Today’s Reading: Psalms 40-45
Today’s Reflection: Psalms 40:6
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.
The book of Leviticus opens with 7 chapters about sacrifices and offerings. These were ceremonial practices that represented atonement for the sins of the people, so they were obviously of vast importance. Other chapters through the Pentateuch—the first 5 books of the Bible containing the law, also known as the Torah—concern the consecration and preparation of the priesthood who carry out the sacrifices (Exodus 39, Leviticus 8), the sanctuary where the sacrifices were made (Exodus 36-38, 40), and the feast days those sacrifices were conducted on (Leviticus 23). In short, an extraordinary effort had been made to ensure that practice of sacrifices and offerings was carried out exactly as instructed by God.
And yet here we see that God is not delighted by sacrifices and offerings. That these ceremonies are not even required by Him. What is King David saying in this Psalm?
If we look at the broader context of what David is writing about here, the picture becomes clearer. In verse 1 he writes:
Psalm 40:1 – I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
There is no ‘law’ about waiting on the Lord, or specific instruction about how patient to be before hearing from Him. This is not about the law, it is about a relationship. And that is what God really wants from us.
It’s not that the law isn’t important. It’s that the purpose of the law is to point us to God, to draw us into a relationship with Him that will truly allow us to keep His law, and to enable us to have better relationships with each other.
Matthew 22:37-39 – 37) And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38) This is the great and first commandment. 39) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Walking with God is a transformative process through which we learn how to honour and obey Him and His law.
Psalm 119:1 – Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!
Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Unfortunately, then as now, too many people attempt to keep the law in their own wisdom and strength. They miss the point and miss out on connecting with God or learning how to love other people. Their keeping of His laws is displeasing to God and it is futile because it ignores the true power available at the heart of God’s Word as well as its true purpose. As God says through His prophet in Isaiah:
Isaiah 1:11 – “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
And the reason for God’s rejection of Israel’s sacrifices and offerings? That for all their ‘righteousness’, they have not sought to truly know God and have ignored the needs of people.
Isaiah 1:16-17 – 16) Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17) learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
So put first the reality that God is a being who wants to know you and wants to be known by you. Pursue this relationship and in walking with God you will find what it truly means to keep His law, what it means to truly be righteous.