Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Cattle on a Thousand Hills

I will not accept a bull from your house, or goats from your folds.
For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine.
If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it is mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.
—Psalm 50:12-14


My first inclination this morning is to meditate solely a small part of Psalm 50:

Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

—Psalm 50:15

But this is a shallow truth when not taken in the context of what precedes it, where God refers "to his own boundless possessions, that he may show his absolute independence of human offerings. He then points at the wide distinction betwixt himself and [mortals], the latter being dependent for a frail subsistence upon meat and drink, while he is the self-existent One, and communicates life to all beside. There may be nothing new in the truths here laid down by the psalmist; but, considering the strong propensity we have by nature to form our estimate of God from ourselves, and to degenerate into a carnal worship, they convey a lesson by no means unnecessary, and which contains profound wisdom, that [we] can never benefit God by any of [our] services."
—John Calvin

And so the true meaning of the second half of the 50th Psalm is much deeper than its individual verses.
  1. I know that God created all things and that all things are God's. 
  2. I know that my heart should be grateful to God. 
  3. And finally, I know that I can call upon God for deliverance in times of need. 
But when I look at this third point in the context of the first one, my attempts to make deals with God fall completely apart. "God if you'll heal me, I'll serve you the rest of my life," I might say. God has proven that God needs nothing of mine. And yet God says to me, "Come to me when you're in trouble, I will listen, and your deliverance will be my true glory." This is love; this is the very definition of grace.

I come to you now as one of your needy ones, Lord. You have told me that you will hear my prayers, and that you, who need nothing, will be glorified by this minuscule life, which I now hand over to you; in Jesus' Name. Amen.