Reading through the Bible together
This Psalm captures a grand and solemn moment, when God opens a court session to sit in judgment on His own people. The issue in this court case is that Israel goes through all the right motions of being His covenant people, but they don’t live by the covenantal requirements. They are very religious but not very good. They practice the forms but don’t live the life.
In startling terms God states His accusation against His people: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You do not care for My instructions and you cast my words behind you.” Having listed their specific sins God says, “These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you.” You’ve behaved badly, and I said nothing, so you thought I just went along with it. You engage in God-talk and faithfully practice your religion, yet you treat My instructions as unimportant. But I will rebuke you and accuse you of what you have done and not done.”
Amazingly, God appoints the nations of the world as His jury and witnesses at the trial of His people! In reality the world does sit in judgment on us. Even those who don’t acknowledge God expect us to behave differently than we do and are disappointed when we don’t. After all, we are to “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which we are to shine like stars in the universe” (Phil 2:15). Jesus calls us to let our light shine before men, that our good deeds may lead them to praise our Father in heaven (Matt 5:16); yet the church has often behaved in a way that has damaged God’s reputation before men. We individually and as a church community have the awesome task of rescuing and upholding His good name in the world.
God’s surprising remedy to the religious wickedness of His people is that they bring thank-offerings to Him and thanking Him for what He has done. This is what makes Him real in our experience. It is possible to be regularly involved in the forms of religion without ever engaging with God. Thanksgiving prompts our belief in Him to intersect with our lives. It acknowledges His living, active presence in our daily business. It takes our worship of Him beyond church walls, into our homes and on to the streets.
Greater Sydney Conference