It's Between God and Me
“I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal in the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine” —Psalm 50:9-11, NIV.
These verses come in the middle of a psalm by Asaph. He writes as though the parties were being called to court to stand before the Judge of the universe to give account of how they have carried out the covenant that they made with the Lord, a covenant they renew constantly through their sacrifices (vss. 4-6).
As the accused stand before the court, the Lord reminds them that the issue is not their sacrifices (vss. 7, 8). The Almighty, through Asaph, reminds those who stand in the dock that they are not doing him a favour by making those sacrifices. He doesn’t need their bulls or goats since everything in creation belongs to him (vss. 9-13).
He reminds His people that it is important that they keep the vows they have made to follow the Lord wholeheartedly when they offer those sacrifices (vss. 14, 15, 23). God’s people are not to be like the wicked—whom Asaph describes in details in verses 16 to 22—they are not to be two-faced, pious at the time of sacrifice and impious the rest of the time.
It’s hard enough to resist the temptation to look and act like the unregenerate world. But injustice and wickedness exist in places and people that supposedly don’t belong to the world. It is often harder to avoid becoming cynical, angry, withholding yourself from your brothers and sisters, when those you should be able to trust to maintain a standard of righteousness, aren’t trustworthy. Those are times when we are tempted to play the game their way, to assuage that fear of being taken advantage of, of being used and abused by protecting ourselves.
At times like these, it is important to go back to the beginning and to remember that the covenant is first of all between us and God. Whether we fulfill our vows doesn’t depend on how the wicked, inside or outside the body, behave. We need Asaph’s reminder that God will defend us, provide for us, and reward us, whether or not any human agent does those things on our behalf. “We “play the game” according to God’s rules, not according to anyone else’s.
Asaph ends his psalm with this expression of hope: “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God” —Psalm 50:23, NIV. A grateful heart committed to keeping faith with God will not go unrewarded. God keeps His promises even when others do not.