By Scott Armstrong
“Listen, my people, and I will speak; I will testify against you, Israel: I am God, your God. I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me” (Ps. 50:7-8).
(Read Psalm 50:7-15)
I am very lucky to have a brother. Since he is only two years younger, we had many of the same friends and many of the same interests when we were growing up. We played together a lot and are still good friends to this day.
But obviously we had our moments of fighting, too. And I remember as my mom broke up many heated wrestling matches, she would look at me and demand, “Say you’re sorry, Scott.” Of course, as an obedient son, with true remorse in my heart at what I had done, I would grudgingly mutter, “I’m sorry,” and then wait for my mom to leave before making a face at my brother.
If you have a sibling, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There are ways to say “I’m sorry” genuinely, and ways to say those words without meaning an ounce of them. There are times we have asked for forgiveness and meant it and times when we just did it because it was what we were supposed to do.
This is a theme we have had twice in the past week. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13; Hosea 6:6). In the psalm we just read, God is pleading again for obedience. If I tell my brother, “I’m sorry,” and yet five minutes later do the same thing in order to irritate him, do I really mean it? God is dealing with the same thing. So many of his people are praying to him or, in the Old Testament context, sacrificing bulls and goats, without ever having the intention of obeying him. He desires thankfulness; he wants us to “fulfill our vows”—in other words, obey (v.14). When we sincerely call on him, he will deliver (v.15), but he wants us to come to him in genuine humility and with a real desire to obey.
What has your relationship with God been like recently? Have you been serving him because you know you should or because you genuinely want to? Has your obedience come from your heart or merely been external? God wants us to obey him out of love and thankfulness for what he has done. Pray with him right now. That kind of relationship with him can begin today.