This blog focuses on the quest to know and please God in a constantly increasing way. The upward journey never ends. My prayer is that this blog will reflect a heart that seeks God and that it will encourage others who share the same heart desire.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

What Can I Give Him?

Christina Rossetti's famous Christmas poem poses a question.

"What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part.
Yet what can I give Him?
Give my heart."

Without considering Christmas, my similar thoughts had started in Psalm 116:12. "What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me?" The psalmist answers his question with a list that includes prayer (v. 13), public service (v. 14), an entire life of godliness (v. 15), a life of service (v. 16), thanksgiving (v. 17), and praise (v. 19). While realizing that no gift is sufficient to repay God, sincere gratitude and heartfelt dedication prompt believers to make some seemingly outstanding gifts.

Abraham gave his son Isaac. While God did not require the actual sacrifice, in Abraham's heart and mind, the deed was done. He was willing to give his precious son for whom he had waited many years. (Genesis 22)

Moses gave his life of ease and privilege. He chose to abandon "the treasures of Egypt" in exchange for "ill-treatment" in following God's call. (Hebrews 11:24-26, Exodus 2-3)

When the time came to build the tabernacle, "everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came and brought the LORD's contribution" (Exodus 35:21). These life-long slaves who had fled Egypt with only what they could carry surrendered their most precious possessions, as well as giving their labor to make what they did not own. (Exodus 35:22-29)

Although rash in his vow, Jephthah determined to give God the first thing that came out of his house when he returned from battle, and he followed through even though it meant the sacrifice of his only child. (Judges 11:30-39)

For years Hannah was tormented by her rival and terribly burdened in her own heart because she did not have a son. When God answered her prayer, Hannah gave her precious Samuel to serve God "all the days of his life." (I Samuel 1:2-28)

When God turned back His hand of judgment, David's gratitude led him to make a great sacrifice at a particular location. Although the owner of the land offered to donate the location, David bought the land and animals in order to make a one-time offering. He determined that he would "not offer burnt offerings to the LORD [his] God which cost [him] nothing." (II Samuel 24:15-25)

In response to God's blessing, David aspired to build a magnificent temple for God. When God revealed that this role was not for David, David gave his obedience and also did everything he could to plan and prepare for the temple that his son would build. As the time approached, David added rich contributions of his own wealth to supplement the materials that he had already gathered. (II Samuel 7, I Chronicles 28-29)

The people joined in contributing for the temple. When David asked who was "willing to consecrate himself" to the Lord, the people gave "willingly" and "with a whole heart" of themselves and of their resources. (I Chronicles 29:5-9)

Both Solomon and Hezekiah made extreme and outlandish sacrifices at special times in Israel's history. When Solomon dedicated the temple, he "offered a sacrifice of 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep" in addition to other offerings that went on for weeks. (II Chronicles 7:4-10) In a time of great revival, Hezekiah renewed the Passover that had been neglected for years. The celebration continued for an extra seven days, and Hezekiah's personal contributions for that extension alone included "1000 bulls and 7000 sheep." (II Chronicles 30)

At this same time of revival, the people of God brought their tithes and offerings. They brought so abundantly that for four months those who received the offerings had to pile them in heaps. The chief priest reported "plenty left over" and a "great quantity left over." (II Chronicles 31:4-10)

This trend of abundant giving continued in the New Testament. When Jesus called His disciples, they immediately left all and followed Him. They walked away from their families, their comforts, and their businesses to give themselves to God. (Matthew 4:18-22)

A poor widow came to make her small offering, which Jesus identified as a great offering, saying, "She, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on." Considering those ramifications, this lady gave far more than anyone would have expected. (Matthew 12:41-44)

Another woman gave an incredible gift to Jesus. She brought "an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard." The woman took this perfume, estimated at a year's wages, and expended it entirely in a single moment of worship. (Mark 14:1-9)

Regarding his dedication to serve God, Paul spoke of the love of Christ that controlled him, impelling him not to live for himself, but to give his life's service for the One who had died on his behalf. (II Corinthians 5:14-15)

Paul spoke of the churches of Macedonia, who wanted to take an offering for other needy Christians. Even though the Macedonian believers were in "deep poverty" and "in a great ordeal of affliction," they gave an abundant gift that was "beyond their ability" and begged for this gift to be taken to the other believers. This generous monetary gift was a result of an underlying gift; "they first gave themselves to the Lord." (II Corinthians 8:1-5)

These examples reveal that God values these great and sacrificial gifts. They also reveal that everyone has something valuable to give to God. When a person gives his heart to God, he gives himself. After that starting point, no other gift is too great to give. The outward gifts of wealth, possessions, family, or service are often lavish, extravagant, and sacrificial; the ultimate underlying gift is a heart of worship, praise, and thanksgiving. While the heart-gift will inevitably lead to other more tangible gifts, it is the heart-gift that is most important and valuable. 

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