Proverbs 15:8 - Thanksgiving Prayer that Pleases God
The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases HimProverbs 15:8
In this season of the year we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, in Canada on October 10 and in the U.S. on November 26. We should be grateful, that, even though our countries are not what they should be, their governments still set aside such days. In the United States this was begun by the pilgrim fathers. Abraham Lincoln set this day aside as a national holiday in the United States. Since then it has been set aside by presidential proclamation as a day for thanksgiving.
It is set aside to thank God for material gifts. Originally these were crops during the past growing season. Even though the percentage of farmers has decreased, it is still fitting to thank the Lord for the products of the land, business, and labor, and everything else He has given.
In the text quoted above we read about two kinds of people, the wicked and the righteous. The book of Proverbs contrasts the two. These proverbs describe the antithesis and are moral regulations for our lives.
The wicked do not know the Lord, nor fear Him. Although they may have some form of religion, they are Godless people. Many of these people also celebrate Thanksgiving Day. But this observance really doesn't "fit" in their way of living and thinking. How can they thank the Lord whom they don't know? Christ is not in their hearts. They don't recognize God in their lives, and He is not their father (John 8:41, 44). How can such people possibly truly thank God as our heavenly Father?
The other kind of people are the upright. To be upright means walking in the way of right, living according to the commandments of the Lord. Upright people are sinners whose sins are covered by the blood of Christ. They are "born again," possessing the Holy Spirit. As a result they love the Lord and want to show this in their daily living.
We read of the sacrifice of the wicked and the prayer of the upright.
It is interesting that the writer, inspired by the Spirit, puts it this way. Don't the wicked often also pray, though formally, and don't the upright also bring sacrifices? Of course they do.
Notice that sacrifices are outward, and prayers are spiritual exercises that come from the heart. Sacrifices in the Old Testament are legally required forms of religion, while prayers were and still are more direct expressions of that which takes place within. In sacrifices the idea was that man was giving something to the Lord, while in prayers he often asks Him for something.
The Old Testament forms of religion in many ways were quite different from those of today. The church then did not have worship services on Sunday, with the Word preached, songs sung and prayers offered. A most common expression of their religion was bringing sacrifices. This was expected of all people in Israel. They expressed their faith in the sacrifices they brought to the Lord, sin-offerings, peace-offerings and thankofferings. The Bible describes what kind of people some of them were by referring to their sacrifices. Cain's life is described in the kind of sacrifice he brought to the Lord. King Saul showed that he didn't really serve the Lord in that he himself brought sacrifices; he didn't need a priest. He didn't recognize God's instructions that only priests (types of Jesus) could bring sacrifices pleasing to God. In Psalm 50:9 the Lord says to the wicked that He had no need of a bull from their stall, or goats from their pens. Thus, in Proverbs the writer describes the wicked by referring to their sacrifices.
In contrast, Solomon describes the activity and nature of the people of God in a different way. He speaks first about their prayers. All true religion is deep within, and comes to expression especially in our prayers. Our prayer life is a good thermometer of our spiritual life. Our prayers reveal our relationship with the Lord. If our prayers are shallow, our relations with the Lord are likely shallow. On the other hand the more genuine our prayers, the more genuine is the fellowship we usually have with the Lord.
Our thanksgiving begins with our prayers to the Lord. It has to be a thanksgiving from the heart. In the heart is the real difference between the thanksgiving of the world and that of the Christian. The upright child of God thanks God not merely with words, but also with actions including gifts of love and help for the needy neighbor. The purpose of God's work of salvation is that we glorify Him with such good works. Where much has been received, much must be given. Our many reasons to thank the Lord, and the millions of needy in the world, move us to show our gratitude and love to Him by such giving.
When we see how God wants us to be thankful, we know how largely we fail. How much of our thanksgiving is like that of the world, a happiness for material gifts. We need to pray for pardon of the sin of ingratitude. A contrite heart is pleasing to God, also in thanksgiving. Gratitude doesn't come easily or naturally, because we are all instinctively selfish. We need to learn "the prayer of the upright" of which Solomon speaks. We must pray that the Holy Spirit may give us hearts that "go" out to God and the neighbor. With that will go a real joy, like the joy of the Savior who lived to give.
Solomon says that "the Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked." Other versions use the word "abhors." Isn't it frightening that the Lord detests something or some people? What we "detest," we utterly reject. Think of spoiled food. We say that "it stinks!" That's what the sacrifice of the wicked means to God! That's how the Lord reacts to their sacrifices? This suggests the Bible's description of hell as like Jerusalem's burning garbage dump.
Does this mean that the thanksgiving of the wicked is also abominable to Him and that He literally detests it? Is the selfish "thanksgiving" of the wicked abominable to Him? If words have any meaning, that's exactly how it is. I am aware that this kind of language is not very popular even in church. Many people would never say this. But remember how the Lord Jesus utterly rejected the formal religion of the Pharisees and how He pronounced woes and judgments upon them.
But the way "of the upright" is pleasing to Him. What a contrast!
Blessed are those saved sinners who know and may believe that they are pleasing to God, also in this season. When God is pleased with us, He blesses us. His favor rests upon us, because of Christ our wonderful Savior. His blood pardons all of our sins and His Spirit enables us to begin with prayer in our hearts to glorify Him with deeds of thanksgiving.
If He is pleased with us, we also know that all things work together for good in our lives and that no one will ever be able to separate us from His love.
Real thanksgiving must begin in the heart, with prayers for forgiveness, and for the Spirit of our Savior. Also on Thanksgiving Day our greatest need is Jesus Christ.