The Lord’s Indictment Against Formalism

In Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, there is the grave of a Civil War soldier. The stone bears the date of his birth and death, and then these words: “Abraham Lincoln’s substitute.” In the woe and anguish of the war, realizing that thousand upon thousands were falling in his … More

Substitutes

This portion of Scripture deals with dead works. God makes it plain that He doesn’t need or really want sacrifice. His first requirement is integrity. Sacrifices only show a worshiper’s outward obedience.  Even for Christians, it is often easier to do the outward thing rather than have a heart that is right toward God. Some people substitute church attendance for reading God’s Word and getting to know Him personally. To others giving to missions may be a substitute for being a missionary to unsaved relatives and neighbors.

At the time referred to in this Psalm Israel had reinstated the sacrificial system. It had rebuilt the altar in Jerusalem and reinstated the offering of sacrifices as in ancient times. Gathering the faithful of Israel together, the God of gods will now indicate what type of worship is acceptable to Him (v. 7). While His chosen people abounded in outward sacrifice and burnt offerings, they seriously neglected the sacrifice of heart devotion toward Him (vv. 8-9). It seems that the Jews were treating the sacrifices as though they were doing God a favor in offering them to Him. Simply giving to God a bullock or a goat could never please Him, for every beast of the forest and all the cattle on a thousand hills already belong to Him (vv. 10-11). He had no need for animals; what He wanted was heart dedication. It is not the sacrifice that brings pleasure to God, but rather the willing and cheerful attitude of the sacrificer. If it were possible for God to be hungry, He would have no reason to tell man; for the entire world and everything in it already belongs to Him (vv. 12-13). The only acceptable sacrifice to God is praise and thanksgiving out of a pure heart (vv. 14-15).

Application

Do I know of anyone today who seems to think they are doing God a favor by going to church and being involved in religious activities? As I find myself having similar thoughts I need to remember that attitude is a lot more important than activity. No activity will substitute for attitude.

Psalms 50:7-15 (English Standard Version)

"Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. "If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."

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