Psalm 50. Enough With The Bloody Rituals!

Today’s Lectio Divina: Excerpts from Psalm 50. (MsgB)

This is God, your God, speaking to you.
I don’t find fault with your acts of worship, the frequent burnt sacrifices you offer.
But why should I want your blue-ribbon bull, or more and more goats from your herds?
Do you think I feast on venison? Or drink draughts of goats’ blood?
Spread for Me a banquet of praise, serve High God a feast of kept promises,
And call for help when you’re in trouble—I’ll help you, and you’ll honor Me.

It’s the praising life that honors Me.

As soon as you set your foot on the Way, I’ll show you My salvation.

It’s interesting to me that one thousand years before the advent of Christ, God is telling His people through song that the sacrificial regiment of bringing a live animal to the temple in order to offer it as a living sacrifice has run its course.

Oh yes, you might say that it was God who first gave His people the explicit instructions to regularly bring their best calf or sheep or goat to Jerusalem so that a high priest might kill that animal, sacrificing its life blood to cover over the sins of a family. But isn’t it interesting that God is quite clear here in Psalm 50 that this type of religious activity is not really what God was looking for from His ancient people?

In truth, back in the earliest days of God’s relationship with the nation of Israel, God had a big problem on His hands. The people of God were no different from all the other sinners out there around the world. As a matter of fact, we still are. Religious people like you and me, you see, have this kinky worldview inside of us that basically says that God is ticked off at us and we need to find some kind of sacrificial rite or ritual so that this angry God can be appeased. Unfortunately, people read the Old Testament thinking that this Yahweh-God of the Bible is just like all those other foreign gods out there who insist on a blood bath of sacrifice in order to keep holy judgment at a distance. If you’re a student of human history, you know that this confused line of religious thinking has quite often led ignorant people to do very ugly things like human sacrifice and all other kinds of kinky ceremonies that border, quite honestly, on the edge of insanity.

But a careful reading of the Old Testament will reveal that the sacrificial temple system God first put in place was never intended to be a forever thing. As I see it, it was a graphic symbol God had to use for a limited time with very uninformed people so that they might better comprehend what a loving God had in mind when it came to building a lasting relationship with us. So as they say, God used the old formula of ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ In a world where human sacrifice and bloody religious rituals were being performed by every other ungodly tribe around them, God decided to use a very familiar thing to get His people to understand holiness as God sees it, helping them appreciate the high cost of life. So rather than human sacrifice, which was pretty standard fare back then, God replaced a sacrificed human with a sacrificed farm animal instead.

And now, by the time we get to Psalm 50 (1,000 BC or so) God is starting to fill in the bigger picture, saying that He isn’t interested one iota in killing another innocent lamb so that His people will think they are clean. No. Quite honestly, God seems to be ready here to ditch that antique ritual system 1,000 years before He finally did. You see when His Christ came, the innocent Lamb of God; the ultimate blood sacrifice was performed on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem. With that, God said, “Enough! No more blood! No more external sacrificial rites! No more religious ceremonies that have only external meaning to My people!”

As the Psalmist says so clearly here, what God is truly looking for from His people is this:

A banquet of praise,  (worship from the heart)

A feast of kept promises,  (faithful to one’s words)

And a call for help when you’re in trouble! (a recognition that God is God, and we’re not!)

So how about if you and I stop the bloody rituals of religiosity that are built on the faulty concepts that you or I need to appease an angry God, and let’s simply start living a praising life that honors Him? If I read Psalm 50 correctly, as soon as we set our feet on this pathway to God, He’ll show us His salvation. 

My prayer: Father, forgive me when I continue to use old religious formulas based on faulty theology to approach You and Your throne of Grace. Thank You, that through Jesus, no more blood needs to be spilled. No more sacrificial activity needs to be accomplished to appease Your anger. In Christ, You and I are reconciled, once and for all. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: How do I continue to hold on to a system of religious sacrifice that puts all the responsibility on me to get right with God? While I may not be conducting a bloody sacrifice at the temple of God, how do I still act as though it will be through my work alone that God will accept me into His presence? What might it look like to move away from that old system of religion into the amazing freedoms of Grace we now have in Christ alone?

So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Psalms?

Over a 50-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at The Psalms: God’s Songbook of Prayers. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Contemplating the Psalms home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Sustainable Faith-Heartland network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.

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