1 The LORD, the Mighty One, is God alone. He speaks and summons all the earth abroad From rising of the sun to where it sets. 2 From Zion’s perfect beauty shines our God.
3 Our God will not be silent—he will come; Before him fire will burn and tempest rage. 4 He summons all the earth and heaven above, That he may judge his folk, his heritage.
5 “Now bring to me my consecrated ones, Those who by sacrifice are pledged to me.” 6 The heavens will proclaim his righteousness, For God himself is judge and none but he.
7 “Hear, O my people, listen while I speak; Against you, Isr’el, I will testify: You are my people; I am God, your God. Hear me as I address you from on high.
8 “I will not blame you for your offerings, The sacrifices which you give to me. 9 I have no need of cattle from your stalls, Or of the goats you bring me constantly.
10 “Mine are the cattle on a thousand hills, The forest animals are all my own. 11 The creatures of the field belong to me; To me the mountain birds are all well known.
12 “I would not tell you if I needed food, Because the world and all its wealth are mine. 13 Do I require to drink the blood of goats? On flesh of bulls do I delight to dine?
14 “But sacrifice thank-offerings to God; Fulfil the vows you made to the Most High. 15 Call on me in the day when trouble comes; I’ll save you, and my name you’ll glorify.”
16 But of the wicked God will then demand: “What right have you to speak about my laws Or take my covènant upon your lips? 17 You hate my word and spurn it without cause.
18 “You see a thief and then you join with him, And with adulterers you love to meet. 19 You use your mouth for evil purposes; Your tongue you harness to promote deceit.
20 “You speak against your brother constantly, Perversely slandering your mother’s son; 21 You thought that I was just the same as you, Since I kept silent at the things you’ve done.
“But now I will accuse you to your face, I will admonish you, as is your due. 22 Consider this, you that forget the Lord, Lest I destroy and none can rescue you.
23 “The one who brings thank-offerings to me— He gives me honour and prepares the way So that I may reveal myself to him And the salvation of his God display.”
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the lovely tune Eventide here.
This Psalm starts with a description of God, so vast that heaven cannot hold him (v1-6). Then it expresses prophetic exasperation with those who think God can’t see them when they hide behind ritual without content (v.7-15). The final section of the psalm (v.16-23), like the cries of the prophets, warns against rebellion masquerading as obedience and states the right way to honour God.
Some commentaries make the point that culture at the time this was written had moved beyond thinking God needed to be actually fed real food or that it is possible to bargain with God. Odd that, when we still hear statements on the lines “so I prayed that if God did this then I would always do that”. Others think the point is to try moving Jewish society beyond the thought that God has such Baal-like needs.
God’s, YHWH’s, response is “you thought I was one just like yourself” (v.21). Long before the accusations of “you make God in your own image” God has already turned it back on itself by effectively saying ”you make yourself and me in the way you’d like to be thought of and seen”. As Angela Rigby wrote on January 20th: Amos seems to be saying, “Look, mate, how you live day to day should reflect the God you worship. And from the way you lot are living, your god’s nowt like the real God!”
The end of the second and third sections of the psalm (vv 14 and 23) say how to honour God by bringing the sacrifice of thanksgiving properly. It was a party – read Lev 7: 11-21 – unleavened cakes with oil and leavened bread and cooked meat and it was all to be eaten, not saving leftovers to eat for the rest of the week. God is generous, so honour that generosity by making yourself like God – be generous in sharing the thanksgiving to all around.
Generous God, May we worship you wholeheartedly, bring praise sincerely and share energetically. Amen
The Rev’d Ruth Browning, Thornbury URC, Retired Minister