Today is Tuesday, March 10. We’ve been together two weeks now on our 40-day Lent journey! My name is Gina, and it’s great to have our growing group of international prayer and fasting warriors back together today for scripture, reflection and prayer.
Scripture: Psalm 50:7–15,22–24
What can I give someone who has everything?
That’s a question I’ve had to ask myself a few times in my life, when I wanted to give back to someone who generously gave something to me. And yet, I had no idea what gift I could give them, because they had experienced great material blessings; anything they wanted, they could obtain themselves.
When that has happened, I have realized that all I have to give them is my gratitude, and my relationship.
That seems to be the message of today’s Psalm.
God is speaking to the people of Israel. The people had a misunderstanding about their relationship with God. They thought that He wanted them to give Him sacrifices of their physical property: namely their livestock—bulls, goats, birds and sheep. Some who might have been very poor could put small coins in the temple’s offering box.
In this passage, God reminds them that He owns the whole world. He owns all of creation. They couldn’t give Him anything that He didn’t already possess. The livestock they sacrificed to Him were already His. In fact, they only had those animals to sacrifice because He first gave these gifts to them.
For all the animals of field and forest are mine! The cattle on a thousand hills! And all the birds upon the mountains! If I were hungry, I would not mention it to you—for all the world is mine and everything in it.
“You know what I really want?” God is asking. “I just want your gratitude. A thank you note would be nice.”
Psalm 50: 15: What I want from you is your true thanks; I want your promises fulfilled. I want you to trust me in your times of trouble, so I can rescue you and you can give me glory.
“And, you know what else I could use?” He asks. “I’d like it if you turned to me when you needed help, and not to other gods and resources, or to yourselves.”
These two things—gratitude for what He’d given them, and seeking God to meet their needs—underscore the main thing He wanted most of all: He wanted a relationship of mutual love with the people of Israel.
In their frenzy of sacrifices, the people had gotten so busy doing things for God that they had forgotten the point of it all—to be with God; to know Him. To love Him back for loving them. He wanted their relationship more than all the stuff they were doing for Him. The latter had overshadowed, and even replaced, the former.
We can make the same mistake. Many of us Christians get so busy serving God in ministry, volunteering in our favorite causes, caring for our families, and all the things that we feel obligated to do for God, that we neglect God Himself. God is saying, “That’s not the main thing I want from you. What I want more than anything is simply you. I want us to be close. I want to shower my love on you, and receive your gratitude and love in return.”
We make things so complicated when it can be so easy. We exhaust ourselves trying to please God, and maybe even begin to resent Him when we run ourselves ragged in His name. He says, “I never wanted all that from you in the first place. Not if it means we aren’t spending time together.”
Service to God and others flows out of our intimate relationship with God. God is the source of our love, strength, wisdom and perseverance in ministry. We can’t mine resources out of something that doesn’t exist.
What a beautiful God we have, who gives us Himself, and asks us for ourselves in return.
As we journey through Lent, a time when many Christians choose a sacrifice to make to God, such as giving up some kind of food or activity, let’s not forget that this is no substitute for spending time with God and deepening our relationship with Him, making space each day for His presence and voice. If we give up something, let it be something that helps us make that space to focus our attention and time on God Himself; that enables us to be with Him and thank Him for everything He’s done for us.
Let’s prioritize what God really wants: Giving God ourselves; spending time with Him; seeking to know Him more; thanking Him for all His blessings. Let’s experience the peace and restfulness of relationship, instead of the exhaustion of frenzied sacrifice. And thank God for His goodness that this is what He wants most.
- We are two weeks into Lent. For those of us who have chosen to give up something for God during this 40 days, are we prioritizing time to spend in God’s presence each day, to study His word and listen to His voice? If not, what can we do this week to clear out that space and give God the gift of relationship?
- As we survey the entire landscape of our lives, have we replaced relationship with God by doing things for God? If so, ask the Holy Spirit to show us if there are things we are doing for God that we can set aside and give that time to getting to know God better.
- God has said today that He yearns for our gratitude. Think of five things right now that He has given you that you want to thank Him for.
Kind and generous Father,
Thank You for walking closely to us during the past two weeks of Lent. Thank You for being the kind of God, the only god, who actually desires and pursues a loving relationship with us. Thank You for knocking down every wall and removing every obstacle that separates us from You, even things we construct between us and You without realizing it.
As we give You the sacrifice of our time, our listening, and ourselves, please speak into our lives. Show us where we have prioritized anything over You, and give us wisdom to see where and how to put You first again.
Where we have exhausted ourselves in Your service, please give us the gift of Your rest and renewal.
We give You the sacrifice of our gratitude. You have blessed us abundantly, and often in ways we don’t even see. Most of all, You have given us Yourself. Thank You for this greatest gift of all.
Instill in us a spirit of gratitude every day. And help us to seek relationship with You first in all things.
We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
The additional scripture passages for today are found in:
Let’s meet again tomorrow!