Come, Gather

Psalm 50: 5

Gather My godly ones to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.”

By now, most Christians have embraced the idea that God called us to Him so that we might be in relationship with Him. That relationship is one of kinship, it is a bond that is sacred to God. He seeks those who have covenanted with Him through sacrifice, forged a bond through sacrifice and He gathers those to Himself.

When we read the word “sacrifice” in the Old Testament, we usually think of lambs and bulls and goats offered on the altar. In verse fourteen we find that the sacrifice God was looking for was not the blood of animals but rather a sacrifice of Thanksgiving. In the Old Testament, there were prescribed offerings, but it isn’t the meat or the unleavened cake that God spoke about in this verse. He was looking at the thankfulness with which a person brought the sacrifice to the altar. The sacrifice is an offering of being grateful and expressing that thankfulness. In the Old Testament, that offering was not words alone but an actual offering that was taken to the temple and laid upon the altar. I personally like the outward expression. In other words, “Father I will tell you how thankful I am for what you have done for me but let me show you as well.” A sacrifice without an accompanying sentiment is empty. It is dead works. However, words can be empty too. I like an act being tied to our words and our sentiment of thankfulness. In modern times our offerings tend to be money. There are other ways to make a thanksgiving offering. If we gave something else of value, that would be a memorial before God too. The key is that it is an offering that means something to us.

There is a New Testament idea that we can drape over this covenant by sacrifice concept. It might be that when you hear the word “covenant” you think of the term “blood covenant.” A blood covenant is forged in blood and shows the serious intent of the parties as well as its immutable nature. It is a blood covenant that New Testament believers share with the Father, a bond so strong that it cannot be broken. The lamb was slain upon the altar and the blood from that unblemished, innocent lamb binds the Father to us in tethers which no one, not even God Himself, can sever. That sacrificial lamb, his flesh, his blood binds God to those who receive it as their thanksgiving offering.

If you think about it, the debate about who killed Jesus is resolved here. I sacrificed him; you did too. We are the ones who shed the blood of the innocent lamb and through him made a blood covenant with the Father. We are the ones who come to the altar and reap the reward of the thanksgiving offering. We are the ones who claim that blood. We put him on the altar as our thanksgiving that the Father loves us and was willing to slay the lamb in a joint act in order to forge that imperishable covenant bond between us. The blood of the lamb isn’t only a sin offering and a guilt offering. That perfect lamb is the thanksgiving offering of a grateful people. God gave us the perfect lamb so that we could come into spotless, unblemished union with Him, so that we would enter and enduring covenant with the Holy One.

Now, daily, the Father gathers His beloved to Him. He calls to those who, through sacrifice, have made a covenant with Him. So, there are two ideas I would leave you with. Gather to the Father. Hear His call to you for fellowship and togetherness. Second, don’t forsake the act of giving a thanksgiving offering. I think you will find it fulfilling. You can always give one just to memorialize the perfect sacrifice made for us, but you may also like to send Father a special thanksgiving offering just to express your thanks when something has gone well for you. I think it will touch the Father’s heart but just as importantly, it will boost your heart so that you will answer the bell which is ringing, calling us all to gather around Him.

The Sacrifice of the Heart

Psalm 50: 14

 “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.”

 Psalm 51: 15 – 17

O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Psalm 50 and 51 might best be understood when read together for they shine light upon each other. In Psalm 50 God is speaking and when you read the psalm in its entirety you see that God says the he owns all of the cattle, knows every bird and so on. He does not require Israel, or us, to sacrifice goats, sheep or cattle so that He can feed Himself. It was not the sacrifice of animals that He wanted. He said to offer Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

David responds to God in Psalm 51. He first prays that the Lord will give him a mouth full of praise then he goes on to explain that he understands that the sacrifice the Lord wants is the sacrifice of praise. He tells God that he would gladly give sacrifices of burnt offerings if that is what the Lord wanted but that he knows that is not what the Lord seeks. In truth, I would say that the burnt offerings were necessary because people would not give the Lord what He sought; hearts devoted to Him and mouths which offered praise and thanksgiving. David reveals to us that what God really wants are our hearts.

David spoke about the human heart which is acceptable to God in terms of being broken. He also speaks of a broken spirit. When you look up the word “broken” in Strong’s Concordance you find that it does describe something that is broken. It literally means to burst. Other synonyms found in Strong’s are crush, destroy, hurt quench. This was not what I expected to find when I looked up the word. I was thinking of a heart which is not proud or haughty, a humble heart and spirit so I was surprised that David used a word that truly does mean broken. There is one other term that Strong’s uses in defining this word which, I believe, reconciles both viewpoints. The word shabar (broken) means break down, in pieces, etc. but in it is the idea of rebirth. The Strong’s definition literally says “bring to birth.” This means that God wants to receive our hearts in such a condition that he can rebirth them in His glory.

We sometimes talk about people having to hit rock bottom before they can get their lives in order. Perhaps there is an element of that kind of contriteness in this verse. Remember that David has already prayed for God to create in him a clean, upright heart (v. 10). I believe what we learn from this is that which God wants from us is a heart which has been cleansed of the worldly mess and all of our preconceived notions so that He can write His truth upon it. God will create a new, glorified creature in each one of us but he needs that clean, white slate upon which to write. He is not going to argue doctrine with us. He is not going to battle with us over what the truth really is. He will give us all truth and wisdom freely but we must first give Him a clean slate upon which He can write. We must prepare our hearts in the sense that we must offer them to God with a willingness for Him to fill them with Himself and His words. We do not have to do any of the work to clean them other than pray and receive. Jesus has already provided the heart wash and stocked it with cleaning fluid. All we have to do is to decide to drive our hearts through it. That’s all but it is a critical piece of the process. We must first do our part and then Father, Son and Holy Spirit will take over from there.

 So this is the sacrifice that the Lord requires of us, our hearts.