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On this Thanksgiving Day in the United States, Americans are encouraged to pause and give thanks to God. In his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln wrote: “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”
In Psalm 51, David confesses his sin without holding back. He implores the Lord to forgive him and create within him a clean heart. Then David adds that God does not “delight in sacrifice” or “burnt offerings.” Yet there is a sacrifice that is pleasing to the Lord. “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (51:17).
Every time I read Psalm 50, I am startled. In this psalm, God recognizes that the Israelites are properly offering the sacrifices God himself had required in the law. Yet he says that he doesn’t need these sacrifices. What God wants most of all from his people is not proper religious activity, but faithfulness in worship and true obedience, with gratitude.
God is a present help to the downtrodden, the broken-hearted, and even to those of us who are in discomfort. Often our troubles make us feel isolated, and sometimes the only remedy is the power of God’s presence. Even if he doesn’t do anything, we were built with an internal longing for God’s nearness unto us.
Hope was wired to be a working dog. Her Creator gave her remarkable energy and intelligence for the purpose of herding cattle. And she was either going to fulfill that purpose, or create havoc doing something else!
Psalm 49 should not be used to defend injustice or to suggest that it’s fine to be rich and unconcerned about the suffering of the poor (see Micah 6:1-16; James 5:1-6). There is plenty in Scripture that calls us to care for the poor (for example, Isa. 58:1-14). But, the fact that we all will die puts life and riches in perspective. It can help us break free from the bondage of resenting those who have what we do not. It reminds us that true life is not to be found in the accumulation of goods, but in using what we have been given for good.
I love to walk around it a city. Walking in Boston, New York, or San Francisco is, indeed, one of my favorite things to do. There is so much to see, to smell, to hear, and to experience. There are so many fascinating people to look at, but not too obviously.
Given my joy in walking around in a city, you can see why Psalm 48:12 caught my attention.
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