Just imagine for a moment how many cows and sheep must have died.
The nation of Israel was charged with keeping the law of sacrifice in order that their sins might be forgiven so that they could live in the presence of God, and so all year long, week in and week out, every single day sacrifices were being made. Animals laid upon the altar. The people of an entire nation would come and bring their sacrifices.
Imagine the rivers of blood.
They keep the sacrificial laws so scrupulously that God says in Psalm 50:8, “I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.” But still, something is amiss. The people, it seems, have begun to misunderstand the nature of the sacrifice. They became proud of their careful obedience to the law, and thought that the act of putting an animal on the altar fulfilled their entire obligation to God.
Thus, for the next 5 verses in Psalm 50, God assures Israel that he does not, in fact, need their sacrifices. To say this another way: there was something he desired from the people of Israel over and above what they were already giving Him.
Their obligation was not fulfilled simply by the act of participating in the acts of sacrificial worship.
The Lord God Almighty tells them in verses 14 and 15 what it is that He desires from them:
Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.
The first two are more expected admonitions. First, be thankful to the Lord, and show it by a particular extra offering over and above what is required. Second, do what you tell the Lord you will do. Simple enough.
However, the third command that God gives is surprising, and glorious. My prayer is that it will be powerfully comforting for you this morning. Consider:
Our heavenly Father commands us to call upon Him when we find ourselves in some need or trouble. He commands it because He desires it. The King of creation wants to hear your voice when you are in distress. He is not the bored or unconcerned ear of a human listener. He is not annoyed when your voice cries out to Him in every moment of distress – no matter how “big” or “small” it may seem to you.
But this command would still bear little assurance or hope for us without what God says next. If we stopped before the last line, we might think that perhaps God, at best, is inviting us to plead our case so He can consider whether or not He might like to answer us; or, at worst, just enjoys witnessing our pain and wouldn’t miss an opportunity to delight in the joy our suffering causes Him. What a blasphemous thought!
Without an equally binding, necessary response from God, we would perhaps be in danger of calling upon Him endlessly with little or no hope of aid from His hand. Then oh!, how sweet to our frail hearts are the words of assurance which overflow from the heart of the unchangeable God: “I WILL deliver you…”!
God does not change like shifting shadows (James 1); He is the one for whom it is impossible to lie (Hebrews 6). When in need, we must call upon Him. It is His sovereign desire and command. And when we call upon Him, He will surely deliver us. This, also, is His sovereign desire and command. The table is set and the outcome is unchangeable: we must call upon Him in our distress, and He must deliver us when we call, for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2).
My friend, what greater assurance must God give you that He cares for you; that He maintains an awareness of your present state and wants to deliver you from your troubles? You need more evidence? Willingly, God has already given it: look to Jesus and the cross! The eternal Son, the very essence of the Triune God, the Beloved was delivered to suffering and death under the crushing wrath of God in order to purchase your deliverance from the greatest trouble of your soul’s existence – sin. If God has done something of that magnitude to assure the deliverance of those who trust Him, can you doubt that He will deliver you from some other temporary trouble which assaults you day by day? If the Son of God, King Jesus Himself, has already been given for the sake of those who believe, what in the wide universe could your imagination conceive to ask for in the day of trouble that would be more than a single drop compared to the vast ocean of what God has already done?
Friend, put your trust in Jesus, lay your life at His feet, and call upon Him in the day of trouble. He will surely deliver you. He delights in delivering you. Call upon Him.