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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:The Mighty One, God the LORD, Seeks a Thankful People
Text:Psalms 50:13-15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 50:1,2                                                                                     

Ps 51:2,6

Reading – Psalm 50

Ps 50:6,7

Sermon – Psalm 50:13-15

Hy 77:1,2,3

Hy 85:1,2,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in Christ, whenever world leaders get together, there’s always the problem of gifts. Say the Prime Minister has visited with Queen Elizabeth for a morning at Buckingham Palace. When the Prime Minister leaves, it’d be rude of him not to give the Queen a thank-you present. But what do you get the person who has everything? How can you find a suitable gift for someone with no shortage of wealth?

In a way, this is the same problem that we face with our thanksgiving to God. We know that we ought to thank him. We know we should give back to God, after all He’s lavished on us in Christ. But really, what worthwhile thing could we ever present to God? He doesn’t need anything. And it all comes from him in the first place—our very life and breath. So how can we thank the LORD in a suitable way? How we do thanksgiving is a good thing for us to reflect on.

It’s also the theme of Psalm 50. See how this Psalm opens with three divine names for our God: He is the “Mighty One, God, the LORD” (v 1). This is the great and awesome God, whose rules encompasses all the earth, “from the rising of the sun to its going down” (v 1). More than that, this is the mighty God comes near his people. The Psalm portrays him coming to his temple in Zion, as a devouring fire goes before him (v 2), and around him swirls a tempest (v 3).

All that sets a dramatic tone for the following scene, where God summons his people for judgment: “Gather my saints together to me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (v 5). The great Lord of heaven wants to talk to his people about their worship. They need instruction about bringing their thanksgiving to the Mighty One. And we need to know these same things. What does God want? Why does God want it from us? And how will He receive our gifts? I preach God’s Word to you from Psalm 50,

The Mighty One, God the LORD, seeks a thankful people:

  1. He corrects a wrong understanding
  2. He invites our genuine worship
  3. He promises his ready help


1) He corrects a wrong understanding: Pausing a moment at the title to this Psalm, we see that it’s said to be “A Psalm of Asaph.” This Asaph was a Levite, and together with Heman and Juduthun (or Ethan), he was one of the three leaders of the choir in the time of David. These were the men given charge of leading the singing in God’s house. That’s a significant job. The things that we sing so often express what we believe, and our songs will even shape our faith. The people of God need to have right songs of worship.

Because singing is so important, this wasn’t the only song that Asaph composed for worship. The rest of Asaph’s collection is the Psalms 73 through 83. Psalm 50 has been separated from them and placed here, probably because Psalm 50 has a strong connection to Psalm 51. We’ll come back to that later.

Asaph, we said, was choir leader at the temple. So in this Psalm he refers a lot to things that are related to temple worship. For example, in verse 2 he speaks of Zion, which was the earthly place of God’s dwelling. There in Jerusalem on the sacred mountain, God was pleased to make his name reside. Zion was where the people went up to bring the required sacrifices.

Throughout this Psalm, Asaph also mentions those sacrifices. We learn in Leviticus how the people brought a whole variety of gifts to God at the tabernacle or temple. And these sacrifices were what God wanted! All those activities at the temple were required as their covenant obligation. In the law the LORD had told them to bring fellowship offerings and sin offerings, thank-offerings and guilt offerings.

For their part, Israel had been very meticulous in worship. Listen to what God says, “I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are continually before me” (v 8). At the temple they were doing things just as they should: by the book—right quantities, good procedure, proper timing. God could take no issue with the outward form.

Put in terms that we can relate to, we would say that it’s like our orders of worship are well thought-out and carefully followed. The psalms and hymns in our songbook are well-selected and sung properly. The offering bag is full, and everyone is dressed neatly. And God would say to us, “I won’t rebuke you for your worship.” Even so, something might be wrong.

Because somewhere along the line, the people of God have started to think that He needs these sacrifices. They think that the LORD depends on their gifts. It’s like He went to the temple each day, and He couldn’t wait to see what Israel brought him.

That’s backwards thinking, of course. If God needs our gifts, then the things that you’ve brought can put the LORD in your debt; they actually can make God grateful to you. If the Israelites impressed Him with their liturgical performances, surely He’d give them success, like blessings in the home or in business or the fields. He owed them! But how wrong that is.

So when the LORD summons his people, it’s for a cold, hard dose of reality: “The Mighty One, God the LORD,” has no need for human worship. He’d be fine without it. After all, whatever things they brought to the temple are already his! As the LORD says, “Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are mine” (vv 10-11). It was his land, his produce, his grace.

All these sacrifices they brought—from the finest cow, down to the best oil—everything flowed from Him. God stands above and behind it all. So when his people thank him, God is looking for something more, more than some first-rate animals or produce. Like today, He’s looking for something more than fine clothing and on-key singing.

The LORD puts this truth in a human way, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you” (v 12). Now, if we’re ever hungry, of course, that’s usually what we do: we tell someone about it, like when the kids holler at Mom that they need a snack. But even if He could get hungry, the LORD wouldn’t need to inform us. Because He’s the Mighty One. Point is, He can handle himself, and He can provide for himself.

This becomes even more plain in his pointed question in verse 13, “Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” That can sound strange to us, the idea of God waiting for the next sacrifice to show up so that He can fill his belly. But the Israelites would’ve been shocked at the question: “Doesn’t the LORD need bulls and goats? Doesn’t He want flesh and blood on the altar? I thought he did! And I thought He’d be happy with what I brought him.”

We think Israel is way off, but it can be that we look at things the same way. In the covenant, we have a strong sense of obligation—we know what God requires of us, and even emphasize that. So we can start to think highly about what we do for the Lord. “I work hard every day. I am faithful where He’s put me. So God must need my skills and talents to build the church. God must need me to transform my children. He’s actually impressed with the twenty dollars I put in the bag. I’m impressed with what I’ve done, so God must be too!”

So what’s Psalm 50 saying? Isn’t God pleased with us? Doesn’t He want our service and worship and labour? He might, but we need an outlook that is more humble. “The Mighty One, God the LORD” can get along just fine without them.

Which means that ceremony and liturgy can’t be an end in itself. Nor is God’s greatest delight in our monthly donations, or the routine of our daily prayers, or our good behaviour. Think of what Paul said to the people in Athens in Acts 17, “God who made the world and everything in it, since He’s the Lord of heaven and earth, doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to life and breath to all things” (vv 24-25).

This is the problem we mentioned at the start. What do you get for the person who has everything, who needs nothing? As the Spirit asks somewhere else, “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” (Rom 11:35-36).

The LORD teaches us to view our service of him with a true modesty. The reason for any of our offerings or contributions or prayers must be something different than tradition or expectation, or even a sense of obligation. These good things must arise from what is always first for God: when we have a heart of reverence for Him, when our spirit is filled with a true love for his Name. Strip it all away, and what’s a true sacrifice? What’s acceptable worship? It comes from a heart that’s repented, and from a heart that’s thankful.


2) He invites genuine worship: We said earlier that God required a variety of sacrifices from his people in the Old Testament. And you’d be reluctant to say that one kind of offering was more important than the next. But Asaph singles out one sacrifice in particular: “Offer to God thanksgiving” (v 14). And not just “thanksgiving” in a general sense. Literally, Asaph says, “Sacrifice thank offerings to God.”

A thank offering was a specific kind of sacrifice. It was one of the fellowship offerings commanded in the law in Leviticus 7. This kind of sacrifice was usually offered in the context of a believer’s gratitude to God, when a believer was grateful for deliverance from enemies, or for healing, or for some prayer that God had answered. For example, King Manasseh prayed to God that he’d be allowed to return from a period of exile, and the LORD in his mercy heard him. Then, it says, Manasseh sacrificed “thank offerings to God” (2 Chron 33:16).

This was the kind of offering that God says He prefers from his people. The other sacrifices led the people to misunderstand the relationship, we said. The people looked on them as offerings that put God under obligation. If they would give this, God would have to give something in return. It was a transaction.

But it’s hard to misunderstand a thank offering. It’s a response to something that is given to you! If you’re thankful, it’s because you’re receiving someone’s generosity. Your thoughts are lifted from yourself, because this is something you didn’t earn. Gratitude always puts us in a lower place. “So if you’re going to misunderstand them, forget all those other sacrifices,” God said, “and just present to me your thank offerings. Just show me your gratitude: me, as God and LORD, Creator and Saviour and King.”

Isn’t that still the whole activity of the Christian life? God has been so gracious. The Father is not obligated to be kind to us, but He has been, for the sake of Christ. We know the high price that He paid to cleanse us from sin and secure our salvation. Jesus came before the LORD his God and presented himself in flawless obedience. With the sacrifice of his precious blood, He has atoned for every sin, covered every failing. He’s given us every reason to come before God with true thanksgiving.

Just listen to the words of Romans 12, “I beseech you therefore… by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to God” (v 1). Notice what Paul says. He appreciated what it meant, better than we do, that temple worship was over with the death of Christ. But God still calls us—believers in Jesus—to a life of sacrifice: everything we are, everything we have, presented to the LORD. And we do this, Paul says, “by the mercies of God.” We’re moved by his mercy. We’re stirred by his sacrifice.

The second part of the worship that God is seeking is mentioned in verse 14, “And pay your vows to the Most High.” God’s Old Testament people would sometimes make vows to God by promising a gift to the LORD. And often, these vows had the “condition” that God first had to give some help or blessing.

So a person would make this kind of vow when he was in trouble: “Lord, if you get me out this mess, I vow that I’ll sacrifice to you ten of my sheep.” That could sound like bold and sinful “bargaining,” but not if it was done with a trust in God’s power. And when you paid your vow, it showed deep thankfulness, once you came out on the other side. You didn’t forget where your help had come from.

Pay your vows, and present thank-offerings! These are the things God was seeking from his people. He wanted these gifts from out of a humble spirit, these tributes to him as the Mighty One, God the LORD.

And what about us? We’ve already said God doesn’t need your money. So does that mean God won’t miss it? He will miss it. Or won’t God mind if you’re not here on Sunday? He will care! Will God notice if we don’t say one sincere word of thanks today, or any day? God will surely notice our ingratitude, and He calls it a sin. No, God the Mighty One doesn’t need your thanks. But He wants your thanks. He desires your gifts. He delights in your gratitude. Not the thing itself, He longs for the spirit behind it, the person who gives it.

We’ll say that when someone gives an obviously humble or lowly gift: “It’s the thought that counts.” We say that about home-made gifts from little children. Or maybe about gifts from husbands who are ill-informed and who missed all the hints… It’s not much, or it’s not quite what was hoped for—“but it’s the thought that counts.” And usually we mean that! A humble gift can mean that a person has looked for a way to express their love. Even if it doesn’t look like a lot, that’s a beautiful thing.

So for our thanksgiving to God. We know our very best isn’t very good. But if you’re thankful to him, find a way to show it! If you love what God has done for you in Christ, be devoted to worshiping his great Name. If you’ve been blessed materially, be ready to give something back to him! If you have life and breath, if you have a talent and a skill, if you have an opportunity and platform, use it to praise the LORD. Whatever form it takes, our thanksgiving means that we love him. And God is honoured.

This is one of those simple lessons of Scripture. Think of what Moses asked in Deuteronomy 10:12, “And now, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul?” Even at the same time that Moses in Deuteronomy explains the whole range of sacrifices and gifts, he underlines what the LORD requires. He wants the heart, the soul, the being of a person—offered in love.

We find that teaching in the next Psalm as well; writes David, “You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; you do not delight in burnt offering” (51:16). That’s what we’ve been hearing already. And David continues, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise” (51: 17). After his grievous sin with Bathsheba, King David knew what really pleased the LORD. It wasn’t making all his songs and prayers just so, making sure that he never missed a service at the temple. No, God wants a sanctified heart, a life that’s been reformed.

This is why later in Psalm 50, the LORD speaks sharply against the wicked: “What right have you to declare my statutes, or take my covenant in your mouth, seeing you hate instruction and cast my words behind you?” (v 17). There were some people worshiping at the temple who were actually thieves, and adulterers, and slanderers. That takes a lot of nerve.

Yet it shouldn’t make us think of others, but of ourselves. Do you come here in repentance, with a broken and contrite heart? Do you come eager to hear the gospel, realizing that you’ve sinned, that you need a Saviour? Do you come, filled with a true love for God? If you do, God promises you his grace.


3) He promises his ready help: What’s the definition of generous? Not just someone who gives. But someone who keeps giving, when you’d almost think they’ve given enough and they’ve done their share. Even then, they keep giving. That’s our God: generous. We see it in our text too. After telling his people what He desires, the LORD promises his ready help. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you” (v 15). He’s not done showing mercy!

Because his blessings are always fresh. His mercies are always new. We keep needing, and He keeps giving. Take each small gift as another token of God’s love for you in Christ. And that love gets expressed in a very concrete way: “Call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you.” The LORD promises to stand by his people, to draw near when you need rescue. After all, He’s the Mighty One, God the LORD. He’s the great God who can help us!

He’s done it already, when He gave his Son to rescue us from wrath. Jesus came and saved us from all our enemies. And if God did that, what will He not do for us? Think of what Paul writes in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Point is: if God was already willing to give us his Son, won’t He give us everything else we need?

That gives us confidence in prayer, and it helps us to trust him. When you pray, you know the Lord will be gracious. He’ll hear and answer. When you’re fearful, He’ll give you peace. When you’re lonely, He will grant comfort. He’ll guide you when you’re muddled. When you’re feeble, He’ll make you strong. God declares it as one of those beautiful, catch-all, fill-in-the-blank-yourself promises, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; and I will deliver you.” Whatever it is, God will deliver, if you call on him.

That’s because the prayer of faith is pleasing to God. He wants us to look to him as the Mighty One, God the LORD, our Father in Christ! More than anything God desires a heart that leans on him in humble trust, that walks and talks with him daily. When you pray in that kind of faith, your prayers are more acceptable worship than many expensive gifts and many hours of difficult kingdom service. Those things might still come… But God is looking first for a broken and contrite heart!

And then when God delivers us again, see how that deliverance is meant to lead to even more praise for the LORD: “I will deliver you,” says God, “and you shall glorify me” (v 15). Did you notice that? “After all this,” says God, “you shall glorify me!” Worship inspires worship. A life of thanksgiving produces even more reasons for thanksgiving. A life of prayer becomes an endless stream of prayers, because you keep seeing how God has answered and blessed you.

So live in that expectation. Worship in that joy. Pray in that confidence: God is not done blessing you. And you’re not done thanking Him!  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2018, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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