Why is it that so often in life God has to bring us, his people, back to the basics? To remind us just what life is really all about? And the basics, real life, is all about Him. Not so much about what we say we believe about him, but how that belief works itself out in our daily lives, in our relationship with Him, flowing over into our relationships with others. As I read recently:
“What we believe matters, but perhaps even more, what and how we worship. Israel’s failure was not primarily one of belief, but one of worship. The two are inextricably interwoven, but right convictions have not always led to right worship. Of course, it is true that we can only worship correctly when we have a true understanding of God, but there is a danger of putting the emphasis on belief alone. It can lead to a focus on ourselves and lead to arrogance and division; worship helps us to place the focus where it belongs, on God, and encourages humility. Worship lies at the heart of our relationship with God. Worship is about bringing glory to God in all that we do and in the way that we live as much as in the songs that we sing. Our whole being, mind (right beliefs), emotions (right feelings) and will (right actions) combine to produce true and spiritual worship.” [John 4:23]
As the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, the chief end of man is, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” (SU Notes)
And this seems to be the message of the last section of Psalm 50 when God addresses in verse 16 the wicked person. As we read what follows we realise that this is describing some of His own people, those who offer sacrifices and offerings, “the nominally orthodox…who combine wickedness and worship” (# 29), and so he says to them:
“What right have you to recite my laws
or take my covenant on your lips?
17 You hate my instruction
and cast my words behind you.
18 When you see a thief, you join with him;
you throw in your lot with adulterers.
19 You use your mouth for evil
and harness your tongue to deceit.
20 You sit and testify against your brother
and slander your own mother’s son.
21 When you did these things and I kept silent,
you thought I was exactlylike you.
But I now arraign you
and set my accusations before you.
22 “Consider this, you who forget God,
or I will tear you to pieces, with no one to rescue you:
In Jeremiah’s prophecy, God summed up the problem as follows: “…Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretence…” (Jeremiah 3:10)
Brueggemann explains the problem as follows:
There has been “a trivialization of Torah [God’s law] when covenantal statutes are recited and then completely disregarded…[but, they not only disregard them, they then] do what they please…[including] theft, adultery, slander…”
He then suggests that “in verse 21 we are given the clue to the entire argument…why the loose conduct of verses 18-20 could happen, ‘You thought that I was one like yourself.’ Israel had judged God by the same criteria with which Israel judged itself. This is not so much an elevation of humankind as it is a minimization of God. The word God, i.e. Yahweh, has ceased to carry for the wicked the weighted claim of holiness. And when God is not honoured but is reduced to an average household idol, i.e. when the first…commandments [are] not taken seriously, it is certain that the [other commandments] of neighbour relations will lose [their] power and [their] compelling authority. Then there is judgement (v. 21b). The reality of God as “Other” guarantees the humaneness of human life. If there is disorder in the human community, its root is found in the loss of God’s sovereign sway. The result (v. 22) is that the God who promised to save (v. 15) will not do so…Where the holiness of God is trivialized, human life will be cheapened.”
But our God is “rich in mercy” and so the Psalm finishes with words of hope with God saying:
23 Those who sacrifice thank offerings honour me,
and to the blamelessI will show my salvation.”
Brueggemann concludes, “…there is an alternative to…abandonment…[and that is] the way of obedience, trust, and proper acknowledgement…saving can only be given to those who let God be God.” (# 2) Which is, as he reminds us in verse 1, that He is The Mighty One, God, the Lord, and in verse 12 that the world is mine, and all that is in it. One way or another we will need to face up to the truth of the sovereignty of God.
And so, as quoted above, God desires of us that we turn to Him with “Our whole being, mind (right beliefs), emotions (right feelings) and will (right actions)” because it is these that “combine to produce true and spiritual worship.”
Or as Paul puts it:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
Father I desire your “good, pleasing and perfect will” in my life. Keep me from the sin of “minimizing” You. Amen.