The Worship God Desires
(7) Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you. I am God, your God. (8) Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you. Your whole burnt offerings (are) continually before me. (9) I will not take (another) young bullock from your house nor male goats from your folds, (10) for every animal of the forest (is) mine (as well as) the cattle on a thousand hills. (11) I know all the birds of the mountains, and all that moves in the fields (is) mine. (12) If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world is mine and all it contains. (13) Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? (14) Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High, (15) and call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you and you will glorify me.
Repeated words in this segment include two names for God: “Elohim,” (twice in vs. 7 and once in vs. 14) along with the synonymous “Most High” (vs. 14). The word for “sacrifice,” speaking first of literal animal sacrifices (vs. 8) and then figuratively of offering thanksgiving and praise to God (vs. 14), also occurs twice.
Three areas of focus should be noted. First, the psalmist uses three words having to do with verbal communication: “hear...speak...testify” (vs. 7). Then, in the next six verses, he uses a number of terms that describe Israel’s worship including “sacrifices...whole burnt offerings” (vs. 8), “bullock...male goats” (vs. 9), “every animal...cattle” (vs. 10), “birds...all that moves” (vs. 11), and “bulls...
goats” (vs. 13). Finally, we encounter three expressions that refer to what the New Testament would later call spiritual sacrifices: “a sacrifice of thanksgiving...pay your vows” (vs. 14) as well as “call upon me” (vs. 15). These verses help us grasp what is truly important to God when we worship him.
I. What God commands (7)
II. What God does not desire (8-13)
III. What God truly desires (14 & 15)
God does not desire from those who worship him more animal sacrifices but rather gratitude, obedience, and trust.
In his remarkable conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar, Jesus offered the clearest statement on worship we find in the New Testament: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:23 & 24).
We discover three important truths in these two verses. First, Jesus used “Father” to show us that true worship requires our entering into an intimate, family relationship with God the Father through our faith in the Son. Then, with “in spirit and in truth” Jesus indicated that our worship must correspond to God’s essential nature. Our worship “in spirit” means that our spirits are to commune with him spiritually. “In truth” shows us that our worship must conform to what God has revealed to us in his Word. Finally, by using “seeks” Jesus implied that our worship should arise out of spontaneous gratitude rather than from a burdensome sense of duty or obligation. This is the only time in Scripture that we read of God “seeking” something from us rather than commanding it. Our genuine, heartfelt adoration is the kind of worship that most deeply gratifies the Father’s heart.
God is far more interested in the inner motivations of our hearts than in our outward actions as we worship him. He wants us to become those who delight in sustaining a growing relationship with him. This requires personal transformation, precisely the kind of change Jesus described to Nicodemus when he spoke to him about being born again, that is, being born from above (Jn. 3). Paul referred to this when he wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). Being saved means not only that we have been declared righteous before God (justification) but that we develop a growing capacity to please him with our worship (sanctification). Our old hearts of stone have been replaced with new hearts of flesh so that we can worship “in spirit” as those given new life in Christ. We now worship “in truth” because the Father has revealed himself to us in his Word and in his Son who now becomes for us “the way, the truth, and the life.”