1Sing to YHWH a new song,
Sing to YHWH, all the earth.
2Sing to YHWH. Bless his name!
Proclaim his salvation from day to day.
3Recount among the nations his glory,
Among all the peoples his wonders.
4For YHWH is great and very praiseworthy.
He is more wonderful than any god.
5Indeed, all the gods of the peoples are nothing,
but YHWH made the heavens.
6Majesty and splendor are before him.
Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7Ascribe to YHWH every clan of every people,
Ascribe to YHWH glory and power.
8Ascribe to YHWH the glory of his name,
bring an offering and enter his courts.
9Worship YHWH in holy adornment,
Tremble from before him, all the earth.
10Say among the nations, “YHWH reigns!”
He established the earth and it won’t be moved.
He will judge the peoples with justice.
11Rejoice, heavens! Shout for joy, earth!
Let the sea roar with everything in it.
12Let the fields exult and everything in them.
Let the trees of the forest rejoice as well.
13Before YHWH, because he he is coming.
He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with his truth.
— Psalm 96
I’ve talked a good bit about repentance this week, and two days ago we looked at the elements of repentance. Those elements were to acknowledge our guilt, to confess, and to make the determination to turn around, to turn from our ways.
In Israel, the determination to change was expressed in two very important parts. First was an offering that was brought to the sanctuary for sin. The second was the offer of restitution, the effort to make right whatever harm the transgressor had done.
In Christianity, we believe the sacrifice has been made for us by Jesus. But there is an element of the sacrifice that still has meaning for usâ€”going to the temple, making our confession public before God and praising him. Psalm 96 expresses this quite well, including the phrase that so many preachers wish they could avoid: Bring an offering.
Often we want to worship God, but we want that worship to be without sacrifice. We’d like to sing praises, but the offering plate is threatening. We want to spend time in God’s presence, but we don’t want to be late for lunch. We want to be forgiven, but we don’t want to repent, and we particularly don’t want anyone to know we have repented. Turning around, changing our minds, even becoming a different person are things that don’t seem dignified and appropriate, especially if we’ve been Christians all our lives. But God asks for tangible acts of worship. â€œBring an offering,â€ he says, â€œand enter my courts.â€
In my own experience, there have been many things that I have determined to change, but then I have found that after a period of time, nothing really has changed. So I tell myself again that I’m going to change something. But again nothing happens. Why? I’ve left off the public element of repentance. I haven’t brought an offering, entered God’s courts, and given him glory.
Last week on my Bible study blog, I posted a quote from St. John Chrysostom, a 4th century church father. He discusses repentance and has this to say about offerings:
And after prayer thus intense, there is need of much almsgiving: for this it is which especially gives strength to the medicine of repentance. And as there is a medicine among the physiciansâ€™ helps which receives many herbs, but one is the essential, so also in case of repentance this is the essential herb, yea, it may be everything. For hear what the Divine Scripture says, â€œGive alms, and all things shall be clean.â€ (Luke xi. 41.) And again, â€œBy alms-giving and acts of faithfulness sins are purged away.â€ (Prov. xvi. 6.) And, â€œWater will quench a flaming fire, and alms will do away with great sins.â€ (Ecclus. iii. 30.)
Now St. John’s nickname, Chrysostom, means â€œgolden mouthâ€ in Greek. He was known for his powerful and eloquent preaching. I wonder how many churches would regard him as â€œgolden mouthâ€ today if he talked this much about giving offerings. Almsgiving is the â€œessential herbâ€ of repentance. Why? The main reason, I believe, is that it is a way in which we make our words real through action.
This is a good lesson for Friday. When you attend church this weekend, will you bring an offering to express your praise to God?