Make Way for Grace!

One of the beauties of the Psalms is their first person narration of how real people think and live. Psalms are intended for us not merely to read, but to identify with them and then sing them ourselves.

They are poems, and the nature of poetry is such that we usually don’t catch all that’s there after only one reading. Psalm 50 is a great example, and helps us grasp what a relationship with God implies, and even how it feels. In fact, it points to the essence of worship.

Asaph reminds us that on the one hand, God does not need our sacrifices, playfully quoting God as saying, “If I were hungry, I wouldn’t tell you.” He is poking fun at idolatrous practices which imply that in worship, we are somehow giving God something He needs. He has countless herds, but does not enjoy a steak as we carnivores do.

On the other hand, God tells us to keep coming back, and by all means bring sacrifices, especially a specific kind (vv. 14, 15):

“Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you and you will honor me.”

A thank offering is an offering that an Israelite brought to fulfill a worship vow. Here’s how it works: You realize your need of deliverance from something or someone, even yourself, and pray, “Lord I am helplessly in need of your grace. Save me, and I will give you the glory, and share the good news of your grace with everyone!”

After the deliverance, you throw a dinner party and invite everyone you know to celebrate, and you serve them that portion of the meat that was not burned on the altar as a means of enjoying your blessing. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Actually it’s better than that. It’s joy. “Come banquet with me and revel in God’s love! RSVP”

It’s not bargaining with or bribing God. It is acknowledging that He alone can deliver, and is a statement of your faith that you are waiting and will exalt that deliverance when it comes. He is not asking for your firstborn, only your praise and the confession of your need. Psalms 66 and 116 are great models of this joyful practice.

This is what separates the righteous from the wicked (vv. 16-21). It is not that the righteous don’t sin, but that they confess their sin and actively depend upon God, rather than pretend to worship Him while actually finding pleasure and meaning elsewhere.

Psalm 50 ends with the moral to the worship story:
He who offers thank offerings honors me,
and he prepares the way
so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

This is what the Bible means when it says that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. When we are attacked, or even when we err, rather than make excuses or seek comfort in illegitimate ways, we bring the mess to God, confident of deliverance. Humility opens the door and makes room for the next round of grace.

Not only does God delight to forgive and restore, He also joins and enjoys the festivity, just like the father in the Luke 15 parable. Jesus went to many sinners’ parties. Invite Him to one of your own.

“Father, we want to worship you well, and acknowledge your grace and deliverance! We thank you for the forgiveness of sins, and your invitation always to come back to you for even more grace. Most of all, we thank you for Jesus, who has made all of your blessings accessible to us. Amen, and Amen.”

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