First Receivers, Second Responders

Hand-Heart

Psalm 66:12-15 “…but you brought us to a place of abundance. I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you–vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble. I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams; I will offer bulls and goats.”

The prosperity preachers tend to suggest that you can buy God off. If you just bring a big enough gift, the Lord will practically be forced to give you what you want. First comes your offering. Then comes God’s response.

The psalmist says it works the other way around. God’s goodness comes first. Our offerings are the response. We can’t pay God off. We have nothing to offer that isn’t already his. He needs nothing from us. Our combined treasures wouldn’t be worth a drop of Jesus’ blood, or a moment of his love, or an extra second added to our lives.

But God has already poured out streams of Jesus’ blood from the cross, and we live under the endless umbrella of his love every moment of our lives. He has forgiven all our sins and given us lives that never end. That inspires a response. I would like to give him something. What we bring is really just a token, just a symbol, that we are giving God the only thing he ever really wanted from us: our hearts!

The psalmist shows this with the gift he selected. The offering he brings to the temple is a whole burnt offering. This was the one kind of Old Testament sacrifice that was completely reduced to ashes when it was placed on the altar, kind of like when you get distracted and forget about the burgers on the grill. Most of the sacrifices at the temple merely cooked the meat, which was then eaten by the priests, or in some cases eaten by the worshipers themselves. The whole burnt offering was a sign of total dedication to God. It said, “Here, Lord, you get the whole thing–not just this animal, but my head, my hands, and my heart as well.”

That’s what the Lord wants us to bring him in response to his grace. In the first verse of Romans chapter 12, after exploring all the ins and outs of God’s saving grace for eleven chapters, Paul concludes, “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” Again, first God acts with his saving mercy. Then we respond with our offering: our whole bodies, our whole selves, given up in praise to the God who preserves his people.

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