What the Bible says about
Praising God as Sacrifice
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Psalm 35 is a plea to God from David to weigh in on his side against those who were troubling him without a cause (see verse 7). He had no idea where the animosity had come from, and for his part, he had behaved toward them like a friend:
But as for me, when they were sick,
My clothing was sackcloth;
I humbled myself with fasting;
And my prayer would return to my own heart.
I paced about as though he were my friend or brother;
I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother. (Psalm 35:13-14)
However, when he was down,
. . . they rejoiced
And gathered together;
Attackers gathered against me,
And I did not know it;
They tore at me and did not cease;
With ungodly mockers at feasts
They gnashed at me with their teeth. (Psalm 35:15-16)
To grasp the reason for David's statement in verse 18, it must be read in context with the previous verse:
Lord, how long will You look on?
Rescue me from their destructions,
My precious life from the lions.
I will give You thanks in the great assembly;
I will praise You among many people.
David felt alone and persecuted unjustly, and worst of all, he felt that God was merely sitting as a spectator in the stands of the arena, idly watching the spectacle of his being torn to pieces by the teeth and claws of ravenous lions, his enemies. Knowing how undeserved his trouble was, David cannot understand why God has not acted to save him before this. Verse 18 is a promise, along with the plea of verse 17, to praise God publicly and give Him all the glory for his deliverance (compare Psalm 22:22, 25; 40:9-10).
Specifically, he promises to praise God in the public worship at the Tabernacle, as this occurred before the building of the Temple, accomplished by David's son, Solomon. The phrase "many people" is elsewhere translated as "the throng" (see Psalm 42:4; 109:30), and in this case, the psalmist speaks of it, not just as a great number of people, but as a "mighty throng," implying great strength as well. It is doubtful, but there may be a suggestion here that the people of the assembly would be strengthened if they only knew the mighty works that God had performed on David's behalf.
The more cynical may see David's promise as a bribe of sorts, trying to finagle a miracle from God and vowing to repay Him with praise. Others may equate it with the desperate prayer of a soldier in the foxhole, promising to go to church every week if God will just preserve him through the battle. However, that is certainly not the case here. David is already fully committed to God, which he has proved over many years of service to Him, and in this particular psalm, by loving his enemies and waiting on Him for salvation.
The simple fact is that praise (through continued thanks, worship, and proclamation of God's goodness) is the only way a human being can "pay back" the great God of the universe for His blessings and aid. What can a man give to God? We have nothing that God needs; He owns everything already. David's promise, then, should be read as a pledge of joy (verse 9) to praise his Lord and proclaim his faith in God to the widest audience possible as a witness (verses 27b-28). He will do his part to show the world that his God is the God of salvation, one who comes to the aid of His people.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
David says that sacrifice is a prayer. It also works the other way around: Prayer is a sacrifice. Why? Because it is a gift of devotion, praise, and thanksgiving that aids in changing a person's nature from his self-centeredness.
Why is prayer a sacrifice? First, it consumes time. We dislike giving time up unless our heart is consumed by what we want to do, and human nature does not want to do spiritual things. Second, prayer requires giving—the giving of one's mind over to thinking about the qualities of God. How else can we thank Him? We give ourselves to the activity of praise—praise for things that He has done. We do that because we have thought about them and because we acknowledge His presence, His activity, in our or somebody else's life.
Prayer is most effective when we act as a mediator, interceding on behalf of others, meaning that we have given our time to thinking about them and their needs. We give our time to go to God and ask for His intervention so to help them change. God acts on our behalf because we sacrificed and begins to change us away from our egocentricity, our self-centeredness. God is training our minds to think about others rather than the self.
In Psalm 40:6-8, the psalmist says that God did not want burnt offerings. Those who were converted under the Old Covenant understood this fact. Paul quotes this passage in the book of Hebrews. In fact, he quotes Jesus Christ as saying it before He ever came to the earth: "Sacrifice and offering You did not want, You did not desire; otherwise, I would have given it to You. But a body you have prepared for me" (Hebrews 10:5).
One can easily make a ritual out of going to services, tithing, getting rid of the leaven, fasting on the Day of Atonement, or even going to the Feast of Tabernacles if our reasons for doing so are perfunctory, we do not understand, or we disagree with the object lesson that God intends we learn from doing them.
When that lawyer asked Jesus in Matthew 22, which is the great commandment of the law, Jesus said, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and the second is like it." He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.
What Jesus described is the meaning of a whole burnt offering. The burnt offering of Leviticus 1:1-13 is the offering of an animal, but it pictures the offering of a life lived completely consumed in obedience to living God's way. Nothing will prepare us for the Kingdom of God to be both kings and priests like following, with all of our being, Leviticus 1:1-13 and what that burnt offering means. Jesus did. He lived as a whole burnt offering to God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Be a Priest
In Revelation we see that a main theme in the Kingdom at the throne of God is thankfulness. This song of the angels, elders, and the four living creatures shows the reverence that all have in God's presence. There are seven aspects of praise listed here in this spiritual worship of God. Seven signifies totality and completeness. Thankfulness comprises part of this list. In great contrast to this present evil world's gross ingratitude, God has revealed to those who will listen and act that thankfulness is a duty to which the elect of God are bound. Praise and thank God for all His works and for providing brethren by whom we can be encouraged. By developing a thankful attitude now, we prepare ourselves for the soon-coming Kingdom of God.
Martin G. Collins
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