Proverbs 15:8 The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked,
but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
This verse doesn’t necessarily click for us today because we don’t practice sacrificing animals to God, but the modern equivalent would be making a large financial offering. Back then, wealth was measured mostly in agricultural products and what you could get for them. The point here is that if your heart isn’t right, you can’t buy your way into God’s good graces. Of course that directly contradicts the practice of selling indulgences that Martin Luther reacted against so strongly. As much as we might think we understand it logically, we have great difficulty grasping emotionally that God doesn’t need anything we could possibly give Him materially. What He wants is our heart, submitted and obedient to Him, so that He can fellowship with us as a father his children. He doesn’t love our things, He loves us. That’s why, as this verse says, if our heart is right before Him, a simple prayer is far more pleasing to Him than a huge offering would be if we were in rebellion against Him. We have such trouble understanding God’s love. We look at ourselves and think we are unlovely. The world judges us on the basis of appearance, possessions, and accomplishment, but God looks at us as His kids. We want our children to be successful and have plenty and we even like them to look good, but none of that changes the fact that they are our children, and we love them on the basis of that. When they love us in return and honor us as their parents, that is the best thing they could do for us. That is precisely how God feels about us.
I had the great blessing of being raised by parents whom it was easy to honor and love. As a pastor, I am sharply aware that many people have not been so blessed, and are often deeply wounded by the very parents who should have nurtured and disciplined them. As a spiritual parent I am called to be God’s agent in binding up such wounds. In a sense, sometimes I am the bandage He wants to apply to their life. Sometimes I do it right, and sometimes I don’t. I have wounded more people than I like to think about. I am to speak God’s truth in love, because all such wounds are essentially lies about the character of God. When we have absolute assurance of God and His love for us, nothing anyone can do can wound us very deeply. I am to speak God’s truth so that people will be able to navigate the maze of lies that surrounds them, but I must do it in His love or it will be no more than a noisy gong or clashing cymbals to them. (1 Corinthians 13:1) I am to seek to help people understand what God really wants of them, so that they may receive all that He has for them, from eternal life on down.
Father, thank You for this clear reminder. Thank You for the lady who called and then came by yesterday, wanting to know what it took to be able to come to church. She is as ignorant of church as anyone I’ve ever met, but she is evidently hungry for what she senses she could find here. I pray that Your truth, Your love and grace, would transmit to her effectively, filling her heart and meeting her need, as a testimony to all who know her and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!