The Cattle on a Thousand Hills
I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:9-10)
Israel had this recurring, basic flaw in their worship in the Old Testament. It may be the same basic flaw we have in our worship today. Sometimes they worshiped the wrong gods (a flaw our culture shares), but that isn't the flaw I'm talking about. The flaw was that They misunderstood WHY it was they were to worship God. They thought that worship somehow gave God something that God needed, and thus they were doing God something of a service in worship. (Is this why we call our worship time "the service?") In the Babylonian flood myth The Epic of Gilgamesh, the gods rush to devour the sacrifices offered after the great flood because they were starving. Without humans around to offer sacrifices, the gods had nothing to eat! Evidently, there was some of that thinking going on in Israel.
In Psalm 50, the psalmist Asaph dramatically makes the point that worship does not give God anything. We don’t supply something that is lacking in God when we give acceptable worship. Asaph drives home that point in three ways--
- Everything Israel could give already belonged to God (9-11)
- If God were truly hungry, He would not tell them (12)
- God didn't need their sacrifices or anything else (13)
Israel was like the child who gets Daddy something for Christmas. Whatever the child gives already belongs to the father. If Daddy really needed anything, he would just get it himself; he would not tell the child. But it is important for the child to give Daddy the gift because that teaches the child something important about giving. So the child benefits from giving and the Father takes pleasure in the gift. That is the point of Israel's worship and of our worship today. God demands Israel to continue to give their gifts (50:14-15).
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.”
Like the child who gives Daddy a tie on Christmas morning, the gift of worship shows our love for our Father and deepens the relationship we enjoy with Him. God does not benefit from our worship; we do. And ultimately the gift we receive is the gift of God himself. The Psalm concludes in verse 23--
He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.
Our sacrifice of worship gives God nothing, but it gives us something crucial. Our gift of worship allows us to better know God, and He takes pleasure in our feeble offering. And that opens the way for us to better see the salvation of God.