When God made covenant with people, there was such a sacrifice. As a result, we hear the Lord declaring again and again , "I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God" (as in Ex. 6.7).

The Ten Commandments (Ex. 20.2-17) set out important principles in our relationship with God and our relationship with other people. These principles were summed up by Jesus in the law of love - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.†All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Mt. 22.37-40).

The first part of the Lordís judgment in Psalm 50 has to do with their relationship with him in worship. They hadnít forgotten the prescribed sacrifices. Yet they had forgotten the Lord to whom the whole world and all its creatures belong.

"Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfil your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me" (Ps 50.14-15).

The Lord desires relationship with them. Offerings and vows are to be "to God" - not a formality, but a relationship in which there can be prayer for help, deliverance and honouring God.

The second part of the Lordís judgment is about their relationship with other people. They were reciting Godís laws and covenant but not living them. They tolerated and even took part in theft, adultery, deceit and slander (vv. 16-20).

The Lord had been patient with them. They had interpreted this as approval (v. 21). Please consider (v. 22)! Judgment is coming, but there is time to repent.

"He who sacrifices thank offerings honours me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him†the salvation of God" (v. 23).

Thanksgiving - thatís a relationship. We havenít understood that well as adults and have made "please" and "thanks" merely the "magic words" of politeness.

When I say "please," thatís short for "if it pleases you" - if you like? Itís a request, not a demand. "Thanks" acknowledges the kindness and help of the other person. Unfortunately, these words have become a polite formality, long separated from all that original meaning.

The Lord calls us into a relationship with himself. It is a new covenant established in the death of his Son Jesus Christ, based the forgiveness of our sins, received and entered by faith. It is a relationship, not a formality. It is a call to a trust that asks and receives, to practical action - and to true thankfulness.

Prayer: Our Father, you have loved us with an everlasting love. Too often we have wanted to belong to you, but as a sideline - an ultimate truth that we forget most of the time. Forgive us, Lord. Help us to come to you, to receive from you, to live for you - and to be thankful! In Jesusí name, Amen.

Give Thanks!

Too often
in the busyness of life -
its pressures
to be
and to do -
we forget
whose we are
and whom we serve.

only as we receive
can we give

There was a man -
Son of Man
and Son of God.
He lived
and died
to give
his all
for us.

That man -
over death -
offers now
to give,
and welcome.

It pleases him -
receive him
and give thanks!

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin BlueCare Devotions, 25 February 2003.
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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