In addition to the stuff I typically post on this blog, I also want to start writing some brief reflections on Scriptures that I am reading. My typical Bible-reading practice is to follow the Daily Office Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer. I don’t turn it into a Bible study, but as I read I jot down what God seems to be impressing on me through the texts.
A couple weeks ago I read Psalm 50, where God is pictured as the judge of the earth. He gathers Israel before him and says that he finds nothing wrong with their practice of worship, but does find something lacking: there’s no heart of worship behind their practice.
God tells them he doesn’t really need their sacrifices anyway. “If I were hungry, I wouldn’t ask you for a hamburger, because I own it all!” We don’t do God any favors with our worship, because he really doesn’t need it. The problem was people who were mouthing the words of worship with no intention of living in a covenant relationship with God. They thought if they could just do their “religious duty” they could go on stealing, slandering and generally living for their own pleasure and glory.
Against this kind of “worship,” God commands them to “sacrifice thank offerings.” Living in a covenant relationship with God starts with a basic posture of “thank you” toward him as the giver of all good things. True worship starts with a thankful heart. Going through all the right “worship actions” without a Thank You heart at the center is just noise. It doesn’t impress God nor does it do anything for you.
“Great!” some will say, “I can sleep in on Sunday mornings! God doesn’t care about that stuff!” Well, that’s not exactly right either. God didn’t tell the Israelites to stop worshiping in concrete ways, just that merely going through the motions without a Thank You heart didn’t mean much to him.
It doesn’t mean we stop our activity and just walk around with thankful hearts. Worship is not just a posture of life, it is also embodied in concrete practices. Gathering together with the Body of Christ to eat together, listen to God’s Word together, pray together and encourage one another are really important.
God demands that our worship go deeper than merely jumping through the “correct” hoops. It must extend into a Thank You Life. But neither is it enough to simply have a thankful attitude “in your heart” without actually practicing worship in observable ways.
The bottom line is that faith without action is dead, and so is action without faith. But together they form the foundation of a Thank You Life that embodies true worship and brings growth and transformation because we are living interactively with God by His Spirit.